Laddonia man found guilty in home invasion robberies

Friday, January 25, 2013 | 10:19 a.m. CST; updated 3:35 p.m. CST, Friday, January 25, 2013

COLUMBIA — Dan Knight pointed his finger at James Woods, emphasizing to the jury in a Boone County courtroom who was to blame for two home invasion robberies in Columbia.

But Knight, Boone County's chief prosecutor, and Woods, who was being tried for robbery, burglary and elder abuse charges in two separate home invasions in Columbia, rarely, if ever, made eye contact during the two-day trial. The defendant spent most of the time staring down at the yellow legal pad he wrote on.

After deliberating for about an hour and a half, a Boone County jury found Woods guilty Thursday night of one count of first-degree robbery, one count of attempted second-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree elder abuse and two counts of first-degree burglary. Woods, 42, could serve a minimum of 55 years in prison for all six counts.

The charges stem from two home invasions in Columbia on Nov. 18, 2011, and Jan. 19, 2012.  

Knight pointed out the similarity of the incidents. "The evidence is extremely similar, and the reason is that they were both committed by the defendant, James Woods," he said.

Ruby See, 99, one of the victims, testified Wednesday that Woods attacked her shortly after she was released from the hospital in November 2011. See recalled answering the doorbell, believing that her daughter was bringing her medicine. Instead, a man, whom she later identified as Woods, entered her home and threw her into a table, injuring her shoulder.

See said the man was wearing a stocking cap and used clothing to partially cover his face. But she testified she saw enough of his features to identify him from a photograph published in the Columbia Daily Tribune alongside a story about the January 2012 incident.

In that incident, Woods was accused of following a 73-year-old woman to her home on Granite Oak Court. According to testimony, Woods forced his way inside — throwing the woman to the ground and breaking her ribs — and demanding money and jewelry.

Columbia police arrested Woods in Stephens Lake Park after an officer recognized a car linked to the Granite Oak Court invasion.

Throughout the trial, Knight and defense attorney Thomas Ellis, argued over a lack of physical evidence and the reliability of the eyewitness accounts.

After the trial, Knight said he wasn't concerned that the police weren't able to recover DNA evidence at the scene of the first incident.

"I thought what we had was strong enough to win," Knight said. "It was still something that I had to work around."

In his opening statement, Knight told the jury that Woods, who is from Laddonia — about 60 miles northeast of Columbia — came to the city "with crime on his mind."

"(Woods) thought Columbia was a good place to commit these home invasion robberies," Knight told jurors.  "He was thinking about the targets. He was trying to find the most frail, vulnerable targets."

Ellis fired back at Knight in his opening statement. "Mr. Knight has told you a compelling story," he said. "One thing I ask you to do is not let the story get in the way of the evidence."

Calling most of the evidence against Woods a "story," Ellis pointed out that See described Woods as a 22-year old man, although Woods was 41 at the time of the 2011 home invasion. He also mentioned that See's glasses were knocked off during the home invasion and that the description she gave to police didn't match what Woods looked like at the time.

Woods' sentencing is scheduled for March 4.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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