The Wrong Guy

In a bungled hunt for a killer, police wreck the life of an innocent

 McKinney, May 16, 2002, 1:33 p.m.

"McKinney, 911," answers a female dispatcher, sounding somewhat blasé. "What was the address of your emergency?"

"Yes, ah...I am at the hospital at North Central Medical Center," says a male caller.

Paul Wooley, from an infant to a troubled adult: Wooley had a difficult relationship with his family, which they say contributed to his emotional problems as an adult.
Paul Wooley, from an infant to a troubled adult: Wooley had a difficult relationship with his family, which they say contributed to his emotional problems as an adult.
Even after McKinney police knew they had the wrong man, claims Dallas attorney Jeff Lynch, they kept his client Paul Wooley in jail for more than three days in an "attempt to smoke out the true killer."
Mark Graham
Even after McKinney police knew they had the wrong man, claims Dallas attorney Jeff Lynch, they kept his client Paul Wooley in jail for more than three days in an "attempt to smoke out the true killer."

"Uh-huh."

"Right behind the professional building," he continues, his twang as pronounced as his excitement. "There is a lady laying here, looks like she's lost a lot of blood. She is probably...it don't look good. There is another lady laying here without her legs...working..."

"Did you say one of the women does not have her legs?"

"She cannot feel her legs," says the man, growing frustrated.

"Do the women look like they have been shot?"

"Yeah, well, I see blood splattered way across this parking lot..."

"OK, stay on the phone with me just a minute, OK? Don't hang up!"

"I'm here. I'm here."

From the muffled background come sounds of panic and pain: One woman is screaming, "Help me, I can't move," as medical personnel from the hospital complex scramble to assist the women, both nurses.

The dispatcher returns to the phone. "What is your name, sir?"

He tells her.

"Did you see anybody else there? Any vehicles or anybody else out there?"

"No, no," he insists. He just heard two gunshots but didn't see anyone leave.

"Can I get a home address for you?"

He tells her, sighing deeply.

"Are you OK?" she asks.

"Yeah...I'm fine."

But he doesn't sound fine. "I know this is a pretty startling thing for you to have come upon...When I am sure an officer is with you, I'm going to disconnect. But I want the officer to be there with you, OK?"

"OK."


Xtera Communications Inc., in Allen, five hours earlier

If one of his bosses started riding him about the "almighty schedule," if they so much as mentioned his not meeting a deadline that was beyond his control, if they started piling on the stress until he felt his chest tightening or his heartbeat racing, he would quit, all right. He would damn well do it. It wasn't as though he hadn't been thinking about leaving. Ever since his heart attack the year before, he knew he had to make some changes. So what if he was quitting a telecom job in a down market? He was only 46, and the job was killing him.

And yet, Xtera Communications was, he later recalled, "hands down, the most talented bunch that I had ever seen assembled in one place." But he was fed up with the start-up, tired of being seduced by its "dark side," as he called it, a side that convinced employees to work 12-hour days by offering them stock options and the sweet smell of a public offering. What was lost in this IPO madness, he thought, was the product itself, a long-haul transmission system that once designed would be sold to such telecom giants as Sprint and SBC and make their optical fiber networks run faster and more efficiently.

As senior compliance engineer, Paul Wooley tested the product to make certain it met industry and government standards. As the last person to touch the product before marketing, he also felt as though he were the fall guy for the company's unrealistic expectations.

But not today, not after the weekend he'd just spent with his family in Austin, where he and his mother had one of their absurd arguments--this one over an antique derringer missing from his family's gun collection. As usual, his sisters took his mother's side, and he left abruptly. Returning to work the next week, he changed the beneficiary on his 401(k) plan. It was his way of casting them out of his life--once again.

The morning couldn't have gotten off to a worse start: Already depressed about his family, Wooley discovered that materials he needed for an important off-site test had not been received in time. When he told his boss, Mark Hendricks, about the problem, Hendricks blamed him for mishandling the situation. Well, that's all it took. Wooley tossed his badge on the table and said, "Mark, you're an asshole. I quit."

He then marched to the human resources department and announced that he had resigned. After it became clear that Wooley didn't want to discuss the matter, HR Director James Simmons volunteered to help Wooley pack his belongings. Simmons would later claim that Wooley was "uptight, shaky and red-faced"; that when the two unloaded some company supplies from the bed of Wooley's blue pickup, Wooley called Hendricks several profane names and insinuated their paths had better not cross again. But Wooley left without incident, and no one who dealt with him felt threatened.

That would change as the day progressed. According to a police affidavit, "personnel at Xtera called the Allen Police Department with a concern about Paul Wooley after learning of the shooting in McKinney." While that concern may have stemmed from fear that Wooley presented a security risk to Xtera, it also alerted the McKinney police to Wooley's existence. Through a bizarre set of coincidences, hyped evidence and questionable police work, he became the prime suspect in a McKinney Police Department murder investigation. Two days after the shooting, he was arrested and formally charged with the murder of Amy Wingfield and the attempted murder of Alisa Stewart. He was placed in solitary confinement in the Collin County jail under a "suicide watch" that he claimed bordered on the barbaric. And even after the McKinney police knew they had the wrong man, contends his attorney Jeff Lynch, he was illegally kept in jail for three more days "to smoke out the true killer."

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