The Wrong Guy

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

On May 16 at 1:41 p.m., eight minutes after the murder, Wooley placed a call on his mobile phone to Jill Smith, a co-worker at Xtera. According to her deposition, he told her he was near the Oklahoma border, but he was crying and sounded "irrational." Afraid that he might harm himself or get into an accident, she expressed her concerns to HR Director Simmons.

Wooley appeared to have regained his composure when he spoke to Marvin Morris a few minutes later. "I may have screwed up my life, but I finally quit," he told Morris, saying he had just passed an Indian casino across the Oklahoma border. He was headed to Maine, but who knows where the impulse might carry him. "I got the impression he was just taking an extended vacation," Morris recalls. "A few weeks in the outdoors would give him some time to think about what he was going to do next."

Although the shootings in McKinney had occurred nearly 20 minutes earlier, Morris had yet to hear about the tragedy. At the time, he focused on his friend, reminding him to take his heart medicine and making sure he was calm enough to travel. That someone might think him capable of going ballistic in a frenzied homicidal rage, well, that wasn't the Paul Wooley he knew.

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."


Xtera Communications, May 16, 2002, 3:51 p.m. The companywide e-mail was terse:

To: Everyone

Subject: Please leave the building for the day immediately.

Importance: High

No mention was made of Wooley's resignation or the growing fears on the part of management that he might return to harm someone.

How the company reached the conclusion that its employees were in danger remains something of an enigma, but depositions and Xtera phone records paint a picture of a company unnerved by Wooley's resignation and far too willing to believe the worst. Simmons claimed he had no knowledge of the shooting when he first contacted the Allen Police Department at 1:53 p.m. He maintained that Wooley had left four messages on his voice mail around lunchtime, during the last of which he heard Wooley saying, "I am leaving my shit at my house and doing something radical." Simmons said he was so upset by the message, he phoned the Allen police to notify them about a disgruntled ex-employee. The Allen police didn't seem interested: Without more, an officer told him, there was nothing they could do.

In his deposition, Wooley admitted that while traveling on the afternoon of the murder, he phoned Simmons regarding his 401(k) benefits but denied saying he planned to do something radical.

Even if Wooley left the upsetting message, Simmons' reaction may have been motivated by more personal concerns. His wife was also a nurse, and she had previously worked with both victims in their same pediatric practice at North Central Medical Center. Fear for her safety may have sparked a subsequent call to the Allen Police, which phone records reveal was made from his extension at 2:31 p.m., nearly an hour after the shooting. He claimed he had first heard about the double shooting from the Allen police, but McKinney is a small town, and news of the shooting spread rapidly, particularly among personnel at the medical center who were ordered by police to remain inside the hospital complex. Later that evening, Randy Patterson, at the time an Xtera lab technician, phoned Simmons inquiring about his friend Wooley. Simmons said he couldn't talk, Patterson recalls. "He was with his wife, and she was upset about the shooting. He asked me to pray for him and his family."

The decision to evacuate Xtera was made by the company's chief operating officer, but it was reached only after conferring with Melanie Roark, who also worked in human resources with Simmons. Roark grew alarmed after she watched early news accounts of the shooting on the TV in the Xtera family room. "They said they were looking for a man in his 40s in a blue pickup truck," Roark testified in her deposition. "It scared me...the first person who I thought of was Paul Wooley."


Within minutes of the shooting, officers began the search for evidence and witnesses. One nurse said she saw a pickup truck on the dirt road behind the hospital, driving slowly several minutes after the shooting. She couldn't describe the truck apart from it appearing dark blue. A search later found two bullet fragments, which were delivered to the Texas Rangers crime lab for analysis.

Of more immediate concern were the victims: Amy Wingfield, deceased, and Alisa Stewart, in critical condition from a gunshot to her lower back. According to a police affidavit, the two close friends returned from lunch and shopping around 1:30. Wingfield was driving and parked her SUV in the lot behind the hospital. As she turned to close the door, an unknown assailant fired what was believed to be a high-velocity rifle from a long distance. The bullet entered her skull and exited an eye socket, killing her instantly. Stewart heard a loud popping sound and sensed something spew on the car window. She ran to her friend and saw her sprawled on the ground, blood pooling around her head. As she bent down to check, she felt a burning pain in her back. Her legs went numb, and she knew she had been shot. Hoping to call 911, she crawled toward Wingfield's cell phone. She started shaking uncontrollably, however, and could only cry out for help.

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