The Wrong Guy

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

Although Stewart had no idea who shot her, lead detective Randy VanDertuin quickly began assembling a list of possible suspects. Stewart had intimate relationships--past and present--with three suspects: a former boyfriend, an ex-husband who was behind on his child support and a current live-in who was an avid hunter and drove a blue pickup. Her relationship with her current boyfriend was so volatile Stewart's family told the police he was their man. But all three had alibis, and her boyfriend passed a polygraph. Besides, it didn't seem logical that Stewart was the primary target when Wingfield took the first bullet. Also, the second shot ricocheted off the SUV before hitting Stewart, lending more credence to the idea that she was an afterthought.

Topping the list of remaining suspects was Amy's husband, Raymond Wingfield, an Allen firefighter and failing home builder. VanDertuin recorded conflicting accounts of Raymond's behavior at the hospital after he was informed of his wife's death. "Wingfield appeared to be displaying behavior consistent with an individual who had suffered great loss." He had even wrecked his vehicle after learning of the shooting, and then at the hospital he hit a wall and broke several bones in his left hand. But "Sgt. Collins [a Texas Ranger] suggested that Wingfield's actions seemed a bit extreme and had a concern that the extra emotion might be staged."

Oddly, at 3 o'clock on the afternoon of the murder, McKinney reserve officer P.A. Schulte was approached by "a white male," who identified himself as an employee of Bob Thomas Ford in McKinney and handed the officer a set of keys saying, "A woman just came into our office, threw these keys on a desk and said, 'Those keys belong to the shooter's vehicle.'" The vehicle was the same gold Ford Explorer that had been wrecked by Wingfield, who had rented the SUV to test-drive earlier in the day. Although Wingfield was not ruled out as a suspect, not much was immediately done with this information. Whether that was because he was a local firefighter and one of their own, or whether he played the part of the grieving spouse with such aplomb that the police felt uncomfortable confronting him, other than a "rushed" interview on May 18 he would not be interrogated again until May 22, two days after his wife's funeral.

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."

McKinney detectives weren't quite so deferential to the last suspect on their list: Paul Edward Wooley.


Amarillo, May 17, 2002, 1:53 p.m.

By the time Wooley arrived in Amarillo, he felt as though he was "on a trip to nowhere." The sharp pains in his chest had him believing he was going to die. While on the road, Marvin Morris and Charles Schmucker, another close friend of Wooley's at Xtera, told him that the company had been evacuated after learning about the McKinney shootings. He now felt that people he had worked closely with for the past 18 months believed he was capable of murder. Old thoughts of suicide began to resurface, and he asked the clerk at a La Quinta if he knew a priest. Rather than phone a priest, the clerk, worried about a potential suicide, called the cops.

When the Amarillo police arrived, Wooley felt calmer. He told the officers he was going to Alaska on vacation and assured them that he had no intention of harming himself. He had phoned his mother and spoken with her pastor and told the police he just had a lot on his mind. Officers wanted him to seek professional help and directed him to a psychiatric hospital in Amarillo. They confiscated a handgun, a rifle and a hunting knife but agreed to return them after he spoke with a counselor.

Meanwhile the McKinney police were working furiously to build a case against him, interviewing his friends, family and co-workers, trying to gather as much information as they could to secure an arrest warrant. At 10:30 p.m. on May 17, McKinney Detective Ida Wei contacted Randy Patterson, asking him to describe his friend. "I told her he could be kind and generous but could also get aggravated, going from one extreme to another," Patterson recalls. "I also said that he had bought two guns, and I used 9-11 as a reference point for when he made the purchases."

The language incorporated into the arrest affidavit, however, had Patterson describing his friend "as an extremist" who, after September 11, "began purchasing firearms." The affidavit also stated that James Simmons had informed police that Wooley "had been stockpiling food and guns," even though Simmons, when later deposed, said he had no idea whether Wooley possessed weapons; he had never even been to his home. Even if he had, a bag of dry beans and bottled water scarcely qualified as "stockpiling."

"I never said Paul was an extremist," says Patterson, who complained bitterly about the characterization both to the police and the press. "They were trying to paint him as some kind of violent gun nut who could randomly harm large numbers of people. Paul wasn't even a political person. I was just talking about personality extremes."

Around 10 a.m. on May 18, Schmucker met with McKinney detectives and wanted them to know "Paul did not do this." Wooley had phoned him on the day of the murder, just before the evening news. Wooley was just outside Oklahoma City and had apparently changed his direction: He was now heading to Alaska. Yes, Wooley was high-strung, but he was also a "teddy bear" who would never hurt anyone, Schmucker told the police. And yes, he had purchased a handgun and rifle a few weeks after 9-11, but he wasn't obsessed with guns--wasn't even a particularly good shot, judging from their few trips to the gun range. "On the early news they had a couple of theories about a man hiding in the trees and running across a field," he says. "I told the police there was no way in hell that was Paul. He was no marksman, had no scope on his rifle, and he was too out of shape [bad back and weak heart] to run across any field."

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