By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
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.
"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.
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?"
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."
Xtera Communications employees and McKinney police declined to be interviewed for this story. The Allen Police Department didn't respond to interview requests, and the Collin County Sheriff's Office would not comment on the specifics of Wooley's incarceration. The Dallas Observer, however, has obtained their versions of events from more than 1,500 pages of depositions, court filings and police reports. Each entity maintains it was only doing its job: The McKinney police were following every possible lead, including the possibility that the murder was committed by a deranged sniper who might kill again. Xtera Communications was taking every precaution to protect its employees from a disgruntled co-worker. The Collin County Sheriff's Office was simply trying to protect an unstable prisoner from himself.
In December 2002, Wooley filed a lawsuit accusing Xtera of defamation and providing the police with "false, misleading and inaccurate information" that led to his wrongful arrest. Xtera denied the allegations. The McKinney police, argues attorney Lynch, manipulated that information, using it to build a weak case based more on character assassination than hard evidence.
Aside from asserting his constitutional rights, being emotionally distraught and having the worst possible damn luck, Paul Wooley did only one thing wrong: He picked the wrong day to quit his job.
It took Wooley only about 10 minutes to regret quitting. He had no prospects, no real money, and the high-tech bubble had already burst, so finding a new job would be hell. After leaving Xtera, he drove directly to his house in McKinney, where he tried to boot up his computer and search his e-mail list for job contacts. When the thing froze on him, Wooley lost it, kicking his computer to death.
His quick temper and brusque manner always seemed to cause him problems. For a big guy, he was all bluster, 260 pounds of it, but scratch the surface and there was a generous man who could go overboard with gifts on Christmas and birthdays and offer you a hand up without even being asked. Some people just didn't get him, though, not when he would pop off the way he did. "But there wasn't a bit of violence in him," says his mother, Doris Dees, except toward a few inanimate objects that got in his way.
Killing his computer made him realize that he needed to take an extended vacation. Giving little thought to what he packed, he grabbed clothes, camping gear, guns and ammunition. In a journal reconstructing the events of the week, he would write, "I did have a notion that I would go to a wilderness area and live on my wits for a few weeks, just to decompress."
He withdrew $5,000 from his credit union and refilled his heart-medication prescription. He phoned his mother, who says he sounded despondent and "threatened to drive to Colorado to end it all." This wasn't the first time he had phoned her threatening suicide, which seemed more of a play to make her feel guilty than anything serious.
Theirs was a difficult relationship. Wooley had been a rebellious son, bucking authority and quitting high school before graduating. His father was an unforgiving disciplinarian and never made things easy for Paul, who in turn never made things easy for himself. Because his mother was more interested in keeping the peace than provoking her husband, Wooley felt he never had his mother's love. "None of us thought he was ever serious about harming himself," says his sister Mary Cook. "The suicide threats were just his way of retaliating against Mom for feeling unloved."
Yet after his phone call, Wooley's mother phoned the McKinney police and asked them to check on him. A squad car was dispatched to his house at 12:47 p.m., but no one was home.
Even among work associates, Wooley would talk about suicide, although his interest seemed pitched more toward the philosophical than the personal. When he was depressed, which was often, he would tell friends about his empty life; he lived alone, had no children, no wife (he had divorced the same woman twice). At work, Wooley could be brutally honest, displaying emotions that seemed as big as he was.
During the World Trade Center bombings, everyone at Xtera sat glued to the big-screen TV in the "family room," horrified and saddened by the replayed images. Wooley seemed to fixate on the tragedy and became personally distraught over the loss of life. "He would think about it for hours," recalls Marvin Morris, his closest friend at Xtera. "He made me think about how those people on the airplanes must have felt."
Like many Americans who felt insecure after 9-11, he purchased guns to protect himself: a Glock .40-caliber handgun and a Bushmaster .223 rifle. A few times he brought the handgun to a local gun range for target practice. A friend who accompanied him said he was a terrible shot.
Like others, Wooley also bought food--beans and bottled water mostly--and placed them in a bedroom closet where he could retreat, he told co-workers, in case of a chemical or biological attack. Some thought he was paranoid, but Wooley said he was just listening to the warnings of government officials.
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.
Subject: Please leave the building for the day immediately.
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."
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.
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.
McKinney detectives weren't quite so deferential to the last suspect on their list: Paul Edward Wooley.
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."
Despite his desire to help, Schmucker provided police with at least one statement it would use against Wooley in his arrest affidavit: "When Schmucker asked if Wooley had heard of the shooting in McKinney, Wooley reportedly stated something to the effect of, 'They don't think I did it, do they? If they do, I'll turn myself in at the nearest police station.'" The police interpreted his spontaneous response as a guilty one. What Detective VanDertuin omitted when he drew up his affidavit was the context of the conversation: that Patterson had already told him about the shooting as well as Xtera's reaction to it. Wooley would later maintain that when he responded he was just connecting the dots. "Since something was going on, and it was happening in my direction--that is why I said what I said."
Schmucker faults the police for distorting the truth. "They weren't looking for objective information. They were looking for information they could pick and choose among, twist it any way they want to go and then turn it over to the press."
The arrest affidavit painted a picture of a man on the edge: a suicidal, bipolar, gun-crazed extremist who snapped when he quit his job and became "irate, screaming profanities," and was threatening to "do something rash [not radical, as Simmons had said]."
What police sorely lacked was evidence, something--anything--that might connect Wooley to the murder. They knew a blue truck was spotted at the scene as much as 10 minutes after the shooting, and Wooley drove a blue pickup. They knew Wooley was traveling with a .223-caliber rifle and that bullet fragments found at the crime scene came from a high-velocity weapon. These tenuous facts were among a "myriad of circumstantial evidence" that police Chief Doug Kowalski would later claim justified Wooley's arrest.
But McKinney detectives were faced with a fluid situation: The Amarillo police had no cause to hold him (his mental commitment was voluntary, and he wanted out), and the McKinney police viewed him as a "flight risk," an armed traveler who was about to take himself and his rifle, which might be evidence, to parts unknown. Most frustrating of all: Wooley refused to cooperate with the police. Upon advice of his Dallas attorney, Ed King, Wooley refused to speak to the police; he even invoked his right against self-incrimination when detectives asked if he wanted dessert. "Mr. Wooley was charged with the crime because of his basic failure to cooperate with us," Kowalski frankly stated in his deposition.
"I think the McKinney police panicked," says attorney King, a former Dallas County felony judge. "They were trying to make sure that no one left the area who might be a suspect. That's good police work, but it's not constitutionally sound."
On May 18 McKinney police obtained an arrest warrant for Wooley. Searching his home in McKinney, detectives found it suspicious that his computer had been destroyed. They found no stockpiles of weapons or food, but rather a video series titled The Men Who Shot Kennedy. Since police were investigating what appeared to be "a sniper shooting," they seized the tapes.
The following day, three McKinney detectives retrieved Wooley from Amarillo and escorted him first to McKinney police headquarters then to the Collin County jail, where he was placed under a suicide watch. At police headquarters, King met with his client, then with detectives. "They told me they would sure like to talk with Paul and polygraph him," he says. "I told them they had the wrong guy."
When the McKinney police announced they had charged Wooley with murder and attempted murder, their "media release" sounded as weak as the circumstantial evidence on which they built their case: "Paul Wooley is one of several suspects identified by the McKinney Police Department in connection with these offenses," the release stated. "The department, working in conjunction with the Texas Rangers, will continue to look at other possible suspects."
If the police were tentative about their freshly arraigned assailant, the media held no similar compunction. Cameras captured his "perp walk" and broadcast Wooley in blue jail togs, shamefully hiding his face from view. Reporters were handed the arrest affidavit, which gave them full license to write about Wooley's mental condition. Neighbors were solicited and offered stock responses: He lived alone; he kept to himself; he was a complainer.
Yet even in their media release, the police maintained that their investigation was not closed. Evidence had been submitted to laboratories for forensic analysis, and the results, they said, would take several days to complete.
Deposition testimony and police records suggest that the preliminary results of these tests had already exonerated Wooley. On May 20, the day before the press release, a McKinney detective brought the bullet fragments recovered at the crime scene to the Department of Public Safety laboratory in Tyler and, according to a police affidavit, "Firearms Examiner Wade Thomas advised that the projectile was not a .223-caliber [the caliber of the rifle seized from Wooley] but was more consistent with a .270 or a 7mm."
While the lack of a ballistics match created doubt about Wooley's guilt, intelligence gathered by McKinney Detective Terry Morrison absolved him. Morrison analyzed Wooley's cell phone records, which revealed the time of his calls, their duration and location. Within 10 minutes of the murder, Wooley phoned co-worker Jill Smith from somewhere "right around the Red River...proving that it would have been impossible for Paul Wooley to be in McKinney at the time of the shooting," according to police reports.
Exactly when the police determined this remains a point of contention. Wooley's civil attorney, Jeff Lynch, believes the police had this information as early as Sunday, May 19, three days before his release, and chose not to act on it, using his client's continued incarceration to flush out the real killer. In his deposition, Chief Kowalski admitted his department had "preliminary information that indicated he [Wooley] may have been at a different location." While detectives were awaiting final confirmation of this information, they were stunned by a dramatic breakthrough.
It had been a week since the shootings, and Raymond Wingfield had yet to provide police with a complete accounting of his whereabouts on the day of his wife's murder. Detectives never ruled him out as a suspect, and their interviews with friends, family and others revealed a man whose business and marriage were failing and whose honesty was in question. An avid hunter, an expert marksman and an ex-Marine--if anyone were stockpiling weapons, it was Wingfield.
When Corporal Drew Caudell interrogated Wingfield in the early afternoon of May 22, it was obvious he had no alibi. Rather than working as a firefighter on May 16, he dropped his two children at day care and ran errands for his home-building business. He spoke to his wife, Amy, several times that day, both before and after lunch. According to police records, he recalled being on Highway 289 driving from Frisco to Celina when he got a call from his wife's office telling him she had been hurt.
At the close of the interview, Caudell asked Wingfield if he would take a polygraph. Although Wingfield agreed to be tested the next day, the officer noticed "he dropped his head" and "his hands started to shake."
At 5 o'clock that same afternoon, Wingfield went to his wife's grave, intending to kill himself, he would later say, because of his grief. Concern over his two small children caused him to change his mind. As he drove away from the cemetery--or so he claimed--a man in a gray SUV fired two shots at him, shattering the windshield of his pickup and sending him careening into a ditch. Apart from some superficial face wounds, he wasn't hurt. He flagged down a passing motorist who brought him to the Celina Police Department. He had no idea who might want to harm him, he told the police, but thought it might somehow be connected to his wife's slaying.
Collin County sheriff's investigator Mitch Selman just wasn't buying Wingfield's story after he brought him back to the sheriff's office for further questioning. According to police records, "Inv. Selman found it significant that there were no glass fragments...on his [Wingfield's] clothing, skin, hair or shoes." The cuts across his face also appeared to be self-inflicted. Selman accused Wingfield of staging the shooting to take the focus of the homicide investigation away from him. At first, Wingfield denied the accusation, but then without saying why, he admitted he had shot his truck.
A team of McKinney detectives continued the interrogation, which lasted more than six hours. But Wingfield remained adamant: He did not murder his wife. Detective Marco Robles, searching for a less resistant path, turned his attention to Alisa Stewart. Repeatedly, he asked Wingfield whether shooting Stewart was intentional or just an accident. Wingfield finally broke down, claiming he shot her accidentally--and he never intended to shoot his wife either. It might seem premeditated--renting a Ford Explorer on the day of the shooting so he wouldn't be recognized. But he just meant to scare her by firing above her head. It was his way of taking her mind off their financial problems. He aimed to miss. Only somehow he didn't.
His motive for the crime seemed as obscure as it was absurd. A husband had executed his wife, a loving mother of two, because he wanted her to stop worrying about their bills? He had maimed her close friend, permanently disabling her, by accident? The confession guaranteed that Raymond Wingfield would be sentenced to at least 60 years in the penitentiary. But it offered little solace to anyone except Wooley. He was released from custody 30 minutes after it was signed.
Wooley appeared quite corporate in his blue suit and blue tie, a far stretch from his portrayal by the media as a homicidal maniac just two days earlier. Standing in his front yard, he stared directly into the TV camera, looking calm and comfortable. "They came into my cell and said, 'Go home, we've got him,'" he recalled. "I didn't even know there was another him until then."
"What did you think?" asked the reporter.
"Yippee." He laughed loudly, half-apologizing. "I still haven't slept in a week..."
The reporter said that when Wooley was told earlier that the police had arrested the victim's husband, Wooley just rolled his eyes. "How is it that they could make a mistake of that magnitude?" asked the reporter.
"I still haven't figured all that out yet," said Wooley, although he was contemplating litigation to find out. For now, though, he just wanted to clear his head and find a job.
Wooley had no luck finding work. Even if the telecom industry hadn't tanked, he felt as though his name had been stained by the false murder charge. His bouts of depression lingered longer and deeper, and his civil lawyer sent him to therapy, partly to help his client, partly to document his emotional damage. Psychiatrist Lisa Clayton began treating him in August 2002 and believed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome brought on by what she described as the "public humiliation" of his arrest and what he described as the barbaric conditions of his incarceration.
In the Collin County jail, Wooley was placed on a "suicide watch," purportedly for his own protection. Immediately following his release, he claimed he was subjected to psychological torture aimed at breaking him down to coerce his confession. Placed in solitary confinement, he was stripped of his clothes and forced to wear what he described as a "Velcro wrap." Between the music he said was constantly being piped into his cell, the thin plastic mat he was forced to sleep on and the drafty 60-degree temperature, Wooley contended that he was deprived of sleep and taunted by guards and nurses who threatened him with the death penalty if he didn't confess.
In discussing its "suicide watch" policy, the Collin County Sheriff's Office noted "that certain inmates would only be allowed to have a suicide gown, a suicide blanket and a mat." A department spokesman also added that temperatures in the facility were kept, according to "state jail standards," "between 65-85 degrees" and it's "against policy and we do not" engage in taunts, humiliation or sleep deprivation.
If Wooley was exaggerating how badly he was mistreated, he certainly had his family and physicians fooled. "Paul was totally and single-mindedly focused on what they did to him in jail," says his sister Mary. "His self-absorption was not healthy, but a year after it happened, it was as fresh as if it happened that day."
Legal fees ate through what little savings he had. He sold his home and lived off the generosity of friends and family, staying in their homes as he searched for a job. What would begin with the best of intentions, a chance to reconnect with relatives, would end in an argument over some perceived injustice. Invariably he would wear out his welcome and be forced to move on.
In September 2002, he made one weak attempt at suicide. Staying with his half-sister in Euless, he grew frustrated when he accidentally damaged the plumbing in a bathroom. The next morning he informed her that he had overdosed on pain medication. He would be all right, though. He had changed his mind and already called the paramedics.
He would tell Dr. Clayton that he had no reason to get out of bed in the morning. He would tell attorney Lynch that when he sat in a restaurant, people would suddenly leave, and when he entered a bank, police officers would suddenly appear. If he seemed paranoid, it may have been for good reason. A police officer claimed that Wooley, while still in jail, had threatened James Simmons and his wife. After the shooting, the company immediately beefed up security and hired off-duty Allen police officers to protect them from Wooley. Xtera's renewed fear proved as groundless as it was in the first instance.
"Paul didn't want to harm anyone at Xtera," says his criminal attorney Ed King. "He wanted to sue them."
In December 2002, he did just that, suing Xtera Communications in federal court after he relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana. Attorneys for Xtera would insinuate in depositions that Wooley only moved to another state to take advantage of federal diversity jurisdiction. But Wooley claimed he had no money, no prospects, no home and no choice. In Shreveport, he attended truck-driving school, but his career as a long-distance hauler came to an abrupt end when he flipped a truck in Peoria, Illinois, and lost his job. He seized another opportunity to teach hardware compliance in China, but his contract ended, and he returned to Dallas.
Living in an inexpensive motel, he would have been destitute and in the streets if not for the advances he received from his attorney. The only thing that kept his life from spinning totally out of control was the pending litigation. "I thought we had a good case," says Lynch, who also intends to sue the McKinney and Allen police departments as well as the Collin County Sheriff's Office. "Nobody deserved what happened to him--even if they were guilty."
Lynch sued Xtera first, hoping he could "pop them for a quick settlement" because they might feel guilty about what had happened. On the contrary, says Lynch, Xtera was "astounded Paul would sue them" and vigorously denied any wrongdoing. But Lynch was tenacious, and in a matter of months got the case primed for settlement.
On Friday, December 12, all the parties met at the Admirals Club at DFW airport. After six hours of trading offers, they managed to negotiate a confidential settlement. At the end of the marathon session, Wooley was exhausted, seemed to be fighting a cold and was bothered by his perennial bad back. Nonetheless, he was pleased with the outcome, envisioning it as an opportunity to restart his life. "Quite honestly," Lynch says, "it was the first time since his arrest that he had a moment's peace."
On Monday, a friend grew concerned when he couldn't reach Wooley by phone. The friend called the motel directly and asked the clerk if she would check on the man in Room 108. The clerk didn't recall seeing Wooley since midafternoon on Saturday, December 13, and she went to knock on his door. When he didn't answer, she entered the room and found him lying on a bloodstained bed, dead.
An autopsy was performed, the results of which indicated the cause of his death was the "toxic effects of oxycodone," a prescription drug he took to alleviate his backache. The Medical Examiner's Office ruled the manner of his death was "undetermined."
These findings will certainly become relevant when Wooley's heirs, as planned, sue the various police agencies who they believe illegally arrested and incarcerated him. Until then, whether Paul Wooley finally made good on his threats and took his own life, or just wanted to stop his pain and took too much medication remains a mystery.