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Phillip DeWoody, 53, of Opelousas.

Days after the murdered body of an elderly deaf and mute woman was recovered along a St. Landry Parish roadside, the Louisiana Board of Pardons & Committee on Parole released details Friday to The Acadiana Advocate about the 2019 release from state imprisonment of her accused killer.

Phillip Dewoody, 53, served more than half of his life in state custody, nine years for conviction of crimes in Caddo and Bossier Parish in the 1980s, then 25 more after subsequent, violent crimes committed after his initial release in the 1990s.

Yet Dewoody was not without defenders at several parole hearings after he first became eligible for early release in 2013. That eligibility was determined according to law passed by the Legislature in 1990, and based on the fact that he was older than 45 and had spent 20 years in prison.

The last of these three hearings was held in June 2019, when a three-member board voted unanimously to parole him 33 years before his scheduled “good time” release date of October 2052.

Dewoody stands accused of killing Joyce Thomas, 72, of Ville Platte after going to her apartment last week. He concedes that he was at the woman’s apartment but said he didn’t kill her. In a second case, Dewoody was accused in the Feb. 22 sexual assault of an Opelousas woman who ID'd him from a photo lineup. He was taken to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel on Monday.

Release of the audiotapes of his parole hearings included his expressions of remorse for the pain he inflicted on his previous victims, insistence that he had matured in prison, recitation of courses and programs he completed while serving time and promises that, if freed, he would become a contributing member of society.

Some state officials cited in his favor his status as a “trusty," or trusted prisoner,” at the state prison at Angola, the high quality of his artwork, a pursuit he took up in prison and his pursuit of education while incarcerated, including completion of a GED and training in carpentry. He also took college courses and said he planned to attend truck-driving school.

“I will not commit another crime as long as I am living,” he vowed at one hearing.

Dewoody said it was never his intention to hurt others and insisted he was only defending himself from attacks or seeking to flee incarcerations while committing violent crimes.

“Things happened to me,” he said. “I continued to defend myself against sexual predators.”

He told parole board members he was gay, although evidence suggested he made numerous sexual attacks on women during the commission of crimes in the 1990s and current accusations that he attacked other women in south Louisiana since his 2019 release.

One advocate for his release described Dewoody as “a really great guy.”

Yet others, including law enforcement officers and the 3rd District Attorney’s Office in Lincoln Parish, insisted to the parole board that Dewoody should never be released. Victims, too, remained steadfast in their belief, which was noted at parole board hearings, that he should never be released.

“Seldom does our society see such a continued course of criminal activity in which a defendant shows such ruthless disregard for his victims,” prosecutors in Ruston wrote to the parole board.

Francis M. Abbott, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pardons & Committee on Parole, said that the board seeks comments from law enforcement agencies involved in offenders' convictions. In response to questions from The Advocate, Abbott wrote, “The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office was opposed to parole for Phillip DeWoody due to his past criminal record. The following agencies have a policy to oppose parole for all offenders unless otherwise indicated: Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office, Shreveport Police Department, Bossier City Police Department and Ruston Police Department.”

However, he said, those agencies offered “no specific opposition” to parole in Dewoody’s case.

“Other than the comments made by the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office to the investigating officer, no correspondence was received in reference to Phillip DeWoody for his 2019 parole hearing,” he added.

Kerry Myers, deputy director of the Louisiana Parole Project, which provided about two weeks of transitional housing for Dewoody after he was released in June 2019, said he was the first offender of more than 100 that agency has handled who was arrested after his release.

“We are heartbroken for the Thomas family,” Myers wrote. “We are also saddened that one person’s actions may diminish the positive contributions of so many others living productive and law-abiding lives.”


Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.