Your Own Private Alamo: the Woodley Family Murders

Posted: July 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

WOODLEYPHOTOS

WOODLEYBARRYPHOTO

A recent New Yorker  article lambasting crime bloggers as glory-seeking ghouls has given me a crisis of conscience. I need a sabbatical, but I’ve decided to share my research on the Woodley murders before I unplug; there’s virtually nothing about the crime online, and perhaps a little publicity will spark a memory or goose a guilty conscience.

PRIVATEALAMOPROFESSIONAL

DATE: September 26th, 1991

VICTIMS:

• Barry Carlton Woodley, age 45, project engineer at Bechtel Corporation

• his sons Gregory John Woodley, age 23, stockbroker and recent Texas A&M graduate

• Jeremy Joel Woodley, age 15, sophomore at Cy-Fair High School and competitive swimmer

LOCATION: Cypress Texas, an upper-middle class Houston suburb

A NOTE ON SOURCES: In addition to newspaper articles in the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News  and Victoria Advocate  there is a single chapter about the crime in A Door in the Ocean, a memoir authored by Jeremy Woodley’s swim teammate David McGlynn. The chapter—available in full here—also appeared in two other publications, an issue of Creative Nonfiction and True Crime: Real-Life Stories of Abduction, Addiction, Obsession, Murder, Grave-Robbing and More

BACKGROUND: Barry Woodley and his wife Lynne had been happily married for 27 years. In addition to sons Greg and Jeremy the Woodley family included two daughters, Annmarie, age 25 and Rebekka, age 14. They were a religious, law-abiding family with no known criminal involvement or discernible risk factors.

POSSIBLE PRECIPITATING EVENT: Lynne Woodley had placed a Houston Chronicle classified ad earlier that week offering a piano for sale for $2,250. The day before the crime a potential buyer—identifying himself as Shelby from Pasadena, age 16—visited the home. It’s unclear which members of the Woodley family met the potential buyer during this visit, and no physical description of Shelby or composite drawing has ever appeared in the media.

CRIME TIMELINE:

6:45pm Shelby telephones; he says he has decided to purchase the piano and will stop by later that evening to complete the transaction

7:45pm Lynne Woodley leaves home to fetch her daughter Rebekka from swim practice

8:00pm A neighbor spots Barry Woodley outside working on his lawn sprinkler

8:20pm Jeremy and his swim teammate David McGlynn conclude a banal phone conversation; nothing at chez Woodley seems amiss

8:25-8:30pm The window of opportunity for the assailant(s)’s arrival; detectives believe the crime took approximately 10 minutes to complete

8:40pm Lynne Woodley drops off a carpooler on her way home from swim practice

8:45 Lynne Woodley arrives home to find her husband and sons murdered; she runs screaming into the street

CRIME SCENE DETAILS:

• All three victims have been lined up on cushions on the living room floor and shot repeatedly in the head; articles imply (but do not definitively state) the cushions were stripped from the Woodley sofa

• Jeremy and Greg Woodley have been tethered together at the ankles by a nylon strap; the origin of the strap has never been disclosed

• Nothing is missing from the home—not even the piano—and the residence has not been ransacked

• A note is found at the scene with the date written in Barry Woodley’s handwriting; detectives believe he was preparing a bill of sale for the piano when the assailant(s) attacked

• No one in the neighborhood heard gunshots, but two men in a white sedan were spotted in the area around the time of the crime; these men have never been identified and their connection, if any, to the crime is unknown

• The existence of forensic evidence—including fingerprints, fibers and DNA—has never been publicized

• Since no spent shells were ejected investigators believe the weapon utilized was likely a revolver

• Shelby has never been identified

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“It looks like they were killed one, two, three, just like that. It looks like a professional hit. There was no forced entry into the home. There was no sign at all of any ransacking and there are no indications that anything is missing.” Harris County Sheriff’s Sergeant Skip Oliver, Victoria Advocate, September 28th, 1991
 

AUTOPSY FINDINGS:

• None of the victims exhibited defensive wounds

• All three Woodleys were shot with .22 caliber bullets, but law enforcement has not revealed whether they were slain with a single gun or multiple weapons

• All three were shot in the back of the head execution-style

• The victims were overkilled: Barry was shot six times, Greg three times, and Jeremy four times

• According to David McGlynn’s book blood spatter analysis revealed Greg had been shot first, then Jeremy, then Barry

 

“None of them had any enemies. Everybody loved them.” Gregory Woodley’s fiancée Nathalie Monceau, Houston Chronicle, September 29th, 1991

The Woodley home today

The Woodley home today

GEOGRAPHICALLY SIMILAR CRIME:

Cypress is virtually crime-free, but the Woodley slayings aren’t the community’s only unsolved family murder: four members of the Sun family were found similarly slain—shot in the head execution-style—on January 30th, 2014. It’s extremely unlikely the crimes are linked—recent immigrants tend to be targeted by fellow members of the immigrant community—but I found the coincidence unusual.

Comments
  1. Amanda Williams says:

    Blogs like yours are interesting to read and I hope that maybe you will write again one day. Thank you.

    • I don’t want to stop blogging; I just really need to think about my ethical obligations. Are we trafficking in the misery of others? What right do we have to put crime victims’ lives under a microscope? I may feel a kinship with many of the people I write about but it’s a one-way street—if they could vote from the grave maybe the victims would’ve preferred to keep their privacy.

  2. timmylou says:

    I think that you do a very good job of researching and writing about these little-known and unsolved crimes. To me, there is a big difference between what a creep like James Renner does and what you are doing. You don’t harass the families of victims, and you are respectful of them in your writings. The fact that you have decided to stop and think about how your work might affect others shows that you are not callous, or wishing to exploit the suffering of others. Best regards to you, no matter what you decide to do with your blog!

  3. Susanna Burruel says:

    Would you be willing to write up the story of my cousins 30 year old unsolved murder in Tucson Arizoa

  4. Henry says:

    I recently heard of your blog on the “My Favorite Murder” podcast and I don’t think I’ve left your page since. I totally understand your point of view regarding the victim’s privacy, etc. However, in cases where the crime is still unsolved I think blogs like yours are a great resource as you may have a subscriber that has information on a case that you have written about. Just my opinion. I really hope you continue with the blog in some capacity. Thank you for making my time at “work” fly by! Cheers!

  5. Where do I go to read the opinons of the Woodley family murders? Did you write your opinon?
    BTW Who are you?

  6. thisisnotparadise says:

    Oh thank the deities you’re back.

  7. Laura says:

    Thank you for researching this. I went to school with Jeremy and this case has haunted me for years.

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