Woods executed for 1984 murder of neighbor

2007-05-04T00:00:00Z Woods executed for 1984 murder of neighborThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 04, 2007 12:00 am  • 

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. | Gene Placencia wanted David Leon Woods to look him in the eye before he was put to death by injection for killing Placencia's father 23 years ago. He settled for watching Woods die.

"My Dad's spirit can rest now," Placencia said. "My father was taken from us in 1984. When we had his funeral, he didn't rest in peace. I would say today I would put a little date on there of May 4, 2007, as when his spirit will rest."

Woods, 42, died at 12:35 a.m. Friday. He was executed for killing Juan Placencia, a 77-year-old neighbor, in Garrett, about 10 miles north of Fort Wayne. Woods stabbed Placencia 21 times during a burglary.

People who saw Woods on Thursday said he was at peace. Prison spokesman Barry Nothstine said Woods was just the second condemned inmate he had dealt with who showed no sign of worry or trepidation that he was about to die.

"He was very calm, pleasant, relaxed," Nothstine said. "He expressed many times that he's found religion. He told me ... he was going to a better place."

Woods displayed his faith in his final statement.

"I want everybody to know that I do have peace and it's through Jesus Christ that I have this peace," he said.

Woods also apologized.

"I want Juan's family to know I truly am sorry and I do have remorse," Woods said.

David Placencia, from Bakersfield, Calif., said he can't forgive Woods for his father's slaying.

"I'm not one to forgive," he said.

Gene Placencia, who lives in Ridgecrest, Calif., said Woods' death gives him peace.

"I have closure. I can finally get on with my life, raise my kids, run my business and love my family," he said.

Placencia and four siblings were the first to watch an execution under a new law that gives up to eight spots to immediate family members of murder victims. In the past, victim's family members would have to ask the condemned inmate for permission to attend.

The Placencias said they were glad they attended the execution.

"Like my brother Gene said, I feel closure," said Rick Placencia of Garrett.

Woods' attorneys had tried to stop the execution on the grounds that Indiana's lethal injection protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Woods also disputed the state court's method of determining whether he was mentally retarded, which could have rendered him ineligible for the death penalty.

Woods' attorney, William Van Der Pol, Jr., spoke on behalf of Woods' family.

"Tonight should not be about retribution for the past but hope for the future," he said. "Society should not take great solace or great glee in David's passing this evening."

Three of Woods' family members were among about 25 people who protested against the death penalty Thursday night outside the prison. Woods' brother-in-law, Tommy Yeager, said Woods hopes the Placencia family will forgive him.

"David is not mad at them at all," Yeager said. "He understands their sorrow, and he hopes someday they can forgive him."

Woods was the first person put to death in Indiana since Marvin Bieghler on Jan. 27, 2006. Before that, the state executed five people in seven months in 2005. That was the most in one year in Indiana since 1938, when eight men were electrocuted over nine months.

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