Stephenville murder premieres on Dateline
By: Taylor Kaluza
If you are a fan of Dateline then you will want to catch the two-hour episode featuring Stephenville, Texas when it premiers Feb.12 on NBC.
The case dives into the murder of Susan Woods, which took place in Stephenville in the late 80s. While the Woods’ death happened almost two decades ago, the case was not solved until 2006 when Lt. Don Miller, who worked for the Stephenville Police Department solved the murder using DNA evidence found at the crime and new technology to link Joseph Scott Hatley to the murder.
The body was discovered on July 28, 1987, when Woods’ father had walked into the bathroom to find his daughter partly submerged in the bathtub. After the reports came back, it was discovered by investigators that she had been dead for two or three days after the murder occurred and had died due to asphyxiation from either strangulation or drowning.
For years, the murder had gone unsolved due to the police not being able to figure out who could have done it. At the time of her murder, Woods’ former husband, Michael Woods, was targeted for possibly murdering his wife, due to their ongoing divorce at the time of her murder. For years, police persisted in trying to get a confession that they would not get, at least from the husband.
A new suspect came to police’s attention when a girl in Erath County, who only goes by Shannon, was raped and identified Joseph Scott Hatley for the crime. Later apprehended by police, he had reportedly claimed he had killed another woman, but a grand jury would not indict him and ended up letting him go free.
That decision led to the case remaining unsolved for almost 20 years until the case was reopened by Miller. While re-examining the old evidence, Miller believed that a fingerprint obtained could be put through new technology to find the culprit, which led to the arrest of Hatley.
Before he went to trial for the murder, Hatley plead guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007. After 11 years, he was released from prison and still resides in Texas.
To get the full story and learn more information about the crime tune in to Dateline Feb.12 on NBC.