Second-degree murder case bound over to grand jury

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Okie Woolridge is pictured with his attorney, Charles Kelly of Dyersburg, during his court appearance.

By Lorcan McCormick

Post Associate Editor

Although a Dyersburg attorney advocated against a second-degree murder charge claiming a lack of malice on behalf of his client, Oki Woolridge, 44, of Martin last week in court, Weakley County General Sessions Judge Tommy Moore bound the case over to the grand jury on the initial charge last week in court.

On Wednesday, Aug. 16, a preliminary hearing was held for the Second-Degree Murder charges facing Woolridge for events occurring on April 22, 2023, at his N. Lindell Street barbershop. On that day, Terry Wilson Jr. was shot in front of Woolridge’s business after an alleged dispute. Wilson was found dead at the Carl Perkins Center, beside Woolridge’s shop, 30-40 minutes later. The case was held in front of Judge Moore; prosecuting the case for the State Attorney General’s office was 27th Judicial District Assistant DA James Washburn; defending Woolridge was Dyersburg attorney Charles Kelly. 

Two witnesses were brought forward – Martin Police Officer Stephanie Adams, who was the responding officer on the scene the day of the killing, and MPD Criminal Investigations Division Capt. James Robert Hatler, who headed the investigation. 

Adams, now an officer with the Union City police department, gave her recollection of events to both the prosecution and the defense. Adams reported she was initially dispatched to the scene for an aggravated assault that turned into a deadly shooting. Adams testified she encountered two individuals picking up trash, with one wearing a backpack. After a very brief interaction with these two, she moved on to meeting Woolridge, who confirmed to her he had called the police himself. He did not, at that time, specify he had committed the shooting, though he acknowledged shots had been fired and that Wilson had fled, according to Adams’ testimony. 

MPD Patrolman Levi Henson reportedly arrived shortly after Adams did. Woolridge reportedly told officers Wilson was kicking and punching the side of the building, and that he had knives and razor blades, as well as a possible weapon in the waistband of his pants. Woolridge told the officers he thought he saw the shine of the handle of a handgun but he was not certain. He said he was not sure who it was, though he said he thought his name was possibly Terry; Patrolman Henson stated he thought it was Wilson and Woolridge confirmed it was Terry Wilson after Henson provided him a photograph of Wilson, according to the testimony. 

Adams and Henson proceeded to search around the building for Wilson. They found a razor blade and a multitool on the west side of the building; Woolridge would initially claim to not know who owned them, but later told Hatler during his investigation they belonged to him. The search for Wilson lasted a half hour or slightly more before a Lieutenant Cook of the Martin Police Department found the body slumped in what was described by Adams as a half-seated, half-standing position against the Carl Perkins Center. No weapon was found on his body.

A security camera is positioned facing the west side of the building. Woolridge has access to an app which he showed to Adams, who viewed a live feed from the camera, and stated to Adams on that day he would be happy to provide footage from the camera to the police. When questioned by the defense, Adams clarified Woolridge was the third person she spoke to on the scene, with the two individuals picking up trash being the first two she spoke with, and that those two did not call 911. The outside witnesses were not identified.

The defense probed into how many witnesses were identified in the barbershop at the time and Adams referenced her incident report carrying the information, though apparently the report does not make specific reference to the quantity of witnesses. She stated to the defense she recalled there was a man getting his hair cut, a son who was maybe three years of age, and two others, a younger boy and a girl in possibly her 20s. Hatler later confirmed seven or eight witnesses were identified with the help of Woolridge as being present at the scene. Wilson was confirmed to have been behaving in an erratic manner, with Woolridge having described him in one interview with Hatler as being irate, upset, and threatening to kill his family. Two witnesses from across the street were later questioned by Hatler, and they confirmed Wilson showed up to the barbershop seeking to fight Woolridge. 

Once Captain Hatler was sworn in, the hearing took a turn toward analyzing inconsistencies in Woolridge’s story. Hatler claimed Woolridge had slight alterations of his story in all three interviews that were conducted. Investigator Scott Diehl and Rick Workman examined Wilson’s body, and found the gunshot was sustained from an elevated position and exited at a lower angle. 

During Hatler’s testimony it was revealed that a complaint had been made by Woolridge regarding Wilson several days prior to an off-duty Weakley County Sheriff’s Department Deputy, who shared the complaint with his supervisor; this complaint was confirmed to have been found during the investigation. 

Wilson had reportedly made a demand of $25 for unknown reasons from Woolridge; a similar demand by Wilson of $25 was made to a nearby barber who met the demand. During Hatler’s testimony, he claimed a witness corroborated Woolridge’s story about Wilson looking to fight, then later said the witness said he was not wanting to fight. Also worthy of note is Hatler said this witness was not detained at the scene, but questioned later; Adams stated everyone present at the scene was held for questioning.

The gun used in the shooting was found to belong to Woolridge’s daughter. Woolridge cooperated in informing officers where the weapon was. Woolridge claimed that seeing the handle of a handgun, or at least the gleam of one, was what prompted his action of shooting Wilson. Woolridge claimed Wilson came to the outside of the shop three times that day, at one point having his shirt on and then by day’s end at the time of the shooting not having his shirt on. Hatler stated they could only confirm Wilson being in the barbershop itself once. No doubt is given the shooting occurred outside on the south side of the shop. The defense made note that Jeff Washburn was called to be present for Woolridge’s second interview with the police; Kelly made a note of Washburn’s parentage to the DA office’s James Washburn, though Kelly elaborated no further and left the note hanging. 

In closing prosecutorial remarks, James Washburn summarized the state’s case against Woolridge as Woolridge took justice into his own hands, killing a man over a dispute rooted in $25. The defense responded that the charge of Second Degree Murder was excessive, and that malice could not be proven and a manslaughter charge was the best case they could make. 

In any event, Judge Moore bound the case over to the September term of the Weakley County Grand Jury for the charge of Second-Degree Murder.

If Woolridge is indicted on the charge, he will be expected to appear before 27th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Jeff Parham the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 12.            

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