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By age 16, Woodworth wanted to drop out of high school. He argued that his future was in farming, not college. His parents compromised: He could quit school if he enrolled in a local technical program and earned his GED.
In court, years later, prosecutors called Woodworth a loner with "brooding eyes," a "high-school dropout" with few friends, and a quiet teen capable of a coldblooded killing.
On November 13, 1990, Cathy and Lyndel Robertson retired to their bedroom shortly after watching the 10 p.m. news. Their 15-year-old daughter, Rhonda, went to her basement bedroom shortly thereafter.
Around midnight, Rhonda awoke to the sound of her little sister frantically pounding on the door, shouting, "Dad's sick and he's throwing up blood. ... Mom won't wake up."
Rhonda ran upstairs to the first floor of the redbrick farmhouse. She got her 11-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister away from their parents' bedroom. When she crossed the threshold, Rhonda saw her mother lying motionless on a blood-soaked mattress. She had been shot in the head and collarbone.
Her father writhed and moaned on the floor. Two bullets had struck Lyndel Robertson's mouth, shattering his teeth. He spit up a mix of bullet fragments and blood. One bullet pierced his neck, while another lodged in his liver. Paramedics took him to a local hospital, and he was later airlifted to Research Medical Center in Kansas City.
The next morning, three of Lyndel Robertson's friends drove the 90 miles from Chillicothe to visit him as he recovered from surgery.
John Quinn, a fellow farmer, recalled the scene later in court. "Who done this to you, Lyndel?" the men asked. Over the beeps of a heart monitor, they heard Robertson mutter the name "Brandon."
"I'm almost 100 percent sure," Robertson later told police.
Brandon Thomure was the boyfriend of the eldest Robertson daughter, Rochelle. (Despite mentioning Thomure's name to friends and investigators following the shooting, Robertson has insisted in courtroom testimony and depositions that he never saw the shooter and only speculated that Thomure was responsible.)
Thomure carried a reputation around town for violent outbursts. A witness told authorities that the high school wrestler once threatened his girlfriend with a gun. Another claimed to have seen Thomure grab Rochelle by the throat and threaten to choke her to death.
Thomure's mother and sister both testified that he was in Independence, where he had recently moved, on the night of the shooting.
In Oxenhandler's review of the case decades later, the judge called Thomure's alibi "shaky, at best."
Thomure's hands tested positive for gunshot residue 12 hours after the shooting. Prosecutors downplayed the evidence, saying that too much time had passed to rely on the results.
Thomure had also stashed a duffel bag in the trunk of a woman's car while staying at her Chillicothe apartment in the days after the killing. In the trunk, investigators discovered four .22-caliber bullet casings, the same kind used in the Robertson home. The car's owner claimed that the shells may have come from her boyfriend's gun. But there's no record of authorities interviewing the boyfriend or questioning Thomure about the bag.
A week after the shooting, Rochelle Robertson filed for a protective order against Thomure. "He has struck me in the past, and has made frequent harassing telephone calls to me since Nov. 1," she wrote. "He may have murdered my mother and attempted to kill my father."
However, in 1995, a jury convicted Woodworth on all counts — second-degree murder of Cathy Robertson, first-degree burglary and first-degree assault of Lyndel Robertson — and sentenced him to 31 years in prison.