Police Arrest A Familiar Suspect

Friday, November 14th 2008, 10:05 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A suspected burglar arrested in Tulsa has ties to the murder of former Pawnee County sheriff Dwight Woodrell.  John Ridgeway's has now been arrested twice by the same cop.  The case is unusual since it brings the same suspect face to face with the same officer twice.  The officer is hoping this time, will be the last.

Tulsa Police say surveillance video shows John Ridgeway driving a stolen Bobcat.  They arrested him this week in a burglary bust so big they say it will solve hundreds of cases and prevent hundreds more.

"24 hours a day, while the rest of us are out working, he's preying on those people who are good citizens," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Brandon Watkins.

Sgt. Watkins knows Ridgeway well.  This week marks the second time he's arrested him. 

The first time was in 2001 for the murder of Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell. Sgt. Watkins heard a description of the get-away truck and started looking for it in Tulsa motel parking lots and found it.  John Ridgeway came walking up with two guns in his two front pockets.

"Me and Joe Ward were hiding in the hotel room when he knocked and we came out with guns drawn and he fought us.  Just two days after the murder, fought us to get in his pockets to get those guns," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Brandon Watkins.

Ridgeway was at the Spess Oil Company near Cleveland on October 13, 2001 with two other men.  Sheriff Woodrell, a husband and father of four, was on his way home when he saw something suspicious and stopped.  The sheriff was shot to death.

Ridgeway testified he was in sitting in the front seat asleep.  He said he heard a noise, woke up and looked in the rearview mirror and saw what the other men had done.  Ridgeway was the star witness and didn't face any charges.  The other two, James Taylor and Justin Walker, went to prison for second degree murder.

"If you manage to get away, you're part of a murder of a police officer and you decide not to turn your life around.  Go right back to stealing, robbing, doing drugs. This is clearly not a guy who learns from his mistakes. Only way to stop him is to put him in prison," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Brandon Watkins.

Ridgeway faces five new charges to the 11 he already faces for this week's bust.  Officers hope that will be enough to put him away for a very long time.

Detectives spent the whole day driving around the area, finding additional places Ridgeway hit.  They say he was also a master at fraud, printing fake IDs and cashing checks, so this investigation could take them months.