Witness: Man accused of killing Pawnee County Sheriff 'thought he'd shot a cop'

Tuesday, June 29th 2004, 5:48 am
By: News On 6

PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) -- A convicted felon testified Monday that he was robbing a rural Pawnee County drilling company with three other men when one of the others said he believed he had shot a police officer.

Darwin Lyle Springer, 39, testified Monday that Justin Lee Walker, 25, took out a 38-caliber revolver and went toward the Spess Drilling Co. building in Cleveland, Okla., and several shots were fired before Walker returned.

"He said he thought he'd shot a cop," Springer said.

The testimony came in the third day of a preliminary hearing in which Pawnee County Associate District Judge Matthew Henry must decide whether Walker and James Craig Taylor, 37, will stand trial on charges of first-degree murder in the Oct. 13, 2001, death of Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr.

Springer said he saw a patrol car turn into the business as he, Walker, Taylor, John Ridgway and a man known only as Shane were burglarizing the site.

Soon afterward, Walker returned to the car where Springer was waiting and said, "They've got James," before leaving with the revolver, Springer said.

Woodrell was found wounded in his car, shot repeatedly with a .38- or .357-caliber revolver, investigators said.

Springer, who has multiple felony convictions, admitted during cross-examination that he lied repeatedly to investigators after the incident to turn attention away from himself. He said prosecutors have not promised him any deals in exchange for his testimony.

Springer also said he used methamphetamine and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, the night of the robbery but it did not affect his ability to perceive events.

Ridgway, who was formerly convicted of seven felonies, testified last week that he was recovering from a methamphetamine high, but believed he saw Walker shoot Woodrell. Ridgway also said prosecutors did not offer him a deal in exchange for his testimony.

Also Monday, William Michael Biggs testified that Walker tried to sell him a revolver in October 2001. Walker boasted that he killed a man to keep Taylor from going to jail, Biggs said.

"He told me a deputy had been shot with it," Biggs said.

Biggs testified the gun Walker offered was dark in color. Springer earlier said the gun Walker had the night Woodrell was killed was light-colored or silver.

Henry continued the preliminary hearing to July 12. Walker and Taylor are serving prison sentences for unrelated offenses.