Hickory murder suspect spent more than 3 decades in prison for previous murder

Murder suspect has a history of violence

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - When 60 year old Jerry Lewis Woods appeared before a judge in Catawba County last week on a first appearance in connection with a Christmas Eve murder in Hickory, it was not the first time he has faced such as charge.

This time Woods is accused of murder in the death of Octavia Beaty who was stabbed to death in her Hickory apartment in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. Woods is behind bars without bond awaiting more court proceedings.

In 1982 he was in similar trouble. He was charged with murder in the death of his then brother-in-law. He later pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was given a life sentence. In 1982, though, a life sentence did not necessarily mean life. There were provisions for eventual parole, and in 2013 Woods walked out of prison after serving almost 31 years. His parole restrictions ended in the past year.

One woman, who did not want to be named, was a friend of Beaty and says the victim was aware of her boyfriend’s past. “I even begged her not to get involved with him, but she did.”

In the previous murder, the judge followed the sentencing guidelines of the day. A decade later, in the 1990’s what was called Structured Sentencing became law. That ended many opportunities for parole in life sentences except in rare cases. Eventually it evolved into Life Without Parole which is the current law.

Woods was advised last week by the judge that it was a possible sentence if convicted along with the death penalty. People in the neighborhood where Beaty was killed believe Woods should stay behind bars. “He is where he needs to be,” said one man.

Woods will be back in court for a probable cause hearing next month.

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