A jury has found Bobby Woods Jr. guilty of capital murder in the 2015 drowning death of Mason Cuttler.
The jury deliberated for about four hours before reaching its verdict at 4:07 p.m. Friday. Because Woods faced a capital charge, he now faces a sentence of life in prison.
Authorities charged Woods, 21, in August 2015 following a series of interviews. In his final interview with authorities, Woods admitted to pushing the 3-year-old into a pond near the home where Mason lived, and said his former girlfriend, Billie Jean Cuttler, 23, had convinced him to do so to make room for their unborn child.
Cuttler is also charged with capital murder in the same investigation. Her attorney, Al Charanza, told The Lufkin Daily News his client said she was never pregnant.
The jury came to its verdict in state District Judge Paul White’s court after seven days of testimony from investigators involved in the case, authorities involved in the search of Mason, who was reported missing Aug. 17, 2015, before his body was discovered and family members of both Woods and Mason.
District Attorney Joe Martin and assistant District Attorney Ken Dies represented the state in Woods’ case, and Woods’ defense counsel comprised of attorneys John Tunnell and Carter Meyers.
Prior to deliberations, both sides gave their closing arguments Friday morning.
During closing arguments, Dies insisted the testimony given by investigators in the case, as well as Woods’ own admission of guilt prior to his 2015 arrest, were evidence that he had pushed Mason into the pond. He noted the results of the two polygraph exams Woods took in 2015 were not admissible as evidence, but interviews and statements, which Dies said he voluntarily gave, were still valid.
“The defendant engaged in those interviews, engaged in those interrogations, freely and voluntarily,” Dies said. “I know some of you may take issue with the words, ‘may I go home?’”
“The young man cries on the shoulder of a man who the evidence shows is more credible than Bobby Woods Jr.”
Dies also mentioned how Woods constantly changed his story of what had happened during the investigation, and how he gave a new account of what occurred Thursday during his own testimony.
“He lied, and he lied, and he lied,” Dies said. “So when does he tell the truth?
“Your verdict must honor your service, it must honor the truth, it must honor the credible and believable evidence brought to you, and not the words of a defendant who has told you he will lie.”
Tunnell maintained his client’s innocence, as he had throughout the trial. He insisted Woods’ confession was a false confession, made because his client was confused, frustrated and intimidated by the interrogation techniques investigators used.
“What happened was a tragedy, it was terrible,” Tunnell said. “But not a crime.
“Bobby Wayne Woods Jr. made statements to law enforcement that were not true, confessed to a crime he did not commit.”
As he discussed the case, Tunnell noted the unusual nature of the arguments made; the case hinged upon Woods’ admission of guilt during the interview process. He also emphasized the burden of proof rested on the state’s shoulders. Woods’ being on the borderline of being intellectually disabled was another point Tunnell brought up in reference to how it could be a cause of giving a false confession.
“I want to go home means I want to go home,” Tunnell said, in reference to a moment in his client’s interviews where he said he wanted to leave.
During his response, Martin noted others who had testified in the case that weren’t involved in the investigation, such as Mason’s mother, had heard Woods speaking about Mason’s death with Cuttler and sticking to a plan. A portion of the initial interview was played back for the jury, in which Woods talked about Mason being found face down with his eyes closed in the pond. During Woods’ testimony Thursday, he had said he hadn’t discussed Mason’s death with Cuttler or any others.
“There is no explanation for that, other than he was close enough and in a position to see that child’s eyes were closed and he was face down,” Martin said.
Further discussing the interviews, Martin noted Woods became defensive before the possibility of Mason’s death being a murder was brought up. Martin insisted Woods knew his rights and pointed out how Woods said investigators wouldn’t be able to “slide” anything past him early in his initial interview.
“Bobby knew what his rights were,” Martin said. “He knew what he could assert and when he could assert, and anything he said otherwise on this stand is a lie. Another lie.''
In the end, the jury decided on the guilty verdict. Following the verdict, Mason’s grandmother Janey Ramsey offered a victim impact statement to the court, which Martin read.
“The day you and Billie took Mason’s life, you took away all of his rights," the impact statement said. "The right to have a birthday every year. The right to his first day of school. The joy and love of his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. He was just a little boy who couldn’t defend himself from someone like you.”
Woods is currently the longest-serving inmate in the Angelina County Jail, having been there since his Aug. 28, 2015, arrest.