Defense attorneys in the capital murder trial of Bobby Woods Jr. called their first witness on Tuesday.
Woods, 21, is charged in the 2015 drowning death of 3-year-old Mason Cuttler along with his former girlfriend, Billie Jean Cuttler. Authorities found Mason in a pond near the home where Woods, Cuttler, Mason and others lived. The Angelina County Sheriff’s Office arrested Woods on charges he pushed Mason into the pond and looked away.
Tuesday’s proceedings opened with Woods’ defense counsel, attorneys John Tunnell and Carter Meyers, calling Dr. Wendy Elliot, who spoke on her knowledge of Woods’ cognitive ability and education.
“Broadly speaking, Mr. Woods in all his testing scores below average range,” she said.
Woods’ IQ regularly tested in the range of 70 to 84, which Elliot said is on the borderline of the functional range. She said Woods had memory deficits and had trouble behaving in school.
Woods said he felt intimidated during his interviews with law enforcement after Mason’s death and that he didn’t understand his rights.
Tunnell asked Elliot to elaborate on the idea of false confessions, and she said the term refers to those who confess to an act he or she did not do. Factors that may contribute to such confessions include age, mental health, anxiety and interview length, she said.
Assistant District Attorney Ken Dies, who is prosecuting the case with District Attorney Joe Martin, focused on portions of Elliot’s evaluations in which he gave different answers when compared to answers he had given Dr. Joseph Kartye. Among the differences, Woods lied about being a father and his employment history.
Additionally, Elliot agreed with Dies that Woods demonstrated he is not susceptible to suggestion, as there were moments during his interviews in which he said he would not let words be put in his mouth.
After Elliot, the state called upon Jared Bailey, who testified on his brief encounter with Woods the day of Woods’ arrest.
Bailey said he heard Woods at the Angelina County Jail talking to himself, and at one point he said he heard Woods talk about tossing a child into a pond and asking God for forgiveness. Bailey said he later informed ACSO of this occurrence in 2017, almost two years later.
Former ACSO Lt. Brett Maisel continued testifying during the afternoon. Footage of the interview Maisel shared with Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn was played for the court. Rayburn stressed to Woods the importance of the truth in Mason’s death. Prior to the interview between Maisel, Rayburn and Woods, Woods had told Maisel he saw Mason fall into the pond.
After continued questioning by Rayburn, Woods said he pushed Mason into the pond and watched him drown. Woods said Cuttler was pregnant with his child, and that they had been told there was not room for another child at the home.
“I thought of my child,” Woods said in the interview footage.
In previous court hearings, Al Charanza, Cuttler’s attorney, said she was never pregnant.
As the interview continued, Woods said it was Cuttler’s idea to kill Mason and that she suggested drowning him. They decided to act on the plan Aug. 16, 2015, because Mason had asked about swimming that day, Woods said in the interview. He said Cuttler had looked to him and said, “There’s our chance.”
At the pond, Woods said he asked Mason if he still wanted to go swimming and said the boy had taken a step toward the pond when he pushed him in.
“As Mason was drowning, Mason hollered for help,” according to the statement Maisel took from Woods during the interview. “Billie was already turned around and facing the house as she stood on the four-wheeler. As Mason hollered for help, I turned around.”
In an interview after the admission, Woods said he feared Cuttler would lay the blame entirely on him.