NewsKATC Investigates


Joyce Thomas' daughter struggles with parole board's 2019 decision to release DeWoody

Joyce Thomas.jpg
Posted at 10:33 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 12:41:11-04

In Part 3 of our investigation into the Philip DeWoody case file, we talk to Joyce Thomas's daughter, Brecky Lavigne.

Thomas is the woman DeWoody admitted to killing after kidnapping her from her Evangeline Parish apartment in March of 2020.

She says she knows Philip DeWoody is the person who killed her mother, but she blames the state parole board for him even having the chance.

"I hope it haunts them everyday because it's their fault," Lavigne explains. "How did they come to the decision to release someone who is serving over 100 years? Apparently someone serving that much time means they must be someone who needs to be removed from society."

Philip DeWoody was sentenced to 117 years in prison for crimes he committed in 1993 but was released on parole 91 years early. He became parole eligible under what's known as the Geriatric Parole Law, which grants eligibilty for older offenders facing long prison sentences. DeWoody has an extensive criminal history including a homicide charge as a juvenile, along with armed robbery, aggravated escape and second degree kidnapping.

"How could you allow him to be released," says Lavigne. "That's what I struggle with everyday. I just can't understand how they made that determination. What grounds? The programs he completed?"

DeWoody completed programs dealing with anger management, substance abuse, pre-release training and obtained his GED. His release was at the full discretion of the parole board.

The original law allowed a person who was at least 45 years old and had served at least 20 years of a 30 or more year prison sentence to be eligible for parole. That law was amended in 1997 to say a person who committed a violent crime and not otherwise eligible must serve 85 percent of that sentence before becoming eligible. DeWoody's crimes were violent; however, he was convicted in 1993.

The KATC Investigative team learned there was at least one other older violent offender granted parole by the board the same day DeWoody was. There were also non-violent offenders in that same age bracket the board denied parole in the same month.

In his parole hearing, DeWoody said he had remorse for the crimes he committed and the victims that he had done the crimes to. He said he really wanted to show that he had changed.

"When my siblings sat down and listened to that, it wasn't even a parole hearing for a guy who committed all of those crimes. And now you see, he took our mother from us."

DeWoody also said in the hearing that failure was not an option for him any longer.

All three parole board members voted to grant parole. He killed Joyce Thomas eight months after his release.

"Not a year goes by and he does what he does. I hope it's something they think about everyday because all of this was based on your decision. Looking at his history, there was great probablity he would do what he did and he did."

Philip DeWoody is serving three life sentences for the death of Joyce Thomas.

KATC Investigates reached out to the parole board with a list of questions. Among them, what made them believe DeWoody was ready to be back into society. We are still awaiting a response.

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