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Opelousas man pleads guilty in first degree murder case, three life sentences handed down

Phillip Dewoody pled guilty to the first degree murder of a St. Landry Parish woman who went missing in 2020.
Phillip Dewoody.jpg
Posted at 9:39 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 20:33:00-04

OPELOUSAS, La.  — Philip Dewoody has pleaded guilty and been given three life sentences Tuesday in a kidnapping and in the murder of Joyce Thomas.

Dewoody, 54 pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the slaying of Thomas. He also pleaded guilty to the aggravated kidnapping and rape of another woman. The three life sentences will run consecutively, or one after the other.

Dewoody was in prison but was released 91 years early. KATC Investigates obtained the audio recording of the June 2019 meeting of the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole that ended with Dewoody being set free 91 years early.

To see that story and hear the recording, click here.

"Finally justice was delivered today for these two victims and their families," District Attorney Chad Pitre said in a release.

Pitre says the plea deal Wednesday was approved by the surviving victim and the families of both victims. In exchange for his guilty plea, the DA agreed not to seek the death penalty.

"The victims and their families have some amount of closure knowing this defendant will never see the outside of a prison and will never harm anyone again," Pitre said. "Dewoody and his attorney also agreed on the record to waive any appeals or post-conviction relief."

Dewoody was indicted last fall in two separate indictments; one that accused him of the first-degree murder of Joyce Thomas, and another that accused him of the kidnapping and rape of another person. All the crimes are alleged to have occurred in February 2020.

Thomas went missing on February 26. Law enforcement agencies, including the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office and Louisiana State Police, searched for Joyce for days after she went missing.

The search ultimately came to a tragic end on March 2, when Thomas' body was found in an area along the I-49 frontage road between Sunset and Opelousas.

Dewoody was also booked in March with second-degree kidnapping charges of an Opelousas woman who helped police find the body of Thomas.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told us that Dewoody's criminal career began when he was a juvenile and included homicide.