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How investigators knew who Joyce Thomas' killer was

Posted at 9:52 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 00:21:46-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — Before a man killed a Ville Platte deaf and mute woman, he had already bought supplies to cover up his tracks.

Still, police were able to determine that Phillip DeWoody was the killer they were looking for using the digital footprints he left along the way.

Phillip DeWoody's day began around 9:00 a.m. on February 26, 2020 - the last day that Joyce Thomas was alive. His bank statements and receipts show he made some purchases that would be used to cover up the murder… even before he had met up with Joyce later that day.

“Do you remember the Opelousas Walmart? You don’t remember buying the three bottles of bleach?” investigators asked him on May 26 – three months after he had done so.

Initially, he said he last saw Joyce when he dropped her off at the Ville Platte Walmart, and he went to Lafayette, alone. But license plate readers along Ambassador Caffery Parkway and surveillance footage did not support his statements.

He would eventually start to reveal little pieces of the truth.

“Joyce didn’t get dropped off like I told you in the beginning at the Walmart,” said DeWoody, during one of the interrogations. “She was with me pretty much that whole afternoon.”

That’s not to say he started being continuously honest.

He then claimed she got into a SUV with some men who were going to take her to a casino… but he never saw her again.

Another lie.

Investigators then told him exactly how they knew he was lying. They used digital evidence and video surveillance to put it all together.

“You went to Chevron in Ville Platte. You got some gas after that. Exactly 10:23 am,” they said.

In the confession tapes, one can see the look of despair on DeWoody’s face as investigators told him what they knew.

According to 400 pages of documents received by KATC, Troopers initially used bank records and cell phone "pings" to determine that Dewoody picked up Joyce and went back to the gas station to buy snacks.

Troopers then visited every home or business between Grand Coteau and Sunset on I-49, looking for surveillance video.

Phone records show around 12:30… DeWoody's phone would call Joyce Thomas’ bank. Her family started receiving ransom calls shortly thereafter.

The cell phone data also shows both his and her phones were together.

Then at 2:30, two eye witnesses tell police they saw DeWoody at an abandoned house on the Sunset service road and heard a woman whose voice was muffled.

“You understand you’re being charged with first degree murder?” investigators asked DeWoody.

Dewoody would then use the bleach he bought hours prior on Joyce Thomas’ body, and throw out all the evidence. He later drew a map for police to find the evidence.

Just a half hour later, receipts and video show DeWoody at the Carencro Walmart… buying new clothes before heading to a car wash.

Dewoody confessed months after, but only after investigators laid out what they knew - and it became clear they knew he was lying. He said he wanted to avoid the death penalty.

“She started going back to the car and I grabbed her by her arm and she started jerking away,” said Dewoody. “Everything from that point on, I got scared, so I pulled a knife out and stabbed her.”

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