“There was a gunshot wound to the head and there were nine stab wounds,” said Dr. Lynn Salzberger with the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.
Salzberger was the last witness on the stand in the 354th District Court Friday as the capital murder trial of Brandon Dale Woodruff concluded its seventh day. Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday morning.Brandon Woodruff has pleaded not guilty to one count of capital murder in connection with the deaths of his parents, Dennis and Norma Woodruff. Prosecutors have alleged Woodruff killed his mother and father inside their home near Royse City sometime after 9 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005. Their bodies were found in the residence two days later.
Salzberger performed the autopsy on Dennis Woodruff, while Norma Woodruff’s autopsy was handled by a different medical examiner. Prosecutors have said Norma Woodruff was shot as many as five times.Salzberger said the gun which was used to shoot Dennis Woodruff was held inches from in front of his face, with the bullet entering the left side of the front of his mouth and penetrated one of the cervical vertebrae in the victim’s neck. She testified the gunshot would have been enough to leave Dennis Woodruff paralyzed and unable to breathe, but would not necessarily have rendered him immediately unconscious.
Salzberger said the gunshot alone would be enough to have caused the victim’s death, “Probably along the lines of minutes, seconds to minutes.”
At least two of the stab wounds, which severed the carotid artery and jugular vein on the left side of the victim’s neck, would also have been enough to kill Dennis Woodruff, she said. Three of the other stab wounds were to the right side of the Dennis Woodruff’s face, two to the back of his neck and two more to his right armpit.
At the time they were killed, the Woodruffs were in the process of moving from a residence in Heath in Rockwall County to the Royse City home in Hunt County, as part of an effort to downsize and save enough money to send Brandon Woodruff to Abilene Christian University and their daughter Charla Woodruff to Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark.
In July 2008, Linda Matthews, Norma Woodruff’s sister, found a dagger among the family’s possessions at the Heath residence. Prosecutors have alleged the dagger may have been the weapon used in the stabbings, as a skull compartment at the base contained blood matching Dennis Woodruff’s.
Prosecutor Adrienne McFarland with the Texas Attorney General’s Office displayed the dagger to Salzberger and asked if it could have caused the stabbing injuries found on Dennis Woodruff.
“This instrument would be consistent with all of the wounds I found on the body,” Salzberger said, later noting a kitchen knife could also have inflicted the same type of damage, depending on how it was held.
Salzberger testified it is “entirely possible” the Woodruffs were killed on the evening of Oct. 16, but said she could not tell the exact times of death, explaining it could have been a little earlier or a little later than the night in question.