Survivor of Titusville shooting rampage testifies on opening day of trial
Man accused of fatally shooting his Titusville neighbors
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The double-murder trial of a Titusville man began Wednesday with testimony from the man who was shot 11 times but survived the Labor Day attack in 2012.
Defense attorneys for William "Billy" Woodward said they'll defend him against two murder charges by proving he was responding to a legitimate threat from his neighbors, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
But in Woodward's own recorded words from the night of the September 2012 shooting, the State Attorney's Office said the defendant described himself as a "warrior... a hunter and a killer" before he killed Gary Hembree, 39, and Roger Picior, 44, outside his neighbor's home.
"(Woodward) describes the people he shoots as his prey, and that he's at war with them," Assistant State Attorney Bill Respess said Wednesday during his opening arguments at the Brevard County Courthouse in Viera.
Also shot and wounded that night was Bruce "Tim" Blake. Woodward, 50, is on trial for attempted murder for shooting Blake 11 times. Blake testified Wednesday and said he was laying outside with gunshot wounds when emergency responders approached him.
"I told them who done it," said Blake, who was 49 years old at the time of the shooting. "It was Billy Woodard."
Circuit Judge Kelly J. McKibben began Wednesday with instructions to the jury, which attorneys spent a week selecting.
Respess began his opening argument shortly after 10 a.m. and spoke for about 25 minutes. Woodward is being represented by defense attorney Greg Eisenmenger, who spent 50 minutes on his opening statement.
The trial could take a few weeks.
Video surveillance over several weeks – including the night of the shootings – shows systematic bullying, taunting and threats toward Woodward, the State Attorney's Office said.
"There's discussions about fighting and trying to get Mr. Woodward arrested," Respess said.
Woodward said he was defending his family. Respess said that's not the case.
"This was an anger shooting, not a fear shooting," the prosecutor told the jury.
Woodward is an Army veteran who served in combat in Iraq in 1991, Respess said. He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after his service. Eisenmenger said the neighbors knew about Woodward's condition and antagonized his service, referring to him as a "plastic G.I. Joe." The defense attorney said the neighbors went further than that.
"They threatened to burn down his house while he slept," Eisenmenger said was just one of the threatening statements made and captured on camera. "This was an everyday occurrence. It was a mob across the street, escalating."
For several hours on the night of the shooting, Woodward's neighbors shined a floodlight onto his property, blasted loud music and yelled taunts, insults and curses at his home. Eisenmenger said state statutes allow a person to use deadly force to respond to a credible threat.
Titusville police said a feud developed between the neighbors based on accusations of theft in the month prior to the shooting. During that time, Woodward acquired surveillance cameras for his home. Calls were made to police about the disputes, and officers were making routine checks in the block during their patrols.
Five days before the shooting, a court hearing was held on injunction requests by both Woodward and his neighbors. The judge in the case, John Moxley, ruled against granting any injunctions.
"(Woodward) said Titusville police wouldn't solve his problems, Judge John Moxley wouldn't solve his problems, and to some extent, he said our office wouldn't solve his problems," Respess said.
A stand-your-ground defense hearing was held for the case in 2015. A judge ruled against Woodward in the hearing.
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