Jury selection begins in Titusville double murder case

William Woodward faces murder, attempted murder charges

By Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor, James Sparvero - Reporter

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - Jury selection began Monday in the double murder trial of a Titusville man accused of shooting three of his neighbors, killing two of them. 

Police said William Woodward opened fire on Labor Day weekend in 2012 because of an ongoing dispute between the neighbors.

The mother of Gary Hembree, one of the men killed, told News 6 in September 2012 that Woodward was causing problems.

"He's been giving him trouble for three weeks and (Hembree) keeps asking the police for help," Jeanie Huppert said.

The week before the shooting, Woodward and Hembree were in court trying to get restraining orders against each other. A judge denied the request. 

Police said that days later Woodward, a war veteran who, according to his family, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury, opened fire and killed Hembree and Roger Picior. 

A third neighbor, Bruce Blake, was shot 11 times and survived. News 6 spoke to him a few months after the shooting. 

Previous coverage:  Accused shooter takes stand Judge says no death penalty in Titusville murder case | William Woodward says he shot men after being threatened

"Why me? How come I didn't go with my buddies?" Blake asked while talking to News 6 in November 2012. 

In May 2015, the court denied Woodward's request to argue his innocence under Florida's "stand your ground" law. His lawyers claimed he was being harassed and threatened, and that he acted in defense of his family. 

In February 2016, the judge took the death penalty off the table. The only sentence Woodward can now receive if convicted is life in prison. 

At the time, his attorney, Greg Eisenmenger, told News 6 that the death penalty never should have been an option in the first place.  

"Obviously, we believe he's not guilty of murder. We believe he acted in self-defense, but even if he was convicted of that, the mitigating factors heavily outweigh the aggravated factors in this case," Eisenmenger said.  

Woodward is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.  

Jury selection began Monday in Brevard County and could continue for at least three days.

Woodward's defense is hoping the trial can begin before the end of the week.

"I hope the jury understands the issues in this case and finds him not guilty," Eisenmenger said on Monday outside the Viera courthouse.

"Think of it as: His home is his castle and the street is a moat. Do you wait until the enemy crosses the moat and attacks your castle, or do you deal with them on the other side of the moat? My client chose to defend his family in an area that would not place his family at risk," Eisenmenger said. "It's absolutely self-defense."              

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