State prosecutors hoping to put a Chillicothe man on trial for a third time were dealt a huge setback Monday when a Platte County judge threw out ballistics evidence and expert testimony. Mark Woodworth, 38, was twice convicted of murder, armed criminal action, assault, and burglary in the 1990s. Prosecutors allege Woodworth shot and killed his neighbor, Cathy Robertson, and wounded her husband, Lyndel. Lyndel Robertson initially told police that he thought his oldest daughter’s ex-boyfriend played a role in the shooting, but he later recanted the statement.
Woodworth was first convicted in 1995 and briefly released on appeal before a second jury again found him guilty of the crimes four years later. He was sentenced to life in prison. More than a decade passed before the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the conviction. The high court ruled in January that prosecutors withheld evidence from Woodworth and his legal team that would have been favorable to the defense. Woodworth was released on bail in February and his attorney, Robert Ramsey, filed the motions asking Platte County Circuit Judge Owens Hull Jr. to throw out the prosecution’s key pieces of physical evidence: the ballistics and the fingerprint expert’s testimony. Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade talk to Ramsey:
Judge Hull ruled Monday that the bullet recovered from Lyndel Robertson was not properly handled by a private investigator. He said further that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office would be barred from discussing the gun allegedly used to kill Cathy Robertson, according to online court records.
“The court finds that there has been an egregious, flagrant, cavalier disregard of evidentiary procedures and process,” Judge Hull wrote. He also called private investigator Terry Deister’s role “especially odious” and said the investigation had a “laser-like focus on one individual – Mark Woodworth.”
Woodworth is expected to return to the Platte County Courthouse on Apr. 18.