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For Immediate Release

July 20, 2015 U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott (216) 276-5855
United States Marshals Cold Case Unit Pieces Together Puzzle to Close Case

NOVFTF LogoCleveland, OH - United States Marshal Pete Elliott and Adult Parole Regional Director Todd Ishee announce the closure of one of Ohio’s most violent fugitive warrants.

Fugitive John Elmer Woodards was convicted of 1st Degree Murder and 1st Degree Rape of an 85 year-old female in Columbia Station, OH on January 31, 1964. The autopsy of the victim showed that all of her ribs had been broken, her spleen ruptured and internal injuries after being raped with a blunt instrument. The victim also suffered from injuries to her head, left forearm and right hand. Woodards confessed to the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office while walking them through the horrible incident at the crime scene.

Woodards was initially sentenced to death for this crime. Due to trial errors, Woodards death sentence was over-turned and was subsequently convicted of 2nd Degree murder and later given parole. Woodards requested that his parole be transferred from Ohio to North Carolina, which was granted. On September 14, 1983, Woodards was declared a Violator at Large after being involved in an alcohol related hit and run accident and a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority.

The Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, Cold Case Unit, adopted this case in May of 2015 upon request from the Ohio Adult Parole Authority. Deputy Marshals and Task Force Officers from the Ohio Adult Parole Authority tracked Woodards from Ohio to North Carolina to Virginia to Florida to Maryland and finally to Delta, Pennsylvania spanning from 1983 until he passed away on February 17, 2011.

The fugitive investigation revealed that John Elmer Woodards assumed the alias “Billie Jack” or “BJ” Woodards and lived with an unknowing “Life Partner” for over 26 years, never marrying her due to his criminal past. “Woodards lived without living,” said U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott. “Working under the table and living off of another unknowing victim’s kindness is the only way this fugitive stayed afloat.”

Woodards built a new under his new identity in a rural community in Delta, PA, surrounding himself with trusting citizens who never knew his dismal past. Upon his death in February 2011, a memorial service described his fabricated past stating that he was a former U.S. Marine who boxed semi-professionally and that he later attended college earning two associate degrees, all of which were unfounded.

U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott explained that “this is another example of thorough police work and great team work! With the assistance of the United States Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, we were able to bring closure to another cold case.”

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at


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