By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — The state of Indiana called eight additional witnesses in the second day of a murder trial in Warsaw.
Vickie Louise Wooldridge, 45, 19 M Dee Acres, Nappanee, is charged with murder, a felony; attempted murder, a level 1 felony; aggravated battery and attempted criminal confinement, both level 3 felonies; and battery while armed with a deadly weapon, a level 5 felony.
Wooldridge is accused of murdering Matthew Lucas, stabbing Bill Burr, and attacking Diane Burr on Dec. 15, 2020.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brad Voelz continued the state’s case on Wednesday, Aug. 10, by calling Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Josh Spangle for testimony.
Spangle is the lead detective on the Wooldridge case. Upon arrival at the Westside Drive residence on Dec. 15, 2020, Spangle met with KCSO Sgt. Kevin Gelbaugh and walked through the scene. Spangle also said he was taken to an abandoned camper about 70 yards northwest of the residence, where more evidence was collected.
Dozens of photographs of the scene were presented to the jury. Several of the pictures showed Lucas’s body and blood on the walls in the Burr residence’s basement, where Lucas was found.
Spangle said Lucas sustained a massive injury to his neck and was pronounced dead at the scene. Light, curly hair was also discovered in Lucas’s right hand and on underwear that Lucas was wearing.
As part of the investigation, Spangle took swabs of the blood on the wall and ceiling above Lucas’s body. Investigating officers also found a bloodied handprint with part of a ribbed pattern after removing the bedspread from a bed in the basement.
Photos of footwear impressions on a linoleum floor in the basement were submitted as evidence. The impressions appeared similar to the tread pattern of shoes that Wooldridge was wearing when arrested.
Two knives that Wooldridge allegedly used were also presented to the jury. One knife was found on the bed in the Burr residence’s basement; the second knife was found on the living room floor, where Bill Burr was attacked.
Photos of blood transfer to walls in the living room and a hallway were shown.
Evidence collected from an abandoned camper near the area of Westside Drive included a gray sweatshirt, black hoodie, white ski cap, and blood on the camper’s door. After being attacked, Diane told officers that Wooldridge was wearing a hoodie and white ski cap. Spangle noted the ribbed pattern on the sweatshirt’s cuffs, which were bloodied. He said a ribbed pattern was discovered in bloodstains throughout the home and pointed those instances out to the jury, including the handprint on the bed.
The state’s second witness was McKale Mahaska, who worked as the manager at the Lake Street Pizza King at the time of the attack. He testified that shortly before 11 a.m. that day, Wooldridge entered the restaurant and was in the bathroom for about 30 minutes.
After leaving the bathroom, Wooldridge came up to the counter, asked to buy a soda, and left after the purchase. Mahaska said he called 911 after a delivery driver alerted him about law enforcement searching for Wooldridge. Dispatch instructed Mahaska to make sure no one else went into the bathroom.
County Deputy Shaun Mudd, who also testified, arrived at the Pizza King and said he took pictures of the restaurant’s bathroom, swabbed what appeared to be blood on the bathroom’s sink, and collected the trash bag from the bathroom.
Spangle was re-called for testimony and said a pair of socks and latex gloves were found in the bathroom’s trash. A purse belonging to Wooldridge, which was discovered in the Burr residence’s basement, contained four latex gloves. Spangle said the gloves found in Wooldridge’s purse and those found in the bathroom trash were similar.
Through cross-examination, Defense Attorney Anthony Churchward asked Spangle if the hair found in Lucas’s right hand was submitted for DNA analysis to the Indiana State Police. Spangle said 10 items were sent to Indiana State Police, but the hair was not one of them.
Churchward also inquired about a glass smoking device and plastic bag corner found in Lucas’s bedroom. Spangle said the paraphernalia was normally seen in drug use and that the bag corner tested positive for methamphetamine residue.
Serafina Salamo, an ISP forensic scientist, testified about her work in performing DNA analysis for collected evidence in this case. Spangle collected DNA samples from Wooldridge, the Burrs, and Lucas’s body. Salamo analyzed the two knives used in the incident, as well as swabs of blood collected from the scene and the gray sweatshirt found near the abandoned camper.
Four DNA swabs on the knife found in the bedroom where Lucas died were collected. Three of the swabs indicated strong DNA connections to Lucas. The fourth swab was a DNA mixture belonging to two people, including Lucas. Salamo said some DNA information belonging to the second person was consistent with Wooldridge’s DNA, but not a lot.
On the sweatshirt found near the camper, there was strong DNA support on three of the swabs for Lucas, Bill and Wooldridge.
Salamo also informed the court that DNA analysis on the blood swab collected from Pizza King’s bathroom sink closely matched Wooldridge’s DNA.
Jarod Osborne, the lead pastor of Pathway Church in Warsaw, was the state’s fifth witness. Osborne said on Dec. 15, 2020, he was informed by a staff member about a person jumping into the church’s dumpster.
The staff member and Osborne went to the dumpster and saw a woman wearing a dark hoodie and backpack. Osborne introduced himself and Wooldridge told Osborne her name. When Osborne asked if she needed help, Wooldridge got out of the dumpster and left the scene on foot.
KCSO Deputy Jim Smith responded to the incident and was eventually given the assignment to look for Wooldridge. Smith testified that multiple agencies were involved in attempting to find Wooldridge. He estimated around seven or eight agencies responded, including fire personnel, medics and police.
Smith said that drones, K9 units, and a helicopter were used in the search and area schools were placed on lockdown during the search. He found Wooldridge walking on foot while he was traveling east on Old Road 30 and detained her.
Body camera footage of the apprehension was played for the court.
County Deputy Elizabeth Thompson, who patted down Wooldridge upon her arrival at the Kosciusko County Jail testified that she noticed red stains on the shirt that Wooldridge was wearing. She also said red stains were discovered on Wooldridge’s bra.
Salamo was re-called for testimony and said DNA analysis on the blood found on the bra closely matched Lucas’s.
The state’s final witness for the day was Dr. Scott Wagner, who performed the autopsy on Lucas’s body in Fort Wayne on Dec. 16, 2020. Wagner testified that Lucas was stabbed more than 30 times, sustaining injuries to his head, chest, back and neck.
Photos from the autopsy were submitted as evidence to the jury.
Wagner said many of Lucas’s wounds were around his neck, with one chest wound going through two ribs and hitting the heart. Another injury went all the way to Lucas’s cervical spine. Both of Lucas’s lungs were also punctured as a result of the wounds.
Wagner testified that none of Lucas’s injuries occurred post-mortem. He pointed out wounds on Lucas’s left calf and left arm that he called “defense wounds,” injuries that Lucas may have received while trying to defend himself from an assailant.
Wagner ruled Lucas’s cause of death as multiple stab wounds and the manner of death as a homicide.
In cross-examination, Churchward asked Wagner if there was any evidence that indicated if more than one blade was used to attack Lucas, as well as if he could tell if more than one assailant was involved. Wagner said there was no method to determine that.
The trial will continue at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 11.