By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — After about 2 1/2 hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury found Vickie L. Wooldridge guilty of murdering Matthew A. Lucas.
Wooldridge, 45, 19 M Dee Acres, Nappanee, was 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.
This case stems from the murder of Lucas, stabbing of Bill Burr, and an attack on Diane Burr on Dec. 15, 2020.
Kosciusko Circuit Court was packed with family, friends and supporters of the Lucas, Burr and Wooldridge families when the jury returned guilty verdicts on all five counts.
Wooldridge’s sentencing is set for 8:15 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2. Following the jury’s verdicts, she was remanded into the custody of the Kosciusko County Sheriff.
The trial started on Thursday, Aug. 11, with Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brad Voelz resting the state’s case. Defense Attorney Anthony Churchward rested the defense’s case shortly after Voelz rested, calling no witnesses. Wooldridge did not testify at the trial.
In his closing statement to the jury, Voelz recalled evidence the state presented, including the 911 call made to dispatch and audio of Bill telling officers that he was stabbed by Wooldridge.
“Why did Vickie Wooldridge do these terrible things?” asked Voelz. “Because the evidence shows Bill knew that Vickie had been downstairs with Matt. He had just spoken with her. Bill was the witness who could put Vickie there, and in Vickie’s mind, Bill had to be silenced. Vickie … did everything you would expect a murderer to do after her crime … cover up and try to escape. She did everything you would expect a murderer to do to cover up her crime and evade capture.”
He reminded the jury about forensic evidence the state presented, including DNA analysis done by Indiana State Police, blood found on Wooldridge’s clothing, and a ribbed pattern of a sweatshirt that was found in bloodstains throughout the Burr residence.
“Matthew Lucas died a horrible death at the hands of Vickie Wooldridge,” said Voelz. “He had more than 30 individual wounds, including lacerations, scrapes, incised wounds, defense wounds, gashes and stabs. All of these wounds were inflicted before Matthew Lucas died. And all of the evidence … proves that these terrible crimes were committed by one person and one person only: Vickie Louise Wooldridge.”
Churchward thanked the jury for their time and attention throughout the trial and mentioned that there is evidence supporting the aggravated battery and battery with a deadly weapon charges against Wooldridge. He encouraged the jury to convict her on those charges, but said there is not enough evidence provided by the state to find Wooldridge guilty of murder, attempted murder, and attempted criminal confinement.
With attempted criminal confinement, Churchward said the only evidence prosecution provided was a comment from a recorded video of Diane saying that she was grabbed by Wooldridge.
“That’s all you have,” said Churchward. “That doesn’t change that it’s still the state’s burden of proof to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.”
With attempted murder, Churchward argued that the prosecution had to prove that Wooldridge had the specific intent to kill Bill.
“How do you know what was in her head?” asked Churchward. “How do you know what her intent was? All you have is an act. You have nothing to support the intent behind that act. This was aggravated battery, not attempted murder.”
On the murder of Lucas, Churchward asked the jury how they can know beyond a reasonable doubt that Wooldridge committed the crime.
“Where is the evidence that she actually committed the offense?” said Churchward. “Bill stated somebody could have come in and entered or exited that basement. We have no way of knowing.”
Churchward pointed to limited DNA evidence on the knife used to murder Lucas and a sweatshirt Wooldridge wore.
“Not one person sat in that (witness) chair, pointed at Vickie Wooldridge and said, ‘She’s the one that killed Matthew Lucas,'” said Churchward. “Not one person. There’s been no direct evidence that she did this. Decide whether or not that evidence is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. You’re not going to convict her of something she didn’t do. You’re going to find her not guilty of murder, attempted murder and attempted criminal confinement.”
Following Churchward’s statement, Voelz presented a final closing statement to the jury.
“Bill did,” said Voelz. “Bill pointed at (Vickie). Bill accused her and said she did it. We have an acknowledgement that she was there. Her DNA is all over the evidence that was collected. Why was she there during the murder? Because she killed Matthew Lucas.”
He argued that the location of Bill’s injury, the force used to cause the injury, and a motive to get rid of Bill following Lucas’s murder was enough cause to convict Wooldridge of attempted murder.
“She could’ve left,” said Voelz. “But she knew that Bill knew that she was there. She had to get rid of Bill. How does a person act if you witness a murder? Is your first reaction when you see a murder to kill a witness, or call 911?”