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Defendant dies in apparent suicide

LINDEN – An Alexander City resident was scheduled to stand trial, beginning Thursday, to face charges of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in a Marengo County Courthouse but before the trial even began, it was over.

Circuit Court Judge Eddie Hardaway told the defense and district attorney that the defendant, James Phillip Woodruff, 49 of Alexander City, had committed suicide at an Alexander City residence on Ala. Hwy. 63 shortly before 5 a.m.

According to reports, the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Hardaway informed District Attorney Gregg Griggers and Woodruff’s attorney, Nettie Blume, of the suicide Thursday morning.

Griggers reported Woodruff had attempted to take his own life on two separate occasions last year.

“Woodruff had attempted suicide the day after the little girl told her mom about what happened,” Griggers said.

Woodruff was originally arrested Feb. 25, 2003 on a charge of sexual abuse of a 7-year-old relative. Woodruff was released on $7,500 bond on Feb. 27, 2003.

Griggers was planning to call on Woodruff’s stepdaughter to testify. According to Griggers the victim was going to tell the jury about the sexual abuse she received from Woodruff from April 1996 until January 1998.

The defense entered a plea earlier in the process of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Woodruff was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation, which he did on April 16, 2003 at Tyler Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa.

Alexander City Police are still investigating the events surround the suicide.