Murders of Gerald and Vera Woodman
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The murders of Gerald and Vera Woodman, also referred to by the press as the ninja murders and the Yom Kippur murders, took place on September 25, 1985, in West Los Angeles. The retired couple was killed by gunfire in the garage of their condominium as they arrived home from a festive meal at the conclusion of the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Their sons, Neil and Stewart Woodman, were convicted of hiring Steve and Robert Homick to carry out the crime. All were convicted and sentenced.
Description of crime
On September 25, 1985, the elder Woodmans were surprised with gunshots that ended their lives as they returned home from their festive meal at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, held at Vera's sister's home. A witness who was in the garage at the time who heard the gunshots described seeing a "figure" running from the scene, but did not get a description of the killer. The killer was described by the witness as wearing a black ninja costume, hence the "ninja murder" name.
The case was investigated by detectives Jack Holder and Richard Crostley. One of the first things they noticed was that large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry remained on the Woodmans. This hinted that the murders were not motivated by robbery. A piece of a chain link fence that bordered the property had been cut, enabling the killer access to the garage. Police immediately viewed this as potential evidence and saved the two pieces of broken link. The broken link proved to be the most important piece of physical evidence in the case. Detectives determined it was cut with a bolt cutter. A fresh bolt cutter was found in the Homick's home during a search warrant of the property. A nearby hardware store owner remembered seeing Steve Homick purchase the tool. Tests using the bolt cutter to cut other pieces of metal showed it produced identical microscopic markings to the broken link. These are unique, similar to ballistic evidence.
Suspects and motive
Neil and Stewart Woodman became suspects early on based on family accounts. The two sons of the victims had been estranged from their parents as a result of their handling of the family business. They had allegedly wrested control of the business away from their parents, leading to this animosity. Their rift was so strong that Neil hired security guards to keep his parents away from his son's bar mitzvah. Those guards mentioned to police Neil's conversations with Steve Homick, a former police officer, about him not wanting his parents present, and had suggested killing him.
The killings were motivated by a life insurance policy held by Vera Woodman that paid $500,000 to the company. At the time of the murders, the company had been millions of dollars in debt. The payment would not have bailed out the company, but would provide the Woodman sons with cash.
Trials and aftermath
The trials of all those involved in the crime took over a decade to complete.
Stewart Woodman was convicted in 1990. According to family members, Stewart Woodman succumbed to diabetes while still in prison on October 11, 2014, just after Yom Kippur (29 years after the murders).
Robert Homick was sentenced to life without parole.
Steven Homick, who also had another murder conviction in Nevada, was sentenced to death in January 1995. He remained on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for almost twenty years. On November 5, 2014, he died of natural causes in a nearby hospital.
The story of the murders and the investigation was featured on The New Detectives, LA Forensics, and Nothing Personal as well as the two-part made-for-TV movie Bloodlines: Murder in the Family starring Elliot Gould and Sam Wanamaker.
- Wolf, Marvin J.; Attebery, Larry (1993). Family Blood: The True Story of the Yom Kippur Murders. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 9780060165697.
- Lois Timnick (March 8, 1990). "Son Convicted in the 'Ninja Murders'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
- Paul H. Johnson (April 23, 1996). "Man Sentenced in 1985 Slaying of Parents". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
- Alan Abrahamson (January 23, 1996). "2nd Son Convicted of Parents' Murder for Hire". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
- Williams, Kale (5 November 2014). "San Quentin Death Row inmate in 'Yom Kippur murders’ dies". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
- Flores, Adolfo (5 November 2014). "Hit man in 'Yom Kippur murders' dies of natural causes on death row". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 November 2014.