Inmates talk: Wood Grill murder trial enters day three

news-mcdowellEscorted by an Albemarle deputy, Roderick "Guam" McDowell leaves Circuit Court on Thursday, May 28 to return to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail after the second day of his murder trial.

The trial of Roderick "Guam" McDowell on charges that he robbed the Wood Grill Buffet and murdered the husband of a night manager in the early morning hours of April 12, 2007 enters its third day this morning. This comes after a day in which the Commonwealth called no fewer than five of McDowell's fellow inmates at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to the witness stand, none of whom had first-hand knowledge of the events of April 12, but all of whom say McDowell told them of his involvement in the homicide.

One by one, men whose names the Commonwealth requested be kept out of media reports due to their status as informants who have allegedly already received death threats said McDowell's loose lips were what put them on the stand.

One described a night in which he and McDowell got into an argument over who got to use the jailhouse phone when he said McDowell threatened, "Get off the phone, or I'll hit you in the head like I did the man at the Wood Grill."

Another said he was playing poker with McDowell in jail when McDowell told him that he had worked at the Wood Grill, knew when the night manager would be leaving with that night's deposit, and reportedly said, "I did it with my boy."

Another spoke of McDowell threatening anyone who would testify against him by warning, "If I catch them, I'll f*** them up."

However, of the six inmates the Commonwealth called over the course of two days, only two say they spoke with McDowell around the time of the April 12 murder.

One was a friend of McDowell's at the time of the murder, who testified that on the night of April 11, the two speculated about a plan to rob the Wood Grill Buffet at the moment he knew night manager Sandra Godsey would be leaving with that night's deposit. After the two split up later that evening, he testified McDowell came to his house and asked to borrow his gun, at which point, the witness says, he backed out of the plan.

When he says he heard the next day that the Wood Grill had been robbed, he says he approached the owner of the restaurant through an intermediary and said, "You give me $1,000 up front, I'll tell you the dudes involved, then you can give me the rest when they get caught."

The second inmate testified that around the time of the murder, McDowell owed him money for crack cocaine he had given McDowell on credit. In the days following the murder, he says McDowell came to pay his debt and joked, "See what you made me do?"

Still, McDowell's dealer could not say with certainty whether McDowell was referring to the Wood Grill crime or to another incident 16 days prior to the murder on March 25, when McDowell robbed a man on Commonwealth Drive off Route 29. McDowell was found guilty of that crime last year and is currently serving a seven-year sentence.

The attorneys in the case are expected to make closing arguments this morning at 10:30am, followed by jury deliberations.

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People talked, I thought so...