When Susan Woods was discovered murdered in her bathtub in 1987, she had recently initiated divorce proceedings against her husband, Michael Woods. The prevailing assumption was that Michael might be implicated in her murder, as there seemed to be no one else with a conceivable motive to cause harm to Susan. Described as a calm, quiet, and ordinary woman, Susan diligently worked and maintained a small circle of close friends. The ’20/20: There is a Monster in Me’ episode delves into whether Michael was truly responsible for Susan’s murder or if there might have been another party involved.
Who is Michael Woods?
Born in Indianapolis, Michael’s early years were marked by a move to El Paso in second grade, accompanying his mother. Michael described his mother as having experienced a series of tumultuous relationships over the years, resulting in an unstable and insecure household for him and his six siblings. By the age of 15, Michael had relocated to Virginia, where he developed a passion for music, playing on street corners and in small clubs. At the age of 20, he seized the opportunity to accompany a friend on a trip to Stephenville, Texas, where he would ultimately meet Susan Woods.
Susan, having graduated from high school a few years earlier, represented the stereotypical good girl, maintaining a close relationship with her parents. On the other hand, Michael embodied the stereotypical bad boy, the type her parents had cautioned her to avoid. After spending a few years in Stephenville, Michael found that the city’s temperament did not align with his, and he struggled to secure stable employment. In 1980, he proposed that Susan move with him to El Paso, and shortly afterward, they were married. However, due to Michael’s career in music and the challenges it presented in holding a regular job, financial difficulties arose, leading them to relocate back to Stephenville.
Their nomadic lifestyle took them to various places, never settling for too long until Susan discovered the bungalow on McNeill Street near downtown Stephenville in 1985. Michael led a laid-back life, often having encounters with law enforcement due to many reasons, including his appearance—long hair and a penchant for riding bikes—making him unpopular in the town. When Michael suggested they venture into house flipping, Susan hesitated, unwilling to part with the money she had diligently saved. Their differences escalated during the hot Texas summer, leading to a decision for Michael to move to Indianapolis, leaving Susan in Stephenville.
Despite occasional attempts to revive their marriage during winter visits, Michael made a final departure in February 1987. Before his departure, Michael left an audio recording on a cassette, expressing his grievances towards Susan for what he perceived as the destruction of their marriage, laced with hateful words. Additionally, he scattered handwritten notes throughout the house, stashing them in cabinets, drawers, and coat pockets. Over the ensuing months, Susan repeatedly discovered these notes, creating a sense of unease and threat. Troubled by Michael’s behavior, she confided in her friends, ultimately leading her to file for divorce.
In the summer of the same year in 1987, Susan was found dead in her house, naked, with her hands tied behind her back. The police estimated that the body was underwater for almost two days and even though they could trace a handprint at the scene of the crime, the technology was not advanced enough for it to be used effectively. Susan’s father squarely pointed fingers at Michael, leading the police to approach him under the guise of discussing parking issues. However, during the interrogation, they abruptly accused him of Susan’s murder, delivering the shocking news of her death. Overwhelmed, Michael vomited upon hearing this revelation, and the intense questioning persisted.
When they asked him to sign a statement, he insisted on having a lawyer present and managed to leave the police station. In the subsequent days, Michael found himself unjustly detained by the police for various reasons, including an alleged incident of public intoxication, though he contested his sobriety. On the advice of his lawyer, Michael stopped cooperating with the investigation. In 1988, nine months after Susan’s murder, the police executed a search warrant in his house. Michael claims that they tore everything apart and ransacked the whole place.
They ended up finding a single stub of a marijuana cigarette stuffed in a drawer and arrested him for it. They let him go the next morning, but not before they got his fingerprints. However, when they matched it to the ones found at the crime scene, the results were negative. The police were no longer actively following the case. However, in 1989, Susan’s father filed a case against Michael, claiming that he was responsible for his daughter’s death and his motivation was the $11,000 that he was going to get from Susan’s life insurance.
The court awarded the family $11,000 and Michael was also told to pay them a sum of $700,000 but he was advised by his lawyer that as long as he stayed in Indianapolis, he could avoid paying the money. Over the years, Micchael’s mental health worsened as he prepared himself to go to prison for a crime he did not commit. He installed cameras in his house and could not leave Indianapolis for fear that he might be arrested. His years of ordeal came to an end in 2006 when a man named V was arrested in connection to the murder of Susan. The police were able to tie the case together only because of the advancement in DNA testing.
Michael Woods Has Now Remarried
When Michael Woods was told that his name had been cleared and he was no longer a suspect in the murder of Susan Woods, he wept on the phone and cried. As of today, there is not much information available about his life. It is reported that he remarried and started living somewhere out of Indianapolis. Even though he had separated from Susan, he still loved her and the news of her brutal death was equally heartbreaking for him. He had to live a life of immense pressure and harassment, and one can only hope that the rest of his life is spent in peace.