State opposes request for hearing in Chillicothe woman's '90 murder

JEFFERSON CITY | The state Attorney General’s Office is opposing a convicted murderer’s request for an emergency hearing to highlight a prosecutor’s doubts about evidence in the 1990 slaying of a Chillicothe farm wife.

Mark Woodworth is appealing a life sentence he received a decade ago for the murder of 41-year-old Cathy Robertson, his neighbor, and the shooting of her husband. Woodworth, whose father was the farming partner of Lyndel Robertson, was 16 at the time.

Defense attorney Bob Ramsey filed a request with the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City earlier this month asking for a new circuit court hearing in northwestern Missouri.

The motion followed an Associated Press investigation that found that former Livingston County prosecutor Doug Roberts declined to prosecute Woodworth and boycotted a 1993 grand jury hearing convened to consider evidence in the case.

In an Aug. 21 response, the state said the case should remain with the Missouri Court of Appeals’ western district.

Assistant Attorney General Theodore Bruce rejected Ramsey’s assertion of prosecutorial misconduct by former special state prosecutor Kenny Hulshof, who was summoned by a Livingston County judge after Roberts’ deferral.

Bruce referred to an Oct. 7, 1993, order by Judge Stephen Lewis stating that Roberts had “disqualified himself,” adding that Woodworth’s attorneys “would have been free to explore the reasons why ... that (was) relevant.”

“The reasons are not relevant to the guilt or innocent of the defendant,” Bruce wrote to Ramsey in a separate letter.

Ramsey contends that a letter from the judge to Hulshof bemoaning Roberts’ lack of cooperation should have been disclosed to the defense as potentially exculpatory evidence. Among the Attorney General’s Office records reviewed by the AP was a letter from Roberts reminding the judge that soon after the crime, Lyndel Robertson “was adamant that we charge another young man.”

In the hours after his shooting, Robertson told eight people — including friends, employees, doctors and police officers — that he suspected his oldest daughter’s abusive boyfriend.

He later disavowed those statements. And in a 2006 deposition, Robertson denied knowledge of Roberts’ decision not to prosecute.

“Those letters should have been turned over a long time ago,” Ramsey said. “It appears that (Robertson) told a blatant lie under oath.”

Roberts, who is now in private practice, has not responded to numerous telephone calls seeking comment. Hulshof, who after leaving the Attorney General’s Office spent six terms in Congress and was the 2008 Republican nominee for governor, declined to comment. He also is in private practice now.

A five-month AP investigation of the case found that investigators discounted or did not fully explore some evidence pointing to other suspects. Woodworth was charged nearly three years after the shootings based on the discovery of a single fingerprint found on an ammunition box inside Robertson’s shed and a common manufacturing defect in his father’s handgun.

The state’s challenge to Woodworth’s request for an emergency hearing also notes that his post-conviction appeal was pending for more than five years before another Livingston County judge rejected it in January.

The proceedings were drawn out in part because Ramsey suffered two heart attacks in the span of a year.