Foul play ruled out, case closed in death of Air Force spouse at Misawa
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 19, 2006
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The Air Force Office of Special Investigations has ruled out foul play in the death of Air Force spouse Lisa Woodard, whose body was found almost a year ago outside a government housing complex here.
Agent Randy Pendleton, commander of OSI’s 623rd Detachment at Misawa, said in an interview Thursday that OSI closed the case July 28.
The official report says no foul play was involved, Pendleton said. He confirmed that OSI agents believe Woodard’s death was a suicide.
Woodard fell nine stories from the roof of Tower 214. Her body was found the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, near the tower bike racks. The cause of death was impact from the fall, Pendleton said.
The incident sparked rumors around base, including whispers that foul play was involved.
“That was a challenge,” Pendleton said. “We can’t discount rumors until we check it out. Rumors can really frustrate an investigation.”
A combination of base security video camera footage, a timeline analysis, toxicology reports and autopsy results during the 11-month investigation led agents to rule out foul play, Pendleton said.
Footage from a security camera shows Woodard going into Tower 214, Pendleton said, and “we have video watching her travel to the top, by herself in the elevator, the night before.”
Woodard lived a short drive away from the tower, Pendleton said.
“We don’t know why” she chose that tower, he said, adding the door to the roof was unlocked.
It’s believed that Woodard fell from the tower around 4:30 a.m., Pendleton said.
“We had a neighbor that heard a loud crash,” he said.
The video footage of her entering and going up the tower also fits that timeline, he said. Numerous interviews of Tower 214 residents and those living in adjacent towers, including individuals who lived across the street “who might possibly have been drinking coffee at that time getting ready for work,” yielded no one who saw Wood- ard fall, Pendleton said.
No suicide note was found, Pendleton said, but “she had a history of depression” as determined by interviews and hospital record checks.
Contrary to one base rumor, no drugs were found in Woodard’s system, Pendleton said. However, her blood did show alcohol consumption, he said.
An obituary posted on the Web site of a Lake Charles, La., television station said Woodard, 24, was survived by her husband, Joshua Eugene Woodard; a son; and numerous stateside relatives. Woodard had moved to Misawa in March 2005 with her husband and son after having lived in Lake Charles for most of her life, the obituary stated.
Pendleton said Woodard’s husband was an airman first class who has since left Misawa.
“We’ve stayed in contact with him the whole time,” he said, “as well as with her parents.”
Pendleton said 11 months is not unusually long for an OSI investigation.
“There are cases right now in the Pacific that are taking up to 500 days,” he said. Lab work, especially in death cases, is “the biggest reason our cases take so long,” he said. “We rely on labs back in the States to do that work.”
The investigation, handled exclusively by OSI, was extensive, Pendleton said.
“We exhausted a lot of man-hours going back to the States, interviewing family members, last known contacts she may have talked to,” he said.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he added. “Sometimes the complexities of a death can take an investigation a long time. As long as an investigation is open, we cannot talk about it.”