Ohio cold case: Dayton police seek help to find suspect in 2009 killing of 85-year-old veteran of 3 wars
Dayton Daily News August 28, 2022
DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Advances in DNA technology may help Dayton police solve the killing of a decorated war veteran in his home more than 13 years ago, and authorities are renewing requests for the public’s help.
U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) North E. Woodall, 85, was found bloodied and unconscious in his home at about 11:30 p.m. on July 27, 2009. Police said the front door of the Walton Avenue home was kicked in and areas where Woodall kept money were tampered with.
The Dayton Police Department’s revamped cold case unit says it is seeking new leads so it can bring justice in the case.
“Even though time has passed, we are hopeful and even confident that there’s evidence that was collected inside that house that can benefit us,” said Gary White, a retired Dayton Police detective who is now working for the cold case unit. “Every case we investigate comes down to having good witnesses, having the good people come forward and provide us with information that is necessary to solve these types of cases.
“We don’t work in a vacuum, we work with the citizens of this city and others and depend upon our community to help solve these cases.”
Respected Army veteran
Woodall was a longtime, respected member of the Dayton community who was a veteran of three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
According to the Dayton Daily News archives, he grew up in Mississippi and was the grandson of a slave. He was drafted into the Army where he molded himself into a sergeant major and a decorated paratrooper. He was also a husband and father to six children.
“He’s a man that served his country, a man of honor,” White said. “He lived at that address for decades. Some people who live in that neighborhood remember him from when they were children.”
White said that Woodall lived at the home alone after his wife died about two years before he was killed. He said people would come by to check on him.
“Some of those people had good intentions, and we’re convinced that a couple people did not have good intentions,” White said. “They may have been in a position maybe where they could take advantage of him in one form or another. We’re not exactly sure how that is.”
On July 27, 2009, a woman went to check on Woodall at about 11:30 p.m. and found that the front door of his house was damaged. She went inside and found Woodall on the floor of his living room, White said.
“Mr. Woodall suffered a very serious head injury,” he said.
Family members visited with him until about 9:30 p.m. that night, and a neighbor saw the house for about 20 minutes afterward while watering flowers on her porch. White said the home invasion probably took place between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Doyle Burke, who is also a retired Dayton police homicide detective now investigating the case, said the way Woodall lived his life demands that he get justice.
“Every case is important, and you certainly can’t rank tragedies, but a man like this, the community cries out for justice. This can’t happen in our community and go unsolved,” Burke said. “I think everybody will breathe a sigh of relief when this case is finally closed.”
Social Security payee
Because of his stature in the neighborhood, people trusted Woodall to be their social security payee, White said.
“So he would hold their money and give them money in increments, so that they would not spend it all in one place or deplete their funding before they got their next check,” White said.
Burke said Woodall was known to keep money for at least 13 people.
“He was known to carry large amounts of cash, and he was known to carry large amounts of cash in his left front pants pocket or also in a box in one of his drawers in his bedroom,” Burke said. “At the time of the homicide, nothing is disturbed in the residence besides his left front pants pocket is pulled out and the one drawer is pulled out.
“It’s clear in our mind that was the whole basis of this homicide was to get in there and rob (him) of all the money.”
White said that the evidence indicates the person knew where the money was. The forced door means there were bad intentions.
“We have no evidence at this time that any instrument that was used to harm Mr. Woodall was brought with the perpetrator,” White said. “We just don’t have that information at this time. But ... somebody forced their way in, so this is not a situation where Mr. Woodall was trusting of this person and would let them into his house after his family visited.”
Burke said it’s possible that someone knew about the money and agreed to split it with a person who actually went into the home and committed the homicide.
Police need community’s help
The investigators believe that there is someone who knows information about the homicide.
“Somewhere, someone came up with a lot of money and had no excuse for why they had it,” Burke said.
Woodall’s driver’s license was found in a parking lot in Xenia in 2010, White said. There was no evidence on the license that helped investigators.
“It’s just unfathomable to me that someone out there doesn’t have a suspicion of who did this,” Burke said.
Burke said along with the potential DNA evidence, there are also unknown prints that were collected at the scene that authorities have been unable to match. However, if police can get a suspect, they might be able to move forward with their investigation.
“My biggest fear is that people may know just a little bit of something (and not call us),” Burke said, noting that any information about the case is important and may lead investigators to a resolution.
Those with information are asked to call the Dayton Police cold case unit at 937-333-7109.
Dayton Police cold case resurgence
Burke and White were longtime Dayton police detectives who retired but are now working as part of Dayton Police’s cold case unit.
Dayton police announced the expansion of the unit late last year as an effort to bring justice to the families of victims who have waited the longest for closure.
“The pain that the families suffer, it never goes away,” White said.
The cold case unit has come to “logical” conclusions and have resolved some older cases since it was expanded, White said, but it hasn’t brought charges against a suspect yet. The two investigators hope that changes soon.
And White said it’s time to get justice for Woodall and his family.
“ Mr. Woodall survived three wars, he’s a veteran who served his country,” White said. “He raised his family in Dayton. If anyone deserves a second and third look at a murder case it’s someone like Mr. Woodall. We are making every effort in trying to reinvestigate his case.
“His family needs to know answers.”
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