For more than 20 years he lived under the shadow of suspicion, all because he was married to a woman who had been brutally murdered inside her home in Stephenville. 

Now, Michael Woods, the former husband of the late Susan Woods, is speaking out about her killer’s release from prison on Wednesday and the years he spent living in fear that he would be charged with the crime.

“It’s been quite a ride,” Woods said in a telephone interview with the E-T.

Woods is now remarried and living out of state, and said he wants to keep his location private.

But for more than two decades, Woods lived under an ugly umbrella of suspicion that he murdered his estranged wife back in 1987.

“We were married about five-and-a-half years,” he said. “When she filed for divorce, I moved to Indianapolis to help my brother build a house.”

Woods said the couple split because they couldn’t agree on where to live.

“She wanted to stay in Stephenville and I didn’t,” he recalled. “I had long hair, drove a motorcycle, played a guitar and took on odd jobs. I was an outsider.” 

When Susan Woods’ body was discovered, police immediately zeroed in on her husband.

“Our divorce was not yet final,” he said. “The Indianapolis police came to my house and told me they needed to talk to me about some parking issues. They drove me around for about an hour before they told me Susan had been murdered.

“I was stunned and went to the bathroom and threw up. It was a hell of a shock.” 

Over the years, police arrested Woods on various charges, hoping they could get him to crack under pressure and confess. But he never did, and the charges were always dropped.  

“They tried everything up to the limit of the law - and just beyond it - to get a confession,” Woods said. “I thought I was going to the gas chamber. They told me they were going to get me.” 

In 2006, Joseph Scott Hatley was arrested for Woods’ murder after DNA linked him to the crime scene.

One year later, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

The arrest was both a shock and relief. 

“It was too much for me to comprehend at the time,” Woods said. “It was very hard for me to accept that I had spent 20 years of my life fearful that I would be arrested, then (Hatley) gets a sweet plea deal.”

That deal culminated in Hatley’s release from the Huntsville prison on Wednesday. 

“The system is broken,” Woods said. “That man should never have walked free. He should not be among people. Ever.”