Editor’s note: Earlier this month, the Empire-Tribune reported on the prison release of Joseph Scott Hatley, who confessed to the brutal slaying of Susan Woods in Stephenville in 1987.
After Woods was murdered, but before an arrest was made, another victim came forward claiming that Hatley had assaulted her at a roadside park. Hatley was never charged with the crime after a grand jury declined to indict him.
Today that woman, whose real name we are not using, is in hiding, claiming she now fears for her life since his release. This is her story.
A woman we will refer to as “Shelly” says she began dating Joseph Scott Hatley when she was a 16-year-old student attending Stephenville High School.
“Scott,” as she referred to him, was 21 at the time.
“His sister lived next door to me and that’s how I met him,” she said during a telephone interview with the E-T.
The two dated on and off for several months.
“He was very controlling, but not violent,” she said. “When I would go out with my friends, the second I would get home, he would be outside my window, like a stalker.”
During one of their breakups, Shelly said Hatley called and asked her to meet him at a laundromat down the street from where she lived.
She admits to being a bit of a “wild child” back then, and says she snuck out of her house that night.
The two headed to a roadside park on Hwy. 281.
“We had never been there before, so going there was not normal,” she said. “I could tell something was odd with him that night. He just kept saying we were destined to be together.”
It wasn’t long before Hatley began pressuring her for sex, and when she refused, things turned ugly.
“He got mad and began to beat me,” she said. “He beat me to a pulp. It had just rained and the grass was wet. He pushed my face into the wet grass and tried to smother me.”
Then he raped her.
For the next six hours, the beatings and rapes continued, with Shelly floating in and out of consciousness.
During the assault, Shelly claims that Hatley told her he had killed before - a woman named Susan - and that he would do it again.
“I begged and pleaded for him to take me home,” she said. “I convinced him that I would say someone else did it. I was saying anything for him to let me go.”
He eventually drove her back to the laundromat, forcing her to sit next to him, and when they arrived, Shelly said she got out of the vehicle and “took off running.”
When she walked into her house early the next morning, her stepfather was getting ready for work.
“I just collapsed into his arms,” she said.
Her parents rushed her to the hospital where she remained for three days.
Shelly told police what happened and Hatley was ordered to stay in the area during the investigation.
Instead, Shelly claims he went to Las Vegas where he committed armed robbery before coming back to Stephenville to face charges.
But the charges didn’t stick. An Erath County grand jury declined to indict him due to insufficient evidence.
“I couldn’t understand that,” she said. ”They had his semen and my whole body was beaten. I told them who did it.
“Not only was I raped by (Hatley), I was raped by the justice system, and I don’t know what’s worse.”
Eventually, Shelly left the state and started a new life.
She said she told police that Hatley claimed to have killed Susan Woods, but nothing was ever done about it until 2006 when Lt. Don Miller with the Stephenville Police Department solved the murder after DNA evidence linked Hatley to the crime scene.
Miller has stayed in touch with Shelly for all these years and says he believes the story she tells about the rape and assault.
“Everything at the crime scene matched with what she said happened to her,” Miller said.
With Hatley now free after only serving 11 of his 30-year sentence, Shelly says her life is back on hold.
“My life stopped again the day he was released,” she said. ”This should never have happened. The justice system is broken.”