A documentary about one of Stephenville’s biggest murder cases will be told on the popular, long-running series, “On the Case with Paula Zahn,” and is set to air at 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 14, on the IDTV channel.
The documentary will feature the murder of Susan Woods, who was found dead in her bathtub by her father on July 28, 1987.
Despite an intense investigation by detectives originally assigned to the case, the mystery of who killed Woods, who was 30 at the time of her death, remained unsolved until 20 years later when Lt. Don Miller with the Stephenville Police Department reopened the cold case files.
After re-examining much of the evidence, Miller became convinced that new DNA technology could solve the murder. He took several fingerprints lifted from the crime scene to the Texas Department of Public Safety Lab in Austin and ran them through the automated fingertip identification system. They were a perfect match to Joseph Scott Hatley’s, who was described as being a mere acquaintance to Woods.
Hatley was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007 after confessing to the murder of Woods one week before his trial was set to begin.
He was later released from prison in 2018 after only serving 11 years.
The documentary will contain interviews from Woods’ best friend and Hatley’s first cousin, Cindy Hayes, Gloria Martin, Woods’ other best friend and Lt. Miller.
“The documentary, I was thrilled to death about,” Martin said. “This guy, he didn’t get enough time for what he did, and I want to make him famous because what he did was horrible.”
“She was my very best friend,” Hayes said. “I've known her since high school and she was a very good person. We were just like sisters. Our birthdays were both on April 6. I was born in 59; she was born in 57. We met in band in high school. We could finish each other’s sentences; we just knew what each other was thinking. I wanted to do [the show] because she would’ve done the same thing for me.”
Hayes said she was staying over at Woods’ house one night because her ex-husband, Michael, had left a cassette, speaking vile comments about Woods’ family and friends.
Hayes listened to the tape with her boyfriend at the time – now husband – Roy, and they were shocked.
“When she was killed, me and Roy were like, ‘Oh my God. Michael did this. He really did this,’” she said.
Hayes told the E-T she had never suspected her cousin, Hatley, to be the killer.
“She had only been around Scott three times,” she said. “I know that me, Scott, Susan and Scott’s sister, we all went to a Michael Jackson concert back in the 80s. She might’ve seen Scott a time or two at my aunt’s house. They knew each other, but that was it.”
Hayes reminisced on their birthday one year and touched on a meaningful quote that Woods told her in a birthday card.
“She said, ‘Cindy, I’m pretty picky when it comes to picking friends and finding a friend for life; that’s why I picked you,’” she said. “I will never forget that quote she told me in a birthday card.”
Hayes said she enjoyed meeting Paula Zahn and said Zahn seemed “down to earth.”
“I told this in the interview and I hope she puts it in the show. I said, ‘Susan was the best person that God ever put breath into,’” she said.
Martin said getting to tell Woods’ story is “long overdue.”
“It took so long to solve [the case] that nobody thought it could ever get solved, but the Stephenville Police Department did not quit until they did it - detective Miller in particular,” she said. “He did not give up until he found the solution and I'm a great admirer of his. Susan was a sweet person, a wonderful girl. I'm very proud her story is being told.”
Hayes said Woods’ was a “wonderful person” and that she would do “anything to help you if she could.”
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her,” she said. “I've gone on. I married Roy and had two kids with him, but she’s still always there in my heart. I'll never forget her.”
“On the Case with Paula Zahn” will premiere at 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 14 on IDTV, channel 192 on Dish Network, 285 on DirectTV and 113 on Northland Cable.