Cathy Woods spent more than 35 years in prison for a murder in Reno she did not commit. Michelle Mitchell, a University of Nevada student, was murdered just across from the UNR campus in 1976.
Local prosecutors went after a woman named Cathy Woods as the main suspect. Three years after Mitchell’s murder, Woods confessed to the crime. However, she suffers from schizophrenia, and DNA evidence ultimately exonerated her. She was released from prison in 2015.
Evidence shows the real killer is — likely — Rodney Halbower, who is already serving time in prison.
For this episode, we speak with former Reno Police Lieutenant J. Andre Boles, who is now a true crime writer. Boles has two books about true crime in Reno, Nevada. His latest is Monster on Gypsy Hill, about the Gypsy Hill murders committed by Halbower.
Since this interview was conducted, Woods is set to receive $3 million in a settlement with the City of Reno. Settlements have already been made with Washoe County, the State of Nevada and Shreveport, Louisiana. Total settlements will top $10 million dollars. Woods sued the Reno Police Department and the City for civil rights violations.
The Reno City Council will consider the settlement at its regularly scheduled council meeting.
Woods’ attorney issued the following statement:
“Although there is no amount of money that could possibly compensate Cathy Woods for what she suffered as a result of being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for over 35 years for a crime that she did not commit, the compensation will help her recover from this terrible ordeal.”
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Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.