Boyer pleads guilty in Wood murder
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
Scarlett Wood’s skeletal remains became vital prosecution evidence in the murder case against John Wayne Boyer.
Wood’s family will finally be able to give her a proper burial after Boyer pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder in New Hanover County Superior Court.
Boyer, who turns 50 on Wednesday, reluctantly admitted to Judge Kenneth Crow that he was guilty of her murder. Crow sentenced Boyer to between 9 1/2 and 12 years in prison for the crime.
Wood’s remains were found April 4, 2003, in an overgrown area behind a home in the 1600 block of North Kerr Avenue. They were not positively identified as the 31-year-old woman until January 2006.
Wood was last seen alive on Jan. 27, 2003, in the Travelodge on Market Street. Police investigating her disappearance interviewed Boyer. He told them he was using drugs with Wood at the motel and that she left while he was asleep.
That story later changed after sheriff’s office investigators located Boyer, who was living in Georgia in early 2006. He was brought back to Wilmington and charged with first-degree murder in connection with Wood’s death.
Boyer initially said he fell asleep next to Wood and found her dead when he awoke, so he dropped the body off at the North Kerr Road lot. He eventually told deputies he pushed Wood and her head hit some furniture in the room, and he was unable to revive her.
The case remained open for several years. Identification of the skeletal remains was assisted by University of North Carolina Wilmington forensic anthropologist Midori Albert, who helped narrow down the identity of the victim.
A digital image of the skull was compared with photos of several missing women, narrowing the search.
A DNA analysis showed that the nearly complete skeleton was that of Wood.
Work by Albert and earlier autopsy results showed that Wood suffered broken ribs, facial fractures and stab wounds in the pelvic area, prosecutor Todd Fennell said.
Wood’s mother, Gloria Wood, said in a 2006 interview that Boyer was a friend of her daughter.
“I’m glad I am finally getting some closure,” Wood said in court Monday. “He is finally getting some punishment.”
Wood said her husband died about a year after Scarlett disappeared, and that years of wondering about her fate was very stressful on her.
“Her bones are evidence,” Fennell said. “By returning them, we finally are going to be able to return the victim to the family.”
Boyer, wearing khaki New Hanover County jail overalls, said nothing before sentencing and showed no emotion in court.
Boyer could have received life in prison, defense lawyer H. Lawrence Shotwell said.
“It was an exceptionally difficult case to prosecute and an exceptionally difficult case to defend,” he said.
Boyer was a truck driver. Wood’s body was found near one business Boyer previously worked at, Fennell said.
Another woman’s body was found in March 2002 near a truck stop on U.S. 421 North in close proximity to where Boyer had worked, authorities said. The 26-year-old victim was reported missing in September 2001. No charges have been filed in that case.