Jerry Wood testifies during his trial at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jerry Wood testifies during his trial at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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Jury convicts man of murder-for-hire plot, but not rape

The jury couldn’t decide whether Jerry Wood raped the woman he later plotted to have killed.

EVERETT — At the end of a trial that lasted the better part of a month, a jury this week concluded a Seattle man recruited an inmate at the Snohomish County Jail to kill a woman, but couldn’t agree on whether he sexually assaulted her in January 2017.

On Thursday afternoon, the jury found Jerry Wood, Jr., 43, guilty of solicitation of murder and kidnapping. With a deadlocked jury, however, Judge Marybeth Dingledy called a mistrial on the charge of second-degree rape.

In a separate charge, Wood was declared not guilty of conspiracy to intimidate a witness. Prosecutors alleged he had another prisoner threaten the inmate he originally attempted to recruit.

Sentencing is scheduled for December. Deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock said he would seek to retry the rape charge.

Much of the trial revolved around what happened the night of Jan. 15, 2017, when Wood and the woman met at the Viking Sports Bar and Grill in Shoreline.

Deputy prosecutors Baldock and Taryn Jones argued Wood raped and beat the woman after they left the bar and drove to an Arlington house.

Defense attorney Walter Peale claimed the two had consensual sex.

The accusations

For the woman, who is in her 40s, the night began as a date with another man. They went bowling, then ended up at the Viking. They didn’t have chemistry, the woman said, so he left while she stayed.

She later met Wood and another man, according to charging papers, and the three left together. The woman told the court that she was promised a ride home. Wood testified that she wanted to “finish partying.”

At some point, Wood got in the back seat with her. They headed north on I-5 and missed the exit for the woman’s home in Lynnwood, prosecutors wrote. “You’re mine now,” Wood said, according to charging papers. “I own you. I’ll find you wherever you go.”

He allegedly punched her in the face, slammed her head against the car door and forced her to perform a sex act, prosecutors wrote. When she resisted, he reportedly hit her again.

The driver later told detectives he heard arguing in the back seat, then screaming. He looked over his shoulder and reportedly saw that Wood had the woman in a headlock.

Eventually they ended up at a house in Arlington. The driver got out and went inside to figure out what to do. The woman said she didn’t recognize the place.

There, Wood raped her again, prosecutors alleged.

The woman said she attempted to fight back, but she was overpowered. She’s 5-feet and 110 pounds. Wood is 5-feet-9 and 235 pounds.

Eventually, someone from the house got the woman out of the car and helped her get dressed, charging papers say. Later, one of her friends showed up and took the woman to the emergency room at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Photos of her injuries were put on display in the courtroom: Bruising above her right eye, bleeding in a cornea and swollen, bloody lips. Chunks of her hair were later found in the car.

In the courtroom, Wood gave a different account. He said after they had consensual sex, the woman asked him to take her home. He told her he didn’t want to do that. She slapped him, he said. So he grabbed her by the hair and slapped her back, he said.

He claimed he didn’t know the extent of her injuries.

“It was dark in the car,” he said. “I mean, it was a stupid thing to do, but I didn’t realize that I hurt her.”

Were they strangers?

While the woman said she met Wood for the first time at the bar, Peale argued they had actually known each other for months.

Testifying in court, Wood said he had been in a casual relationship with the woman. The defendant said they met at Caroline’s Tavern, just down the road from the Viking, in February 2016. He said he struck up a conversation with her by the jukebox.

Two other witnesses, Wood’s mother and a long-time friend of his mother’s, both testified they had seen the two together before.

In closing arguments, Baldock questioned the truthfulness of Wood’s and the witnesses’ testimonies. The mother’s friend gave an inaccurate description of the woman, saying she was in her 20s or early 30s, when she’s in fact in her 40s.

When a sheriff’s deputy first questioned Wood, he didn’t acknowledge that he even knew the woman’s name, Baldock said.

“You mean that girl from Viking? She was all over me,” Wood reportedly said to the deputy.

Baldock said it was up to the jury to determine the credibility of the witnesses, and whether that played a factor in their verdict.

“Ultimately, would it matter?” Baldock said. “The fact they may have known each other before he beat and raped her does not justify the fact that he beat and raped her.”

No urgency

In closing arguments, Peale stood before video projected onto the courtroom wall, the lights dimmed.

As he spoke, security footage showed the scene outside the house in Arlington, where the woman allegedly was raped. While prosecutors spoke of a scene of panic, Peale said there was a distinct lack of urgency.

“In a way it’s kind of mesmerizing because of its inactivity,” Peale said.

Peale talked over the video as it ran for more than 40 minutes. In the footage, someone slowly parks a car and goes inside the house, while Wood and the woman reportedly stay inside the vehicle. What happened then, Peale said, was not a lot. People can be seen in the video wandering around the driveway and loitering by the cars. At one point, someone is by the front door, doing jumping jacks.

“Either they didn’t care, because they’re heartless, or maybe there’s nothing to be concerned about,” Peale said.

In rebuttal, prosecutors brought up additional footage from inside the house. In it, two men can be seen talking. One is holding a handgun.

Baldock said nothing was happening outside because the armed man, the owner of the house, said he didn’t want to get into a gunfight. Wood had reportedly been seen with a firearm.

The people inside the house crafted a plan to send out two women to deescalate the situation.

“That’s what you see happening in the video,” Baldock said. “The pair goes out multiple times … trying to figure out how to diffuse this bomb that has landed in this driveway — a violent, volatile, armed Jerry Wood.”

The verdict

While in jail, Wood apparently attempted several strategies to beat the charges. According to court records, he sent a note to the judge asking that his case be dismissed, and he exaggerated or feigned symptoms of mental illness.

In January 2018, Wood allegedly recruited another inmate to kill the woman he was accused of raping.

He gave another inmate two books, according to charging papers. On certain pages, Wood had written hidden messages squeezed between between lines of printed text, giving detailed instructions and promising a reward.

“Make her disappear by any means homie,” one note stated.

Another note ordered the inmate to inject 2 to 3 grams of heroin into the woman. The inmate told a detective that was enough to kill someone.

“I know what murder for hire is, and this is it,” he reportedly said.

Peale argued that Wood’s handwriting could have been forged, or that perhaps Wood wasn’t being serious.

Baldock said those scenarios seemed unlikely.

“The evidence … is overwhelming and uncontroverted, and demonstrates the defendant is guilty of those charges,” he said.

The jury agreed.

But the jury didn’t find enough evidence to convict Wood of conspiracy to intimidate that same inmate this past February, when he was incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.

While in the prison, prosecutors alleged another man approached the inmate, demanding he retract his earlier statements accusing Wood of soliciting murder.

The inmate said he cooperated to avoid being hurt, and wrote a notarized affidavit taking back his testimony. In a recorded phone call made to Wood’s mother, the man tasked with carrying out the threat reportedly confirmed he “pushed up on the dude that’s here.”

Throughout the trial, additional security was put in place in the hallway outside the courtroom. After the verdict was read, Dingledy acknowledged concerns that Wood might try to do something during the court proceedings. She thanked him for behaving.

“No problem,” Wood said.

He was taken back to the jail, where he awaits sentencing.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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