What Happened to Susan Woods? Background & Profile

Susan Woods’ life and untimely death present a story that resonates with the tragedies of unexpected loss and the complexities of unsolved crimes. Woods, a 30-year-old woman from Stephenville, Texas, became the center of a decades-long murder investigation that held a small town in its grip.

Early Life and Personality

Susan Woods, born and raised in Stephenville, was known for her quiet, gentle demeanor. Described as a shy and kind-hearted individual, she grew up in a close-knit community where her unassuming nature was well-regarded. Friends and family remembered her as a woman with a soft-spoken voice and a propensity for kindness, often going out of her way to help others.

Her life in Stephenville was typical of small-town Texas living. She attended local schools, participated in community activities, and was known for her love of simple pleasures. Susan’s life, in many ways, mirrored the experiences of many young women in rural Texas, characterized by a deep connection to family and community.

Career and Personal Life

Susan worked at a local sandpaper factory, a job that, while not glamorous, provided her with a sense of independence and stability. Her colleagues recalled her as a reliable and diligent worker, often seen with a warm smile despite the mundane nature of her job.

In her personal life, Susan experienced the highs and lows common to many. Her marriage to Michael Woods, a relationship marked by its challenges and eventual dissolution, was a significant chapter in her life. The strain of the relationship, especially towards its end, was evident to those close to Susan, who saw her struggle with the emotional toll of a failing marriage.

The Circumstances of Her Death

On July 28, 1987, Susan Woods’ life was brutally cut short. She was found dead in her bathtub, with the cause of death determined to be asphyxiation due to strangulation or drowning. An attempted rape preceded her murder, adding a sinister dimension to the crime.

The initial investigation wrongly focused on Susan’s estranged husband, Michael Woods, partly due to a disturbing cassette tape he left. However, the true perpetrator remained at large, evading justice for two decades.

The breakthrough in the case came with the re-examination of the evidence, leading to the identification of Joseph Scott Hatley, a figure previously unconnected to the investigation. Hatley, the cousin of Susan’s close friend, Cindy Hayes, had a history of violence and criminal behavior, including accusations of rape and attempted murder. His DNA and fingerprints matched those found at the crime scene, unraveling the mystery of Susan’s murder.

Legacy and Impact on the Community

Susan Woods’ death left an indelible mark on the community of Stephenville. Her murder, unsolved for two decades, became a source of collective grief and frustration. The memory of Susan, a woman remembered for her gentle spirit and kind nature, became intertwined with the narrative of a crime that haunted the town for years.

The life of Susan Woods, tragically ended by Joseph Scott Hatley’s heinous actions, underscores the devastating impact of crime on individuals and communities. Her story, while marked by tragedy, also highlights the strength and resilience of those who sought justice in her name.


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Ryan Gill

Ryan is a passionate follower of true crime television programs, reporting on and providing in-depth investigations on mysteries in the criminal world.

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