Mack Wood Jr. says Mack Wood Sr. was a good father, a good provider for him and his sister.
But “he didn’t love us unconditionally,” Wood, 49, said twice in court Monday as he struggled to explain how he had paid men to kill his 87-year-old terminally ill father in Arlington a year and a half ago.
“You are a murderer, Mr. Wood,” Arlington Circuit Court Judge Daniel S. Fiore II told the defendant when he sentenced him to life in prison.
It was that characterization that Wood took pains to dispute in his statement to the court even as he pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder. Yes, he said, he had spoken to friends about killing his father. But, he said, “I never committed. I never promised to pay.” In the end, he was threatened and bullied by his accomplices, he said, and had no idea that his father would be killed that October 2012 night.
At the same time, Wood sketched out the financial and personal motivation for the crime.
His father was verbally abusive, Wood said, calling him and his sister failures for divorces and poor savings. “Three times in 30 years I asked for money,” Wood said, and was denied, even though he had helped in his father’s real estate business in his youth. His ex-wife and son had moved to Tampa, and his girlfriend was in Richmond. He was depressed and needed cash to move between the cities. Not only would his wealthy father not help him, he said, he heard from a neighbor that he might lose his inheritance.
“I believed it was my family’s money to protect,” he said.
Wood spoke to Jean Caleb Pierre, a co-worker at a Richmond construction company, several times about his financial and family troubles.
In July 2012, Mack Wood Jr., Pierre and a third man, Sapien Edmonds, visited Mack Wood Sr.’s home in Arlington. Pierre and Edmonds sneaked in through the basement. They found the elder Wood on the toilet. He screamed; they ran. Prosecutors say the father told police that the apparent would-be robber might have been his son.
Over the next few months, a more sophisticated plan emerged. The father had a broken safe in his home, and prosecutors say the younger Wood told him to expect a locksmith. On Oct. 12, Edmonds arrived at the home wearing a locksmith’s uniform.
He attacked the elder Wood in the basement, “beating him savagely about the head and strangling him,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew R. Parker said, and then moved the body to the bottom of the stairs to make it appear as though the father had fallen.
That night, Pierre returned to Richmond and met with the victim’s son. The two headed to Arlington to clean up the crime scene but were blocked by a traffic jam. Wood returned the next morning and called 911, saying he had found his father’s body.
Wood gave Edmonds $8,000 and Pierre $14,000 and a Nissan Maxima, according to prosecutors. He was arrested in Tampa a few months later, after a confidential informant from Richmond tipped police off to the scheme. Edmonds and Pierre have pleaded guilty to first-degree murder but have not been sentenced.
Laura Wood Kopack called her brother “a murderer and a thief.” Though their father was dying of cancer when he was killed, she told the court before sentencing, “he wasn’t ready to die, and I wasn’t ready to lose him.”