The Trials of O.D. Woolsey

In 1977, 39 year-old O.D. Woolsey was convicted of first-degree murder in the shotgun slaying of police informant James Nance. He was sentenced to a life term with the possibility of parole.

He’s never confessed to the crime, which explains his 20 appearances in front of the Parole Board.

In 2009, the 71 year-old O.D. Woolsey, then in a prison hospice, was paroled. Just over a year later, he was sent back to prison for violating the terms of his release.

In 2011, at age 73, and once again in failing health, O.D. Woolsey doesn’t know if he’ll ever taste freedom again.

O.D. Woolsey enters his North Main Street apartment while on parole in 2010. Photo by Mike Sweeney

Woolsey periodically met with Chieftain reporter Patrick Malone and photographer Mike Sweeney for a series of interviews while out on parole in Pueblo during 2009-10. He met with them again in 2011 while incarcerated at Sterling Correctional Facility.

The interviews reveal a man embittered with a judicial system he feels wrongly convicted him. They reveal a man whose frustrations at being an easy mark for crack users and the homeless he thought he had befriended while on parole were compounded by the recollections of the respect he forged over the past of 20 years as a “convict” inside the walls of Cañon City’s  Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. The interviews reveal a lonely man who knows first hand “the sick emptiness of despair” and that he’s near his life’s end. And it becomes apparent that Woolsey’s struggles with alcohol is the component that binds these chapters of his life.


In the following video shot at Sterling Correctional Facility in 2011, Woolsey reveals both the combative and reflective facets to his persona as he talks about why he was violated back to prison and his own self-assesment of his life.

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The following audio clips are excerpts from a series of six interviews with O.D. Woolsey by Malone and Sweeney between December 2009 and February 2011, where Woolsey discusses his 1977 murder trial, subsequent conviction, and circumstances that led to his parole; the difficulties faced as a parolee after serving 34 years in the Colorado prison system; and the factors that led to his parole being revoked and return to prison at age 72.

Note: The interviews contain strong language. Discretion is advised.

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3 Responses to “The Trials of O.D. Woolsey”

  1. What a great story and I’m so sorry my frined O.D. went back. When I first found out he was out of prison, I would take him food and brought him to the house. Then he attended a church service with me and after that I lost contact with him. In the short time he was out, he had moved about 6 times that I knew of. I couldn’t keep tract of him, then I lost him all together. Later found out that he had possibley went back to the pen. The Pueblo Chieftain proved that theory right two weeks ago when I read it in the paper! I had hoped he found peace out here and someone to help look after him, but that didn’t happen and I don’t even know if he was ever in contact with his real family! I think all he had as family were long lost friends and I guess that’s better then nothing. I hope you can get this short letter to O.D. and let him know he’s still loved and missed by my kids who call him Uncle O.D. and by me, Ava D. his friend and sister through Christ.

    Thank you, Ava DeHerrera

  2. I served 3 years in the cell next to O.D back in the early 80’s I can say with out a doubt that he was a stand up old school convict. I learn to make belt buckels (sic) working alone side him in the hobby shop and cell house. O.D. was a man of his word and I have kept in touch with him for the last 25 years. I was glade (sic) to hear he had gotten out, but I also feared he wouldn’t adjust well to the outside world. I hope he does well come next parole time. He’s done enough time for killing that snitch.

  3. […] Over the course of nearly two years, Pat and I chronicled  Woolsey’s life and the difficulties he faced as an “old school con” out on parole in world that really didn’t care who he once was. It wasn’t a particularly popular series, given the subject matter. But I found Woolsey to be a fascinating, complex story. Pat’s efforts were recognized by the Colorado Associated Press and Colorado Press Association this last February. For my part, I published a web project on Woolsey that was tad, shall we  say, bloated. […]