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Man in Chili’s Double Murder to Face Death Penalty

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Federal authorities have made the decision to seek the death penalty against the man who admitted to killing two former co-workers.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse to move forward against William Wood Jr. Wood pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including first- and second-degree murder, for his role in a double homicide at a Chili’s restaurant in DeWitt.

Wood shot and killed Kristopher Hicks and Stephen Gudknecht during a robbery at the Erie Boulevard restaurant in September 2018. Prosecutors say Wood also intended to kill two others at the scene, but they survived due to Wood’s gun jamming.

“I applaud the advocacy of my colleague Grant Jacquith in urging Main Justice to authorize the seeking of the death penalty against Mr. Wood,” said Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick. “It is entirely appropriate given the facts of this case and the wishes of the victim’s’ families. I also thank Attorney General Barr who has authorized the NDNY to seek the death penalty. Mr. Wood is about to meet AUSA Lisa Fletcher and after that his maker.”

Wood was indicted by a federal grand jury in February with the maximum sentence of death. The death penalty may only be pursued if authorized by the Attorney General.

“I think for a lot of people you know the gut reaction might be looking at the severity of the crime or looking at the high profile nature but there has to be a connection to federal law. It doesn’t matter if it’s a federal case or a criminal case,” said Tully Rinckey Managing Partner Gerald Raymond.

There are more steps to determining the fate of Wood. Raymond says we can next expect Wood’s defense to file motions likely arguing the death penalty.

“The fact that he authorized it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be fought in court as to whether or not it is appropriate. But you’re dealing with two separate government entities. You’re dealing with first a state prosecution and then a federal. So I think the short answer to your question is, yes it can,” said Raymond.

Wood was indicted by a federal grand jury in February. That indictment carries a maximum sentence of death. Five others were arrested in connection to the case.

“In this particular instance by looking at the federal law, one of the ways that they could bring this into a federal court is if they considered this an ongoing criminal enterprise involving a number of people,” said Raymond.

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