Dying Declaration: Victim IDs alleged killers with final breaths

As he lay bleeding, an Evansville murder victim's last words helped lead detectives to his suspected killers, according to court documents. Minutes before he passed, Dewone Woodruff reportedly told dispatchers and responding officers that Deshay Hackner, 22, and William Rice, 19, shot him multiple times. Prosecutors will seek life without parole for Hackner and Rice, who are also accused of fatally shooting Mary Woodruff at a home in the 200-block of East Maryland Street.

Hackner and Rice made their initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon. The court automatically entered not guilty pleas on their behalf while the two men await the opportunity to obtain counsel or be appointed a public defender. Hackner and Rice also verbally requested speedy trials.

"I'm an innocent man," Hacker told the judge.

At times, Hackner appeared inconvenienced by the court hearing, often resting his elbows on a wooden podium inside a room at the Vanderburgh County Jail. Hackner also shook his head repeatedly as he interrupted the judge to again ask for a speedy trial. A woman in the courtroom told the judge that she will seek a private attorney for Hackner. The woman's relation to him is unknown.

On Monday night around 11 o'clock, officers responded to 213 East Maryland Street in reference to a 911 caller who had reported shooting. 

Broomfield was the 911 caller, the affidavit states. The 911 call lasted five minutes and 48 seconds. Broomfield had just minutes to live.

"At the 2:00 minute marker [sic] the dispatcher can be heard asking Broomfield who shot him and Broomfield responds by saying, 'Hackner' and 'William Rice,' the affidavit states. "Broomfield also responds by saying 'Wire Man.' Wire Man is an alias associated with an individual known as Deshay Hackner."

Broomfield also reportedly told the responding officers that Hackner and Rice shot him. In a nearby bedroom, the other victim, Mary Woodruff, was dead from a single gunshot wound to her face. 

Broomfield died at the hospital a few minutes later.

"A dying declaration is a very crucial part of our case but it has to be substantiated through corroborating witnesses or physical evidence," said Evansville Police Sergeant Jason Cullum. "To actually have someone give a dying declaration and that be crucial in bringing justice for them and their family is very rare. I don't know any of the other ones off the top of my head where that has happened."

Detectives are still working to establish what, if any, prior connections there were between the suspects and the victims. Neither suspect is unfamiliar with the criminal justice system.

Just two weeks before the double murder, a jury acquitted Hackner of the murder of Willie Williams on Thanksgiving night in 2014. Hackner also has a lengthy criminal history including charges of robbery with a firearm, resisting arrest, theft, carjacking and battery. He is considered a serious violent felon, according to court records.

Rice is also no stranger to law enforcement. In October 2016, he pleaded guilty to robbing a cab driver at gunpoint. As part of the plea deal, Rice was sentenced to time served and was placed on probation. In early October 2017, Rice allegedly led police on a six to eight mile chase on the city's southeast side before he crashed into the welcome sign of an apartment complex. Rice allegedly evaded authorities but a warrant for his arrest was later filed. 

Rice was allegedly driving a stolen car that had been implicated in at least two drive by shootings.

"We have expressed concern at the state level that the sentencing guidelines are impacting the crime rate because the people who would have normally been locked up for a long period of time wouldn't be out doing the crimes that they are doing now," Sgt. Cullum said. "The incentive to not do crime is disappearing. The old saying is if you can't do the time, don't do the crime. It really doesn't matter anymore because the time is not there."

In addition to seeking life without the possibility of parole, prosecutors have also filed enhancement charges against Rice and Hackner because the two men allegedly used a firearm during the murders. Rice and Hackner are also considered habitual offenders, according to court documents.

"Looking at these two gentlemen's histories, there's nothing that says if they come back to to Evansville, they are not going to be a problem even if they serve time," Sgt. Cullum said. 


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