Book Review: The I-5 Killer by Ann Rule

Yesterday, I reviewed The Serial Killer Letters, a book that is largely made up of letters written by serial killers.  As I mentioned in my review, I was particularly disturbed by the many letters that were written by Randall Woodfield, a former football player who is currently serving a life sentence for one murder but who has been linked to 44 others.

What was it that so disturbed me about Woodfield’s letters, beyond the fact that they were the words of a man who targeted women who physically resembled me?  Some of it was the fact that Woodfield took a flirtatious tone in his letters, presenting himself as being just a charming but hapless guy who ended up suffering from a bit of bad luck.  The fact that he included shirtless pictures of himself with his letters was undeniably icky.  There was also the fact that, despite having been linked to several murders by DNA and a lot of other evidence, Woodfield continued to adamantly claim that he had been set up and railroaded and basically misrepresented by everyone who had ever written or spoken about his case.  In fact, Woodfield was so adamant that, when first reading his words, it was tempting to question why someone who has been serving a life sentence since 1981 and who has no hope of ever getting out would not just go ahead and confess.  Even the author of The Serial Killer Letters admitted to initially feeling conflicted about Woodfield and his claims of innocence.  However, in order to believe Woodfield’s story, you would have to believe that cops in several different jurisdictions all decided to independently conspire against one person.  Considering that his DNA has been linked to several cold cases, you’d have to accept that the DNA evidence was planted at a time when most people weren’t even sure what DNA was.  You would have to ignore all of the other evidence against Woodfield.  You would also have to explain away the fact that three of Woodfield’s suspect victims were acquaintances of his and that all three of them died around the same time and in similarly violent circumstances.  One could accept that a gigantic conspiracy was formed to put Randy Woodfield in prison.  Or one can accept that Randy Woodfield is guilty.

In Woodfield’s letters, he spent a good deal of time ranting about the true crime writer Ann Rule.  In 1984, Rule wrote a book about Woodfield’s crimes, The I-5 Killer.  In fact, Woodfield devoted so much space to accusing Rule of being a part of a conspiracy against him that I felt the need to read The I-5 Killer to see what Rule had to say.  It’s pretty much a standard true crime book, one that gives the sordid details of Woodfield’s crimes while also detailing the investigation that led to Woodfield’s arrest.  The book delves into Woodfield’s background, revealing him to have been a popular high school athlete who, even at the age of 14, had a disturbing compulsion to expose himself to complete strangers.  Woodfield drifted after high school but he was a good enough football player to be drafted by the Packers.  Unfortunately, even while at training camp, Woodfield couldn’t stop exposing himself to strangers.  The Packers decided they didn’t need him on their team and Woodfield instead became a thief, a rapist, and a murderer.  At the same time, he also worked as a bartender and always had a new girlfriend who was willing to help finance his lifestyle.  The book is full of quotes about how charismatic Woodfield could be while tending bar.  However, there’s also a lot of quotes concerning the fact that even Woodfield’s friends and defenders thought he was an idiot.

The book details Woodfield’s crimes and the efforts of one of the survivors of his rampage to not only recover from being shot but also to find the courage to come face-to-face with Woodfield in court.  It makes for disturbing reading but the book should also be praised for revealing that Randy Woodfield was not a Hannibal Lector or a Dexter Morgan or any of the other charming, fictional murderers who tend to turn up in the movies or on television.  Randy Woodfield was a loser, through and through.  His motives were not complex and his methods were not clever.  He was an idiot.  One can understand why Woodfield hates Rule’s book but the book itself provides an invaluable service.  After you read enough true crime books, you come to realize that most murderers are, for the most part, very dull people.

The edition that I read included an update on Woodfield in prison.  It mentioned that Woodfield had become a prolific letter writing and that he always made sure to send everyone a shirtless picture of himself before asking them for money.

One response to “Book Review: The I-5 Killer by Ann Rule

  1. I met Ann Rule at a writers conference once…a wonderful Writer/Reporter and compassionate toward the victims of the gruesome subjects she covered…far too often for me in crime non-fiction, the focus on the “ingenious” madman gives them a spotlight they do not deserve in any way and takes away sympathy for the victims of these monsters…also, my sister told me recently that Ted Bundy’s girlfriend lived next door to us for awhile – so there’s a strong chance that Bundy was next door to me when I was very young!

    Liked by 1 person

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