“I will see my wife—she will meet me with outstretched arms. She knows I never harmed her but I was always kind and good, not only to her but to everyone…They had the one idea that I was guilty. I am not. In a few minutes I will be ushered into eternity where all secrets are known. Over there they will judge me and they will say I am innocent.”
After the blindfold was placed on his head: “Say good-bye to my brother and daughter.”
— Omer R. Woods, convicted of murder, firing squad, Utah.
Executed January 18, 1924
On 9 January 1922 firemen discovered the body of Myretta Woods at the Pauline Apartments, Third East and First South. She had been bound and gagged, hit in the face with a blunt object, strangled, and her body set on fire. Her husband, Omer R. Woods, told the firemen that two men had entered the apartment while Mrs. Woods and he were having lunch. They robbed and beat him, then tied him up and locked him in the closet. Suspicion focused on Woods when inconsistencies were found in his story, and he was arrested for the murder of his wife.
Myretta Woods was an invalid, suffering from tuberculosis. She was described as “a frail, delicate woman of quiet and friendly disposition and to have had few acquaintances in the city” (Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Jan. 1922). Her husband was employed by the U.S. Revenue Service as an estate tax inspector. He was a former attorney, had served as a probate judge in Idaho City in Boise County, and had been a school teacher. The Woods had a nineteen-year-old daughter, Tee Lee Woods, a student at the University of Utah.
On 17 January 1924 the Salt Lake County Commission (under whose jurisdiction the execution was to be conducted) appropriated $550 to cover the expense of Woods’s execution. Governor Mabey refused to grant a commutation: “Those who have urged commutation of the death sentence are not familiar with the facts of the case as presented to me and to other members of the pardons board. They plead for mercy in the name of humanity, but do not take into consideration the inhumanity of the murder. The pleas are the result of maudlin sympathy. There is nothing to be done but to carry out the death sentence” (Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Jan. 1924).
The morning of his execution, 18 January 1924, Woods ordered a meal of southern fried chicken, sweet potatoes, and coffee. As he approached the firing squad, he was smoking a black cigar. He called out from his chair near the south wall of the prison in Sugarhouse, “The last thing that I do is send a kiss to my mother, sister, to my daughter, and to my daughter again.” His last words proclaimed his innocence: “I believe—and it is my dying statement—that [A. C.] Vadney [of Council, Idaho] was the smaller of the two robbers. I am as innocent
today as I was the day my mother gave me birth. I am prepared to meet my maker in peace” (Ogden Standard Examiner, 18 Jan. 1924). Within seconds he was dead.
He was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake. His mother in Tennessee was never told of the execution.