May 29

This Day in History

Crime

May 29, 1979:

Woody Harrelson's father is arrested for murder

Judge John Wood, known as "Maximum John," is assassinated outside his San Antonio, Texas, home as he bent down to look at a flat tire on his car. Actor Woody Harrelson's father, Charles Harrelson, was charged with the murder after evidence revealed that drug kingpin Jimmy Chagra, whose case was about to come up before "Maximum John," had paid him $250,000.

Chagra, worried about the sentence that was soon to be imposed by Judge Wood, apparently conspired with his wife and brother to hire Harrelson to carry out the murder. Shattered bullet fragments found at the scene were traced to a .240 Wetherby Mark V rifle—the type recently purchased by Harrelson's wife, Jo Ann. Harrelson, who had a prior conviction for murder in 1968, was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences in prison. Jo Ann, convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjufy, was later paroled. Woody Harrelson funded his father's appeals, enlisting the aid of famed attorney Alan Dershowitz.

Charles Harrelson died on March 15, 2007, at age 69 of a heart attack in his cell at Colorado's Supermax federal prison.

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