Former Perry County sheriff recalls brutal murder

PERRY COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - It has been nearly 24 years since Rhonda Crane was brutally murdered off of Highway 29 in Perry County.

Former Sheriff Jimmy "Shorty" Smith remembers the murder like it was yesterday.

"She was shot in the head and we couldn't tell what kind of instrument was used," said Smith.

Paul Woodward, 62, is on death row, scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday.

Officials say Woodward was driving his log truck along Highway 29. He used the truck to block crane in her car. He got out and forced her into the truck.

"He hauled her about 5 miles down the road walked her in the woods and raped her and then turns around shoots her in the top of the head," said Smith.

Crane's family members joined law enforcement in her search. Her father found her body just off the road about 18 hours later. Woodward was apprehended a few hours earlier after a witness reported seeing crane kidnapped and another, reported hearing the trucks tires screeching to a stop.

Smith said the evidence in the case was overwhelming, including a taped confession. He said there are no winners in this tragic case.  Smith is just glad to know Woodward will never again the light of day.

"If any man ever committed a crime and deserves to die, he deserves to die.  I'm not a blood thirsty man," said Smith. "If the law would allow me to, I would go up there and have not any remorse to sit in there and watch him die for what he did to this young girl."

Copyright 2010 WDAM. All rights reserved.