The New York Criminal Law Blog

Police Suspect Professional Hitman Used in Law Student Murder

It may be stating the obvious, but the murder of 31-year-old law student Brandon Woodward was pulled off so brazenly and so professionally that police believe that the triggerman had killed before, reports The Associated Press. The surveillance video shows a well-planned execution, beginning with the shooter arriving early, pulling his hood over his head, and awaiting the arrival of the victim.

When Woodard arrived, he appeared to be searching for an address, pacing back and forth. The killer slipped behind him, pulled out a pistol, and shot him in the head. Before the trigger was even pulled, he had turned back towards the getaway car, which was already pulling into traffic. Police believed the killer lured the victim to the scene, perhaps using a fake address.

It didn't take long to find the getaway car, but unless the experienced killer left behind forensic evidence, there doesn't seem to be much to go on. The NYPD's state-of-the-art surveillance system located the Lincoln sedan parked in Queens. The woman who rented the car, as well as a person she loaned it to, have been interrogated and released. It appears to be a dead end, reports the Daily News

Perhaps the biggest break will come from investigating the victim. The University of West Los Angeles law student was reportedly also involved in the entertainment industry as a promoter and aspiring rapper. He also had a lengthy criminal record that included drug, battery, and shoplifting offenses. He previously attended law school at the Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California for two semesters. He was also facing felony cocaine possession charges stemming from an arrest back in April.

NYPD officers are in Los Angeles investigating the victim's background. At the same time, the manhunt for the gunman and the getaway driver are also underway in New York. The Daily News reports that Woodard was carrying three cell phones during his trip to New York. One was registered to a  party planner that hosted an event over the summer. A fight at the party led to a triple homicide later that evening. It's a faint lead, but it is being investigated.

Much speculation has surrounded Woodard's possible connections to the drug trade, especially in light of his recent arrest. If his murder was ordered to prevent testimony, or if the hitman was a professional, hired to kill Woodard, the murder charge is elevated to a first degree offense. This means a minimum sentence of twenty to twenty-five years before becoming eligible for parole or even the possibility of a life sentence without parole, if the murderer is ever caught.

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