Vt. drifter admits killing woman, 79, with hammer

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2011 4:11 PM
Vt. drifter admits killing woman, 79, with hammer

A drifter admitted Thursday to beating a 79-year-old woman to death with a hammer as she made biscuits in her home.

Charles "Punky" Haynes pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and one count of burglary in exchange for 20 years to life in prison. Counting the time he's been jailed already, he will serve a minimum of 18 years for killing Raynetta Woodward on July 1, 2009, in Woodstock.

The motive may never be known, according to prosecutor Robert Sand. Haynes will have an opportunity to explain why he killed the woman during the presentence investigation, but it remains to be seen whether he does.

"Motive is never part of the state's burden of proof, and so I don't want to speculate," Sand said outside court.

The 53-year-old Haynes lived a hand-to-mouth existence, he said, but what motivated the beating remains unclear.

A well-known transient, Haynes was suspected in numerous petty thefts in and around Woodstock and neighboring Bridgewater. Many saw him as harmless. He had no record of violent crime, only a marijuana conviction in 1984 and a 1996 conviction for furnishing alcohol to a minor.

He knew Woodward, albeit in passing, having done some weed-whacking outside her mobile home up a dirt road in the hills west of town.

A white-haired great-grandmother known for making beautiful quilts, she was preparing to bake biscuits for her brother-in-law _ who lived next door _ when she was beaten. When he went to see what was taking so long, he found the dough on the table, blood on the floor and Woodward dead under a pile of blankets, a bloody hammer nearby.

Haynes, who was caught later that day, was cited for trespassing and burglary and later second-degree murder after tests showed that a blood stain on his pants contained Woodward's DNA. The victim's money belt was missing $470, the approximate amount Haynes was carrying when he was arrested.

Haynes, who has already served two years in prison, made no comments during his 10-minute plea change hearing except to answer yes and no to a series of questions posed by the judge.

Kevin Griffin, his attorney, had little to say afterward. "It is what it is," he said.

Three of Woodward's children also declined to comment after the hearing.

No sentencing date was set, pending completion of the presentence investigation and report.