Ezra McCandless, a young Wisconsin woman, told police a harrowing story of how her ex-boyfriend carved the word “boy” into her arm and then attacked her. Was she really a victim, or did she intend to kill ex-boyfriend Alex Woodworth?
McCandless was only 22 years old when she took the stand in her own defense. She appeared meek and timid and wore pink, and the small statured woman seemed an unlikely killer. Prosecutors knew that the case boiled down to whether jurors would believe McCandless was a brave victim fighting off her attacker or a desperate liar playing a master con.
Correspondent Jamie Yuccas and 48 HOURS investigate the death of Woodworth and search for answers to what happened in “The Case Against Ezra McCandless” to be broadcast Saturday, Feb. 8 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
On March 22, 2018, McCandless turned up on the doorstep at dairy farmer Don Sipple’s home. She was muddy, bloody, bruised and shoeless, asking for a doctor. She said she was a victim of an assault. Sipple called 911. Details of the attack recounted by McCandless were initially hazy, but eventually she said it was ex-boyfriend Woodworth who attacked her. The case turned, when police found Woodworth’s body on a desolate dirt road near the farmhouse. It was a brutal scene.
“I’ve been a prosecutor since 2001, and I’ve never seen anything this violent,” said Andrea Nodolf, district attorney for Dunn County, Wisc.
Yuccas and 48 HOURS take viewers inside the investigation and into the courtroom where McCandless faced a life sentence for murder. No one quite knew what to expect from a woman described by friends as someone who sought attention.
“I thought it was really interesting when she was asked to spell her name how happy she got, how much she lit up,” says childhood friend Julia Post of watching McCandless on trial. “She was kinda smiling like, ‘Yup, this is me. I get to talk about me now.’”
Ex-boyfriend Jason Mengel said when McCandless was on the stand it “didn’t seem real. “She just seemed at times to be enjoying it.”
On the stand, McCandless said on the day he died, Woodworth pulled out a knife and began to cut away her clothing.
“What’s going through my mind is, he’s going to do what he wants, he’s going to take anything he wants … I’m afraid he’s going to kill me,” McCandless said.
Woodworth’s father, John Woodworth, is upset at the way his oldest son has been portrayed, especially by the use of his son’s personal journals throughout the trial.
“It’s one thing to lose your child. It’s another to have his name dragged through the mud like this,” he told 48 HOURS.
What happened on that isolated country road near Eau Claire, Wisc.? How did a jury react to McCandless’ testimony on the stand?
“This case came down to whether you believe Ezra McCandless or not,” Nodolf said.
48 HOURS: “The Case Against Ezra McCandless” is produced by Jonathan Leach and Paul LaRosa. Emma Steele is the associate producer. Julie Kramer is the development producer. Mike Vele, Karen Brenner, Michelle Harris and Joan Adelman are the editors. Gail Zimmerman is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.