Joyce Thomas lived in an apartment in Ville Platte. She had grown kids, and she liked to go to the casino. Evangeline Downs was her favorite. She was deaf, and she couldn’t speak. She communicated using hand gestures, and by writing things down.

One day she was at the Walmart near her home and was having some difficulty communicating with an employee. Phillip Dewoody saw what was happening, and went over to help. Eventually, he would murder her in a vacant St. Landry Parish lot. He poured bleach on her body to cover his tracks, dragged branches to conceal her body and walked away.

After they first met at the store, Dewoody and Joyce would see each other periodically, because she didn’t have a car and he did. He would give her rides to various places, including the store and the casino. Sometimes he took her to an Opelousas company that offered subprime loans -meaning they make high-interest loans to people without a lot of collateral or poor credit. Joyce and Dewoody communicated using an app on his phone.

In February of 2020, just before the pandemic hit, their relationship was such that he went to her apartment sometimes to pick her up, and she kept her handicap parking placard in his silver four-door Toyota.

Joyce was 72 years old, and she would not live to see March.

Philllip Dewoody’s criminal history included his first homicide at the age of 12. To read about his past, click here and here. The system worked in his case, to a certain extent. He was sitting in prison with more than 90 years left on his armed robbery and kidnapping sentences in June 2019 when the Louisiana pardon board let him out early, after a 15-minute discussion that focused almost entirely on his love of wood carving. The vote was unanimous. Less than a year later, he would murder Joyce with a knife. To hear that meeting, click here.