LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The man charged in the murder of Louisville Metro Police Officer Nick Rodman evaded an arrest warrant for nearly four months, remaining out of jail even as he attended court hearings for pending felony cases.

Listed as a “fugitive” in court records, Woods was free on a $10,000 cash bond for felony charges involving drug trafficking and engaging in an organized crime syndicate when a judge issued a warrant for his arrest in December for failing to show up for a court hearing on a traffic case.

Had prosecutors known about that warrant, it could have prompted them to ask for a higher bond, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Cooke, a spokesman for the office.

“But a lot of times we don’t know,” Cooke said.

It is unclear if prosecutors or judges involved in the hearings knew Woods was a fugitive.

Former Judge James Shake, who presided over Woods’ organized crime case, said he didn’t remember the specific case but that normally a sheriff’s deputy would inform him when a defendant before him had a warrant.

“Ordinarily, if someone shows up in court with a warrant out of any court, they are taken into custody and taken back before that (judge),” Shake said in an interview.

Lt. Col. Carl Yates, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said it is possible the warrant wasn’t served because Woods was going by different names in his traffic and felony cases.

“He came into district court under the name of James L. Woods,” Yates said in an interview. “Two days later, he appeared in circuit court under the name Wathaniel Woods.”

The sheriff’s department and LMPD, among other agencies, serve thousands of warrants every year and “one is going to slip through the crack every once in a while, especially when” some are using aliases, Yates said.

“This guy played the system pretty well,” Yates said, adding that Woods also went by the name James Reed.

LMPD Officer Lamont Washington said police do not actively search for defendants who have bench warrants for failing to appear in court.

One of the prosecutors in the felony case, Frank Dahl, declined to comment. The prosecutor in the other case, Richard Elder, did not return a phone message.

A public defender assigned to represent Woods declined to comment.

Some defense attorneys told WDRB it would be unlikely prosecutors would have asked for a higher bond because the warrant was issued in a traffic case, not serious charges.

On Dec. 2, 2016, Jefferson District Court Judge Todd Hollenbach issued a warrant for Woods after he failed to appear in court on a traffic case, in which he was charged with driving on a revoked license and having no insurance. He set a bond of $500.

On Dec. 8, Woods did appear in court in front of Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith for alleged drug trafficking.  He was also in court the same day in front of Judge Shake, for engaging in an organized crime syndicate.

Woods came back to circuit court on Feb. 28 for both cases.

In that hearing, Judge Smith expressed some frustration with delay in the case, saying there had been nine pre-trial conferences since Woods was indicted in October 2015.

“I think it’s time to get this moving along,” she said. The judge set a trial date for September. There was no discussion of the warrant, according to a video of the hearing.

Elder told the judge the organized crime case was complicated and plea offers had been offered in both cases.

Woods was arrested Sunday night and charged with murder, assault, fleeing or evading police, trafficking a controlled substance, wanton endangerment, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, driving on a DUI suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia, among other charges.

The warrant for the traffic case was served on him at that time.

Woods pleaded not guilty in the murder case on Monday. He now has a $1 million cash bond.

According to the arrest report, Woods had been in a verbal argument with the mother of his child. During that argument, Woods "pushed the victim and punched her on the face multiple times causing pain and visible injuries." Woods then displayed a handgun and struck the victim with it on the left hand.

The report noted that "as bystanders attempted to stop the assault, Woods fired multiple shots from his handgun before fleeing the scene in a vehicle."

Rodman was attempting to join a police pursuit of Woods in the Portland neighborhood. Woods, who was driving a 2001 Lexus, struck Rodman's police cruiser as he was trying to make a left turn at a green light at 26th and Duncan, causing the car to burst into flames. 

Rodman was trapped inside the vehicle until being removed and taken to the hospital in critical condition. He died on March 29.  

Woods' vehicle struck the left front side of Rodman's vehicle. Both Woods and Rodman were transported to University Hospital.

The police report states pursuant to a search warrant, a loaded handgun, individually packaged cocaine, digital scales and plastic baggies were recovered from Woods' vehicle.

Woods' blood was collected at the hospital and tested positive for alcohol, cocaine and opiates.

According to court documents, Woods' criminal history dates back to at least 2000. He has previously been convicted of wanton endangerment, robbery, burglary and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, assault of a police officer, cocaine possession and escape.

Woods' family members were in court Monday, but did not want to comment. Woods is due back in court later this month.

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