FARIBAULT, Minn. -- A man already serving prison time on a drug conviction is now charged in a plot to kill Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom and Dakota County Judge Rex Stacey.
John Woodward was serving a 94 month prison sentence he received from Judge Stacey after being convicted of Conspiracy to Commit a Controlled Substance Crime.
Backstrom was the 47 year-old Woodward neighbor in Inver Grove Heights, and was a potential witness in the case due to his observations of what turned out to be drug traffic in and out of the Woodward home. Because of his relationship as a neighbor Backstrom asked an attorney from Ramsey County to prosecute the case.
A criminal complaint released by the Rice County Attorney today details how prosecutors say Woodward tried to hire another inmate, Thomas Ray Jackson, to kill Backstrom when Jackson was released from the Faribault Correctional Facility in December. Investigators say Jackson was promised a total of $10k for Backstrom's death.
Jackson eventually went to authorities with the plot, and they used him to gain evidence that will be used to prosecute Woodward. The criminal complaint says Woodward told Jackson Backstrom's route home, the time he arrives, the location of the hit, and other details he would need to commit murder. He provided a map with key locations.
Investigators eventually equipped Jackson with a wire to tape conversations between he and Woodward. In those tapes the men discuss the plot to kill Backstrom as well as plans to murder Judge Stacey and assault and injure a key female witness in Woodward's drug case.
Jim Backstrom released a written statement to the media which reads "This has been upsetting to me and my family, as I am sure it has been to the other victims involved. I am grateful for the work of the many investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Dakota County Sheriff's Office, who have been involved in this case and have the utmost confidence in the Rice County Attorney who is pursuing this prosecution. "
Woodward was transferred to the correctional facility in Oak Park Heights in mid-August while prosecutors built a case against him. When questioned by investigators he claimed that the murders were Jackson's idea.
He is now charged with two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Premeditated 1st Degree Murder, which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison; and one count of Conspiracy to Commit 1st Degree Assault, which carries a potential 10 year prison term.
(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)