On January 1st, 2016, Josh Woodruff was murdered in New Orleans. He was struck by a black sedan with tinted windows that was traveling at a high rate of speed and never stopped. His body was trapped under the vehicle as it drove away and his body was dragged for more than 6 miles. The family did pay to put up a billboard and this has brought in more tips, but nothing that has helped solve this case. If you have any information that can help, please call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.
I'm going to start this story off , by reading the information from a flyer.
Do you know me? You should. You took my life in the early hours of January 1st, 2016. I'm Josh Woodruff. I was the one standing at the intersection of Decatur and Dumaine Streets in the French Quarter around 3 AM. You were driving a black sedan with tinted windows. You struck me with your vehicle. But after hitting me, you didn't stop. You may have panicked. I get it. I may have too. Maybe that explains why after hitting me you didn't stop. Not only did you not stop, you dragged my body under your car zig-zagging through the streets of the French Quarter apparently in an attempt to dislodge my body. When that didn't work, you drove your vehicle across the Mississippi River Bridge with me still underneath. Six miles you dragged me. Six miles! It looks as though the NOPD is getting closer to identifying you. But I thought maybe you just may want to clear your conscience and turn yourself in. Not so much for my sake, because I'm no longer here, but for the sake of my parents and my siblings who grieve for me every day. They deserve closure on this nightmare. Please think about it. Josh Woodruff.
Josh Woodruff grew up in Omaha and graduated from Burke High School. He went to Harvard University to study music, graduated in 2011, and later moved to Los Angeles to work for a startup company Soylent. This is a company that delivers products that have complete plant based protein, like shakes. He liked where he lived and enjoyed many genres of music, including jazz, blues, or pretty much anything his friends wanted him to hear. Josh's mother, Caren says, “ He had a way of making you feel so valued. He would eye-lock with you and ask how you were doing. No agenda, just wanted the best for you.” Josh enjoyed traveling, music festivals, playing the piano, snowboarding and was an avid exerciser.
He was planning to take a trip to New Orleans for the first time and he was super excited about it. He was traveling there to meet up with some old college buddies from Harvard. It was New Years Eve night and I imagine New Orleans knows how to ring in the new year. Josh's mom, Caren Woodruff, say he was a best friend to many and focused on how he could best serve a purpose on earth. She says, “ We talked many times about Why did God put him here? What was he meant to do? How could he do it the best?” While Josh was celebrating with his friends, he paused to send a text to his family members and a few friends to let them know he loved them.
Around 3 AM on January 1st, 2016, Josh was standing near the intersection of Decatur and Dumaine streets. His night was finally coming to an end and he was waiting for an Uber. His friends and a crowd of other people, witnessed the incident. A black sedan with tinted windows was traveling at a high rate of speed and hit Josh and the vehicle never stopped. His body was trapped under the vehicle as it drove away and everyone could hear his body being dragged. Josh was trapped under the vehicle for more than 6 miles. About 30 minutes later, another driver discovered Josh's dismembered body in the road.
The phone that Josh used to order the Uber ride and send his last text to his siblings and friends was on the ground at the intersection where he had been struck. A bystander picked up the phone and called someone from Josh's contact list. It was a friend that he had been celebrating with for the New Year. This friend contacted Josh's family.
On New Year's Day, Josh's family woke up to an early morning phone call that would turn their entire world upside down. Their son, and youngest child, who was just 28-years-old, was dead. The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and it is believed that he died quickly. There were street cameras on the route that the black sedan took, but they only caught glimpses of the vehicle and didn't catch the license plate. Investigators have released additional photos of this vehicle that shows a silver window trim and the taillights have a pattern. There have been many difficulties with this case besides the lack of evidence. The first detective that was on the case, passed away very suddenly from a heart attack during the investigation. Even if he left very detailed notes, there still may have been information that wasn't passed to the next investigator and died with him. This started out as a traffic case and was eventually transferred to the homicide division of the NOPD. Crimestoppers have received a record-breaking amount of tips, but nothing has panned out.
A veteran New Orleans Police Department lieutenant was removed as commander of the agency's traffic division while an internal investigation took place to see if he disobeyed orders or failed to properly supervise in the investigation of the hit and run. The NOPD did end up transferring the lieutenant out of his post as leader of the unit and he was put on night watch. There was a lot of dissatisfaction in the way this case was handled and it sounds like this is the reason the lieutenant was moved. Josh's parents didn't just wait around for everything get sorted out. They actually filed a lawsuit in Civil District Court against the unidentified driver that killed their son. Their lawyer said the lawsuit was structured to give the family subpoena power while they investigated the case themselves. Four days after the lawsuit was filed, NOPD published new images of the dark-colored sedan that was involved in the hit and run. The hope is that it will bring in new leads by providing numerous photos with different angles. Unfortunately, the images are very dark and blurry.
The police have reviewed approximately 50 videos taken from surveillance cameras that may have captured the car's path and they obtained copies of 11 videos. The images haven't revealed any additional information. They still don't know the make or model, license plate number, or even the state where the plate was issued.
New Orleans police have released a composite sketch of a person of interest in this case. They say he's believed to be a black man between the ages of 18-24 years old, short with braids and a green wing tattoo on the left side of his neck. The person of interest was seen driving a black Nissan Altima or Toyota Camry that struck Josh.
Josh's family remains supportive of the police work in this investigation, but they are continuing to do their own investigation as well. There are some things that the NOPD may have dismissed or thought was unimportant, and the family investigates this information themselves.
Josh's father, Mark Woodruff, says “There are people who know something that are completely innocent – they just happened to be observers and they probably think whatever they saw doesn't matter. But you never know what matters, and so we're going to once again appeal that if you know you saw something at 3 AM on New Year's Day in the French Quarter, please come forward, even if you just think you saw the car.”
Caren Woodruff added, “There are people taking pictures of a girlfriend or a boyfriend or whatever and in the background, there could be something. Look at your pictures.”
The family did pay to put up a billboard and this has brought in more tips, but nothing that has helped solve this case. If you have any information that can help, please call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.
I'll leave you with this last quote from Josh's mother, Caren. “The driver who killed Josh is presumably still out there driving. No one has come forward to say, we know who did this. Josh, who believed in the best in everyone, would be surprised by this silence.”
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