90-Day Stay Ordered In New Trial Motion In 38-Year-Old Murder Case

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RENO, NV - A Washoe District Judge has ordered a 90-day stay in a hearing on a motion for a new trial for the woman convicted in the 1976 murder of UNR coed Michelle Mitchell.

Judge Patrick Flanagan ordered the stay after an hour-and-a-half hearing Wednesday morning.

Cathy Woods, a former topless club manager, was convicted of the crime twice in trials in 1980 and 1985 and has been serving a life sentence.

A re-examination of physical evidence in the case late last year, however, failed to find any DNA evidence linking her with the scene.
The DNA that was found was, however, that of an unidentified male sought in five murders of young women in the Bay Area in 1976.

An FBI-led task force is now investigating, searching for that man and the Washoe County Public Defenders Office is seeking a new trial for Woods.

After testimony from the criminologist at the Washoe County Crime Lab and the lead detective from the Reno Police Department, Deputy District Attorney Luke Prengaman asked for 90 more days to allow the investigation to continue.

Judge Flanagan agreed noting it was important to get it right.

Woods' attorney, Maizie Pusich, wasn't disappointed with the ruling, however, noting that the law allowed Woods this one time only appeal on the DNA evidence and, if they lost, she'd be out of options.

Woods, who is schizophrenic, appeared to be under sedation during the hearing, staring straight forward with no apparent reaction to the proceedings.

Her family, including her 91 year old mother, were present. Her brother, Al Carter, said the family always believed she was innocent and though they're grateful her attorneys are working to get her released, he left somewhat disappointed.

"I thought I'd be driving her home today," he said.

The hearing, and presumably Judge Flanagan's decision, will resume August 21.

Woods has now been in custody for 35 years.