Longtime criminal gets life without parole for murder of Mpls. man in front of kids
A longtime criminal was sentenced to life without parole for the assassination-style murder of a 32-year-old Minneapolis man in front of his children.
The punishment for James A. Woodard, 33, came Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court, two weeks after jurors convicted him of first-degree murder in connection with the killing of Divittin Hoskins last summer outside a Minneapolis apartment complex in the 1600 block of Plymouth Avenue N.
On the night of the shooting, Woodard crouched next to a garage behind the apartment complex and lay in wait for Hoskins, authorities said.
Investigators say that accomplice Elbert Lee Robinson Jr. appeared to signal Woodard after Hoskins pulled into the parking lot.
As Hoskins and his children started toward the garage, Woodard ran up behind him and fired once at the back of his head, authorities said. Hoskins died at the scene.
The children were not harmed, but were “hysterical” after the shooting, authorities said. They were escorted from the scene by acquaintances.
Several witnesses identified Woodard as being involved in the shooting, which was caught on surveillance cameras, according to the criminal complaint, which offered no insight into a motive.
During sentencing, a victim advocate for the County Attorney’s Office recalled an exchange she had with Hoskins’ 11-year-old daughter.
The child asked, “What would you do if your dad gets a gun pointed at him? I feel so bad because I run for fear of being shot.”
The advocate answered, “That is exactly what I would have done, and I am sure your dad wanted you to run.”
Prosecutors believed Woodard shot Hoskins to settle an old score. Woodard chose not to address the court during sentencing.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance stated that this case was one of the most gratuitous acts of violence she has seen in more than 25 years working in criminal justice. She described Woodard as heartless and coldblooded, adding that Hoskins’ children will have to live with this trauma for the rest of their lives.
Woodard has been in trouble with the law for nearly all of his adult life. His criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for attempted robbery, domestic abuse, illegal weapons possession, terroristic threats, drunken driving and drug possession. He is currently charged with burglary and domestic assault in Scott County.
Robinson, 33, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty to aiding an offender and will be sentenced on Nov. 26.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482