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True crime event: ABC airs murder of Stephenville resident Susan Woods on 20/20.

Updated: Jan 20


A murder mystery that went unsolved for almost two decades aired on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday, Jan. 19.


The mystery of who killed Susan Woods in Stephenville in 1987 kept police guessing for years, until the Stephenville Police Department reopened the cold case in 2006 and used new technology to identify a suspect and make an arrest.


That man was Joseph Scott Hatley, an acquaintance of Susan’s police never suspected.  


I broke the story when the case was first reopened and an arrest was finally made. 


I interviewed Hatley when he was brought back to the Erath County Jail and covered his guilty plea one week before his trial was set to begin. 

I interviewed the detectives, Susan’s ex-husband who lived under a cloud of suspicion for 19 years, and Shannon, a former Stephenville resident who was beaten and raped by Hatley at a roadside park in Erath County in 1987.


Last summer, Texas Monthly released a blockbuster podcast about the case called “Stephenville.”


Information from that podcast and new interviews with players in the case were part of the program called, “There is a Monster in Me.”


If you missed it, you can now catch it on Hulu.


Click here to watch the official trailer.




Susan’s body was discovered by her father in a bathtub inside her home in Stephenville on July 28, 1987.


The whodunit remained unsolved for more than 20 years – until former Lt. Don Miller reopened the cold case to examine old evidence using new technology.

A fingerprint led to Hatley’s arrest and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007 after pleading guilty one week before his trial was set to begin.

Hatley was released from prison after serving only 11 years. He died from cancer a short time later.





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