A cell phone detectives snuck into the Montgomery County Correctional Facility as part of a separate criminal investigation proved to be the downfall of a Norristown man now charged with murder, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Investigators were not going after Bruce Woods Jr., 26, who was incarcerated for alleged probation violations, when they sent the wiretapped phone into the jail population, said Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele.
But after Woods got his hands on it, he allegedly implicated himself in the October shooting death of 34-year-old Tyree Whiting, cajoled witnesses to lie to detectives, and asked others to deliver contraband to him behind bars, prosecutors said.
"We weren't targeting Woods," Steele said. "He was an added bonus."
Prosecutors allege Woods shot Whiting multiple times during a robbery Oct. 19 on the 1100 block of Swede Street. The two had previously been drinking blocks away at the Roo House Tavern, on Norristown's northeast side.
Although investigators initially suspected Woods of the crime and executed a search warrant on a home they found him in, they did not have the evidence to charge him when he was arrested a day later for allegedly violating the conditions of his parole on robbery and firearms charges, according to court filings.
But during his recorded conversations on the wiretapped cell phone, Woods purportedly tried to convince his girlfriend to lie before a grand jury about his gun, which investigators later identified as the murder weapon.
In separate conversations in November, Woods pleaded with his father to hide cigarettes, marijuana, a prepaid cell phone, and rolling papers in a courthouse bathroom the same day Woods was scheduled to appear in court for his probation violation, according to the probable-cause affidavit filed in his case.
Woods now stands charged with murder, firearms violations, solicitation to commit perjury, and contraband as well as additional offenses stemming from a separate robbery attempt and assault that allegedly occurred days before Whiting's slaying.