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Press Release

William Wood Receives Life Sentence for Murders

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – William D. Wood, Jr. was sentenced today on federal charges related to the September 2018 robbery and murders he committed at the Chili’s Bar and Grill in Dewitt, New York, announced United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman, John B. DeVito, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen, and Chief Chase L. Bilodeau, Town of Dewitt Police Department.

As a part of his earlier guilty plea, Wood admitted that he obtained a loaded handgun to commit a robbery at the Chili’s, and that during the early morning hours of September 15, 2018, armed with that loaded handgun, he forced his way into the back door of Chili’s, where four employees remained to close the restaurant.  Wood admitted that he held all four employees on the ground at gunpoint, and after obtaining the available cash from the restaurant’s safe, shot and killed Stephen Gudknecht and Kristopher Hicks. Wood further admitted that his gun malfunctioned as he attempted to shoot a third employee in the head, allowing time for her and the fourth employee to hide and flee. 

Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby imposed consecutive sentences on each of the three federal felonies to which Wood pled guilty: 20 years for robbery, and life sentences on each of two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and murder.

“Today’s sentencing of William Wood marks the end of a horrific crime that senselessly took the lives of two innocent people.  While nothing can ever make up for their loss, we hope that the life sentences imposed on Wood today represents some measure of justice and will further ensure that he never again is free to victimize anyone. Our thoughts today are with all four victims, their families, friends, and co-workers.  All have suffered grievously from the robbery and murders committed by Wood,” said United States Attorney Carla Freedman.

“Today’s lengthy sentence serves to protect our communities, while sending a strong message to violent offenders like the defendant that they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. William Wood Jr. preyed upon his victims and showed no mercy. We commend the work of ATF’s Syracuse Field Office and our partners from the New York State Police, Town of DeWitt Police Department and United States Attorney’s Office for their steadfast commitment to investigating this heinous crime and for ensuring that justice was served,” said ATF Special Agent-in-Charge John B. DeVito.

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “Mr. Woods sentencing illustrates the work of a strong law enforcement partnership that has resulted in a dangerous man being taken off the streets. As we mourn for the victims and their families, we hope this sentencing brings them a sense of peace that Mr. Wood will never commit a crime like this again.  State Police and our partners will continue to work in keeping our communities safe from such criminals and the purposeless violence and deaths that they cause.”

“The crimes committed by William Wood were some of the most senseless, violent and horrific crimes that our community has ever seen. Although no measure of justice can ever fully make up for those actions, I hope today’s sentencing can bring at least some measure of peace to the victims, their families and all those who were hurt by his crimes. I would like to thank all of the first responders, investigators and prosecutors involved in this case, for working so diligently to ensure that William Wood will never again be free to victimize others,” said Chief Chase Bilodeau, Town of Dewitt Police Department.  

Wood is currently serving a life sentence on state charges related to the robbery and murders.  In the event that New York State ever releases Wood, he will be surrendered to federal authorities to serve each of the three sentences handed down today. 

The case against Wood was investigated by United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Town of Dewitt Police Department, and the New York State Police, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa M. Fletcher and Michael D. Gadarian.

Updated April 9, 2022

Violent Crime