UPDATE: Former bodybuilder gets nine years for robberies, chase
Drug addict fled across state lines after thefts
Originally published March 15, 2013 at 12:04 p.m., updated March 15, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.
A Vancouver bodybuilder will serve more than nine years in prison for a June 20 bistate crime spree during which he robbed two banks and led police on a high-speed chase.
Brent J. Woodall, 29, of Vancouver pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery, attempt to elude and hit-and-run.
Woodall’s rampage through Hazel Dell, Vancouver and Portland put hundreds, if not thousands, of drivers and pedestrians in danger, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield.
Woodall apologized for his actions.
“I thank God no one was seriously hurt,” Woodall said.
He blamed his drug addiction for the unraveling of a life that had, to appearances, been an all-American dream.
He lived with his wife and her three children from a previous marriage in a two-story, 3,550-square-foot house in Salmon Creek. A white BMW was parked in the driveway. At one point, he operated his own personal training business.
The facade, however, masked an inner emptiness, Woodall wrote in a letter to The Columbian.
“In spite of everything seeming so very wonderful on the outside, inside I was uncertain, devoid of self-worth, self-love and utterly depressed,” he wrote.
Woodall, who worked as a personal trainer, said his “savior” was exercise, but after a job loss, exercise wasn’t enough, he wrote.
He turned to drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, he wrote.
He drained the family’s resources, while the recession stripped their home of its value.
The house had been on the market as a short sale for about a year before the listing expired in September. Court documents indicate the Woodalls owed $350,000 on the house, which is estimated to be worth $320,000.
On June 20, Woodall needed money and drugs.
Woodall robbed the Riverview Community Bank in Hazel Dell and fled, triggering a police chase through neighborhoods east of the bank before emerging onto Highway 99, Interstate 5 and then Highway 14.
When authorities ended the chase because of concern about the safety of other people on the roads, Woodall took the opportunity to rob a Bank of America branch on Auto Mall Drive. With police closing in, Woodall hit a vehicle and kept going. The person in the other vehicle injured his arm in the collision, Banfield said.
A few minutes later, police said, Woodall first tried to steal a vehicle at a convenience store and then successfully carjacked a Ford Focus from a man near downtown Vancouver. He drove it south on I-5 into Portland, with officers once again in pursuit.
Woodall was captured by Portland police in the St. Johns area of North Portland after being pinned between a minivan and a police cruiser.
He pleaded guilty in Multnomah County to third-degree robbery for the crime spree and received credit for time served. He was immediately transported to Clark County to face charges.
His wife, Aimee, filed for divorce after the crime spree.
He has been in jail for 248 days and will receive credit for time served.
On Friday, he told Judge Robert Lewis that jail time had shown him that it’s possible to be happy while sober.
“You are only 29 years old,” Lewis said. “You can take advantage of the opportunity to reform.”
The sentence was on the high end of the standard range under state sentencing guidelines.
Lewis said that while Woodall seemed contrite for his actions, he put many people in danger and failed to reform after a 2008 drug conviction in Grant County.
Woodall’s defense attorney, Gerald Wear, had asked for a sentence of eight years. He said Woodall’s actions on June 20 were uncharacteristic. Financial pressures, combined with drug addiction, were a tipping point in his life, he said.
“This man had been productive in life before falling into addiction to drugs,” Wear said.
Woodall had worked as a personal trainer at LA Fitness locations in Hazel Dell and on Fourth Plain Boulevard. He competed in multiple bodybuilding competitions and took third place at the Emerald City Smoothie Washington Ironman competition in 2007.
He was a familiar face in Clark County, so familiar that a teller at the Bank of America recognized him from their time as students at Prairie High School.
From jail, he wrote The Columbian a series of letters about his drug addiction and said he hoped that his story would be a warning to others to seek treatment for drug addiction and any mental health issues that might contribute to it.
“I do not wish to witness the absolute destruction of (someone’s) life as I have come to endure,” he wrote.