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Charles Voyde HARRELSON

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Chuck"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: American freelance hitman connected with organized crime
Number of victims: 2 +
Date of murders: July 6, 1968 / May 29, 1979
Date of birth: July 23, 1938
Victims profile: Sam Degelia Jr. / U.S. District Judge John H. Wood, Jr.
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1973. Released from prison in September 1978. Sentenced to two life terms on December 14, 1982. Died in prison on March 15, 2007
 
 
 
 
 
 

Charles Voyde Harrelson (July 23, 1938 – March 15, 2007) was an American freelance hitman connected with organized crime and was convicted of assassinating a federal judge. He was the father of actor Woody Harrelson.

Murder of Judge Wood

Harrelson was sentenced to two life terms for the May 29, 1979, assassination of U.S. District Judge John H. Wood, Jr. Harrelson was convicted of shooting and killing Wood in the parking lot outside of Wood's San Antonio, Texas, townhouse after being hired by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra of El Paso. Wood — nicknamed "Maximum John" because of his reputation for handing down long sentences for drug offenses — was originally scheduled to have Chagra appear before him on the day of his murder, but the trial had been delayed.

Harrelson was apprehended with the aid of an anonymous tip and a taped conversation between Jimmy (Jamiel) and his brother, Joe Chagra. He claimed at trial that he did not kill Wood, but merely took credit for it so he could score a huge payout from Chagra.

Harrelson was eventually convicted based largely on Chagra's conversation with his brother who was visiting him in prison. Both Harrelson and Chagra's brother Joe were implicated in the assassination. Harrelson was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Joe Chagra received a ten-year sentence. Jamiel Chagra was acquitted of the murder when his brother Joe refused to testify against him. Chagra was represented by current mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman. In a plea bargain, Chagra admitted to his role in the murder of Judge Wood and the attempted murder of a U.S. Attorney.

After his release in 2003, Jimmy Chagra claimed that Harrelson did not murder Judge Wood. While he did not identify the real killer, Chagra indicated that he or she was long deceased. Jamiel and Joe Chagra allegedly misled federal officials by talking about hiring Harrelson to kill Judge Wood when they knew they were being illegally taped during a legal visit in the prison because Harrelson had been blackmailing Joe Chagra with information he did have about the murder of the judge.

This incident is mentioned in Cormac McCarthy's book No Country for Old Men. In the film for the book Charles Harrelson's son, Woody Harrelson, plays a bounty hunter.

Sam Degelia

Prior to the Wood murder, Harrelson was tried for the 1968 murder for hire killing of Hearne, Texas, father of four and grain dealer Sam Degelia Jr., by his business partner and childhood friend since the second grade, Pete Thomas Scamardo, in McAllen, Texas. Scamardo was trafficking heroin across the Mexican border and Harrelson was distributing the drugs.

Harrelson lost a shipment of heroin in Kansas City, MO after a traffic stop in June of 1968. For losing the heroin, Scamardo pressured Harrelson into committing the murder for hire of his business partner on July 6, 1968. Harrelson committed the murder for hire on July 6, 1968. On November 19, 1968, Harrelson was arrested in Atlanta, GA in possession of a new car, which had been reported stolen on November 15, 1968.

Two witnesses identified Scamardo and Harrelson together on November 14, 1968 near Mumford, Texas, where Harrelson's rental car was later found submerged in 20 feet of water. On November 19, 1968, Harrelson was arrested in Atlanta, GA in possession of Scamardo's wife's new car, which had been reported stolen on November 15, 1968.

The driver of the vehicle used to kidnap and kill Sam Degelia was driven by Jerry Watkins and was the only witness to the murder. Details of the murder, told by Jerry Watkins were corroborated by independent testimony from Harrelson's girlfriend, Sandra Sue Attaway.

Other damaging testimony came from Bob Musser, a Houston Polygraph examiner that testifed that on September 13, 1970, Scamardo and an attorney, Owen Stidham, asked him to falsify a polygraph report for Scamardo, three months before his arrest on December 7, 1968. Musser also testified that Scamardo and Stidham had related facts to him that implicate Scamardo in the Murder of Sam Degelia, Jr.

On March 31, 1970, in spite of the prosecutor seeking the death penalty, a jury of 6 men and 6 women convicted Pete Scamardo as an accomplice to murder and sentenced him to a seven year probated sentence. The Jury reached a guilty verdict in 12 hours and then deliberated an hour and 22 minutes before settling on a probated sentence.

Scamardo and Harrelson's attorney was Percy Foreman, who had been counsel for convicted Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray and lost only 53 of 1500 death-penalty cases with only one finally resulting in execution. At Harrelson's first trial Foreman produced a surprise witness: a nightclub singer who claimed that she had been with Harrelson at the time of the murder. The trial ended in a hung jury: 11 for conviction, one for acquittal.

Harrelson was retried in 1974 in Brownsville, Texas. Texas Ranger Tol Dawson, the lead investigator on the Degelia case, was in the courtroom with a perjury arrest warrant for the nightclub singer, but she had learned of it and fled to Aruba. Without the help of her testimony, Harrelson was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison. With time off for good behavior, he was free in five years.

Kennedy assassination

Harrelson mentioned in an early confession to the Wood murder that he shot President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. He then later repeatedly denied his role in the shooting of the President, for which no connection was ever found.

Conspiracy theorists have also labeled him as one of the "Three Tramps" hiding in a box car on the railroad tracks behind Dealey Plaza just after the shooting. Harrelson at various times before his death boasted about his role as one of the tramps, even though in a previous interview he had denied being in Dallas on the day of the assassination.

About the assassination, Harrelson remarked to Dallas TV station KDFW-TV in 1982, "Do you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, alone, without any aid from a rogue agency of the US government or at least a portion of that agency? I believe you are very naive if you do."

Escape attempt

After attempting to escape from the Atlanta federal penitentiary in 1996, Harrelson was transferred to Supermax prison ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado. In a letter to a friend, Harrelson wrote that he enjoyed his life inside the maximum security facility, writing that "there are not enough hours in a day for my needs as a matter of fact... The silence is wonderful

Death

He was found unresponsive in his cell on March 15, 2007, having died of severe coronary artery disease. Woody Harrelson had attempted to have his father's conviction overturned in order to secure a new trial, without success. His Federal Bureau of Prisons Register number was 02582-016.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Secrets of Woody’s hitman father

By John Harlow - The Sunday Times

April 8, 2007

The bloody family secrets of Woody Harrelson, the Hollywood actor, are to be revealed in a prison memoir written by his father, a professional hitman.

Charles “Chuck” Harrelson, who died in a Colorado maximum security jail last month, left a bundle of papers to his three sons with a plea to clear him of murdering a judge. But he admits in the memoir that he was involved in dozens of killings stretching back to the early 1960s.

Woody Harrelson, who played a psychopath in Oliver Stone’s 1994 film Natural Born Killers, has not yet decided what to do with the papers, although he has already challenged the final conviction that landed his father in a “supermax” high-security prison.

His father, who wanted his life story to be published, first went to prison when Woody was seven and was jailed for life when his son was at college, but said he always hoped that one day they would have a “straight, no bull” talk about his past.

Chuck Harrelson’s death at 69 following heart trouble meant that conversation never took place. However, the papers are expected to answer questions posed both by his family and by the relatives of his many supposed victims.

Prosecutors said Harrelson, a violent thief and killer for hire in his twenties, was unusual because he used a sniper rifle rather than a handgun. “Charles Harrelson damaged everyone he came in contact with,” said the prosecutor at his last trial.

Harrelson even boasted — probably to impress potential employers — that he had shot President John F Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. He claimed to have been one of three men dressed as tramps on the grassy knoll close to the Kennedy cavalcade and said that Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumed assassin, was too far away from the president to get a clear shot.

If the grassy knoll story was a self-promoting fabrication, it seems to have worked. In 1979 he was allegedly paid $250,000 to shoot a Texas judge preparing to sentence a drug dealer. The plot backfired. The judge died but the dealer was arrested and claimed to have hired Harrelson, who received two life sentences.

In 2003 the dealer recanted, saying someone else had shot the judge. Woody Harrelson stepped up pressure for a retrial, but his father died before lawyers could get him out of jail. “My father was no saint, but a lot of sources led me to believe it was not a fair trial,” he said recently.

Woody Harrelson, 45, who rose to fame as the slow, sweet-natured barman Woody Boyd in the TV comedy Cheers, has generated more recent headlines with political stunts. He scaled the Golden Gate bridge to unveil an antilogging banner and, as a vegan, has protested against factory farming.

He will appear next in a film called Battle in Seattle, set amid violent protests against the World Trade Organisation summit in 1999. “It’s to make up for not being there myself,” he joked.

Harrelson has had his own misadventures. He once admitted to “sex addiction” and in the early 1980s was fined after dancing in traffic and jumping out of a moving police van. He remains unsure how his life was influenced by his father’s criminal career.

“I suspect it’s a mixed influence — it made me think outlaw, but I would not want to hurt anyone,” he said.

Chuck Harrelson revealed his literary ambitions to Kenny Gallo, a convicted mafia “associate” in the FBI witness protection programme. “He wrote to me saying he was writing the book that exposed all the lies written about him over the years,” Gallo said.

He denied that Harrelson had killed 50 people: “He may have been involved in that many killings, maybe driving the car or something, but he only carried out maybe six killings himself.”

America no longer produced assassins like Harrelson, he added. “Today, you want someone killed, you call in a Russian or an Israeli. I don’t know how Woody feels about his father, but Harrelson was probably the last of a killing breed."

 
 

Charles Voyde Harrelson (born July 23, 1938) is an organized crime-connected freelance hitman. He is the father of actor Woody Harrelson.

Harrelson was sentenced to two life terms for the May 29, 1979 assassination of U.S. District Judge John H. Wood, Jr.. Harrelson reportedly shot and killed Wood in the parking lot outside of Wood's San Antonio, Texas house for local drug dealer Jamiel Chagra. Wood - nicknamed "Maximum John" because of his reputation for handing down long sentences for drug offenses - was to have Chagra appear before him on the day of his murder.

Harrelson was apprehended with the aid of an anonymous tip and a taped conversation between Jimmy and Joe Chagra. He claimed at trial that he did not kill Wood, but merely took credit for it so he could score a huge pay out from Chagra.

Harrelson was eventually convicted of being the gunman due to Chagra's speaking about it to his brother who was visiting him in prison. Both Harrelson and Chagra's brother Joe were implicated in the assassination.

Harrelson got life, Joe Chagra got 10 years, and Jimmy Chagra's wife also got several years and died in prison in 1987. Jimmy Chagra himself was acquitted of the murder of Judge Wood in front of Judge William Sessions when his brother Joe refused to testify against him. Chagra was represented by Oscar Goodman who is the current mayor of Las Vegas. Jimmy Chagra, in a deal with the feds, admitted to his role in the murder of Judge Wood and the attempted murder of a U.S. attorney.

After his release in 2003 Chagra told a friend that Harrelson did NOT murder Judge Wood. He did not identify the real killer, but he indicated that the real killer was long deceased. Jamiel and Joe Chagra misled federal officials by talking about hiring Harrelson to kill Judge Wood when they knew they were being illegal taped during a legal visit in the prison.

Jamiel and Joe Chagra framed Harrelson for the murder because he had been blackmailing Joe Chagra with information he did have about the murder of the judge.

Harrelson has declared that he was involved in John F. Kennedy's assassination. Some think he was one of the three tramps arrested on November 22, 1963 in a train near Dealey Plaza, but Dallas Police Department documents made public in 1992 reveal that the three men really were transients with no connection to the assassination.

Prior to the Wood murder, Harrelson was tried for the 1968 killing of Hearne grain dealer Sam Degilia in Edinburg, Texas. Harrelson's attorney was Percy Foreman, who had been counsel for confessed Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray.

Foreman produced a surprise witness: a nightclub singer who claimed that she had been with Harrelson at the time of the murder. The trial ended in a hung jury—-11 for conviction, one for acquittal.

Harrelson was retried in 1974 in Brownsville, Texas. Texas Ranger Jack Dean, the lead investigator on the Degilia case, was in the courtroom with a perjury arrest warrant for the nightclub singer. But she had learned of it, and fled to Aruba. Without the help of her testimony, Harrelson was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison. With time off for good behavior, he was free in five years.

After attempting to escape from the Atlanta federal penitentiary in 1996, he was transferred to Supermax prison ADX Florence, where he remains. Woody Harrelson has attempted to get his father's conviction overturned and secure a new trial, but to no avail.

 
 


Charles Voyde Harrelson

 

Charles Voyde Harrelson

 

Charles Voyde Harrelson was the father of actor Woody Harrelson.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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