Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Eugene Woodland bends his ears to listen to a parole board member during a parole hearing at the Utah State Prison Tuesday.

UTAH STATE PRISON — The killer known as "Captain Nemo" is proclaiming his innocence in the 1990 murder of a Sandy contractor, insisting he was framed in a fantastic story of world record-setting jet boats, stolen money and a suspect in Spain.

"It's awful. I could cry 'cause I'm innocent of what's happened to me," Eugene Woodland said during his parole hearing Tuesday.

Woodland, 79, appeared before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for a rehearing stemming from his 1994 convictions on murder and aggravated assault.

In 1990, he shot and killed Bruce Larson at a Holladay building that Woodland had sought to turn into "Captain Nemo's Dinner Theater Atlantis & Fitness Center." Woodland had lost the building in a bankruptcy proceeding and Larson later bought it. Woodland confronted Larson and shot him five times in front of six people at the construction site. A construction worker was shot trying to tackle Woodland.

But to hear Woodland tell the story on Tuesday, he was framed. He blamed Larson's death on the man's business partner, whom he accused of stealing money and hiding out in Spain to thwart Woodland's attempts at proving his innocence.

"I am innocent of my murder charge. I have plenty of money to have a new trial," he said. "I have been a good, honest citizen all of my life."

The fact that he was convicted by a jury didn't matter.

"I'm innocent and they should let me go home," Woodland insisted. "I've spent 18 years!"

Questions have been raised about Captain Nemo's mental state. After being arrested, he was sent to the Utah State Hospital after his own defense attorneys raised questions about his competency. Woodland continues to insists he is not mentally ill and has refused any treatment.

"Medicine might be able to help you," parole board vice-chairman Clark Harms told him.

"No, I take vitamins and I don't drink coffee and carbonation. It gives you tumors and tumors turn cancerous," he replied. "So I'm a health nut. I really am."

"Without appropriate mental health treatment, you are likely to stay here for the rest of your life," Harms told him. "The board is not going to release you until we think you're safe. The folks here at the prison ... are telling us you still represent a danger to yourself and others."

During his hearing Tuesday, Woodland tried to reason with Harms and blame questions of mental illness on a world record-setting jet boat ride. He once owned a fish-shaped, jet powered boat called the "Nautilus Missile."

"When they started to listen to my jet boat and what I did, they thought I was crazy," he said. "My daughter sent letters to the board saying, 'You ought to keep dad in there, 'cause he'll get back in the boat to try to capture the record."'

Since he's been in prison, Woodland spends time alone. He's housed near the prison's medical unit and doesn't have a cellmate ("I snore"), but he says he has a color TV and the guards like him. He has back problems and has to cup his hands by his ears to hear when someone is speaking to him.

"Pray for me," he told Harms as his hearing wrapped up.

The board will decide next month whether to keep Woodland for his natural life, schedule another rehearing or release him.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com