Former Pocatello police detective Scott Shaw has a portrait of a serial killer on his office wall that one day may be a book cover.
It's a gift from the man Shaw was instrumental in placing on Death Row - James Edward Wood, 46, who murdered and mutilated Jeralee Underwood, an 11-year-old Pocatello newspaper carrier, in the summer of 1993.Shaw was called as a witness during a two-week hearing on Wood's bid to overturn his guilty plea and death sentence. The hearing adjourned Dec. 9 and no continuation date has been set.
Before his July 1993 arrest and among various odd jobs, Wood sometimes earned extra money as an artist. He drew the eerie self-portrait for Shaw from his Bannock County Jail cell.
Above Wood's profile in the drawing is a cross and a scale of justice. On his neck is a portrait of Jeralee. On the right side is a disturbing line of altars fading away into infinity with the bodies of women strewn across the platforms.
"He told me, `Those are the people I've killed,' " Shaw said.
Shaw intends to use the drawing on the cover of a book he is co-writing in which he details Wood's case and the ironic relationship he shares with the convicted killer. He hopes the book, which is yet untitled, will be published sometime next year.
Shaw knows Wood perhaps better than anyone. The career criminal poured out a confession to Shaw over a span of hours on the night of his arrest.
Wood has confessed to Jeralee's slaying and one other murder, the December 1976 shooting death of a pregnant mother of four in Louisiana. He abducted her from a parking lot on Christmas Eve, raped her and killed her. Police found only her skull in a wooded area on New Year's Day 1981.
Wood also has admitted to the rapes and attempted murders of a Bridgeton, Mo., teenager and a Pocatello teenager. Both survived, and Jamie Masengill, 19, of Bridgeton, testified against him at his sentencing hearing in Pocatello last year.
Wood said Masengill survived by the "grace of God."
"I was blind, but now I see the truth," Wood said in court in December 1993. "I have given my life to Christ Jesus as my personal savior."
As several witnesses testified in his appeal hearing this month, Wood is quick to quote scripture to show the sincerity of his conversion. Shaw said that's still the case.
The short, pudgy man with the moustache and six-inch ponytail would hardly be noticed if passed on the street. But Shaw said that's the way Wood prefers it. Sociopaths like Wood are incapable of conscience. They blend in with other people as they attempt to mimic human behavior and emotions.
Shaw said Wood respects him because he realizes Shaw was only doing his job when he arrested him. The investigator is barred by court order from meeting with Wood now, although Wood has continued to request to meet with him.
Shaw said he's seen behind Wood's religious facade. Shaw calls his apparent conversion "opportunistic."
"They want remorse?" Shaw said. "What better place are you going to go than start thumping the Bible?"
As an example, Wood has said he spared the life of the 15-year-old Pocatello girl in November 1992 because of an act of God. He abducted her from a restaurant parking lot, drove her to the outskirts of town and raped her while her 2-year-old sister sat in the backseat of the family car. Then he had the teenager get out of the car and kneel in the snow. He put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
But the gun jammed. Shaw said Wood told him he had to think quickly. The sound of a gunshot would likely arouse neighbors only about 100 feet away. And he knew that if he manually ejected the jammed shell, he'd have two shells to look for in the deep snow.
It would take him too long to find both shells and make his getaway, so he let the girl live.
That's how methodical the mind of James Wood is, Shaw said.
Now Wood spends most of his day in a 7-by-14-foot cell in solitary confinement at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution. Whenever his door opens, he cowers in the corner, Shaw said. He looks at the ground rather than looking others in the eye.
Shaw, who recently became an investigator with the state attorney general's office, said Wood will be the last homicide case for him. And he testified during this month's hearing that he doesn't believe Wood should die for his crimes.
Outside the courtroom, he expressed the fear his statement would be misinterpreted.
"There are a lot of people who I could say, `Take them out and kill them,' " Shaw said. "With James Wood's personality makeup, being locked up and kept there is far worse for him than to kill him."
Eventually, Wood will run out of fantasies to entertain himself. He will eventually go mad.
But Shaw has no doubt about what would happen should Wood ever get out of prison. As Wood has told him, he would kill again.
Shaw referred again to the bizarre drawing in his new office.
"That's been trapped in his mind for a long time, and that's a tough place to be."