Toronto Sun, Friday, July 27, 2008

By Jonathan Jenkins

Death behind bars has already found one of the three men convicted of murdering Emanuel Jaques and the prospect of the surviving inmates winning release before they pass on is slim.

Josef Woods, also known as Joseph Michael Woodsworth, died of natural causes at a Saskatoon hospital on April 10, 2003, at the age of 58. Suffering from hepatitis C, he was transferred from a federal prison to the hospital two months before he died of liver and kidney failure.

Before the murder cast him as the witless junior partner to charismatic Saul Betesh and the brooding Robert Kribs, Woods was the Yonge St. strip's mad scientist -- a self-proclaimed psychic who tried to hypnotize people with a black and white turntable and believed he could fire fatal microwaves at pigeons.

He read tarot cards and dabbled in alchemy and the occult, claimed he could turn cigarettes into marijuana with pyramids, and was generally perceived by even the often disturbed denizens of the strip as a weird and harmless crank.

One story had him on the roof of a building trying to fire homemade rockets in Betesh's direction as he worked at his day job on the CN Tower construction site, only to have the cardboard ballistics head in the opposite way, where they damaged broadcaster Gordon Sinclair's Cadillac.

He played up the Crazy Joe image at the trial, mugging in court and trying to flirt with reporters. But a malevolent streak showed itself -- he threatened and swore at Betesh during a cop's chilling testimony reconstructing Emanuel's ordeal and eventually had to be held back by one of the defence team.

He wasn't kidding either -- four years later he would slash Betesh's throat in prison. Betesh survived and Woods was given another four years, concurrent to his life sentence.

When his 18-year parole ineligibility was up in 1995, he applied for full parole, suggesting to the panel he was willing to be deported to the U.S., where he lived from at least 1964 to 1972, racking up convictions for auto theft, transporting autos across state lines, possession of burglary tools, embezzlement and flight from prosecution.

He would get work as a sign painter or dishwasher in New York City, he told the parole board, where he could easily obtain the psychiatric help he admitted he needed "just as a matter of staying normal."

The board felt otherwise.

A psychiatric assessment described him as lacking trusting relationships, having a pre-occupation with the occult and showing bizarre, aloof and paranoid behaviour. His risk of violence was rated high, especially toward himself.

Psychologists who examined him were more optimistic, rating his risk as low.

But the idea of dumping a party to one of the worst murders in the nation's memory on another country cut little ice with the parole board.

Betesh, now 57, has never applied for parole and Kribs' attempt in 2002 was denied.

"I'll probably die in jail and I deserve it," Kribs, 59, said during the hearing.