Before he beat a homeless man to death, Gulfport man was accused of stabbing another

A Gulfport man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after beating a homeless man to death, according to a news release from District Attorney Joel Smith’s office.

Police say James Christopher Woodard, 33, beat Ronald Spencer Jr. with a lead pipe on July 14, 2017. The incident happened near 28th Street and 30th Avenue in Gulfport, near Kansas City Southern Railway tracks.

Spencer had a collapsed lung, a severed ear, a brain bleed and several cuts on his head, an affidavit said. Spencer also had several deep, swollen scratches on his body.

He was taken to Memorial Hospital where he later died from his injures, police say.

Woodard tried to flee the scene, but he was arrested within an hour by a K-9 unit.

A lead pipe found at the scene was sent to the crime lab. The blood on the pipe was a match with Spencer’s blood. His blood was also found on Woodard’s shorts during the investigation.

Woodard apologized in court and said he had used a lot of drugs at the time of the crime. He asked the judge to allow him to receive drug and alcohol treatment while in prison, according to the release.

Because he is a habitual offender, he will have to serve every day of the sentence and will not be eligible for early release or parole.

Gulfport police had arrested Woodard on an aggravated assault charge on June 2, 2016, alleging he had stabbed another homeless man. A grand jury declined to hand up an indictment because the victim couldn’t be found, Harrison County prosecuting attorney Herman Cox previously told the Sun Herald.

Woodard had been in jail on that charge for 11 months and had been out of jail since April 28, about three months. Woodard was convicted of auto theft after an arrest in 2011 and of meth possession after an arrest in 2014, the jail docket shows.

Assistant District Attorneys Patti Simpson and Mitch Owen prosecuted the case.

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald

Britneé Davis is McClatchy’s South Region Digital Producer. The south region includes the Sun Herald, the Telegraph, and the Ledger-Enquirer.