Two weeks after disappearing during a police foot chase, the body of James “Eddie” Woods Jr., 23, has been found and preliminarily identified.
On Tuesday, a Fort Wayne pathologist conducted an autopsy on Woods’ body. The test found Woods died by drowning and that his death was accidental.
While DNA results have not come back, the St. Joseph County Coroner says a handful of unique tattoos, physical description, clothing match and the proximity to where Wood's vanished, make this an extremely strong preliminary match.
"I can't explain it because it hurts, my heart just hurts. Just knowing he was in that water so long and we couldn't do anything for him…,” Woods’ mother Joyce Patterson said.
On April 30th, Woods reportedly ran from police after being involved in a car accident with his girlfriend, less than a mile from where his body was found.
Police said he was last seen running along the banks of the river near the intersection of Miami and Lincolnway East, when an officer said he heard a "splash."
"His last words to me were that he promised he'd call when he made it, wherever he was going,” Woods’ girlfriend Ashley James recalled.
With no phone call, loved ones handed out flyers for more than a week, hoping they’d locate Woods alive.
Then on Monday afternoon, South Bend firefighters pulled Woods' body from the St. Joseph River near Howard Park.
"When we got that phone call we just took off. We knew it was him and it was so hard,” Woods’ older sister Latasha Brown said.
Crews rushed to the scene and pulled the body floating downstream.
A portion of Northside Blvd, where it becomes S. St. Louis Blvd, was closed while investigators worked the scene.
Woods was released from prison in January. Family members say he had recently found work and was busy caring for his two-year-old girl and three-year-old son.
"He’ll say ‘I want to go with my daddy’ and it's a change for him. It's going to be real hard because he's not going to see him anymore,” Woods’ ex-girlfriend Shalayla Thompson remarked.
Loved ones say Woods knew the river well and was smart enough not to jump in. That belief has led his family to think police pushed or tasered Woods, making him fall in.
However, autopsy results showed no bruise marks or injuries consistent with such action. Even so, St. Joseph County Metro Homicide is conducting its own investigation just to be safe.
Woods’ girlfriend told NewsCenter 16 that Woods ran from police because he had been drinking at a local nightclub just before the accident. The threat of that charge now seems insignificant, all things considered.
"My son is gone. I can't bring him back, ya know, it’s just hard, it's just hard,” Patterson concluded.