Centerville home invasion and arson suspect has lengthy, violent criminal history

Jul 26, 2022, 7:49 PM

CENTERVILLE, Utah — The suspect named in a Centerville home invasion of an elderly couple that turned into an arson has a violent criminal history that involves attacking other random people in their homes in the past.

Centerville police announced Tuesday that Ammon Jacob Woodhead was transported from the hospital to the Salt Lake County Jail on a Board of Pardons warrant, where he’s expected to face charges in the horrifying attack and fire.

The couple told KSL TV that the man who broke into the home threatened to burn it down if they didn’t give him money. After enduring a violent fight with the suspect, the couple worked to get the homeowner’s 87-year-old father out of the basement and to safety as the house went up in flames.

Centerville family recalls the home invasion, arson attack

A quick search of Woodhead turns up a lengthy criminal history, including a rampage he went on in 2012 in a Murray neighborhood. According to court documents, Woodhead broke into a home, tried to attack someone with a hatchet as they slept in their bed, then fought with another person in the home. He moved on and tried to break down a neighbor’s door with the hatchet. Woodhead ended up on the roof of a third home, where police eventually cornered and arrested him.

Woodhead pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison, but since then, there’s been a whole host of issues in various police jurisdictions, with arrests, drug charges, and other dealings with officers. In a 2019 West Valley City case, Woodhead was labeled as being at risk of committing a violent crime.

“The consequences could have been really serious. That’s what causes a lot of concern — you have a person who is supposedly a repeat offender who is now engaged in conduct that could have resulted in death or serious injury to someone,” said Greg Skordas, a former prosecutor and attorney not connected to the case.

He explained that a lot of people may look at a case like this and think that the person fell through the cracks of the justice system.

“People might look back and say, ‘Why wasn’t he locked up before? Why wasn’t he committed before?’ And the answers is that, he was,” Skordas explained. “But he was able to convince the authorities that he was better, that he had been rehabilitated, that he was safe. And so, he was allowed to be placed in the community again, with unfortunately terrible results.”

Woodhead and his mother have said in past letters to the court that he has a history of mental illness and drug addiction.

Skordas said that resources are lacking in the criminal justice system for those with mental illnesses, and that it can be hard to address that.

“Oftentimes we, what we call, ‘warehouse people,’ we just put them away for a couple years in jail or prison. We know that society is safe from them, but we don’t address the underlying problem,” Skordas said. “And ultimately, they are released. And ultimately, they are back in society — and sometimes they reoffend.”

That’s what allegedly happened with the case in Centerville, with more victims who could have lost their lives. Skordas said that unfortunately, it sometimes takes a serious incident to put someone in a hospital or prison setting.

Centerville police said before the home invasion and arson, they believe Woodhead committed a residential burglary and two vehicle burglaries in a different area of Centerville.

Woodhead is now in the Salt Lake County Jail on the Board of Pardons warrant. Centerville police said charges are being screened with the Davis County Attorney’s Office against Woodhead, including aggravated attempted murder, aggravated arson, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, residential burglary, vehicle burglary, assault on a peace officer, and possession of a controlled substance.

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Centerville home invasion and arson suspect has lengthy, violent criminal history