crimes and consequences

Pretty in Pink - The Murder of Alex Woodworth

Alex Woodworth

On the evening of March 22, 2018, Don Sipple was sitting down for a quiet dinner at his home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, when there was a pounding knock at his door. He opened the door to find a woman on his doorstep who was muddy, bloody, bruised, and shoeless, begging for a doctor. He noticed the word “boy” was carved into her arm.

Sipple brought the young woman inside and offered her a blanket; she told him that she had been assaulted, and Sipple immediately called 911.

The woman was twenty-two-year-old Ezra McCandless, and the events leading up to this moment would eventually land her in prison for life.

Earlier that day, Ezra conducted what appeared to be a highly calculated sequence of events that eventually led to the death of an ex-lover.

For Ezra, the morning of March 22 began at a coffee shop where one of her ex-boyfriends worked. Alex wasn’t working that day, but Ezra wasn’t aware of this until she arrived.

jason mengal ezra mccandless
Jason and Ezra

The coffee shop was a popular spot in Eau Claire, and Ezra knew this. Jason Mengel, another ex-boyfriend, stopped by the coffee shop and saw Ezra. He was surprised to see her as she lived with her mother in a different town in Wisconsin. And the night before, Ezra and Jason had exchanged hundreds of text messages with one another with no mention of her coming to town.

Jason and Ezra’s relationship went back to the year prior, Summer of 2017, where the two had met and quickly moved in with one another. But around the same time, Ezra was introduced to Alex while he worked at the coffee shop.

Roughly four months after Jason and Ezra met, Ezra became pregnant with Jason’s child but drove to Minneapolis to have an abortion. It was around this time that she began to have a secret affair with Alex.

Ezra and Jason’s relationship ended because of the affair. Still, in February 2018, Ezra claimed that she had been sexually assaulted in her sleep by one of Jason’s friends, John Hanson. Detectives leading the investigation into the alleged assault interviewed Alex about this, and he did not support Ezra’s story. Apparently, Ezra had told Alex that the encounter the police were investigating had been consensual – and that she regretted it. The case was later dropped.

Alex was a twenty-three-year-old barista who worked at the coffee shop and was also a local substitute teacher, aspiring to become a philosophy professor. After seeing Jason at the coffee shop on March 22, she went to Alex’s home to, as she claimed, return items to him.

Jason later said that he believed Ezra was acting strange and became concerned that she was in town trying to see Alex. Jason couldn’t understand why Ezra would want to see Alex since he played a crucial component in getting her sexual assault case thrown out.

Alex Woodworth's Car

Jason decided to follow his hunch and rode his bike to Alex’s home. He found Ezra’s car outside, still running. Jason was visibly upset that Ezra was at Alex’s home – upset enough that a neighbor called the police.

After several minutes of waiting outside Alex’s home, Jason decided to enter the house without knocking. He found Alex and Ezra inside having an intense conversation, but they quickly changed their demeanor and acted normal. By then, the police had arrived and spoke to both Jason and Alex. After determining that there was no immediate problem, the police and Jason left.

This was, unfortunately, the last time Jason saw Alex alive.

Hours later, Ezra would find herself on the doorstep of Don Sipple. She claimed to authorities that Alex took her to a remote and muddy location and attacked her. Officers went to Sipple’s home to begin searching for Alex. During their search, they came across a muddy road that appeared to have footprints, which they assumed were made by the shoeless Ezra. As they proceeded further down the muddy path, they came across Ezra’s car, with Alex’s lifeless body positioned half in the back seat and half outside the vehicle. Alex had been stabbed sixteen times.

Ezra continually told officers that she couldn’t recall information – that everything was blocked from her memory.

Ezra McCandless
Ezra’s Arm

Eventually, her memory returned, and she informed officers that she and Alex were out driving when Alex found a knife in her car and began carving into her arm. She further explained that he carved the word “boy” into her arm because, during their friendship/relationship, he found out that she struggled with gender identity. According to Ezra, it was something Alex continually prodded her about. She says they somehow ended up in the backseat where Alex straddled her while ripping at her clothes with the knife. Ezra said it was at this point she became terrified that he would harm her or kill her. Thus, causing her to grab the blade from the jagged end (which is how she came to have knife marks on her hand) and stab Alex and then run from the vehicle.

Authorities found a lot of discrepancies with Ezra’s story. Here were their biggest hang-ups at the time.

  1. The carving on her arm is on her left. And so was the wound on her hand from grabbing the knife during the attack. Investigators believed that Alex was driving, so if he had carved Ezra’s arm, he would have had to do it upside down. (They end up questioning Ezra heavily about this, and eventually, she admits that Alex did not do it and that she did it herself).
  2. The knife used to stab Alex was incredibly serrated – and had Ezra grabbed the knife as she claimed to, it would have gone through several layers of her skin, leaving behind a much larger and deeper wound than what she had presented with.
  3. Most “injuries” sustained by Ezra had been on the left-hand side of her body and were highly superficial. Ezra was right-hand dominant.
  4. Ezra had claimed that the attack had taken place in the backseat of the car. However, the blood evidence is outside of the vehicle.
  5. The first wound that Alex suffered was a stab wound to the back of the head. And he had hardly any defense wounds.

Based on these concerns, authorities were convinced that there was more to the story than Ezra let on.

Ezra McCandless

Two weeks after Alex Woodworth was found dead, on April 6, 2018, Ezra was arrested and charged with first-degree-intentional homicide.

During the trial, the prosecution answered many questions that authorities had been left with at the time. The prosecution argued that Ezra went to Alex’s house that day intending to kill him. They believe that she orchestrated the “run-in” with Jason at the coffee shop to set up her alibi that she would have been with Alex. From a mental perspective, Ezra wanted nothing more than to get back together with Jason – she was upset over the affair with Alex and even more enraged that he was the reason the sexual assault charges had been dropped against Jason’s friend. She had an elaborate plan to gain access and entry into Jason’s life while also being a “victim” of a horrific event.

The prosecution went on to say they believed Ezra convinced Alex to go for the drive, lured him out to a remote location where she stabbed him in the back of the head, and proceeded to stabs him sixteen times – DA Nodolf believed Ezra had planned to drive away in the car. Yet, her plan had to change when she realized she could not pull Alex out of the vehicle. At this point, Ezra would take the time to make herself appear as the victim by cutting away at her clothes and creating wounds.

Out of the sixteen wounds inflicted on Alex, none had been fatal. It is possible that Alex could have survived. Ezra had taken Alex’s phone and smashed it, ensuring that he would not be able to call for help.

During Ezra’s trial, she wore a pink blazer that the prosecution believed was worn to help make her appear sweet and timid. She even wore a sweater given to her by Jason while she was in the hospital recovering from the “attack” by Alex.

On February 7, 2020, she was sentenced to life in prison, with eligibility for parole after 50 years.

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mariya hamilton

Special thanks to our new contributor, Mariya Hamilton, for all the hard work she put into researching and writing this fascinating true crime story for us.  To the readers:  “While the true motivation behind why Ezra murdered Alex Woodworth remains unclear. Many speculate that she would have done whatever it took to gain the attention and sympathy of Jason, ultimately so she could try and rekindle their romance.” – Mariya