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Man Fatally Shoots "Drunk" Friend After Night of Christmas Shopping, Then Claims Self-Defense

Elwood “Woody” Six claimed self-defense after killing Rodney “Cockeye” Stepp, but a prosecutor was convinced the shot was fired "in an angry rage.”

 

By Joe Dziemianowicz

In the early morning hours of December 6, 2017, Rodney “Cockeye” Stepp, 46, was fatally shot in his driveway in Martin County, Kentucky.

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His wife, Michelle Stepp, frantically told the 911 dispatcher that Elwood “Woody” Six, 66, was the shooter. Six was at the scene when EMS and police arrived. Officers struggled with Six to disarm him and take him into custody.

“Rodney was shot one time in the chest,” Aaron Blevins, a Martin County deputy sheriff, told Kill or Be Killed, airing Saturdays at 9/8c p.m. on Oxygen. “He was pronounced deceased.”

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Woody Six claimed he acted in self-defense

At the scene, a Kentucky State Police officer interrogated Six, a retired coal miner. In the recorded interview, he said that he and Stepp had been arguing. Both men were carrying pistols.

Six stated that Stepp “grabbed me around the neck” and “went for” his gun. “Woody shot him because he thought Rodney was going to kill him,” Brandis Bradley, Six's defense attorney, told Kill or Be Killed.

Investigators learned that Six, who’d been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and Stepp, were more than best friends. “They were second cousins,” said Bradley.

Six was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. “There wasn't enough evidence to arrest Woody for a homicide-related crime,” said Bradley. “He maintained that he acted in self-defense.”

Rodney "Cockeye" Stepp featured on Kill Or Be Killed Episode 102

Who was Rodney “Cockeye” Stepp?

Investigators learned more about the victim. Due to a childhood accident, Stepp had a prosthetic eye. “He would make Facebook Live videos that he affectionately referred to as ‘Cockeye Live,’” said prosecutor David Matt Runyon.

Stepp was known as a fun-loving family man, but he also had struggles. He “liked to drink,” his wife Michelle told Kill or Be Killed. Several years before the fatal shooting, Stepp had gotten into a near-fatal motorcycle accident after a day of drinking.

Detectives retrace events before shot that killed Rodney Stepp

Detectives re-interviewed Six. He maintained that Stepp grabbed him and pulled him out of his truck before he fired his gun. Authorities swabbed Six’s neck to see if they could pull the victim’s DNA off of his body.

Investigators traced the events leading up to the shooting. They learned that Six and Stepp had gone Christmas shopping together. Stepp had packed a cooler of beer for the event.

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Six, who was “a teetotaler,” according to Bradley, was driving Stepp’s car. During the hourslong outing, tempers flared over Stepp’s drinking. Six was so distracted by the situation, he crossed over a double yellow line and got pulled over by a traffic cop. He ended up getting ticketed for failing to show proof of insurance.

Tensions escalated after that. By the time they pulled into Rodney’s driveway around 3 a.m., “Rodney is still so mad at Woody for preaching at him,” said Bradley.

“He told me if I ever talked like that to him again, he’d whoop my ass,” Six told police in the taped interview.

Evidence collected in the Rodney Stepp case

A key piece of evidence was a casing recovered from the front driver’s side floorboard of Six’s truck, according to Runyon. “It would have been highly improbable that the shell casing ejected from that pistol would have ever made it into the floorboard if Woody was outside the truck,” Runyon said.

Investigators believed that Stepp was standing outside the truck and Six was seated in that truck when he fired that fatal shot. That would negate his self-defense claim, according to Kill or Be Killed.

Stepp’s DNA was not found on Six’s neck or under his nails. Detectives believed that marks on Six’s neck following the shooting were a result of his scuffle with police.

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Police didn’t have evidence to arrest Six on any further charges. On February 14, 2018, he went home to his wife, Joanne.

Stepp’s autopsy and toxicology reports showed that his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Six had no alcohol in his system, said Bradley.

The report included a detail on the angle of the bullet wound that contradicted Six’s claim that he was outside the truck when he fired his gun. The report indicated that he was in his truck when he pulled the trigger.

Elwood "Woody" Six featured on Kill Or Be Killed Episode 102

Woody Six is charged with second-degree manslaughter

Authorities charged Six with second-degree manslaughter. “Manslaughter in the second degree means you did something that you knew better and you did it anyway,” said Bradley. “It carries a penalty of five to 10 years.”

Bradley gathered evidence for her case. She discovered a “Cockeye Live” video Stepp made just hours before he was shot. “It shows he's a drunk,” she said, “and you can never predict what a drunk is going to do.”

The traffic cop who pulled Six over observed Stepp in the passenger seat, visibly drunk “and being belligerent,” said Runyon.

“But the officer also said that Woody was incredibly frustrated with his passenger,” Runyon added. “That solidified my stance that Woody Six had shot Rodney Stepp, not in self-defense, but in an angry rage.”

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As both sides built their cases, Kimberly Bowen, a BP gas station attendant, came forward. Stepp had come into BP to buy beer the night he was shot.

“He had said that he had stopped by to get his son some candy,” she told Kill or Be Killed. “He said that someone had threatened to kill him and they were in his vehicle.” That person was Six.

Charge against Woody Six increased to first-degree manslaughter

Bowen’s statement showed “intentional conduct” by Six, said Runyon. Six was charged with manslaughter in the first degree.

“Manslaughter in the first degree carries a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison, which is a death sentence for an old man with Parkinson's disease,” said Bradley.

The trial date was set for June 2021. Just before proceedings began, prosecutors set an additional verdict for the jury to consider — reckless homicide.

“Reckless homicide is essentially where someone, through reckless conduct, causes the death of another individual where the person should have known better than to do it,” said Runyon. “But they didn't know better.” The charge carried up to a 5-year sentence.

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Bradley made the case that Six was afraid for his life. When she cross-examined Michelle, who’d claimed in court that her husband was not a mean drunk, she poked a hole in that assertion. She pointed out that she’d actually called the police on her husband.

The prosecution countered that tactic by calling Six’s character into question. A former Kentucky State Police officer testified that Six had shot through a neighbor’s car.  

On the stand, Bowen stated that she hadn’t taken Stepp’s claim that someone had threatened his life literally. “He didn’t seem scared,” she told Kill or Be Killed. “If I was scared, I wouldn't have... got back in the vehicle.”

Woody Six found guilty of reckless homicide, gets minimum sentence

Six didn’t testify on his own behalf. Jurors heard his taped interviews with police. Six was found guilty of reckless homicide and resisting arrest, and received the minimum sentence of one year in prison.

Because of five months already served and his good behavior, Six spent about a month in jail and was released.

To learn more about the case, featured on the show's “Friends 'Til the End” episode, watch Kill or Be Killed, airing Saturdays at 9/8c p.m. on Oxygen.