A 26-year-old man who has suffered from severe mental illness was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of a woman in Oxnard, authorities announced Wednesday.  

James Beam, who is originally from Iowa, and the victim, Sybil Woodbury, were both homeless and living in an Oxnard shopping center when the fatal April 9, 2020, incident occurred.  

The 26-year-old followed Woodbury to a darkened, isolated area of the shopping center’s parking lot and stabbed her to death while under the delusion that the victim was a threat to him and his children who lived out of state, according to a news release from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.  

“Ms. Woodbury died from a stab wound to the chest about 45 minutes after the attack,” officials said.  

On April 15, 2020, detectives with the Oxnard Police Department arrested Beam, who subsequently confessed to the murder.  

“Following Beam’s arrest, a thorough investigation into his background was conducted by the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office and our District Attorney Investigators,” the release noted. “The investigation revealed extensive mental health issues which developed in his teenage years in Iowa.”  

In recognition of the 26-year-old’s mental health issues balanced with the need to protect public safety, the victim’s family agreed with Beam’s sentence.

James Beam
James Beam, 26, confessed to the April 9, 2020, murder of Sybil Woodbury in the parking lot of an Oxnard shopping center. (Ventura County District Attorney’s Office)

“The victim’s brother expressed that, ‘he just wants the most humane treatment for the defendant,’ taking into account the safety of the community,” District Attorney Theresa Pollara said. 

Ms. Woodbury was remembered as “very sweet, charming, and happy,” according to the release.