Carl "Coral" Eugene Watts

Recently in a true crime group that I belong to we were discussing our favorite and least favorite crimes.  That led into a discussion as to the types of crimes that interest the most or least.  I found myself once again stating how I am not very much into serial killers.  Sure I know who they are and the jest of their crimes but I just do not have a huge interest in them.  The only reason I can come up with this is that serial killers tend to be so narcissistic and un-remorseful once they are caught.  For example it has been said that serial killer Glen Rogers has repeatedly contacted the media as well as agents for O.J. Simpson claiming responsibility in the deaths of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman because he does not want someone else to get credit for something he did.  With that said, I do not believe that Glen Rogers was responsible in that crime and is no different than other serial killers who have taken credit for crimes they did not commit.  

I also feel like in the cases of serial killers many victims get left out in the cold and forgotten more so than in other cases.  In fact, most serial killers are not prosecuted for most of their murders in a court of law.  Of course much of the thinking is that you can only kill someone once so what is the point in having multiple trials in multiple cases to get the same result.  In general prosecutors will try the cases with the most evidence to secure a conviction and while the defendant sometimes confesses to others, they are not prosecuted for them. 

While many serial killers do so for their own sexual gratification they do not all necessarily involve sexual assault.  In the case of Carl Eugene Watts this is the reason that it took so long for authorities to catch him.  For the most part Watts did not sexually assault his victims.  He would torture them by beating, strangling, stabbing and even drowning them.  Even in the 70's and 80's, when Watts was committing his crimes investigators could get blood type from semen samples.  Today of course they could have more easily found DNA not just from semen but other things so he would likely have been caught much more quickly.

As best as people can tell Watts' crimes began when he was about sixteen years old when he did get caught for sexually assaulting a girl in 1969 in Michigan.  He was found to be of lower intelligence, with an IQ of 75 and diagnosed as borderline mildly "retarded."  Because of this he was sent to a mental facility where he only spent about six months.  

After graduating high school, although with the reading level of a third grader, he went on to Tennessee to play ball at college.  He was only there for about three months though when he was accused of stalking and assaulting women. He was also suspected in the murder of another student but authorities did not feel they had enough evidence.  So he made his way back to Michigan, near the Detroit area where for a long time they had what they called "The Sunday Morning Slasher."  It seemed like every Sunday morning somewhere in the area the body of a young woman would be found, or at the very least a young woman would disappear.  In 1975 Watts was questioned in a murder but again he was let go for lack of evidence.  In 1980 a task force was formed to investigate the Sunday morning murders and Watts was placed under sporadic surveillance. 

At some point he was tried and convicted for attacking a woman who survived and was sentenced to a year in jail.  It seems that not long after he served that sentence he decided to leave Michigan and head to Texas where he had some family.  When investigators discovered that he had left, and later learned he was in the Houston area they contacted officers there.  They did not have much more than their suspicions and that was not enough to put a lot of surveillance on him in Texas.  

Then in May of 1982 he was finally caught.  He was arrested in Houston after he had broken into an apartment shared by two women.  He had attempted to drown one of them in the bathtub while the other managed to escape jumping from a high window.  Texas authorities suspected him in several other murders that had happened in the area so they decided to strike a deal with him in order to close a bunch of cases.  The deal was that he would get sixty years for the crime of burglary and attempted murder on the women if he confessed to all his crimes, but he would get immunity for them.  In the meantime Michigan was contacted and informed they had Watts in custody.  Michigan did not feel the same way Texas did about granting immunity to close cases and I am sure there were likely family members of those murdered in Michigan that were none too happy about it.  In the end though Michigan's decision may have saved the lives of many women.

Of course Watts took the deal in Texas.  He confessed to twelve murders in Texas and the details of the crimes.  Authorities were actually amazed at how he was able to remember so many details right down to the clothing the women wore.  He had also confessed to a few murders in Michigan and while he was not getting immunity Michigan was not jumping on them because the ultimate goal had been achieved, Watts was off the street.  

Then the unimaginable happened.  The Texas Courts of Appeals decided that the deal had not been specific enough to explain that the tub, and the water in the case for which he was arrested, could be considered a deadly weapon that they were forced to classify his crime as a non-violent crime.  At the time Texas had a law on the books that was designed to help in jail overcrowding and getting non-violent offenders out of the jails.  For every day an inmate served and stayed out of trouble, they got three days off their sentence.

Authorities were now faced with the certainty that Carl Eugene Watts would be released in 2006 and there was nothing they could do about it.  Texas eventually changed their laws so that this loophole could not happen again but it did not change things with Watts.  Texas could do nothing because they had given a serial killer immunity for his confessions.  So they were back on the phone with Michigan in 2004 hoping they could help in keeping him behind bars in some manner.  

The Michigan Attorney General pleaded to the public through national television spots for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of a known serial killer who was facing mandatory release in less than two years.  A man by the name of Joseph Foy came forward but he was confused as to why he had to.  In December of 1979 Foy had witnessed a man stab a woman, later identified as Helen Dutcher, over twelve times.  He claimed he had contacted the authorities but that no one had ever gotten back to him.  He claimed he was able to identify Watts from his eyes.

On November 17, 2004 Carl Watts was convicted in a Michigan court for the murder of Helen Dutcher.  The following month he was given a life sentence without the chance at parole. The Michigan courts had allowed all of Watts' confession in Texas allowed into the case.  I am unsure that I agree that this decision would have stood the tests of appeals court but thankfully Carl Watts did not live long enough to really try too much.  

Authorities also felt they had enough evidence to bring charges against him for the 1974 murder of a woman named Gloria Steele.  She had been found tortured and stabbed over thirty times.  For one reason or another the trial kept being delayed but finally on July 27, 2007 he was convicted for that crime.  He was sentenced to life without parole on September 13, 2007.

Carl Eugene Watts would die eight days after his last sentencing of prostate cancer. 

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