Michigan · Serial Killers

Serial killer Carl Eugene Watts dies in prison

September 21, 2007
Jackson, Michigan
Serial killer Carl “Coral” Eugene Watts dies in prison

Watts had begun killing in 1974 at the age of 20, primarily targeting white girls and women between the ages of 14 to 44, and employing various methods of murder including drowning, strangulation, stabbing, and bludgeoning. He managed to evade arrest for eight years due to his constant movement (his attacks occurred in multiple states and he is suspected to have attacked at least one victim in Canada) and as the killings were not sexually motivated, Watts did not leave DNA evidence behind.

In 1982, Watts was arrested after breaking into the home of two young women in Texas with the intent to kill them. He had already been suspected by local law enforcement to be connected to several murders in the area, though Texas prosecutors feared they lacked sufficient evidence to convict him. Instead, they offered him immunity for the murders and only charge him for burglary with intent to kill if he provided detailed descriptions of his murders. Watts agreed and promptly confessed to 12 murders in Texas. This number would swell over time, with Watts claiming a total of 40 victims, then more than 80. Police have estimated his victim count exceeds 100.

With the plea bargain, Watts was sentenced to 60 years, though his case was quickly re-examined by an appeals board who classified him as a non-violent felon after a technicality (he had been misinformed about what was considered a deadly weapon, in this case a bathtub used to drown a victim). This new classification meant he was eligible for early release, as early as 2006.

Public outcry regarding his potential early release brought attention back to Watts and the State of Michigan, who had not been part of the plea agreement and subsequent immunity, sought murder charges against Watts. He was convicted of two Michigan murders and sentenced to two life terms, once in 2004 and another in 2007. The second sentence was handed to him on September 13, just 8 days before Watts died in prison from prostate cancer.

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