August 20, 2002


Police scrambling to block early prison release of confessed serial killer (PAM EASTON, Aug 18, 2002, Associated Press)
The murders were as random as they were vicious: stabbings, hangings, stranglings, drownings. The women didn't know each other or the hooded man who, according to one survivor, enjoyed the killing so much he was "clapping and dancing."

Police eventually caught up with Coral Eugene Watts but couldn't connect him to the savage crimes in Texas and Michigan.

Desperate to close the cases, prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain. In 1982, Watts admitted he killed 13 women - "They had evil in their eyes," he said - but he went to prison for burglary with intent to commit murder.

He was sentenced to 60 years, and prosecutors, police and the judge thought that was enough.

Now, a quirk in the Texas legal system may short-circuit their intentions. Mandatory release laws aimed at relieving prison crowding require Watts' be discharged on May 8, 2006, unless he loses good behavior credits that he has accumulated in prison. He will be 52.

Watts is believed to have killed dozens of women, and authorities in Texas and Michigan are scouring old files, archives and evidence folders for any shred that might tie him to an open case for which he didn't receive immunity in the plea.

"Everybody knows he is going to kill again," said Houston police Sgt. Tom Ladd...

Couldn't figure out whether "burglary with intent to commit murder" is a capital offense, though since this guy pled to it one doubts it. But cases like this one are why even skeptics like us find it hard to oppose capital punishment. The uncertainty of probation and other such elements makes the finality of execution seem necessary. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2002 7:45 PM
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