|Carl "Coral" Eugene Watts|
Watts' 1982 mugshot
|Birth name:||Carl Eugene Watts|
|Also known as:||Coral
The Sunday Morning Slasher
|Born:||November 7, 1953
|Died:||September 21, 2007 (aged 53)
|Cause of death:||Prostate cancer|
|Sentence:||60 years in prison, commuted to life|
|Number of victims:||12–suspected to be 100|
|Span of killings:||1974 – May 23, 1982|
|Date apprehended:||May 23, 1982|
Carl Eugene Watts (November 7, 1953 – September 21, 2007), also known by his nickname Coral, was an American serial killer dubbed "The Sunday Morning Slasher". He obtained immunity for a dozen murders as a result of a plea bargain with prosecutors in 1982; at one point it appeared that he could be released in 2006 despite possibly having committed as many as 80 murders. He died of prostate cancer while serving two sentences of life without parole in a Michigan prison for the murders of Helen Dutcher and Gloria Steele.
Carl Eugene Watts was born in Killeen, Texas to Richard Eugene Watts and Dorothy Mae Young. His father was a private first class in the Army, and his mother was a kindergarten art teacher. When Watts was less than two years of age, his parents separated and he was raised by his mother. Watts and his mother moved to Inkster, Michigan, and in 1962, Dorothy Mae married a mechanic named Norman Caesar with whom she had two daughters.
As a child, Watts was described as being strange. Around the age of twelve, Watts claimed that this was when he started to fantasize about torturing and killing girls and young women. During adolescence, Watts began to stalk girls and is believed to have killed his first victim before the age of 15. When Watts was 13, he was infected with meningitis which caused him to be held back in the eighth grade. Upon his return to school, Watts had difficulty keeping up with other students. At school, he would often receive failing grades, and was reading at a third grade level by age 16. He also suffered severe bullying at school.
On June 29, 1969, Watts was arrested for sexually assaulting 26-year-old Joan Gave. When Watts was tried, he was sentenced to the Lafayette Clinic, a mental hospital in Detroit. According to a psychiatric assessment, Watts was revealed to suffer from mild mental retardation, with a full scale I.Q. of 68, and to have a delusional thought process. He was released from the Lafayette Clinic on November 9, 1969.
Despite his poor grades, Watts graduated from high school in 1973, and received a football scholarship to Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. He was expelled from Lane College after only three months because he was accused of stalking and assaulting women. Another reason he was expelled was because many people at Lane College believed Watts was a suspect in the brutal murder of a female student, however there was not enough evidence to convict him of the murder. After his expulsion he moved to Houston, Texas.
Watts' career as a serial killer began when he was 20 years old in 1974, by kidnapping his victims from their homes, torturing them, and then murdering them. On October 30, 1974, Watts tortured and brutally murdered 20-year-old Gloria Steele, who was believed to be his second victim. Watts killed females between the ages of 14 and 44 using methods such as strangulation, stabbing, bludgeoning, and drowning. Watts had murdered dozens of women between 1974 and 1982, and despite how many women he murdered, Watts was not discovered as a serial killer for almost eight years.
There were several reasons for this. He attacked in several different jurisdictions and even different states. Even with the advent of DNA testing it was still nearly impossible because he rarely dallied with his victims, unlike most serial killers of women and girls, and his crimes were not thought to be sexually motivated. Watts was also not suspected to be involved with any of the murders by the people who knew him, and was not a police suspect in any of the murders until his arrest in 1982.
On May 23, 1982, Watts was arrested for breaking into the home of two young women in Houston, and attempting to kill them. While in custody, police began to link Watts with the recent murders of a number of women. Until early 1981, he had lived in Michigan, where authorities suspected him of being responsible for the murders of at least 10 women and girls there. Watts was previously questioned about the murders in 1975, but there had not been enough evidence to convict him. At that time, Watts had spent a year in prison for attacking a woman, who survived.
Prosecutors in Texas did not feel they had enough evidence to convict Watts of murder, so in 1982 they arranged a plea bargain. If Watts gave full details and confessions to his crimes, they would give him immunity from the murder charges and he would, instead, face just a charge of burglary with intent to murder. This charge carried a 60-year sentence. He agreed with the deal and promptly confessed in detail to 12 murders in Texas. However, Michigan authorities refused to go in on the deal so the cases in that state remained open.
Watts later claimed that he had killed 40 women, and then implied the total was as many as 80. He is now suspected to have killed more than 100 women. Several of the killings were not linked to each other.
Watts was sentenced to the agreed 60 years. However, shortly after he began serving time, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that he had not been informed that the bathtub and water he attempted to drown Lori Lister in was considered a deadly weapon. The ruling reclassified him as a nonviolent felon, making him eligible for early release. At the time, Texas law allowed nonviolent felons to have three days deducted from their sentences for every one day served as long as they were well behaved. Watts was a model prisoner, and had enough time deducted from his sentence that he could have been released as early as May 9, 2006. The law allowing early release was abolished after public outcry, but could not be applied retroactively according to the Texas Constitution.
In 2004, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox went on national TV asking for anyone to come forward with information in order to try and convict Watts of murder to ensure he was not released. Joseph Foy of Westland, Michigan, came forward to say that he had seen a man fitting Watts' description murder Helen Dutcher, a 36-year-old woman who died after being stabbed twelve times in December 1979. Foy identified Watts by his eyes, which he described as being "evil" and devoid of emotion. Although Watts had immunity from prosecution for the 12 killings he had admitted to in Texas, he had no immunity agreement in Michigan. Before his 2004 trial, law enforcement officials asked the trial judge to allow the Texas confessions into evidence, which he agreed to.
Watts was promptly charged with the murder of Helen Dutcher. A Michigan jury convicted him on November 17, 2004, after hearing eyewitness testimony from Joseph Foy.
On December 7, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days later, authorities in Michigan started making moves to try him for the murder of Western Michigan University student Gloria Steele, who was stabbed to death in 1974.
Watts' trial for the Steele murder began in Kalamazoo, Michigan on July 25, 2007; closing arguments concluded July 26. The following day the jury returned a guilty verdict. He was incarcerated at a maximum security prison in Ionia, Michigan. Watts was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on September 13; he died of prostate cancer on September 21 in a Jackson, Michigan hospital.