Coral Watts – Serial Killer

Coral Watts died of prostate cancer on September 21, 2007.

May his victims rest in peace.

Site published in 2002


image002 ELENA SEMANDER – 5th victim of Watts Strangled, February 7, 1982

I wish I could meet you in person, but I was murdered over 20 years ago by a man named Coral Eugene Watts. Back in 1982, Watts followed me to my friendís apartment complex where he strangled me with my shirt, hog-tied my body, and threw me into a nearby trash dumpster. I fought as hard as I couldÖ but lost my life in the end. After the garbage man found me the next day, my family received the heartbreaking phone call from the Houston Police Department.

Coral Eugene Watts would eventually lead police to 3 bodies and confess to 13 murders; I was his 5th victim. Although he was sentenced to 60 years, an old Texas law will require Watts to be released back into society after serving only 24 of those years. This unjust law was abolished in 1995, but cannot be made retroactive. His release date was scheduled for December of 2005. Please sign my petition to ask the Governor of Texas to review this case, and somehow prevent my killerís early release. Thank you for giving me a voice.

STOP My Killerís Release!

The Semander Family and Friends

In conjunction with Justice for All Alliance

Invite you and your guest

To a Petition Drive Fundraiser

Known and suspected victims of Coral Watts:

Emily Elizabeth La Qua, 14; Margaret Everson Fossi, 25; Carrie Mae Jefferson; Michele Maday, 20; Elena Semander, 20; Jeanne Clyne; Shirley Small, 17; Glenda Richmond, 20; Rebecca Huff, 20; Gloria Steele; Linda Tilley; Elizabeth Montgomery, 25; Susan Wolf, 21; Phyllis Tamm, 27; Suzanne Searles, 25; Anna Ledet, 34; Yolanda Gracia, 22; Helen Mae Dutcher, 36

Elena Semander SusanWolf small EmilyLaqua small ElizMontgomery small Michelle%20Maday small

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Elena Semander Suzie Wolf Emily LaQua Elizabeth Montgomery Michele Maday Linda Tilley
Helen Dutcher small fossi small AnnaLedet1 small
Helen Dutcher Margaret Everson Fossi Jeanne Clyne Anna Ledet Gloria Steele
Click on photos for larger image

Coral Eugene Watts not just could be, but will be, the first known serial killer ever legally released in our nation’s history. He will actually serve less then two years for each known Houston area victim, upon release in 2006. We, the citizens of Texas must seriously ask ourselves if we are going to allow ourselves this dubious honor. Watts is the storm in the sky, sea and ground. He is stirring, ready to re-awaken from his slumber to resume his carnage against humanity. The public knows this one-man killing machine will be let loose to wreak havoc against innocent women. We know the storm is scheduled to land in approximately 1,367 days. Our quest is to prevent this calamity from ever reaching his destination. Please join our efforts for the sake of future families – who in their right mind would intentionally and knowingly allow a destructive force such as Watts to resume it’s carnage. Andy Kahan Mayor’s Crime Victims Director 713-247-1410 900 Bagby Houston, TX 77002

CLICK HERE for an article about a memorial service held for the victims CLICK HERE for a prison fact sheet on Watts Detroit News: Probe reopens in 1980 murder of waitress Fort Worth Star Telegram: Serial Killer Denied Parole Again San Antonio Express-News: Admitted Serial Killer Denied Parole Minneapolis Tribune: Murder Revisited and For Paul Bunten, hounding Watts is his life’s work Ann Arbor News: Containing a killer Associated Press: Confessed serial killer scheduled for prison release in 2006 Freedom awaits serial killer who vowed to kill again Dallas Observer: Evil Eyes Serial killer Watts arraigned in 1979 Michigan slaying Court TV’s Crime Library: Coral Eugene Watts; The Sunday Morning Slasher

DREAMS Coral Eugene Watts murdered at least 13 women but went to prison only for aggravated burglary; someday he’ll get out By EVAN MOORE Houston Chronicle Published Sunday 4/7/91 He was 12 when the dreams started. Killing women, always killing. He’d jump and twitch, punch their evil spirits with the practiced fluency of a boxer, twist and writhe until he fell from the bed. Sometimes he’d awaken and crawl back to the sheets, back to the arms of the dreams. More often he’d spend the night on the floor, never leaving their embrace. They weren’t nightmares. He enjoyed them. Eventually, the dreams seeped into reality. He watched women, stalked them, looked for their evil eyes. Impulse gave birth to action, and by age 15 he had begun hitting, stomping, choking them. He never raped, and he rarely mutilated. The satisfaction came from the hunt and the attack. Besides, he liked things neat and clean. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to hurt them. He had to kill. Over the years he strangled, stabbed, drowned and even hanged. No one knows exactly how many. By his own count it’s close to 100. Today, Coral Eugene Watts is 38 and an inmate serving a 60-year sentence in the Clements unit of the Texas prison system, near Amarillo. Despite his admission of killing 13 women, 10 of those in Houston, Watts is in prison not for murder, but for burglary. He may be the nation’s only known black serial killer and perhaps the most prolific killer in custody today. He is the only one who is going to get out. Harriett Semander bristles when she speaks of her daughter, strangled, trussed and left in a dumpster by Watts. Lori Lister still grimaces when she remembers the nights she spent huddled in a closet after Watts tried to kill her. In Michigan, Ann Arbor Police Capt. Paul Bunten curls his lip when he speaks of the years he spent tracking Watts. Watts gives no hint of how he views his future or anything else. He refuses interviews. He corresponds infrequently with his lawyers, and then only about his case. He has shunned his family in recent years. He doesn’t make friends. That’s nothing new. Coral Watts was never an extrovert. His life is a shadowy, mundane trail spotted with glimmers of normalcy and flashes of violence. His only known confidants have been psychiatrists and lawyers, and those only out of expedience. Confronted with his confessions to multiple killings, his family is disbelieving. An uncle doubts his guilt. An ex-wife says she never suspected him, even though he was leaving her bed to kill. Bunten, a policeman who has been obsessed with Watts for more than 10 years, says he does not know what motivates the man. That strange motivation may have begun in Killeen, where Watts was born and lived as an infant, or in Coalwood, W.Va., where he spent time as a small child, or in Inkster, Mich., the Detroit suburb where he grew to adolescence and adulthood. Wherever its roots, it predates the dreams. “Serial murderers are not born in adulthood. They come from childhood,” says Dr. Harley Stock, now a forensic psychiatrist for the state of Florida in Fort Lauderdale, who has examined Watts. Watts ‘ background seems unremarkable. His parents were Appalachian blacks from McDowell County in the southern tip of West Virginia. There, hundreds of poor but hopeful hamlets grow along the wooded hillsides above the twisting railroad tracks that carry the region’s coal. It’s the land of “hollers” – “Tar,” “Cane,” “Wood” – names that won’t be found on a map, but are indispensable in finding any destination off the blacktop. Just south of Coalwood, in the next to the last house perched high on a ridge of Frog Holler, is the home of Lula Mae Young and Coral Watts ‘ history. In 1952 it was the home of Dorothy Mae Young, a teen-ager not quite out of high school, who met and married Richard Watts, an Army man several years her senior. Lula Mae didn’t bless the marriage of her youngest daughter, but she couldn’t stop it. “I didn’t want her to do it,” Lula Mae says. “She was too young. But there was nothin’ to keep her in Coalwood.” The couple moved to Killeen, the central Texas Army town where Richard Watts was stationed at Fort Hood, and Carl Eugene Watts was born Nov. 7, 1953. A daughter, Sharon Yvonne Watts, was born the next year, but the Watts marriage was short-lived. A divorce in 1955 sent Richard Watts to places unknown and Dorothy Mae and her infants to Inkster, Mich. In nearby Detroit, Dorothy Mae Watts began teaching high school art classes. In 1962 she married Norman Ceaser, a mechanics helper, and had two more children. She often returned to Coalwood, however. There, little Carl spent time with his grandmother and cousins and developed the drawl that would lead to his pronunciation of his first name as “Coral,” and the spelling he later adopted. He learned to hunt in the thick West Virginia forest. He learned how to skin rabbits, a chore he took great pleasure in. “He was always a good little boy,” says Lula Mae Young. “He always stayed around me or his mother. Even when the children got older and some of the boys would be goin’ out at night, maybe drinkin’ or chasin’ women and gettin’ in trouble, he stayed right up here with me. “He wasn’t interested in that sort of thing.” He was different in other ways. He was a slow learner at first, but struggled and invested enough hours in homework to earn relatively high grades. At age 8, in the third grade, he developed meningitis, was hospitalized and missed a year of school. The disease caused an extremely high fever, and doctors told Watts ‘ mother that brain damage was possible. It was a warning his family would refer back to repeatedly as his list of arrests grew. The bout with meningitis cost Watts a year in school, and after that, his scholastic performance dropped. He was athletic, an outstanding track star, football player and Golden Gloves boxer, but his grades were barely passing. His parents would later attribute his failures to the fever. Whatever the cause, by the time Watts was 15, he was reading at a fourth-grade level. He also was assaulting women. On June 24, 1969, Watts was delivering papers in an apartment building when he stopped and knocked on the door of Joan Gave, a young woman he knew by sight from the paper route. When Gave opened the door, she was confronted with the neat young man who usually threw her paper. This time, however, he drew back and hit her in the face. He pummeled her with his fists and beat her severely before she could begin screaming. When she did, he ran from the apartment. Watts returned to the building a few minutes later and finished delivering his papers. He then went home for the evening, but said nothing to alarm his parents. Police arrived the next evening and took him into custody. Even then, Watts showed little reaction. He was sent to the Lafayette Clinic, a forensic psychiatry center in Detroit, but doctors there got little response from him, other than his explanation that “I just felt like beating her up.” Watts told the doctors he often dreamed of beating women, even killing them, and the psychiatrists asked if these dreams disturbed him. “No,” he said. “I feel better after I have one.” “This patient is a paranoid young man who is struggling for control of strong homicidal impulses,” states his evaluation from Lafayette. “This individual is considered dangerous.” They didn’t know how dangerous. For the next six years, Coral Watts would conduct his feral rituals with impunity. Watts continued to excel in high school athletics, particularly boxing, but his grades never improved. He graduated at the age of 19 in 1972, spent a few months at Lain College in Jackson, Tenn., on a football scholarship, then returned home with a minor leg injury. He spent the next year working at a wheel company in Detroit, and in 1974 he enrolled in Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo under the Martin Luther King program, a grant program for minority students. By the time he reached the university, he later told police, he was averaging an attack every two weeks. It wasn’t long before attacks began around campus. Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 12, two young women were attacked and beaten and a third, Gloria Steele, was murdered. Watts was convicted in the assault cases and had started serving a year’s sentence when police confronted him with questions about the Steele murder. Watts refused to answer and, after conferring with a lawyer, began complaining of depression and was sent to Kalamazoo State Hospital. There, he attempted to hang himself with the cord from a laundry bag, but was not seriously injured. Psychiatrists described Watts as “moody and negative” during his stay at the hospital. Other records, however, show that he spent his convalescence playing pingpong and basketball and seemed cheerful. On at least one occasion, in a rare mood, he told counselors he had attacked a number of women that fall and thought he had killed at least two of them. He cut that admission short after doctors advised him their records could be subpoenaed. His release was fast approaching in any case, and a few months later in 1975, Watts returned to his home in Detroit, got a mechanic’s job and resumed living with his mother. “I know other boys called him a `mama’s boy,”‘ says his grandmother. “He just didn’t move away from home. He was always there with his mother. “He never went anywhere without telling her.” Watts avoided arrest for the next two years and fathered a child by Delores Howard, a girlfriend from childhood. In 1978 he met Valeria Goodwill in a Detroit discotheque and married her in August 1979, much to his mother’s dismay. The marriage lasted only six months and aspects of it were bizarre by most standards. Bizarre enough that Valeria Goodwill will not discuss her former husband now, although she was interviewed by Michigan police in 1982 and a record was made of that conversation. “One thing that bothered me, he would go to sleep at night and either have nightmares or something,” she told investigators. “I don’t know what it was, but he would wake up suddenly and start fighting in his sleep…with his fists or something, like he was fighting somebody in his sleep. “He wouldn’t say anything. Sometimes he would fall out of the bed. One night I woke up and he was on the floor. “He was still asleep. One night I woke up and he was kneeling outside the bed with his arms up on the bed and him kneeling down on the floor. I’ve seen him fall asleep on the couch and fall off of the couch asleep and get back up on the couch and never wake up. “I’d have to be very careful waking him up. If I would touch him waking him up, he would jump and almost jump out of the bed. I had to get out of the way. “He said he was nervous over his job, but I knew there was something the matter. Nobody sleeps like that.” Goodwill told police that Watts grew stranger the longer they were married. First, he told her that he could not read and had her read newspaper articles to him, even though he’d entered college and filled out his own job applications previously. He lost his job at a trucking company and, alone at home during the day, he would rearrange the couple’s furniture, over and over. His normally neat habits fell away, and he became messy, leaving clothes, trash, even garbage on the floor. He cut up houseplants with a knife and either chopped candles to pieces or melted them onto the tables. There were the times Watts would leave the house and be gone for long, unexplained periods. Sometimes he would return disheveled and with his clothes torn. Twice she bailed him out of jail when he was arrested for prowling in Southfield. He decided he was an atheist and complained when she wanted a Christmas tree. He became rigidly opposed to makeup of any kind and attempted to flush one of her wigs down the toilet to prevent her from wearing it. Finally, there was his reaction to sex. After intercourse, Watts would disappear. “He would get up and leave the house,” Goodwill told police. “He would just get in the car and go. He’d be gone hours and hours.” Police believe they know where he went. Between October 1979 and November 1980, at least 14 women were attacked and eight of those were killed in a similar manner in the Detroit area, in Windsor, Ontario (just across the border), and in Ann Arbor. The attacker either strangled or stabbed his victims. He never raped or robbed, and those who lived usually described him as a muscular black man, often wearing a blue, hooded sweat shirt. One of the first women killed in Detroit was Jeanne Clyne, stabbed on Halloween in the suburb of Grosse Point Farms. Watts was out driving, he said, when he saw her walking on the sidewalk. He parked, got out and crossed the street toward her, passing a group of children in trick-or-treat costumes. He approached her from the front, pulled a screwdriver from beneath his blue sweat shirt and stabbed her several times in the chest. “She kept saying something like, `OK, OK’ and she fell back on the grass,” Watts later told police. “I just walked back to my car and drove away.” Clyne’s killing showed less fumbling than Watt’s Kalamazoo assaults. He was improving. His marriage was deteriorating, however. His range from childish indifference to dark anger had become too much for Goodwill. She finally became afraid of Watts, left him and filed for divorce in January 1980. Watts was unperturbed. He moved back to his mother’s home in Inkster, and the series of attacks continued. They happened in the early morning hours of Sundays in Ann Arbor and began on April 20, 1980, with Shirley Small, 17. Small had argued with a boyfriend at an Ann Arbor skating rink late Saturday night and had walked home. She was found near her front door the next morning, stabbed twice in the heart, expertly. A little more than two months later another young woman, Glenda Richmond, 26, was stabbed outside her home. On Sept. 14, a third woman, Rebecca Huff, 20, a student, was killed under almost identical circumstances. It was too much for Paul Bunten and Dale Heath, two felony investigators in Ann Arbor, a quiet, picturesque college town on the Huron River, less than 20 miles but fully a world away from Detroit. Old, well-kept homes nestle under the trees that border Ann Arbor’s rolling streets. Students from the University of Michigan jaywalk with aplomb. People wave at one another across the city square. A murdered woman causes alarm in Ann Arbor. Three can cause panic, and this one already had been dubbed “the Sunday morning slasher.” Police were without clues until the night of Nov. 15, 1980, when two patrolmen saw Watts and a young woman engaged in a deadly game of maneuvers along Main Street. As police watched, Watts would drive slowly past the woman, then park just ahead of her. The woman would turn the first corner she came to in an attempt to avoid him, and Watts would follow. The activity continued for nine blocks until the woman ducked into a doorway and Watts lost her. “He almost went nuts,” says Bunten. “The police who were watching him said he got frantic, started craning his head around in the car, trying to see where she’d gone. He even got out and ran around trying to see her.” Watts then spotted the police who had been watching him, and he attempted to drive away. He was stopped and arrested for driving with a suspended license and having expired license plates. In his car, police found a box containing small, rectangular wood files. In the back seat was something that reminded Bunten of the Rebecca Huff killing, something Coral Watts would have little use for. It was a large, collegiate dictionary. There were no identifying marks in the book, but scratched on its cover, etched there as though by the force of a pen bleeding through from a separate surface was the sentence, “Rebecca is a lover.” Bunten began dogging Watts. The detective finally had a suspect in his baffling murders and he didn’t intend to lose him. A cursory check turned up the Kalamazoo assaults and Gloria Steele murder. Watts ‘ former attorney and psychiatrist told Bunten that, short of implicating Watts, they could tell the detective he need look no further for a suspect in those cases. Bunten was ecstatic. He now had a target to focus his investigation on. He called a meeting of area police agencies and obtained a court order to place a tracking device on Watts ‘ car and a search warrant for his mother’s house. The search warrant produced little. Police found another set of woodworking files in the basement, this one used by Watts ‘ mother in her art classes, but those were free of blood traces. They found what appeared to be blood on a tennis shoe, but it proved to be untraceable. And they made Watts wary. The tracking device was placed on his car on Nov. 29, 1980, and police began an around-the-clock watch on him, but he did nothing. “He got paranoid,” Bunten says. “He knew we were watching him, and the longer we watched him, the less he’d move around. He got to where he almost wouldn’t leave his neighborhood.” For the next two months, there were no more killings of the sort police had seen in Ann Arbor. On Jan. 29, 1981, the tracking device was removed, and Bunten decided to bring Watts in for questioning. “The whole thing took eight hours,” Bunten says. “I used every means I know to get somebody to confess…He’s so streetwise, nothing would work. “He was nice. He was polite. If you can forget about what he does, he seems like a soft-spoken, timid but personable, pleasant person. “I think I got close once. We knew the women had been attacked from behind. The killer had wrapped his left arm around their throat, then reached over their right shoulder and stabbed them. The blouses were pulled up at the front, and marks on the throat of one, just under the chin, came from a man’s wristwatch on a left arm. “Finally, toward the end of the session, I told Watts, `I not only know you did these, I know “how” you did them.’ I got up and walked behind him and said, `You grabbed them like this. Then you pulled their heads back like this, and you reached over with your right arm and stabbed them like this!’ “And he started crying. Just broke down and started crying. It was the first real emotion we’d seen from him. I thought he might break for a minute, but he didn’t. He wanted to talk to his mother and we let him – that was probably a mistake – and, after that, he wouldn’t say a word. It was all over.” Watts ‘ life in Inkster was over as well. His anonymity was lost, and the constant police surveillance was frustrating. He began asking co-workers at the trucking company about work prospects in other states, and he settled on Texas and then-boomtown Houston. Sometime in March 1981, Watts left Michigan. His first stop was in Coalwood, where he visited his grandmother. From there he drove on to Columbus, where two acquaintances from Detroit were working and he soon found work as a diesel mechanic. Columbus was a hiatus for Watts. Paul Bunten and the worrisome Ann Arbor police were a thousand miles away. For the first time he was living alone. For the first time he had made a major move without consulting his mother. “He didn’t even tell her where he was going,” says Lula Mae Young. “He’d never done that before. He’d always lived at home with his mother or stayed with me except when he was in college. “She didn’t know what to think. He’d just gone off and left his whole family.” He wasn’t rid of Paul Bunten, however. The policeman had kept up daily checks on Watts and learned he had gone to the Houston area in April. Bunten immediately sent Houston police an 18-page packet on Watts, including pictures, fingerprints, vital information and details of the killings in which he was a suspect. The packet arrived April 8, 1981, but Houston police couldn’t find Watts. Tom Wine, then police chief in Columbus, knew Watts because of the crowd Watts associated with, but he knew nothing of the murders Watts was suspected of. “As far as we know, he didn’t kill anyone while he was in Columbus,” says Wine. “We had no unsolved murders during that period. The strange thing is that, later, he always insisted there was one he killed here and buried, but we didn’t have any missing persons either, and he couldn’t find the grave.” Houston police, operating on the assumption that Watts was working and living in Houston, found no trace of him. A detective was assigned to check on him and found that he was working in Columbus, but nothing else was done. It was a time of political unrest in the Houston Police Department. A new police chief was to be hired, but Lee P. Brown had not yet been chosen. There were complaints of understaffed divisions, no funds for overtime, no time for investigations. There were no continuous watches such as those in Michigan. After Watts moved to Houston late in the summer of 1981, a tracking device was placed on a van he owned, but it was later learned he was using a car he drove from Michigan. At one point – in November, 1981, after Watts had started work for the Metropolitan Transit Authority as a mechanic – a patrolman who lived in his neighborhood in southeast Houston was asked to watch Watts ‘ house during his time off. A few detectives spent their own time attempting to follow him, but learned little or nothing. And Watts was busy: Elizabeth Montgomery, 25; Susan Wolf, 21; Phyllis Tamm, 27; Margaret Fossi, 25; Elena Semander, 20; Emily Laqua, 14; Anna Ledet, 34; Yolanda Gracia, 22; Carrie Jefferson, 32; Suzanne Searles, 25; and Michelle Maday, 20, all died at his hands. Whether Watts killed during the three months he was living in Columbus may never be known. The exact number of women he killed in Texas almost certainly never will be. His first known Texas killing was that of Linda Tilley, a young woman he drowned in a swimming pool in Austin Sept. 5, 1981. During the next nine months he attacked at least 18 women and killed a dozen of those. He stabbed, strangled, hanged and drowned them. And, finally, he was caught. It took bad luck and overreaching on Watts ‘ part. He’d already killed in the early morning hours of May 23, 1982, already followed Michelle Maday to her apartment, dragged her inside and drowned her in a bathtub of hot water, but he wasn’t satisfied. Lori Lister was supposed to be next. He’d spotted her turning into her apartment parking lot just before dawn, seen her back her car in and glance toward a nearby fire station before she started for her door. She walked quickly, but Watts was faster. He caught her just before she started up her stairs. He choked her then, not enough to kill her, just enough to leave her senseless. He dragged her up the stairs, took her keys and opened the door. And there was her roommate. Melinda Aguilar, standing in a bathrobe staring wide-eyed at Watts, who was only able to stare back. He recovered momentarily, forced Aguilar into her bedroom and bound her with coat hangers. Then he filled the tub and and lowered Lister under the water. The rest happened quickly. A neighbor, having seen Watts standing over Lister by the stairs, had called police. Aguilar, her wrists still bound behind her, had made her way to a balcony and jumped to the lawn below, just as police arrived. Watts, realizing one of his victims had escaped, attempted to run. He was arrested in a courtyard just below Lori Lister’s apartment. When lawyer Zinetta Burney arrived at the county jail a few days later, she expected to find a client whose rights had been violated. She didn’t expect to be frightened. “I thought I’d find a young, black man who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and got arrested,” says Burney. “When I got there, when I started talking to him and he started telling the things he’d done, I thought he was lying or crazy.” After listening to Watts for a few hours, Burney’s attitude changed from incredulity to shock. Within the next few days she had gone to the police with an offer: Watts would clear a large number of unsolved homicides and plead guilty to a lesser crime in return for immunity from prosecution for murder. She’d also started wearing a crucifix. “He’s the only client I ever had who made me feel that way,” she says. “There’s something evil in the man. He never threatened me. He was always quiet and polite to me, but he scared me more than anyone I’ve ever dealt with.” Bargaining went on for months until an agreement was reached: Watts would be charged with aggravated burglary for the break-in at Lister’s apartment. He would confess to his murders in return for immunity from prosecution in those cases. Police could then close cases in which they had no evidence, no witnesses and had no chance of solving. Police and prosecutors in Austin, Galveston and Grosse Point Farms joined in the agreement, and on Aug. 9, 1982, Coral Watts was seated at the end of a long, white Formica table, telling his halting, mumbling horror stories to detectives. It was a monotonic, emotionless confession. Twenty-eight hours of question and answer, recorded on videotape and now locked away in a cabinet in the Houston homicide division. Watts chewed his fingers. He idly worked his jaw. He confessed to 13 murders, and he gave up nothing about Coral Watts. “She had evil eyes…I could see her eyes and they were evil…I had to release the spirit.” Watts repeated the phrases time and again. A twisted, occult litany had replaced the old explanation that he attacked because “I just felt like beating her up.” “She wore glasses and a blue coat. She was carrying some papers, like blueprints. I grabbed her and choked her. She tried to fight. I choked her. I put her in the trunk of her car, face down, head to the left. “I took her shoes and the blueprints and the her purse. I burned them. “I figured that would kill the spirit.” “…Uh huh. I remember that one. By Hobby Airport. A Spanish girl. She about 25. Walking. “I let her walk past, about a block. Then I ran up and stopped in front of her. She said something like, `I thought you were somebody else,’ and I grabbed her and choked her and I stabbed her in the chest. “She was evil. I could see it in her eyes. “…Her? She was jogging, blond, down near Main Street. Jogging away from Main Street. “I went past and parked, got out. When she came by I grabbed her and choked her. Used my hands and an elastic strap. “She wasn’t dead. I didn’t have no real reason, but I took the elastic strap and hung her up off a branch and left her sort of sitting that way. She was a pretty big woman. “Her feet were moving, still moving. I took her socks off and took them with me and I burned them to release the spirit. “She was evil. I saw it in her eyes.” “…I saw that one driving down the street. Early evening. I could see her eyes. She pulled into an apartment. I got out. She was at her door. I walked up and she said something to me. “I grabbed her. Choked her. Then I took her inside the apartment and took her dress off. Then I put her in the bathtub and ran hot water on her, covered her with it, then I let the water out. “I took the dress, but I didn’t burn it. I just threw it away. I didn’t have to burn it because I had put her in the bathtub with the water. The water wouldn’t let her spirit get out. “…No, I can’t identify her picture. I can’t identify none of them.” In Ann Arbor, Paul Bunten and Dale Heath were excited. The Sunday morning slasher was under pressure and it was time to try for a confession. They boarded the first available plane and headed for Houston, planning to question Watts again. That wasn’t to be, however. They were met at the airport by Houston police and assistant district attorney Jack Frels, who asked them if they were prepared to offer Watts immunity. “We told them there was no way we’d offer him immunity and neither would our chief or our district attorney,” says Bunten. “We don’t give immunity in our cases. I don’t think you can justify it. “And that was it. We spent two days in a hotel in Houston, and we never got to see Watts. “We finally gave up, and (Houston police) wouldn’t even give us a ride back to the airport.” Bunten wasn’t finished, however. On Sept. 3, 1981, Watts pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to commit murder and State District Judge Doug Shaver sentenced him to 60 years, a maximum sentence that left him ineligible for parole. He was sent to Huntsville and Bunten, Heath and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Harley Stock sought him out there. By this time, Watts had been linked to 40 killings, including the Texas deaths and a growing number in Canada. “He didn’t want to talk to us at first, but he finally did, to a degree,” says Bunten. “He wouldn’t admit to specific murders, but he did tell me I didn’t need to look any further for a suspect in my cases. “I asked him, `Coral, just how many women have you killed? Are there enough fingers in this room to count them?’ “There were four of us in that room and he just looked at me and said, `Captain, there’re not enough fingers and toes in this room to count them.’ ” Watts had little else to say and has become even less vocal in recent years. He made an unsuccessful escape attempt in 1985, smearing himself with cooking oil and attempting to slip out a window. In 1989, however, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reduced Watts ‘ conviction, saying the judge failed to inform Watts that the bathtub of water he attempted to drown Lori Lister in was construed as a lethal weapon. The finding made Watts eligible for parole and gave him a new status: He became the only identified serial murderer with a reasonable of chance of release. Others either face a death penalty, or extended sentences without parole. Watts has come before the parole board once in 1990, been denied, and will be considered again next year. “Any member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and any governor who votes to let him out ought to be charged as a party in his next murder,” Shaver says. Watts has spent a little less than nine years in prison. Due to his accumulation of “good time” (extra time allotted by the prison system for time served), he has credit for almost 16. At his current rate of accumulation of good time, without parole, he could be released by 2012. He would be 58 years old. “I don’t think he should ever be released. I wouldn’t have any trouble watching him die,” says Lori Lister. Lister, now married, still has flashes of memory of the night Watts attempted to kill her. “I used to spend nights in a closet when my husband was away,” she says. “I’d try different closets in the house. Sometimes one would seem safer than another. I’d sit there in the heat, sweating, holding a pistol…all night.” Harriett Semander voiced her anger toward the Houston police and the Harris County district attorney’s office for years. How could police say they were watching a man while he managed to kill 13 women? she asked. How could they offer him immunity? The anger remains, but, more often, it’s overshadowed by memories of her daughter. “Sometimes I open the refrigerator and see apples and I remember Elena,” she says. “She loved apples.” Coral Watts has slipped further inside himself in prison. In recent years he has been hospitalized for depression again, and his family has lost contact with him. “The last time his mother was down there, he didn’t talk to her,” says Lula Mae Young. “It was like he didn’t know her.” Coral Watts keeps his own counsel. He continues to build his good time. Maybe he continues to dream.


  2. SENTENCED 8/10/1982