Coral Watts died of prostate
cancer on September 21, 2007.
May his victims rest in peace.
Site published in 2002
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.
My Killerís Release!
The Semander Family and Friends
In conjunction with Justice for All
Invite you and your guest
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
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.
Mayor's Crime Victims Director
Houston, TX 77002
for an article about a memorial service held for the victims
CLICK HERE for a prison fact sheet on Watts
in 1980 murder of waitress
Fort Worth Star Telegram:
Killer Denied Parole Again
San Antonio Express-News:
Admitted Serial Killer Denied Parole
For Paul Bunten, hounding Watts is his life's work
Ann Arbor News:
Containing a killer
Confessed serial killer scheduled for prison release in 2006
Freedom awaits serial killer who vowed to kill again
killer Watts arraigned in 1979 Michigan slaying
Court TV's Crime Library:
Coral Eugene Watts; The Sunday Morning Slasher
Coral Eugene Watts murdered at least 13 women but went to prison only for
aggravated burglary; someday he'll get out
By EVAN MOORE
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
- AUG 1982 60 YEARS-BURGLARY W/I/ TO COMMIT MURDER
- SENTENCED 8/10/1982
- PAROLE ELIGIBLE-1990
- DENIED PAROLE 4 TIMES
- CURRENTLY IN PAROLE REVIEW PROCESS
- CRIMINAL HISTORY BEGAN AT AGE 15 WITH SEVERAL ASSAULTS ON WOMEN IN
- SUSPECTED IN NUMEROUS MURDERS IN MICHIGAN AND CANADA
- AT LEAST 13 HOUSTON AREA WOMEN MURDERED SINCE HIS ARRIVAL IN 1981
- SUSPECTED IN MORE THAN SIX TIMES THAT MANY SLAYINGS
- SUSPECTED IN A SERIES OF ATTACKS BETWEEN 1979 AND 1980 IN WHICH 14
WOMEN WERE ATTACKED AND 8 KILLED IN THE DETROIT AREA AND WINDSOR,
ONTARIO AND IN ANN ARBOR
- SCHEDULED RELEASE DATE-MAY 8TH, 2006
- RELEASE IS UNDER THE OLD MANDATORY RELEASE LAW
- MANDATORY RELEASE ABOLISHED IN 1995-MADE DISCRETIONARY
- TEXAS LAWMAKERS DECIDED NEW LAW COULD NOT BE MADE RETROACTIVE,
CITING U.S. SUPREME CT, DECISION INVOLVING A FLORIDA INMATE.
- WATTS WILL BE THE FIRST SERIAL KILLER IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY
TO BE LEGALLY RELEASED
- WATTS WILL HAVE SERVED 24 CALENDAR YEARS AND WILL HAVE ACCUMULATED
36 YEARS WORTH OF GOOD-TIME CREDITS
- MANDATORY RELEASE IS DETERMINED BY HOW MUCH CALENDAR TIME, PLUS
GOOD-TIME CREDITS. WHEN THE TWO ADD UP TO THE SENTENCE, UNDER STATE LAW
YOU MUST BE RELEASED
times since 8/7/02