Coral Eugene Watts - The Sunday Morning Slasher

Adolescent Obsessed With Murder Turns Into a Serial Killer

Carl Eugene Watts
Carl Eugene Watts, 2004. Mug Shot

Carl Eugene Watts, dubbed “The Sunday Morning Slasher,” murdered 80 women in Texas, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, from 1974-1982. Watts kidnapped his victims from their homes, tortured them either by slashing them with a knife until they bled to death or drowned them in a bathtub.

Early Years

Carl Eugene Watts was born in Fort Hood, Texas on November 7, 1953, to Richard and Dorothy Watts. In 1955, Dorothy left Richard.

She and Carl moved to Inkstar, Illinois, right outside of Detroit.

Dorothy taught art to kindergarten children, leaving much of Carl's young development in the hands of her mother. She also started dating again, and in 1962 she married Norman Caesar. Within a few years, they had two girls. Watts was now the big brother, but it was a role he never embraced.

Sadistic Sexual Fantasies

At the age of 13 Watts suffered from meningitis and high fevers and he was pulled out of school for several months. During his illness, he entertained himself by hunting and skinning rabbits. He also enjoyed constant fantasies that involved torturing and killing girls.

School had always been challenging for Watts. When he was in grammar school, he was a shy and withdrawn child and was often teased by the class bullies. His reading skills were far below that of his peers, and he struggled with retaining much of what was being taught.

When Watts finally returned to his class after being sick, he was unable to catch up. The decision was made to have him repeat the eighth grade, which humiliated him.

Watts, an academic failure, turned into a good athlete. He participated in the Silver Gloves boxing program that helped teach boys respect for themselves and discipline.

Unfortunately for Watts, the boxing program stimulated his aggressive desire to attack people. He was constantly in trouble at school for physically confronting classmates, especially the girls.

At the age of 15, he attacked and sexually assaulted a woman in her home. She was his customer on his paper route. When Watts was arrested, he told the police he attacked the woman because he just felt like beating someone up.

Institutionalized

In September 1969, after being prompted by his lawyer, Watts was institutionalized at the Lafayette Clinic in Detroit.

It was there that doctors discovered that Watts had an IQ in the low 70s and suffered from a mild case of mental retardation that impeded his thought processes.

However, after only three months, he was evaluated again and placed on outpatient treatment, despite the doctor's final review which described Watts as paranoid with strong homicidal impulses.

The doctor wrote that Watts' behavioral controls were faulty and that he displayed a high potential for violently acting out. He ended the report by saying Watts should be considered dangerous. Despite the report, the young and dangerous Eugene Watts was allowed to return to school, his penchant for violence unknown to his unsuspecting classmates.

It was a baffling decision that almost assured a deadly outcome.

High School and College

Watts continued high school after his release from the hospital. He returned to sports and poor grades. He also took drugs, was described as severely withdrawn. He was often disciplined by school officials for being aggressive and stalking his female classmates.

From the time that Watts was released to the outpatient program in 1969 until the time he graduated high school in 1973, he only went to the outpatient clinic a few times, despite the fact that school officials were constantly having to deal with his violent episodes.

After finishing high school. Watts was accepted to Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee on a football scholarship, but he was expelled after three months for stalking and sexually assaulting women and for being a prime suspect in the unsolved murder of a female student.

Second Psychological Evaluation

Watts was, however, able to return to college and was even accepted into a special scholarship and mentoring program sponsored by Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Before attending the program, he was again evaluated at the outpatient facility and again the doctor said that Watts was still a danger and had a "strong impulse to beat up women," but due to patient confidentiality laws, staffers were unable to alert Kalamazoo authorities or officials at Western Michigan University.

On October 25, 1974, Lenore Knizacky answered her door and was attacked by a man who said he was looking for Charles. She fought back and survived.

Five days later, Gloria Steele, 19, was found dead with 33 stab wounds to her chest. A witness reported speaking with a man at Steele’s complex, who said he was looking for Charles.

Diane Williams reported being attacked on November 12, under the same circumstances. She survived and managed to see the attacker's car and make a report to the police.

Watts was picked out in a line-up by Knizacky and Williams and arrested on assault and battery charges. He admitted to attacking 15 females but refused to talk about the Steele murder.

His attorney arranged for Watts to commit himself into the Kalamazoo State Hospital. The hospital psychiatrist investigated Watts' background and learned that at Lane College, Watts was suspected of having possibly killed two women by choking them. He diagnosed Watts as having an anti-social personality disorder.

Competently Dangerous

Before Watts' trial for assault and battery charges, he had a court-ordered evaluation at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The examining doctor described Watts as dangerous and felt he would most likely attack again. He also found him competent to stand trial.

Carl, or Coral as he started to call himself, pleaded “no contest,” and received a one-year sentence on the assault and battery charges. He was never charged in the murder of Steele.

In June 1976, he was out of jail and back home in Detroit with his mother.

The Sunday Morning Slasher Emerges

Ann Arbor is 40 miles west of Detroit and the home of The University of Michigan. In April 1980, the Ann Arbor police were called to the home of 17-year-old Shirley Small. She had been attacked and repeatedly cut with an instrument resembling a scalpel. She bled to death on the sidewalk where she fell.

Glenda Richmond, 26, was the next victim. She was found near her doorway, dead from over 28 stab wounds. Rebecca Greer, 20, was next. She died outside her door after being stabbed 54 times.

Detective Paul Bunten headed a task force that had been formed to investigate what the newspapers had dubbed the murders of women by "The Sunday Morning Slasher," but there was very little for Bunten to investigate. His team had no evidence and no witnesses to a long list of murders and attempted murders that had occurred within five months.

When Sergeant Arthurs from Detroit read about the Slasher murders going on in Ann Arbor, he noticed that the attacks were similar to those that he had arrested Carl Watts for when he was a paper boy. Arthurs contacted the task force and gave them Watts' name and the details of the crime.

Within months, attacks in neighboring Wisteria, Ontario, were being reported that were of the same nature as those in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Adult, Father, and Husband

By now, Watts was no longer a failing student with drug problems. He was 27 years old and working with his stepfather at a trucking company. He had fathered a daughter with his girlfriend, and later met another woman whom he married in August 1979, but who divorced him eight months later because of Watts’ strange behavior.

More Murders, 1979-1980

In October 1979 Watts was arrested for prowling around in a Southfield, Detroit suburb. The charges were later dropped. Investigators noted that during the previous year, five women in the same suburb were assaulted on separate occasions, but with similar circumstances. None were killed, nor could any of them identify their attacker.

During 1979 and 1980, attacks on women in Detroit and surrounding areas became more frequent and violent. By the summer of 1980, whatever had been keeping Coral Watts' uncontrollable urge to torture, and murder women at bay were no longer working. It was as if a demon had possessed him.

Additionally, he was under tremendous stress as the investigators from Ann Arbor, and Detroit seemed to be getting closer to solving the identity of the “Sunday Morning Slasher.” Watts had no alternative: he needed to find a new killing zone.

The Windsor, Ontario Connection

In July 1980, in Windsor, Ontario Irene Kondratowiz, 22, was attacked by a stranger. Despite her throat being slashed, she had managed to live. Sandra Dalpe, 20, having been stabbed from behind, had also survived.

Mary Angus, 30, of Windsor, escaped attack by screaming when she realized she was being followed. She picked Watts out of a photo line-up, but she was unable to identify for certain that her attacker had been Watts.

Detectives discovered through highway cameras that Watts' car was recorded as leaving Windsor for Detroit after each episode. Watts became Bunten’s leading suspect, and Bunten had a reputation for being a relentless investigator.

Rebecca Huff's Book is Found

On November 15, 1980, an Ann Arbor woman contacted police after she became frightened when she discovered that she was being followed by a strange man. The women hid in a doorway, and the police were able to observe the man frantically searching for the woman.

When the police pulled the man over in his car, they identified him as Coral Watts. Inside the car, they found screwdrivers and wood filing tools, but their most important discovery was a book that had Rebecca Huff’s name on it.

Rebecca Huff had been murdered in September 1980.

A Move to Houston

In late January 1981, Watts was brought in on a warrant to give a blood sample. Bunten also interviewed Watts, but he could not charge him. The blood test also failed to link Watts to any crimes.

By spring, Coral was sick of being hounded by Bunten and his task force and so made a move to Columbus Texas, where he found work at an oil company. Houston was 70 miles away. Watts began spending his weekends cruising the city streets.

Houston Police Get a Heads Up, but Murders Continue

Bunten forwarded Watts' file to the Houston police, who located Watts at his new address, but they were unable to find any evidence linking him directly to any of the Houston crimes.

On September 5, 1981, Lillian Tilley was attacked at her Arlington apartment and drowned.

Later that same month, Elizabeth Montgomery, 25, died after being stabbed in the chest while out walking her dogs.

Shortly afterward, Susan Wolf, 21, was attacked and murdered as she got out of her car to enter her home.

Watts is Finally Caught

On May 23, 1982, Watts ambushed roommates Lori Lister and Melinda Aguilar at the apartment that the two women shared. He tied them up and then attempted to drown Lister in the bathtub.

Aguilar was able to escape by jumping head first off of her balcony. Lister was saved by a neighbor and Watts was caught and arrested. The body of Michele Maday was found the same day, drowned in her bathtub in a nearby apartment.

A Shocking Plea Deal

Under interrogation, Watts refused to talk. Harris County Assistant District Attorney Ira Jones made a deal with Watts to get him to confess. Incredibly, Jones agreed to give Watts immunity to the charge of murder, if Watts would agree to confess to all of his murders.

Jones was hoping to bring closure to the families of some of the 50 unsolved murders of women in the Houston area. Coral eventually admitted attacking 19 women, 13 of which he confessed to murdering.

Admitting There Were 80 More Murders

Eventually, Watts also admitted to 80 additional murders in Michigan and Canada but refused to give details because he did not have an immunity agreement for those murders.

Coral pleaded guilty to one count of burglary with intent to kill.

Judge Shaver decided that the bathtub and the water in the bathtub could be defined as deadly weapons, which would result in the parole board not being able to count Watts' “good conduct time,” for determining his parole eligibility.

Slippery Appeals

On September 3, 1982, Watts was sentenced to 60 years in prison. In 1987, after a failed attempt to escape prison by slipping through the bars, Watts decided to begin appealing his sentence, but his appeal lacked the support of his attorney.

Then in October 1987, unrelated to any of Watts appeals, the court decided that criminals must be told that a “deadly weapon” finding had occurred during their indictment and that failure to inform the criminal was a violation of the criminal’s rights.

Watts Gets a Lucky Break

In 1989, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that, because Watts was not told that the bathtub and the water had been judged lethal weapons, he would not be required to serve his entire sentence. Watts was reclassified as a nonviolent felon which made him eligible for retroactive “good time earned” equaling three days for every one day served.

Model prisoner and confessed murderer Coral Eugene Watts would be getting out of prison on May 9, 2006.

Victims Say Hell No to Early Release Law

As news spread about the possibility of Watts getting out of prison, there was a tremendous public outcry against the "good time earned" early release law, which eventually was abolished, but, because it was an applicable law during Watts' trial, his early release could not be reversed.

Lawrence Fossi, whose wife was murdered by Watts, fought the release with every possible legal maneuver he could find.

Joe Tilley, whose young daughter Linda fought so hard to live, but lost her battle against Watts, as he held her under the water at the apartment complex swimming pool, summed up how most of the other families felt about Watts: "Forgiveness cannot be bestowed when forgiveness is not sought. This is a confrontation with pure evil, with principalities and the powers of the air."

Michigan's Attorney General Asks for Help

When Mike Cox, who was Michigan's Attorney General at the time, found out about the change in Watts' sentence, he ran televised spots, asking the public to come forward if they had any information about the women that Watts was suspected of having killed.

Texas had a plea arrangement with Watts, but Michigan did not. If they could prove Watts murdered any of the women who had turned up dead over the past few years in Michigan, Watts could be put away for life.

Cox's efforts paid off. A Westland, Michigan resident named Joseph Foy came forward and said that Watts looked like the man whom he saw in December 1979 stabbing 36-year-old Helen Dutcher, who later died from her wounds.

Watts Will Finally Pay for His Crimes

Watts was shipped to Michigan where he was charged, tried and found guilty of murdering Helen Dutcher. On December 7, 2004, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In late July 2007 Watts again faced a jury after being arrested for the 1974 murder of Gloria Steele. He was found guilty and received a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Slipping Through the Bars One Last Time

Watts was sent to Ionia, Michigan where he was housed at the Ionia Correctional Facility, also known as the I-Max because it is a maximum security prison.  But he did not stay there long.

About two months into his sentence he managed to slide his way out from behind the prison bars yet again, but this time would be his last time as only a miracle would save him now.

On September 21, 2007, Coral Eugene Watts was admitted to a hospital in Jackson, Michigan and shortly after died of prostate cancer. The case of the “Sunday Morning Slasher” was permanently closed.