Serial Killer Dies Friday In Hospital

Friday, September 21st 2007, 6:51 pm
By: News On 6

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) _ A confessed serial killer who police said may have been responsible for dozens of deaths died Friday, a little more than a week after he received a second life sentence, authorities said.

Coral Eugene Watts, who said he targeted women with evil eyes, died in a secure area of Foote Hospital, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said.

The 53-year-old Watts, who had been an inmate at the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was in the hospital all but one day since Aug. 28, Marlan said.

The Jackson County medical examiner's office said it considered Watts' death to be of natural causes and no autopsy would be performed.

The Michigan attorney general's office has said Watts was a suspect in more than 25 slayings and may have killed more than 80 women. He had confessed to 12 killings, 11 in Texas and one in Michigan.

Last week, Watts was sentenced to a life prison sentence, his second, in the slaying of Gloria Steele, a 19-year-old Western Michigan University student, in 1974. He had been convicted of first-degree murder in July, and the sentence of life without parole was mandatory.

Contacted at her Kalamazoo home on Friday, Steele's mother, Mayola Steele, said she had not heard that Watts had died. ``I'm very sorry, and I just hope he made peace with the Lord,'' she said.

Watts was already serving a life sentence in the 1979 death of 36-year-old Helen Dutcher in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale.

Michigan authorities revived the Dutcher and Steele cases in an effort to keep Watts behind bars because he was to have been released from a Texas prison in May 2006.

Watts received immunity for 12 killings to which he had confessed as part of a 1982 deal with Texas prosecutors. He was given a 60-year sentence for burglary with intent to murder, but mandatory release laws and an appeals court ruling reduced his sentence to less than 25 years.

Police had suspected Watts in Dutcher's death for years, but never charged him because they assumed he would be in his 80s if he ever got out of prison in Texas. When Michigan authorities learned of the reduced sentence, they put him on trial in 2004 and he was convicted in her death.

Nearly all the killings to which Watts confessed happened in 1981 and 1982 after he moved to the Houston area from Michigan. Watts, a mechanic, told Houston police he targeted women he thought had evil eyes.

But aside from his detailed confession, prosecutors said there was little or no physical evidence. The families of suspected victims pushed for the 1982 plea bargain because they saw it as the only way to find out what happened to their loved ones. Ultimately, he led police to three of the bodies, authorities have said.