A Macon teenager was found guilty of felony murder and aggravated assault in the strangulation death of his sister during a family fight about Wi-Fi last February.
Family and friends of Kevon Lamar Watkins wept and wailed after Bibb Superior Court Judge Verda M. Colvin handed down a sentence of life in prison with a chance of parole for the slaying of 19-year-old Alexus Breanna Watkins.
Colvin said the decision after the bench trial was “the most difficult thing I’ve had to do since I took the bench in April of 2014.”
In explaining her decision, Colvin said she thought philosophically about the case as she reviewed her notes Thursday night.
“One of the things that kept coming to mind was: what we ignore, we empower,” she said. “In this household, chaos was empowered. … In this household, the ability to ignore and follow corrective discipline was empowered.”
Latoya Watkins testified Thursday that her son was in a foul mood when she picked him up from Westside High School on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018.
Later, at their house on Westmount Road, Kevon Watkins, who had been playing a game on Xbox, changed the password to the family Wi-Fi because of a slow connection due to the number of people in the house using it.
Latoya Watkins said her 13-year-old son came into her bedroom and told her what Kevon Watkins, then 16, had done. Then, the fatal confrontation unfolded.
Alexus Breanna Watkins was pronounced dead from asphyxiation at the Medical Center, Navicent Health, early the next morning.
‘He’s just crazy’
The most telling statements about what happened were reflected in 911 calls, Colvin said.
Latoya Watkins’ testimony during the trial differed from earlier statements when she told authorities.
“On the stand, she made the statement as if Alexus got involved and jumped in,” Colvin said.
Before her daughter died and her son was charged with murder, Latoya Watkins told investigators that she had asked her to help go into Kevon Watkins’ room to get the Xbox and put it in her bedroom, Colvin said.
“She specifically said that Alexus got involved because she was trying to stand up for her because it appeared the defendant was going to strike her,” Colvin said.
The first 911 call was made by Latoya Watkins, about 5:17 p.m. that Friday.
Latoya Watkins said she needed an officer because “I have a 16 -year-old son who is disorderly,” Colvin said. “Nothing was said about Alexus Watkins being the aggressor.”
Unbeknownst to Latoya Watkins until testimony Thursday, her 13-year-old son also called 911 three minutes later.
“When he called, he said the following: ‘My brother is trying to hit my mother.’ “ Colvin said. “The dispatcher asked, ‘Is he on medication.’ And the 13-year-old said, ‘No. He’s just crazy. … He put her in a chokehold, threatening to beat my mom trying to get him off my sister.’ ”
Latoya Watkins would later tell investigators that there were frequent arguments involving Kevon Watkins and that she and her 13-year-old son tried to stop him from choking his sister.
“Two different times when she talked to people, she talked about his eyes,” Colvin said of Latoya Watkins’ statements about her son. “She didn’t say what they looked like, but in one of the videos she bucked her eyes as if he was in a trance state or something to that effect. But they could not make him stop.”
A sheriff’s deputy arrived at the house in about 7-10 minutes after the calls, Colvin said.
A GBI medical examiner testified Thursday that the human brain can tolerate 3-6 minutes without oxygen before permanent damage begins. After at least 10 minutes, a person is brain dead without oxygen.
“Even under the best estimation, by the time he got there …. It had been at least 11 minutes that the defendant had to have been choking his sister,” Colvin said. “In those 10 minutes, she had to have stopped moving. Perhaps that wasn’t noticed by the defendant because he was still angry.”
‘It’s just tragic’
De’Andre Thomas, Alexus Watkins’ fiance and father of her 3-year-old, was handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit when he testified at the bench trial Thursday. Thomas is serving a 20-year sentence at Smith State Prison for voluntary manslaughter in the February 2017 shooting death of Kareem Mano outside the USA Grocery on Rocky Creek Road.
Thomas testified that it was normal for Kevon Watkins to disrespect his mother, fight with his siblings and change the Wi-Fi password without much consequence.
Kevon Watkins told an investigator that he and his sister argue almost every day.
“It’s just tragic because had this situation not been ignored, it wouldn’t have been empowered,” Colvin said.
Kevon Watkins’ lawyer, Floyd Buford, asked the judge to consider an acquittal, a charge of voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
“There is no way that I could justifiably acquit him as having done nothing wrong,” Colvin said in her decision Friday morning. “I don’t see this as an accident.”
Involuntary manslaughter was not an option either. Colvin explained that the charge includes crimes “other than a felony” and that strangulation is an act of aggravated assault, which eliminates the possibility of that charge.
Colvin also considered voluntary manslaughter, but that “requires that there is such provocation that causes sudden violent irresistible passion in a person,” she said.
The law says that “if a voice of reason and humanity can be heard, then that negates the ability to use voluntary manslaughter,” she said. “The voice of reason and humanity that day was his 13-year-old brother, who tried to stop him from choking his sister.”
After Colvin announced the life sentence, cries erupted from the benches where Kevon Watkins’ family sat.
Kevon Watkins, now 18, started to cry, too.
Colvin apologized to Kevon Watkins that he was never given the tools to deal with the chaos at home.
“Even though I never knew you … I apologize to you that no intervention was made before it got to this point,” the judge said.
Kevon Watkins testified Thursday that he loved his sister and never meant to kill her. When he graduated from Westside High School this spring, he did not want to walk because she wasn’t there.
Kevon Watkins was allowed to give a statement to the court before he was taken away in handcuffs.
“I’m sorry,” he said, but the rest was unintelligible through tears streaming down his face and his family’s wailing.
“I think everyone understands,” the judge said. “Including this court.”