SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Caddo Parish jury has found 37-year-old DeWayne Watkins guilty on two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 8, 2018 deaths of Heather and Kelly Jose.
The verdict comes four weeks and two days after the trial of the 37-year-old Watkins began, though it was recessed four days after the first day of jury selection after Watson tested positive for COVID.
Watkins was accused of shooting the couple who offered him a ride home from Mall St. Vincent only to be kidnapped, robbed, shot in the backs of their heads, and then burning their bodies inside their car in the driveway of a vacant home in the Queensborough neighborhood.
It took the jury just over an hour of deliberations to bring back the guilty verdict, which followed a very long day of attorneys quibbling about the judge’s instructions to the jury and closing arguments, which began just before 1 p.m. Wednesday and concluded almost three hours later.
The judge, attorneys and families were alerted that the jury had reached a verdict and had silently entered the courtroom around 5:20 p.m.
Presiding Judge John Mosely entered about five minutes later and then the jury was brought in. After the judge asked the jury foreman if a verdict had been reached and received an affirmative answer, the paper on which the verdict was written was handed to the clerk of court who read the verdicts out loud.
As the first guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Kelly Jose was read, a gasp could be heard from the row second row which was filled with Heather Jose’s family, and when the second guilty verdict in Heather’s death was read, her sister Sarah Sharp quietly sobbed in her father, Mel King’s arms.
Heather Jose’s family attended the trial from August 22, the day it began, and were right back in the courtroom on August 29 when court resumed after a four-day recess called after the defendant was diagnosed with COVID on the evening of the first day of jury selection.
The family, Heather’s father, her sisters, and her aunts and uncles were faithful throughout the trial. After the verdicts were read, the families talked about their devotion to Heather and how they were determined to see the trial through, regardless of how painful.
Yet through their pain, the family spoke with pride about Heather and the amazing life she lived in her 32 years. Her father laughed as he recalled when Heather, fresh out of college, decided to go to New Orleans, which had just experienced Hurricane Katrina.
He said he tried to be logical with his daughter, asking her if she knew anyone there, and where she would stay when she got there. She didn’t know, she told him. So he asked her what she was going to do there. She answered with one word, “Help.”
Another time, she took off to New York City to work on the streets with a Christian group for the same reason. To help.
So, it’s no wonder that when DeWayne Willie Watkins said he needed a ride, and Heather couldn’t get a cab for him, she and Kelly offered him a ride home.
But rather than be bitter, her dad, sisters, aunts and uncles, who relived Heather and Kelly’s death day-after-day in the trial, said now that Watkins can never hurt anyone again, they will begin the long road to forgiveness.
Because that’s what Heather would do.
All of them, Heather’s sisters and father, as well as the Johnsons and the Kings, aunts and uncles who have sat through the trial every day, say they plan to spend the rest of their lives honoring Heather. They all agreed that Heather died doing someone a favor, so that is how they plan to live out their lives.
Wednesday evening, as the family left the courthouse they talked about their gratitude to the judge, who has presided over what has been a very lengthy and difficult case, the Caddo District Attorney’s office and prosecutors Bill Edwards and Mekeisha Creal. They also expressed gratitude to the jury, who almost for three weeks sat in the jury box listening to mountains of evidence put on by the state, as well as cross examinations by defense attorneys Sean Collins and Mariah Holder.
A conviction on two counts of first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty, but Caddo District Attorney James Stewart took the death penalty off the table in 2021 in an effort to move the case along.
Watkins will be formally sentenced on Oct. 19. The Kings and Johnsons plan to fly back to Shreveport from California for the sentencing.