Carl Eugene Watts (November 7, 1953 – September 21, 2007), also known by his nickname Coral, was an African-American serial killer dubbed the Sunday Morning Slasher. He died of prostate cancer while serving two sentences of life without parole in a Michigan prison for the murders of Helen Dutcher and Gloria Steele, although the number of his victims may have exceeded 80.
Watts claimed that around the age of 12 was when he started to fantasize about torturing and killing girls and young women. During adolescence, Watts began to stalk girls and is believed to have killed his first victim before the age of 15.
On June 29, 1969, Watts was arrested for sexually assaulting 26-year-old Joan Gave. When Watts was tried, he was sentenced to the Lafayette Clinic, a mental hospital in Detroit. According to a psychiatric assessment, Watts was revealed to suffer from mild mental retardation, with a full scale I.Q. of 75, and to have a delusional thought process, though a police officer interrogating Watts after his arrest later stated that he appeared to be "very, very intelligent" with an "excellent memory". He was released from the Lafayette Clinic on November 9, 1969.
Watts's time as a serial killer began when he was 20 years old in 1974, by kidnapping his victims from their homes, torturing them, and then murdering them. On October 30, 1974, Watts tortured and brutally murdered 20-year-old Gloria Steele, who was believed to be his second victim. He may have also been involved in the disappearance of Nadine Jean O’Dell who was 16 years old when she disappeared on August 16th 1974, she was last seen walking down John Daly Street in Inkster, Michigan. Her body has never been found and no one witnessed her presumed abduction.
Watts almost always killed young white women. Victims ranged between the ages of 14 and 44 using methods such as strangulation, stabbing, bludgeoning, and drowning. Watts murdered dozens of women between 1974 and 1982, and despite the many women he murdered, he was not discovered as a serial killer for almost eight years.
There were several reasons for this. He attacked in several different jurisdictions and even different states. Even with the advent of DNA testing, it was still nearly impossible to connect them because he rarely performed sexual acts on his victims; his crimes were not thought to be sexually motivated. Watts was questioned for murder in 1975, but there was not enough evidence to convict him, although he had spent a year in prison for attacking a woman who survived.
Canadian authorities believe Watts may have crossed the border into Windsor that October, assaulting 20-year-old Sandra Dalpe outside her apartment, leaving her near death with multiple wounds to the face and throat. By that time, Watts had fallen under scrutiny from local homicide investigators. A task force was organized in July 1980 to probe the Sunday slashings, and Watts was placed under sporadic surveillance; a November court order permitted officers to plant a homing device in his car.
On May 23, 1982, Watts broke into the apartment of Lori Lister and Melinda Augilar in Houston. As she arrived home from work, he choked Lister into unconsciousness under the stairs below the apartment. He then entered the apartment and began to choke Augilar as well. Augilar feigned unconsciousness while Watts tied her hands behind her back with a wire. He dragged Lister's body upstairs and into the bathroom and started filling the bathtub preparing to drown her. While Watts was preoccupied with Lister, Augilar was able to slip free and jump out a window to seek help. Lister was rescued and Watts was later arrested after fleeing the scene. While in custody, police began to link Watts with the recent murders of a number of women.
Until early 1981, he had lived in Michigan, where authorities suspected him of being responsible for the murders of at least ten women and girls. Watts was previously questioned about the murders in 1975, but there had not been enough evidence to convict him. At that time, Watts had spent a year in prison for attacking a woman, who survived.
Prosecutors in Texas did not feel they had enough evidence to convict Watts of murder, so in 1982 they arranged a plea bargain. If Watts gave full details and confessions to his crimes, they would give him immunity from the murder charges and he would, instead, face just a charge of burglary with intent to murder. This charge carried a 60-year sentence. He agreed with the deal and promptly confessed in detail to 12 murders in Texas. However, Michigan authorities refused to go in on the deal so the cases in that state remained open.
Watts later claimed that he had killed 40 women, and has also implied that there were more than 80 victims in total. He would not confess outright to having committed these murders, however, because he did not want to be seen as a "mass murderer". Police still consider Watts a suspect in 90 unsolved murders.