DETROIT – Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said Thursday he is moving to prosecute the confessed serial killer of 13 people in an effort to keep the man from being released from a Texas prison in two years.
Coral E. Watts (search), 50, is serving a burglary sentence that came in a plea bargain barring the government from using his confessions. Cox said a first-degree murder charge was to be filed later in the day in a Ferndale court against Watts in the 1979 stabbing death of a suburban Detroit woman.
The body of Helen Dutcher, 36, was found in the driveway of a Ferndale (search) dry cleaners. Police suspected Watts for years but never obtained the evidence to charge him. He was not granted immunity in Dutcher's death.
The break came in January after Cox appealed for public help to solve the case. After he appeared on the show, a witness came forward again with information that allowed him to press charges.
"This man is a confessed killing machine who has promised to kill again," Cox said at a news conference announcing the charge.
In 1989, Michigan law enforcement officials said Watts was a suspect in the slayings of at least 18 women in the Detroit area. Watts, who told authorities that he would kill again if he ever got out, is a suspect in dozens of other deaths, officials said.
At one point, he was the prime suspect in 1980's killings of three Ann Arbor women.
Kalamazoo police said in January that they planned to seek charges tying Watts to the 1974 stabbing of Western Michigan University (search) student Gloria Steele, 19.
Watts has been imprisoned in Texas since 1982 on a 60-year sentence after pleading guilty to burglary with intent to commit murder. Watts broke into the home of two women in Houston and tied up one and assaulted the other in a bathtub.
Houston police, who had been looking into Watts after being told to watch him by Ann Arbor police, interrupted the attack after one of the women was able to flee and call for help.
Watts' release was moved up to 2006 because of good behavior credits.
After his arrest in 1982, police officers from several states went to Houston to question Watts, who began confessing to killings after promises of immunity. Grosse Pointe Farms (search) sent an officer to Texas, who carried a letter guaranteeing immunity from then-Wayne County Prosecutor William Cahalan.
The officer reported that Watts confessed to him about three killings, including that of Jeanne Clyne, 35, a former Detroit News food writer who was stabbed on a sidewalk in Grosse Pointe Farms in 1979.
In a 1982 Free Press report, Texas authorities said Watts told them that in his 14 months in Texas before his burglary arrest, he killed nine women in Houston and three in Galveston. He directed police to the grave sites of two missing women and a missing 14-year-old girl.
His confessions were the result of an agreement with a Texas district court judge, who said that in total Watts claimed killed women in Texas, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.