Alabama man waives extradition in honeymoon death
LOS ANGELES – An Alabama man accused of murdering his wife while they were on their Australian honeymoon in 2003 has waived his extradition rights in California, and authorities have 30 days to return him to his home state.
Gabe Watson made his initial court appearance in Los Angeles on Tuesday, wearing khaki pants and a green hooded sweat shirt that said "South Sydney" on the back. Watson, who wasn't in handcuffs, did not say anything before Superior Court Judge Hilleri Merritt as he bowed his head behind a glass partition.
One of his attorneys, Brett Bloomston, told The Associated Press that the 33-year-old has waived extradition proceedings and wants to return home.
"He would have already been back in Birmingham if the attorney general had allowed him to come back and turn himself in," Bloomston said.
Alabama Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska said prosecutors were following the normal procedure used in cases involving serious crimes. Watson probably would not be returned to Birmingham for at least three days, when he will be taken to the Jefferson County Jail, Valeska said.
Bloomston said Watson's legal team will ask for an expedited hearing to have him released on bond as soon as he arrives in Birmingham.
Watson served 18 months in an Australian prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the drowning of his wife, Tina Watson, during a scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef. He arrived in Los Angeles on Thanksgiving after he was deported from Melbourne, Australia.
Australia, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge that U.S. authorities wouldn't seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors believe Watson devised a plan to kill his wife of 11 days in Alabama before the trip, which gives the state jurisdiction over her death.
Watson was indicted by an Alabama grand jury on capital murder in the course of kidnapping, and capital murder for pecuniary gain. The charges were sealed until Watson reached the U.S.
Australian officials argued that Watson killed his 26-year-old wife by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater. Queensland Coroner David Glasgow said a possible motive for the killing was Tina Watson's modest life insurance policy.
Bloomston said a $33,000 insurance payment was made to Tina Watson's father, not her husband.
Associated Press writer Bob Johnson in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.