Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 23, 2010

Watkins found guilty of first-degree murder

By TESA CULLI
tesa.culli@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — It took less than an hour of deliberation for a jury to find Christopher Watkins guilty of robbery and first-degree murder.

Watkins, 26, was found guilty for his part in the robbery and shooting death of Randall Farrar on July 1, 2006. The 53-year-old businessman was found at the bottom of his basement stairs by an employee after the July 4 holiday weekend. Farrar had been beaten and shot twice in the head.

Watkins was the third defendant to be found guilty in the murder. His brother, Demetrius Cole, was found guilty of shooting Farrar during the robbery by a jury in March. Cole’s girlfriend, Krysta Donoho, was found guilty of first-degree murder and robbery by a jury in November 2007.

Thursday morning, jurors arrived in court expecting to hear the evidence presented by Watkins’ defense team. However, the defense rested without presenting any witnesses or evidence. Judge Terry Gamber questioned Watkins to be sure he knew he wasn’t required to present evidence but he had the right. Gamber also asked Watkins if he had been able to discuss the decision with his lawyers, and Watkins said he did.

During closing statements, special prosecutor Danny Kay explained to the jury that legally, Watkins is guilty of first-degree murder under the theory of accountability if someone he was with killed Farrar during the commission of the robbery. Defense attorney Sean Featherstun, in his closing arguments, said Watkins was not guilty of first-degree murder if he was in imminent danger of death or bodily injury.

The jury received the case for deliberations at 2:25 p.m., and by 3:25 p.m., the jury returned with a verdict.

“I’m happy we have the matter concluded,” Kay said after the verdict was read and the jury polled about their decision. “We are pleased with the verdict.”

Gamber revoked the $5 million bond on Watkins and ordered the probation department to prepare a pre-sentence investigation. A status on the sentencing has been set for Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m.