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Dontae Morris gets a message home from Hillsborough jail, with help from Andre Watkins

TAMPA — At the Orient Road Jail, four notorious inmates share a cluster of solitary cells while awaiting trial.

Humberto Delgado, accused of killing a Tampa police corporal.

Dontae Morris, accused of killing two Tampa police officers.

Edward Covington, accused of killing his girlfriend, her children and the family dog.

And Andre Watkins, accused of killing a 19-year-old woman in a spray of bullets and wounding two others in a north Tampa rampage.

Their cells are stacked two on top of two. Watkins, for a time, had the one above Morris. Neighbors in these cells cannot socialize face-to-face and have little contact with the outside world. But they share walls and air vents, said sheriff's Col. Jim Previtera. And they yell into them.

That must have been how Watkins knew to call Morris' grandmother with a message. A recording of the jailhouse call is part of a mound of new materials prosecutors released Friday in the Watkins case. The call, undated, provides no huge revelation in either case, but gives a glimpse into life in the jail.

"Hello. … This is Andre calling you."

"Who? Andre?" the grandmother asks. "Who is Andre?"

"I'm with Dontae."

"You're with Dontae?"

"Yeah," Watkins says. "I'm locked up with him.

"And?"

"He's locked in his room," Watkins says.

"They won't let him out?"

"He can't call you till September," Watkins says, "around his mother's birthday, cause he got in a little bit of trouble …"

"Can you hold on?" the woman asks. "Let me get his mother on the phone?"

"Oh, sure I can," Watkins says.

The grandmother, Phyllis Hunter, dials the mother, Selecia Watson.

"What kind of trouble did he get in?" the grandmother asks.

"He was writing letters to girls," Watkins said.

"Okay, hold on just one moment," the grandmother says, and starts talking to Morris' mother. "I've got somebody on the phone named Andre. He said he's calling for Sweet Pea …"

Throughout the call, they talk a little bit more about Morris' "trouble," something about trying to write to another inmate. They talk about lockup and canteen money and a lawyer visit. Watkins says he'll make sure Morris has what he needs to write home. And the grandmother asks him to relay a message:

"You tell him that we love him … and tell him we're still praying for him, although he say he don't pray, tell him we're still praying for him."

Later on, Watkins tells her he has to speak low, because people are watching him. The grandmother says he should hang up if he will get in trouble.

"I ain't worried about it," Watkins says, "I'm good. … They don't want to mess with me."

The grandmother laughs.

"Andre — what's your last name, Andre?"

"I'm Andre Watkins, ma'am."

"Andre Watkins?" the grandmother says. "Andre Watkins," the grandmother tells the mother. "Okay, she said, 'Was that at the graduation party?' "

"No, not that one," Watkins says. "I know which one she's talking about. He's a little kid that got caught with that graduation party."

(Khayri McCray was a senior at Spoto High School when he was accused of murder at a Riverview graduation party.)

"Mine was before that," Watkins tells her.

"Dontae's mother says thank you so much for calling us."

"Oh, I wish I could do more for her," Watkins says.

"Well," the grandmother says, "we appreciate that."

Before they hang up, Watkins tells her, "I won't let none of them hurt him."

"Well, we appreciate that," the grandmother says, "because we know he's not being treated fairly."

"Yeah," Watkins says. "He's not gonna be treated fairly."

"Well," the grandmother says, "we know."

"You know why, too," Watkins responds.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Dontae Morris gets a message home from Hillsborough jail, with help from Andre Watkins 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 10:37pm]

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