Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando child sex battery suspect nabbed on the run in Louisiana

BROOKSVILLE — Nine years ago, James Eugene Watkins was convicted of attempting to sexually attack two children younger than 12.

One case stemmed from Columbia County, and the other came from Suwannee County. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to concurrent 10-year prison sentences.

Watkins was freed in August 2010. Soon after, the 33-year-old moved to Hernando County, where he registered as a sexual predator and moved near his girlfriend on Buffalo Lane.

On Wednesday, authorities say, they learned of a new, horrifying accusation against Watkins — over the last month, he had raped a 5-year-old girl.

Just 48 hours after Hernando sheriff's deputies began the manhunt, Louisiana State Police stopped Watkins Friday afternoon on a highway about 60 miles north of New Orleans and arrested him without incident. He will soon be extradited to Florida and likely will face counts of sexual battery and violation of probation.

"We take anybody who is given the title of sexual predator to be a very serious threat," said Hernando Detective Tommy Breedlove. "Not every predator is as serious as Mr. Watkins; he's done some pretty bad things."

Breedlove, who led the investigation, had just walked into his home when he got a call that his suspect had been caught.

"It was elation," he said of that moment. "I was almost in tears."

The search, he said, had not paused in the two days after deputies learned of the alleged rape. The Sheriff's Office deployed K-9 units and helicopters. Deputies frequented his home. Authorities issued a statewide alert and asked U.S. Marshals to help.

"Mine," Breedlove said, "were not the only sleepless nights."

Soon, investigators discovered that Watkins had family in Georgia or Mississippi and that he might have been trying to escape into Mexico.

Police caught him in a 2001 Kia Sephia driving west on Interstate 12 near Hammond, La., about 700 miles from the Mexican border.

"It was a great relief to learn that he was in custody," Breedlove said. "It was a big burden off of everybody's shoulders."

Information from Associated Press files contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@sptimes.com.

Hernando child sex battery suspect nabbed on the run in Louisiana 09/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2011 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should about'

    Blogs

    TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.
  2. Here's what Florida's gubernatorial contenders say about removing Confederate monuments from public lands

    Blogs

    Gwen Graham: "Our state's role in the Civil War and the deplorable promotion of slavery still cause deep pain today. We all have a responsibility to combat racism and hate wherever it …

    Protesters climb the Confederate Memorial in Tampa on Sunday night after more than 200 people marched down the streets of downtown Tampa to protest white supremacy. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Hillsborough Flaggers plan are standing guard now to protect the statute.
  3. Here's what Florida's gubernatorial contenders say about removing Confederate monuments from public lands

    Blogs

    Gwen Graham: "Our state's role in the Civil War and the deplorable promotion of slavery still cause deep pain today. We all have a responsibility to combat racism and hate wherever it …

    Protesters climb the Confederate Memorial in Tampa on Sunday night after more than 200 people marched down the streets of downtown Tampa to protest white supremacy. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Hillsborough Flaggers plan are standing guard now to protect the statute.
  4. U.S. teen drug overdose deaths inch up after years of decline

    Health

    NEW YORK — After years of decline, teen deaths from drug overdoses have inched up, a new U.S. government report shows.

    OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. A report found drug overdose deaths among U.S. teens inched up in 2015 after years of decline. The report was released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [AP (2013)]
  5. UF denies white supremacist Richard Spencer's request to speak on campus

    College

    Citing "serious concerns for campus safety," University of Florida leaders have denied white nationalist Richard Spencer's application to speak on campus next month.

    White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Lee Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering Aug. 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. [Getty Images]