Advertisement
  1. News

Former landscaper gets 20 years in beating death of retired Tampa teacher

Carlos Cordero, 50, appears in court for sentencing Friday in the beating death of an 81-year-old man. Cordero pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and r3exceived a sentence of 20 years. [WTVT-Ch. 13]
Published Jun. 14

TAMPA — Al Watton was a man who loved God, his country and his family. He was a Marine, a veteran of the Korean War, and a 25-year educator with Hillsborough County schools who was said to have sparked in his students a passion for learning.

In 2016, he hired a man to cut the grass in his yard. There was a disagreement about money and the man attacked the 81-year-old retiree, leaving him with fatal head injuries. Watton died in a hospital Aug. 31, 2016.

On Friday, Carlos Alberto Cordero was ordered to serve 20 years in prison for the crime, followed by 10 years probation. It was the result of a plea agreement to a reduced charge of second-degree murder.

Cordero, 50, stood at a lectern in a Tampa courtroom beside his attorney. Wearing handcuffs, he gazed downward throughout the hour-long hearing, scarcely glancing at Watton's family members as they took the witness stand.

"In short, he was a great man," said his son-in-law Jeff Sims. "And that's what makes the senselessness of this crime so hard to deal with."

The witnesses sought to memorialize for the court record the man they lost and the things he accomplished in his eight decades of life.

Alfred William Watton was born Jan. 24, 1935, to a family that grew to nine children. He was a deacon at Tampa Primitive Baptist Church. He organized a family reunion every year for more than half a century. He and his wife, Lena Ann, were married more than 50 years.

He taught a number of subjects to middle school-aged kids, including science and social studies. He retired as an occupational specialist at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School. He coached Little League and taught night school to foreign students.

"He isn't just a case number on a docket," said his daughter, Alicia Watton. "He was my dad."

He was described as quiet and humble, a man who opened his wallet when he heard that the man who would end up killing him had fallen on hard times.

"It is my prayer that I will one day forgive this man for what he did," Alicia Watton said. "I'm not there yet."

In the three years that the case was pending, Cordero unsuccessfully sought to claim his attack on the elderly man was self-defense, citing Florida's stand your ground law.

Watton had paid him $22 for yard work at his north Tampa home. Cordero argued that he was owed more. He claimed Watton pushed him and then he pushed him back. Watton fell and hit his head.

A medical examiner later determined that Watton suffered at least two severe blows, which caused his skull to fracture, and that the injuries were not the result of a fall.

After the attack, Cordero removed Watton's shorts and took his wallet, which held $120.

Lena Watton found her husband mortally injured hours later.

The self-defense claim angered Watton's family was rejected by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Laura Ward.

When Cordero had the chance to speak, he let his lawyer talk for him.

"My client has asked me to express his sorrow to the family for their loss," Assistant Public Defender Joseph Larrinaga said.

Cordero was led from the courtroom without saying a word.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com. Follow @TimesDan.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. St. Petersburg police said Sophie Solis, 43, was found dead in her car, which was parked in her driveway at 7380 Organdy Dr. N. A concerned friend found her there after being unable to reach Solis. Google Earth
    Police said the car was parked in her driveway at 7380 Organdy Dr. N in the Meadowlawn neighborhood.
  2. Ricky Fitzgerald Hathorn, 50, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for the 2015 murders of Tommy Skeens and Lara Kuchar. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    A jury found Ricky Fitzgerald Hathorn guilty in the 2015 slayings of Tommy Skeens and Lara Kuchar. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
  3. Travis Polk, 30, seen here in a public photo on his Facebook page, died on Nov. 16, 2019, six days after he was critically injured in a fight with his half brother Jose Vasquez, Jr. outside of Brandon Crossroads Bowl, authorities say. Vasquez was charged with manslaughter. Facebook
    Travis Polk, 30, died after his head hit the pavement multiple times while fighting with Jose Vasquez, Jr., who is now charged with manslaughter, records show.
  4. The New York Times newspaper on the shelf at the Citrus County Library Lakes Region at 1511 Druid Rd. on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 in Inverness. The Citrus County Commison was looking to eliminate the cost of the New York Times digital subscriptions because they say it is "Fake News." A former Mets GM has stepped up and wants to donate money to the Citrus County Libraries to cover the cost of the subscriptions. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After Citrus commissioners voted down the digital subscription, library leaders say they cannot accept thousands of dollars from GoFundMe pages.
  5. In this Nov. 2, 2017, photo, Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, speaks with reporters following a day of questions from the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The finding is part of a Justice Department inspector general investigation into the FBI’s probe of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Tuesday, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) EVAN VUCCI  |  AP
    The President called in to “Fox & Friends” to say he was trying to root out corruption in the Eastern European nation when he withheld aid over the summer.
  7. An aerial view of Florida Ave. directly across from E. Kentucky Ave. where Zion Cemetery is once located.  Today, the property is owned by Richard Gonzmart. SANTANA, LUIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Richard Gonzmart says he previously misspoke. He expects to know for sure by the end of the year.
  8. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    He was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg as a “trauma alert” with potentially life-threatening injuries
  9. Pinellas Pasco Circuit Court Judge William H. Burgess III, listens in court Friday during a hearing in the case against James Rybicki, 63. Burgess earlier this month wrote an excoriating order tossing out evidence collected in a search of Rybicki's home, saying prosecutors and detectives lied to obtain the warrant. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Prosecutors did not drop charges against Rybicki at a Friday hearing, despite a judge’s order in which he excoriated investigators for lying to obtain a search warrant. The judge wrote the cause could...
  10. A Spirit Airlines plane before getting ready to push back and depart from one of their four gates at the Tampa International Airport on Tuesday. Spirit, a low-cost, Florida-based airline, has increased the number of cities it serves from Tampa 50 percent in two years. And in a recent 12-month period, Spirit's passengers accounted for 38 percent of the airport's total growth in passengers. Spirit is not only raising its profile in Tampa. It is pursuing rapid growth nationwide, with plans to move its corporate headquarters from Miramar to a new $250 million headquarters building in Dania Beach in Broward County. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    In 12 months, the number of passengers at Tampa International Airport has grown by about 1.1 million. Spirit Airlines accounts for 38 percent of those fliers.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement