JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The family of a Magee man killed in 1994 after being shot 10 times in what his assailant called an accident is asking the state Parole Board to keep Milton E. Watts behind bars.
W.P. “Jake” Shivers was shot to death on July 23, 1994, in the bathroom of his trailer at a hunting camp, Mims Mitchell Hunting Club, in Issaquena County. Prosecutors said the 71-year-old Shivers suffered 10 gunshot wounds fired from a .22-caliber rifle.
Watts, of Monticello, who frequently performed odd jobs for Shivers, told authorities — and testified at trial — that he had gone downstairs to get the rifle as Shivers asked and when he approached the bathroom looking for Shivers a jug came up and hit the gun. Watts said his reaction was that he pulled the trigger of the gun he was carrying and shot Shivers a total of 10 times.
According to court records, Watts cut the phone lines in the trailer, took Shivers’ wallet and truck keys and the gun, left the trailer and went to Yazoo City in Shivers’ truck. Authorities recovered the truck two days before Watts turned himself in on July 27.
Watts, now 49, was convicted of murder in 1995 in Issaquena County and sentenced to life in prison. Another 35 years was tacked on for armed robbery.
Shivers’ grandson, Torrey McAlpin of Katy, Texas, said the family is to meet with the Parole Board before the parole hearing sometime in May.
“I want to make sure this guy never sees the outside of a prison again,” he said.
Torrey McAlpin said officials told the family if Watts is paroled, he would be released in July.
Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the case. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Watts’ conviction and sentence in 1998.
“This situation is more about principle,” said another grandson, Shawn McAlpin of Katy, Texas. “Issaquena County being a very poor county did not have the funds for a capital murder trial. If this murder would have taken place say in Hinds or Rankin County, most likely he would be on death row.”
Mississippi did not have system in place in 1995 to help counties pay for appeals. A county — in this case, Issaquena — would likely have been expected to pay for all appeals. Death penalty appeals can run for decades.
“Due to the lack of funds at the time, we are now fighting a possible parole.
“Jake was an incredible man who was loved by lots of people. He was the heart of our family and we will continue to seek justice in his name. Twenty years just doesn’t seem fair,” said Shawn McAlpin.