The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Watson murder trial set June 3


James Lamar Watson Jr. will go on trial for the 1997 murder of his wife, Beverley, beginning June 3 in Fulton County Superior Court.

One of Fayette County's most celebrated cases, Beverley Watson was the focus of an intense search following her sudden disappearance from her east Fayette home in the middle of the night five years ago. Her husband, Jim Watson, 38, was considered an unofficial suspect in his wife's disappearance even before her remains were discovered in a wooded area of south Fulton County two years later, authorities reported at the time.

Watson was indicted for murder in January by a Fulton County grand jury, almost five years to the day of his wife's disappearance. Watson is currently out on bond, with strict orders from Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. not to have any contact with potential witnesses in the case.

Watson had told police his wife left their home Jan. 18, 1997, without a coat, leaving behind family vehicles, a purse, her car keys and two children.

The case has taken a number of twists and turns before Watson's arrest. In July 1999, he took custody of his wife's remains and had them cremated before they could be preserved as evidence.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, which had examined the remains, eventually concluded that the cause of her death was undetermined.

The case has also resulted in several federal lawsuits. In one, months after his wife's disappearance, Jim Watson sued the Fayette County Sheriff's Department over a traffic stop that was ordered by Maj. Bruce Jordan, the lead investigator for the department. Jordan countersued for slander, but both suits were dismissed by a federal judge.

The traffic stop was for having illegally tinted windows, and deputies discovered a gun in the vehicle that was later returned to Jim Watson.

The department was also sued in another case relating to the traffic stop as a former lieutenant at the Sheriff's Department claimed he was wrongfully fired for speaking to Watson's attorney about the traffic stop after department officials told him not to.

Watson was first publicly identified as the prime suspect in a hearing on that case in May of 2000 by Jordan and several other deputies.

After learning Mrs. Watson's remains were found, a local attorney turned over documents to authorities that she had given him in case she were ever found dead. The attorney, Jim Bischoff, represented Mrs. Watson in a divorce proceeding she brought several years prior to her disappearance that was never consummated.

Mrs. Watson's father, Fred Callaway, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jim Watson, which was ultimately settled in August 2000. Callaway lodged the suit on behalf of the Watsons' two children, but the details of the settlement were not released.