Murder suspect arrives in U.S. after deportation from Australia
An Alabama man who served prison time in Australia for his wife's drowning death during their honeymoon returned Thursday to the U.S., where he faces murder charges that could carry a much stiffer punishment.
Gabe Watson, 33, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday morning after he was deported on a commercial flight from Melbourne, Australia. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Watson was accompanied by two Immigration Department staff and three Queensland state police officers. Watson cleared customs within an hour and was taken away in handcuffs.
He was booked at a local police substation after his arrival, said Los Angeles police Lt. Aaron McCraney. Watson will probably make a court appearance in Los Angeles before being sent to Alabama.
Alabama hopes to arrange to bring Watson back to the state early next week, said Atty. Gen. Troy King. King said Australian authorities showed too much leniency to Watson, who served an 18-month sentence in that country after pleading guilty last year to manslaughter. Tina Watson, 26, drowned in 2003 while scuba diving with her husband of 11 days.
Gabe Watson had been in immigration custody since completing a prison sentence earlier this month. Australia, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge that U.S. authorities would not seek the death penalty.
“The Australians extorted from the state and the victim's family to water down our justice, just like they watered down theirs,” King said.
Gabe Watson will not fight extradition to Alabama because he wants to be home with friends and family, said his attorney, Brett Bloomston. Bloomston accused the prosecutor of grandstanding and trying to emotionally sway the grand jury by convening its session on the seven-year anniversary of Tina Watson's death.
“His goal has been to get to Birmingham to get home to his family, to answer these charges immediately upon release of his custodial sentence in Australia,” Bloomston said.
Prosecutors said Watson was indicted by an Alabama grand jury on capital murder in the course of kidnapping and capital murder for pecuniary gain. The charges were sealed until Watson reached the United States, and King refused to discuss the evidence in the case in detail.