Published: Thursday, November 25, 2010, 6:56 PM ??? Updated: Thursday, November 25, 2010, 7:57 PM
A Hoover man recently released from an Australian prison after serving 18 months for manslaughter in the 2003 drowning death of his wife has been charged with two counts of capital murder.
Gabe Watson, 33, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday morning after he was deported on a commercial flight from Melbourne. He was taken in handcuffs to the 77th Street Community Police Station for booking, and a police lieutenant there said Watson would likely make a court appearance before being sent to Alabama.
Don Valeska, chief of the Alabama attorney general's violent crime division, confirmed Thursday that Watson was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on Oct. 22. on capital murder in the course of kidnapping and capital murder for pecuniary gain.
Charges were sealed until Watson returned to the United States.
The indictment lists as count one that Watson caused the death of Christina "Tina" Watson of Helena by drowning her for pecuniary gain or other valuable considerations, proceeds from a life insurance policy, according to Valeska.
In count two, Watson caused the death of Tina Watson by drowning her during an abduction to accomplish a murder, Valeska said.
The indictment states that Alabama prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.
Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Australia, admitting he failed to render aid to his dive buddy -- his wife of 11 days.
Australian authorities had charged Watson with murder but accepted his plea to manslaughter. He was released from prison Nov. 11 but detained in Australia while officials there sought assurances from the U.S. government that he would not face the death penalty should murder charges be brought against him in Alabama.
Brett Bloomston, Watson's Birmingham attorney, said neither charge is a viable theory of prosecution.
Bloomston said his client was not a beneficiary of any insurance policy and said the kidnapping charge is "as ludicrous as it sounds."
"To prove that, the attorney general will have to offer that Gabe tricked Tina into falling in love with him, into marrying him, into traveling halfway across the world and going scuba diving," Bloomston said. "It really is a screwball theory."
Tina Watson's father, Tommy Thomas, said the family has remained confident that Waston would face Alabama charges.
"We believed that the evidence that got him indicted in Australia would also get him indicted here," Thomas said.
Thomas said he hopes Watson will not receive bail upon his return to Alabama.
I would want him to stay in jail because I know if he's out, his attorneys will do everything they can to avoid and delay a trail, but if he's locked up, they'll be eager to get this to trial and get this done," Thomas said.
Bloomston said if it wasn't for Attorney General Troy King, Watson would already be in Alabama.
"The fact is, Gabe will wave extradition to Alabama," Bloomston said. He had requested that King allow Watson to turn himself in, but said the request was ignored.
"What is Attorney General King afraid of?" Bloomston said. "Did Attorney General King fear Gabe would come back to the United States and go find a cave in Montana?"
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