By Linda Cicoira

A Chincoteague man, who claimed he accidentally shot his father in the back of the head in 2020, pleaded guilty Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death.

Forty-nine-year-old Thomas (Tommy) Lee Watson Jr., of School Street, was initially charged with the second-degree murder of his 70-year-old father, who was known as “Big Tommy.”

The two men lived in the same house on the island. The son told authorities they were “playing” with a .9 mm handgun when the incident occurred. Murder was reduced to manslaughter in a plea agreement with Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan.

The prosecutor also agreed not to pursue a count of use of a firearm in a felony. A deal was not made regarding punishment.

Judge W. Revell Lewis accepted the agreement and found Watson guilty. He set sentencing for Nov. 4. A presentence report was ordered and Watson was remanded to jail.

The maximum punishment for second-degree murder is 40 years in prison. The amended charge could bring up to 10 years. Watson has been in jail since April 30, 2020.

Morgan said the shooting was reported by both the defendant’s mother and the defendant. The victim was found in a bedroom. The pistol was discovered in the defendant’s bedroom.

“He denied acting intentionally to end his father’s life,” said Morgan. However, the prosecutor added, there was enough evidence to prove malice. The defendant was intoxicated when police arrived at the scene, Morgan said. The deal was struck to avoid the possibility of the defendant being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. There were “only two people in this room,” Morgan said.

Defense lawyer Thomas Northam said the defendant broke his back months earlier and had been financially dependent on his father. “He had no reason to do that. He called 9-1-1. He called his mother. He stated there was no fight. He did not alter, or clean anything,” Northam said. “He’s lost everything. Lost his father. Lost his freedom, his livelihood, his family.”

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Alexa WESR