By Linda Cicoira
A Chincoteague man, who put the muzzle of a handgun to the back of his 70-year-old father’s head and then shot and killed him in 2020, was given the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court.
In December of 2020, 49-year-old Thomas (Tommy) Lee Watson Jr., of Church Street, asked for a trial by jury and entered a plea of not guilty to second-degree murder of Thomas Lee “Big Tommy” Watson Sr. Then, at a July trial, the defendant admitted to the lesser charge in a plea bargain with Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan.
“Mr. Watson has failed to understand fully his actions,” Morgan said, arguing for the maximum term and explaining there were no witnesses to the crime. The prosecutor said Watson “denied acting intentionally to end his father’s life,” but there was enough evidence to prove malice. The bargain was struck to avoid the possibility of the defendant being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Morgan said blood and hair, from the victim, were found on the firearm.
“The callous behavior in the handling of the firearm shows he is a danger,” Morgan added. He mentioned that Watson had gotten his firearm rights restored less than a year before the incident occurred, but did not provide details.
Court records show Watson’s blood alcohol content was .12 percent. His father had not been drinking, according to the file. 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.
“I’m sorry for being here today,” Watson told Judge W. Revell Lewis III. “I feel like I’ve let myself down. I’ve let my father down. Never in a million years would I think something like this would happen … He was supporting me … We had a good relationship all of my life … I wouldn’t wish this on anybody in this world … This stops when I take my last breath … I wouldn’t wish this on Hitler … I’m never going to be happy again …” Watson said when he gets out of prison, he wants to volunteer to help others learn about gun safety at a hunter course. He had been to such a course with his son before the incident occurred. He said he wanted to get back to his family.
Defense lawyer Thomas Northam asked for “a fair and reasonable” sentence. He presented letters from two of Watson’s former employers that spoke favorably of him. “He did call 9-1-1. He called his mother. He reported it … He stayed at the scene. He didn’t alter the scene in anyway. Didn’t clean anything … He was upset. He was devastated.” Northam said, “An officer offered him a trashcan because he thought he was going to throw up” at a previous hearing. The lawyer said his client was financially dependent on his father because he broke his back and had no reason to hurt him. Northam argued Watson had one traffic accident in the last 20 years. “He is going to have to deal with this for the rest of his life.”
Lewis would suspend none of the sentence. He also ordered three years of supervision for Watson after release. “I don’t understand under any circumstances, that someone would hold up a handgun and put the muzzle of it up to the back of a person’s head.”