At the age of 15 Coral had already broken into a woman’s home and sexually assaulted her, she had been a customer on his paper route. For this crime Coral was sent to a mental institution to be evaluated. The teen had a reputation for fighting all the time at school, but he really seemed to enjoy picking fights with girls. He had poor impulse control, an IQ of 70 (though he was a brilliant killer, honestly), and the psych Dr said he had homicidal tendencies. Nevertheless, he was permitted to go back to school. He not only continued to harass his female peers, Coral began to stalk them as well.
After graduation, Coral received a football scholarship to Lane College in Tennessee, but that didn’t last long; within 3 months he was kicked out for stalking and sexually assaulting a female student. On top of this, he was suspected of a murder, which was probably the first of many. Coral moved back home and continued his college in Kalamazoo. In his early 20’s he became a father to a little girl and later married, but becoming a family man did not deter the man from killing.
October 25th of 1974, Lenore Knizacky was attacked by a man who’d knocked on her door. Lennie was extremely fortunate as she actually survived. Not even a week later, 19 year old Gloria Steele was tortured and stabbed 33 times; the stab wounds made a strange pattern. Soon after this murder, a woman named Diane Williams was attacked after she answered the door. She fought for her life, lived, and was actually able to describe her attacker and his vehicle to police.
Police bright Coral in and he was picked out of a line up. He admitted to assaulting 15 women, but refused to speak of any murders. Again Coral was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation; he was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Again the Dr warned that he had violent tendencies and was likely to harm someone. No matter, he only spent a year incarcerated for these crimes and our killer was set free.
In 1980, 3 Ann Arbor women were murdered: 17 year old Shirley Small died after being stabbed repeatedly while walking on the side of the road, 26 year old Glenda Richmond was found right inside the entrance to her home; she’d been stabbed 28 times the moment she’d answered her front door. 30 year old Rebecca Greer Huff was stabbed 54 times right outside her front door. Each of these women were killed on a Sunday morning, several weeks apart. A police officer from Detroit recognized this killer’s MO immediately, he just knew it was Coral. In all 3 murders the stab wounds made the same distinct pattern he recognized from the murder of Gloria Steele.
Investigators brought their suspect in for questioning, and though he didn’t really deny being the killer, Coral didn’t admit it either. Not having enough evidence to hold him, police had to let Coral go. This would be an ongoing theme, police knew Coral was responsible for murder but he left zero evidence at the scene so they couldn’t charge him. That said, investigators did begin surveillance on their suspect, but he knew he was being watched, so Coral was on his best behavior.
Eventually police stopped watching him so closely, and Coral skipped town.
Michigan authorities found Coral had moved to Texas, they even called Texas to inform them there was a killer in their midst. Houston Police trailed the man for 2 months, but constant surveillance on a suspect usually isn’t in the budget; Coral wasn’t doing anything wrong while police were watching anyways. So they had to settle for checking up with the known killer here and there.
Soon Houston women began dying. But Coral, who was no dummy when it came to murder, had learned something from his Michigan murders: switch up your MO! He threw investigators off by using different murder methods. Some he strangled, some he stabbed; one was hanged from a tree, one was drowned in a swimming pool. And it worked, these killings weren’t immediately connected to him.
In August of 1982, Coral tried to kill two women; he forced himself into their apartment when one of the women was coming home. He attacked one, knocked her out, then focused his attention on drawing a bath for her friend. As Coral was busy drowning the one victim, the other awoke and ran screaming for her life. She described actually jumping off the second story building and calling for a neighbor to get help. Coral ran when he realized his victim was free, but he was caught fleeing the scene. Luckily both women did survive, and both positively identified their attacker. Coral was charged with robbery with intent to kill.
Police still didn’t have the evidence to charge Coral with any murders so while he was incarcerated they struck a deal: if he confessed to his Texas murders, he would not be charged for them. Coral would receive immunity. Police felt this was better than nothing; while there would be no justice for the mourning victims families, at least they would finally have some answers. They anticipated Coral would be imprisoned forever for the attempted murders anyways so, everybody wins.
Coral sung like a bird. The killer admitted to stalking and killing 12 women: 11 in Texas and 1 homicide in Michigan. Coral stated that he would drive an hour or 2 away from home to find his victims, which is smart – as the old saying goes, you don’t s*it where you eat. He would then zero in on a victim, stalk her, and murder her. Coral did not give a hoot about race, he killed women of all skin tones between the ages of mid-teens to 40’s. This killers weapon of choice was something he could stab wit; he’s known to have used carving tools, an icepick, screwdriver, a scalpel, a knife. He was so cooperative, the killer even lead investigators to 3 of his victim’s bodies.
When asked why he killed these women, Coral said he believed them to be evil; they all had evil in their eyes. His ritual was, after they were dead he’d steal something personal which belonged to them, and he would destroy this item. By burning the object, he was “banishing their evil spirits”. Then, after killing early on a Sunday morning, he would make sure he was back home in time for Sunday morning service at his Pentecostal church!
So I already mentioned that Coral was originally tried for burglary with intent to commit murder. He plead guilty to this and was sentenced to the maximum: 60 years. But there was a technicality! With gain time for good behavior he was to be freed after serving much less than half of his sentence. Coral himself was actually the one who caught a loop hole in his case. Investigators said they’ve never seen a luckier criminal; if there was a technicality or a break to catch, Coral would catch it every single time.
This killer actually won his appeal. Due to a mistake, the water in the bath tub with which he attempted to drown his surviving victim could not be considered a murder weapon! His charge was downgraded- he was only guilty of burglary, not attempted murder. Within 2 years of having his charges amended Texas would have to free a confessed serial killer, and there was absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that there would be a trail of blood wherever Coral Watts went.
Michigan was in a state of panic, they absolutely could not allow this man to walk free! They tracked down a witness to the decades old murder of Helen Dutcher, and they decided to try their luck by finally prosecuting Coral for that and the killing of Gloria Steele. The judge deemed Coral’s former murder confessions admissible in the trial, the ones he could not be tried for, and his surviving victims were brought in to testify. In the pics you’ll see one victim, Ontario’s Irene Kondratowiz, demonstrating the way Coral slashed her throat. There were several women who survived an attack from Coral.
In 2004, the killer was found guilty and sentenced to life in a Michigan cell. We will never know how many lives this saved.
The victim’s families are still upset about the way this whole thing was handled. Had police notified the city that there had been a serial killer on the loose, maybe some of these women could’ve protected themselves. Most surely wouldn’t have been out walking alone or answering their doors. Though we know for a fact that he killed almost two dozen, it’s believed Coral’s true body count to be at least 70-100+. He did tell police there were 80 more victims in Michigan and Canada, but because no one would offer him immunity again the killer took this info with him to the grave.
Coral Eugene Watts died of prostate cancer in 2007 while still serving his time in a Michigan prison.