State to decide whether or not to try woman in deadly fire case

October 10, 2011 9:55:11 AM PDT
A Houston-area woman accused of setting a fire that killed two children could find out today whether she will be retried on murder charges.

Sharon Watkins' first trial ended in a hung jury last week. Her 8-year-old daughter and a family friend's 16-year-old boy were killed in that fire back in 2003.

The murder case is still pending, but Watkins also has two robbery charges against her. Prosecutors told us Monday they plan to go to trial on the robbery charges and depending on what happens there, they will then possibly move forward on the murder trial.

"If she doesn't plead guilty to the robberies and the felony murders, we'll go forward on the robberies. And then once that's finished -- after we've determined what happens with that, if she's found guilty and what her sentence is -- that will determine what we do with the felony murders," said prosecutor Colleen Barnett.

After two days of deliberating on the murder case last week, jurors said they couldn't come to a unanimous decision.

Watkins is charged with two felony counts of murder. She's accused of intentionally setting a fire inside her own northwest-side home in May of 2003. The fire killed her own 8-year-old daughter, Shanda, and 16-year-old Raymond Farley, Jr. Farley was spending the night at the home of Sharon and David Watkins that evening.

David Watkins was his music teacher and the two were supposed to travel for a music event the next day.

On Friday, seven jurors believed Mrs. Watkins was guilty. Five said they believed she was not guilty.

Prosecutors said the murder charges will not be dismissed, but the defense said the state should strongly consider retrying a case that they say lacks evidence.

"This jury was split down the middle, in essence, so I think the state of Texas probably needs to take a little bit more time to decide whether or not to retry the murder cases," said defense attorney Todd DuPont.

David Watkins, her husband, is also charged with two counts of felony murder. He's out on bond. His trial date hasn't been set.

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