Murder charges dismissed against parents over deadly fire

Charges dismissed against couple accused in deadly fire
August 6, 2013 4:32:08 PM PDT
There are new developments in an investigation into the deaths of two children, killed in a tragic house fire a decade ago. For the past 10 years, the parents of one of the victims have been under the microscope and even accused of murder. Now those charges have been dropped.

The process went through three different district attorneys, lots of investigators and even the ATF was involved. In the end, they say, there just wasn't enough evidence to continue with the case.

Inside his church sanctuary, Rev. Raymond Farley Sr., admits he's angry.

"It's just so unfair, because you know that justice has not prevailed," he said.

Farley has been fighting for justice ever since his son, Raymond, Jr., was one of two children killed at a house fire a decade ago. But last Friday, his worst fears came true. The murder charges against Sharon Watkins and her estranged husband David Watkins were dismissed.

"It was not a total surprise," said David Singer, defense attorney for David Watkins. "I had been given the impression this case was never going to proceed against David Watkins for some time."

This all began in 2003, when the Watkins home went up in flames. Their young daughter Shanda, and Raymond, Jr., died in the fire. But the Watkins weren't indicted on murder charges until 2008. A 2011 trial of Sharon Watkins ended in a hung jury. Her defense attorney, Todd Dupont, says simply the science didn't support the charge.

"I'm saying this entire case is a fundamental tragedy, but it really goes down to understanding the science behind fire investigations," Dupont said.

The DA's office won't elaborate, but after extensive help this year from ATF investigators, the office concluded there was not enough evidence to convict the Watkins beyond a reasonable doubt. Pastor Farley says he'll now rely on a higher power.

He said, "Since the system failed, well, I know God won't fail, so they'll get their just due."

Sharon Watkins had those charges dismissed but she remains behind bars in an unrelated bank robbery case. David Watkins says he's trying to put what's left of his life back together.

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