Who’s who

Here are the primary characters in the Terrence Watson murder case:
  • Rene Young — judge
  • Barry Disney — deputy Kansas attorney general, prosecutor
  • Julie McKenna — Salina attorney, defense attorney.
  • Ernest J. Jones Jr., 22 — murdered Sept. 26
  • Taryn Dechant, 22 — murdered Sept. 26
  • Terrence J. Watson, 25, Los Angeles — charged with capital murder
  • Anna Hartman — Watson’s girlfriend, charged with aiding a felon
  • William Ward, 26 — Watson’s friend, allegedly drove with him to Nebraska to burn bloody clothing
  • Judy Jakabowsky — Hartman’s mother, testified that she taped Watson discussing the murders. Once represented by McKenna in a divorce case.
  • Dr. Erik Mitchell, Topeka — forensic pathologist
  • Andrew Newsum — Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent
  • Paul Forrester — Salina police lieutenant

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Death penalty sought in double homicide


Death penalty sought in double homicide


Salina Journal

The state intends to seek the death penalty against Terrence J. Watson for the murders of Taryn Dechant and Ernest Jones Jr., Deputy Attorney General Barry Disney announced Thursday after Watson was bound over for trial at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing.

Saline County District Judge Rene Young found there was probable cause to try the 25-year-old Los Angeles man on a capital murder charge. She set a trial date of Sept. 14, but it is likely to be postponed. Court officials anticipate the trial will last about three weeks, including nearly a week for jury selection.

A hearing was set for 9 a.m. Aug. 18 for the judge to hear any motions related to the trial.

In the notice of intent to request a separate sentencing phase to determine whether Watson should receive the death penalty, three aggravating circumstances were listed. Those were:

n More than one person was killed

n The crime was committed to avoid or prevent arrest or prosecution

n The victim was killed because he or she was a prospective witness in a criminal proceeding.

Watson is accused of shooting Dechant and Jones, both 22, in the apartment they shared. Their bodies were found Sept. 26.

‘The Taryn problem’

During Thursday’s preliminary hearing, Anna Hartman, an acquaintance of Dechant, testified about the night before and morning after the murders.

Around 11 p.m. Sept. 25, Hartman’s mother took her to the emergency room at Salina Regional Health Center because she hadn’t felt well all day.

“I like the hospital,” Hartman said. “I always think something’s wrong with me. I go there a lot.”

In the early morning hours of Sept. 26, Watson and William Ward took her home after a doctor told her she was probably about to have a miscarriage. When she got home, she started smoking meth, and Ward and Watson told her they had “taken care of the Taryn problem.”

She said Watson told her he went to Jones and Dechant’s apartment and shot them each twice. She said she was told that Ward held the door, but she did not know if that meant the apartment door or building door.

“Will said this could never be talked about, and in the morning I needed to act surprised,” she said. “Will said we needed to pray, and I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ ” She said Watson and Ward prayed.

Gonna cry? Do it now

The three of them got in Hartman’s car and drove toward Nebraska, she said. During the drive, Hartman said Ward admonished her several times about keeping quiet.

“He said the only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead,” she said. “He said, ‘If you’re going to cry, do it now. You can’t cry ever again.’ ”

She said a couple miles outside of Hubbell, Neb., they stopped on a dirt road. Ward and Watson removed two black trash bags from the car and pulled clothing items out of one of the bags. She said two sets of clothing and two beanie hats with eye holes cut in them were burned after gasoline was poured on them and they were lit on fire using lighters and old baby wipes from her car.

A gun was removed from the second bag and thrown into the fire, she said. Ward used a stick to fish out the gun, which was glowing red hot, and handed the stick with the gun on it to Watson, who flung it into the field, she said. She heard it thud on the ground.

“Will said, ‘Someone’s going to find that,’ and T (Watson) said, ‘I don’t care,’ ” she said.

For your own safety

Kansas Bureau of Investigations Agent Andrew Newsum testified that Hartman’s mother, Judy Jakabowsky, took agents to the location in Nebraska she thought the gun had been disposed of, but it was not found. He said the KBI signed an agreement with Jakabowsky to act as a confidential informant so that she would not be identified as the source of the information if the gun was found.

The agreement had nothing to do with tapes Jakabowsky said she recorded of conversations between herself and Watson, he said. He said agents told her several times to stay away from Watson for her own safety.

He said agents interviewed Jakabowsky on about nine occasions, meeting her at the public library or another public building.

“You have to build trust with people before they will talk to you,” he said. “You don’t marry your wife on the first date — at least most people don’t.”

Threatening text messages

Hartman also testified about an argument she and Dechant had via cellular phone text messages the week before the murders

Hartman testified that she believed Watson saw the text messages, which included threats to snitch about drug activity involving Hartman.

“I was probably ranting and raving about it all day,” Hartman said.

According to testimony on Wednesday, Watson was selling illegal drugs and frequently stayed at Hartman’s apartment and conducted drug transactions there.

Hartman was brought to court from prison, where she is serving a 59-month sentence negotiated in a plea agreement on drug charges filed after she was arrested the day the murders were discovered. A plea agreement has also been reached on charges against Hartman connected to the murders, but it is contingent on her truthful testimony at Watson’s court proceedings, Disney said.

Attorney Julie McKenna, who represents Watson, said the plea agreement is a “substantial benefit” to Hartman, who will be allowed to plead to aggravated battery, solicitation to commit aggravated battery and aiding a felon instead of first-degree murder. Several municipal court traffic cases against her will also be dismissed.

Hartman, who said she and Dechant were both heavy methamphetamine users, testified that Dechant threatened to snitch on her to police because Hartman threatened to report Dechant to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services for using a belt on her 4-year-old after the child misbehaved at the doctor’s office.

Hartman said she responded with a text message saying that Watson said to ask Dechant if she knew what happened to snitches. The response from Dechant was that snitches join witness protection programs.

Kids out through a window

Salina police Lt. Paul Forrester testified that he found Dechant’s son and his sister sleeping in their bunk beds after finding their mother murdered in the next room. Forrester said he woke the young children and helped them dress, and then police took them out a window so they wouldn’t see the crime scene.

Hartman also described two previous incidents between Dechant and Watson. She said Dechant stole Watson’s cell phone after he dropped it at her apartment. He got it back after an acquaintance at the cell phone company informed him his missing phone had been activated in Jones’ name.

“He said it proved what he’d been saying all along — that she was a liar and a thief,” she said.

She said Watson had purchased guns from acquaintances of Dechant, and that he kept three guns he’d purchased at Dechant’s apartment. Dechant found a gun that belonged to Watson in her children’s toy box and got mad and sold it, she said.

“He brought up that she sold his gun to everyone that would listen,” she said.

n Reporter Erin Mathews can be reached at 822-1415 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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Drugs ruin lives in a great many ways.To never get hooked,is the best,too get unhooked is hard,but do’able.Jail,death,being the cause of death,no standing with the comunity,no good thing comes from addiction,except ending it.Hope addicts seek help,hope if your offered drugs you help break the chain and turn in those who offer,for their own good,cause drugs by themselves kill.

my opinion says….
I think this girls mom should also be charged with a crime. She is awfully involved. Possibly on meth too.
James says….
Ward held the door for ‘T’,don’t cha love a polite man.
Thanks to SPD says….
Thanks to Salina police for sparing the children from seeing the crime scene. It was very thoughtful of them. Time to crack down on these hard drug users and pushers.
Dave says….
Ace reporter erin mathews,hang on to her salina journal,and let her work,I probly missed it but i’d like to see pics of all involved,especially Watson.SO glad the state is pursuing the death penalty for this heinous crime,and keep in mind salina,this punk/creep,would have killed the kids had they awoke.CLEAN UP SALINA!I”m glad hartman is locked up for almost five yrs,hope she serves it all,plus some for the accessorie to murder,”Will”Ward goes down also,’T”Watson and ward are of the same type of scumbag.
just another reader says….
what it sounds like is the true victims here are the children. living with all that in their home.its very…sad hopfully they are in a safe place now. my heart goes out to them.

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