Watson pleas result in 25 years

James Zackary Watson pleaded guilty to murder Sept. 12 in connection to the 2014 death of two-year-old Landon Weaver.

Watson, 38, Paris, appeared in custody of the Edgar County Sheriff during the brief hearing in Edgar County Circuit Court to enter the negotiated guilty plea with an agreed sentence. Unlike previous appearances, Watson was permitted to wear civilian clothes and stood before the bench without shackles.

“We have a proposed resolution,” Edgar County State’s Attorney Mark Isaf informed Judge Steven Garst.

Watson entered a guilty plea to an amended Class 4 felony charge of second degree murder in return for a 20-year prison sentence. He was originally charged with a Class M felony murder, a Class 2 felony involuntary manslaughter involving a family member and a Class 4 felony obstruction of justice. Those charges were dismissed as part of the negotiation.

Garst spent part of the time advising Watson of his legal rights and asking if the defendant understood his rights and was prepared to give them up. Watson always replied with a firm, “Yes sir.”

The new charge claims Watson, while acting in an enraged manner, pushed the child causing him to strike his head against a shower bench and threw the toddler against a wall, also causing him to strike his head.

Landon Weaver was the son of Watson’s live in girlfriend, Selena Hall. The couple took the unresponsive child to Paris Community Hospital Emergency Room Nov. 5. 2014, and the boy was later airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, where he died five days later. The Marion County coroner ruled the cause of death as multiple injuries from blunt force trauma and the manner of death as homicide.

Hall is currently serving a 10-year sentence for her part in the child’s death.

Before accepting the plea agreement, Garst asked Isaf to provide a factual basis for the case.

Isaf said if the case went to trial Hall was prepared to testify that Watson’s violent and abusive behavior toward her and young Landon Weaver increased with the defendant’s escalating drug use and paranoia.

Hall, Isaf said, would also testify to observing the defendant shove the child in the shower, throw him against a wall and while wearing boots, kick the boy across the floor.

The prosecution’s medical evidence included Landon Weaver died of a skull fracture among numerous other serious injuries.

Isaf added the Department of Family Children Services took a blood sample from Watson while emergency room doctors were treating Weaver at PCH. The result came back positive for the presence of an opioid compound and other illegal substances.

Tearful victim impact statements told of the tragedy and lingering anguish that still continues from watching the child’s life fade away as the battered body lay in a hospital bed.

Watson accepted the opportunity to deliver a statement in allocution and read from a prepared document. He dismissed statements Hall made at her sentencing as a self-serving claim attempting to absolve herself of responsibility.

His statement, which included several Bible quotes, acknowledged violence occurred in the house and disputed testimony at Hall’s trial claiming no one outside the household was aware.

“There are unsaid persons out there who need to look in the mirror,” said Watson. “There are some who know what happened and failed to act and bear responsibility.”

Watson closed by apologizing and saying he regretted what happened.

“Hold your loved ones close. Tell them you love them and cherish them,” Watson said.

Per the agreement, Garst sentenced Watson to 20 years in prison with 1,400 days credit for time spent in the Edgar County Jail waiting for trial. Watson was also ordered to pay court costs, a $100 public defender fee and assorted state fees.

Watson also received a five-year prison sentence for the weapons charge. The two sentences will be served consecutively, with the sentence for the murder starting after he completes the five years.

Watson was remanded back into the sheriff’s custody for transportation to prison.

The Prairie Press

101 Central Avenue Paris, IL 61944