A Real Kalamazoo Horror Story: The Sunday Morning Slasher
- Article by John Ellis
- November 2, 2010
Note From The Author: I do not in any way suggest that WMU or the city of Kalamazoo is in any way responsible for, or negligent of, the crimes in this article. In respect of the victims, I have not included their names. This is not a comedic article.
Among the students who have attended Western Michigan University, we have countless pleasant celebrity stories. Unfortunately, our school has also unknowingly accompanied a more sinister strain of student. Most notably a man named Carl Eugene Watts, possibly the most prolific serial killer in our country’s history. He likely killed more than 100 people. Watts will always be remembered as “The Sunday Morning Slasher.”
Watts enrolled at WMU in 1974 as a 20-year-old, and studied engineering. He also maintained a job in the university cafeteria. Before this, Watts had undergone extensive mental treatment at the Lafayette Mental Clinic in Detroit after he randomly attacked a woman in 1969. He had extreme anxiety around women and even told psychiatrists that he had dreams in which he had to kill the evil spirits of women, and that the dreams made him feel good.WMU had no knowledge of this when they accepted him to attend classes. It wasn’t long before a series of attacks and murders plagued Kalamazoo.
On Devil’s Night, 1974, Watts committed his first known murder (a female WMU mother and student.) He stabbed her 33 times. In the dates surrounding this, he also attacked two other women, one of which he strangled into unconsciousness and then abandoned, the other managed to foil his attack and then later identify him. The survivors stated that Watts knocked on their doors and said that he was “looking for Charles.” When they told him that no one by that name lived there he would ask to leave a note. That’s when the attacks began.
In November of 1974, Watts was arrested for the assaults. He claimed that he was in the area of the murder but that he didn’t do it. When interviewed by an investigator, he stated that he had attacked about 15 other women and then asked for a lawyer. When police searched Watts’ home, they found nothing to tie him to the Devil’s Night murder, and Watts was admitted to the Kalamazoo Mental Hospital. After being released in 1975, a doctor from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Michigan stated that Watts showed no remorse and would probably do it again. Watts was found competent to stand trial for the assaults, and went to county jail for one year.
After this, it was apparent to Watts that his time in Kalamazoo was over and in 1976, he moved back to Inkster, Michigan, to stay with his mother and stepfather.They had no idea how eager he was to kill again.
Due to lack of evidence connecting Watts to individual crimes, it’s hard to say exactly how many murders Watts committed in Michigan. Considering his confessions, though, and the details of the brutal crimes in the area, it’s most likely several dozen. In September of 1979, Watts was suspected of the murder of a woman whose headless body was found in a park… the head has never been recovered. That Halloween, Watts is suspected to have murdered a reporter from the Detroit News, stabbing her 11 times. Over the next two years, Watts was suspected in 13 other brutal murders and multiple other attacks, and abductions. As most of the crimes were committed on Sunday mornings around 4am, the nickname “The Sunday Morning Slasher” was born. The police heavily suspected Watts and even had a tracking device installed on his car. Watts was aware of the round-the-clock surveillance and fled to Texas. This became his new hunting ground.
Detectives created a 19-page case history of Watts’ crimes—both proven and suspected-- and made sure that wherever he lived, that people were aware of who he was. They hoped this would prevent further murders. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop Watts from several more attacks, and over 11 additional suspected brutal murders and abductions. In 1982, Watts was caught by police attempting to murder two women when one escaped, dove head-first off the balcony and flagged the police. A neighbor, who heard all the noise, stopped Watts, who was attempting to drown the other woman in the tub. Watts attempted to flee but was arrested. When Watt’s stood trial, he offered to exchange information about some of his murder victims for immunity from the crimes… his confession would go on to last 28 hours. Later he would also confess to at least 80 additional murders in Michigan and Canada, but would not give details because he would not receive immunity for them. Watts said that his victims had “evil eyes” and that he had to kill them to feel good.
Watts took the police to the burial sites of several of his victims. When he was asked how many people he had murdered, he said that there weren’t enough fingers in the room to count on… there were one hundred fingers in the room.
The judge was unable to charge Watts with the murders because of the deal he had struck but they were able to sentence him to 60 years for the attempted murder which he had been caught committing. Years later he repealed the sentence on a technicality.Watts was scheduled to be released from prison in 2006 until cold case detectives in Michigan charged him for two more murders including the WMU student in 1974. He was found guilty and was sentenced to life without parole in a Jackson, Michigan prison where he died of prostate cancer in 2007. 25 years earlier, as Watts was being taken to prison, he told an investigator “You know, if they ever let me out, I WILL kill again.”