On July 20, 1994, Gerald Watkins shot and killed his girlfriend, Beth Ann Anderson, their eighteen-day old baby, Melanie Geray Anderson, and Ms. Anderson’s son, Charles Kevin Kelly Jr., 9, at her home on Mount Vernon St. in Homewood. The murders were especially brutal. Anderson was shot eight times. Kelly was shot six times, and Melanie Watkins was shot eight times. All of the shootings occurred at close range.
Anderson was able to describe what was happening to a friend she was talking with on the phone when Watkins entered her home.
An unemployed construction worker with a history of drug charges but no violent offenses, Watkins became enraged after Anderson rejected his marriage proposal and he learned she was involved with another man.
Watkins fled after the shootings. A car he is believed to have used was found in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Sightings were reported in multiple states, but no arrest was forthcoming.
Intensifying their efforts, law enforcement officials placed Watkins on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ten most wanted list. The television program America’s Most Wanted aired several episodes about the case. Attention was focused on New York City, where Watkins was raised and where his mother still lived. Finally, he was arrested there on May 5, 1995, almost ten months after the murders.
While returning to Pittsburgh in police custody in August 1995, Watkins confessed to the killings.
At trial, Watkins denied his confession and claimed not to be in Pittsburgh when the killings occurred. With prosecution witnesses – including friends and neighbors of Anderson – placing him at the scene, a motive established, crime scene evidence, and a confession, Watkins was convicted of first-degree murder on December 12, 1996, and sentenced to death the next day.
On appeal, Watkins challenged his death sentence and Pennsylvania’s death penalty statute. Those challenges were rejected (Commonwealth v. Watkins, 577 Pa. 194, 2003). Watkins subsequently challenged his conviction under the state’s Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). His claims – that his confession was invalid because a brain injury left him incompetent to waive his Miranda rights, that the jury selection process was invalid, and that evidence was wrongly permitted – were rejected (Commonwealth v. Watkins, 108 A.3d 692, 2014).
Gerald Watkins remains on death row.