A Florida ex-convict accused of fatally shooting his wife in front of her young daughter and other children has pleaded not guilty to the horrific slaying at a Jewish community center pool.
Carl Watts Jr., 45, entered the plea Monday to a charge of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon for the slaying of 30-year-old Shandell Harris, the Miami Herald reported.
Harris had brought her 12-year-old daughter and her mother to the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach to attend the girl’s swimming lesson on April 3, cops said.
At around 2 p.m., police said Watts barged into the pool and shot Harris in front of multiple children and families.
“He followed her, and chased her down and shot her, like an animal, like he was doing hunting,” Watts’ cousin Aaron Batten told NBC Miami.
Police said that Harris was struck by the first round and collapsed, Watts allegedly stood over her and continued to shoot her until he ran out of ammunition.
Harris is being held in the county jail without bond. He is due back in court for a trial hearing on July 18.
Harris’ family members said that she and Watts had had a falling out and she wanted to divorce him.
The day before her slaying, Watts allegedly stabbed the woman a half-dozen times when she threatened to leave him. Harris reported the incident to the Miami Police Department, but officers were unable to locate Watts.
Before opening fire at the swimming pool, Watts tried to convince Harris to withdraw her police report related to the stabbing, according to charging documents obtained by CBS Miami.
But Watts refused and told him to leave, at which point he shot her, police said.
Harris’ daughter, who is not Watts’ biological child, was not injured in the shooting.
Security guards at the Jewish center immediately detained Watts, who allegedly admitted to stabbing his wife the day before.
Watts is also being eyed as a person of interest in the murder of Vickie Simmons more than a decade ago, and the disappearance of Trukita Scott, with whom he has a child in common, in 2014.
Simmons, 25, was found dead inside a Miami motel in February 2009, just days after her then-boyfriend, Watts, had come by her sister’s house, asking her whether she had seen Vickie.
Five years later, in June 2014, Watts’ new girlfriend, Scott, a 24-year-old mom-of-two, went missing from Fort Lauderdale after breaking up with him.
Following Watts’ arrest for murder earlier this month, relatives of both women publicly said they believe he may be responsible for their deaths.
“His time is up,” Lashon Jones, Simmons’ sister, told WSVN of Watts. “Before I leave this Earth, I’m going to help my sister’s case stay alive. There has to be justice done.”
So far, Watts has not been charged with any crime in connection with the Simmons and Scott cases.
But Watts has an extensive criminal history in Miami-Dade County stretching back to 1995, which includes multiple charges of kidnapping, robbery, grand theft, drug-related offenses, battery, prostitution, assault, and illegal gambling, resulting in multiple criminal convictions, court records indicate.