Court Cases I WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

Tallahassee Man Sentenced in Cold Case Murder

By: Julie Montanaro; Mike Springer Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Mike Springer Email

UPDATED January 27, 2014
By Julie Montanaro

Court records show that Willie Watson was sentenced to life in prison for the 2004 slaying of Delia McMillan.

Court records show Watson entered a no contest plea in November 2013 to murder and sexual battery. He was deemed a sexual predator and sentenced to life in prison.

The homeless woman's body was found in the bushes by a transmission shop back in 2004.

The case remained unsolved until last year when a Tallahassee Police investigator resubmitted evidence in the case and FDLE was able to identify Watson as a suspect through touch DNA.

Watson was already a registered sex offender serving a life sentence for another crime.


By: Mike Springer
February 24, 2013

Tallahassee, FL-A man accused of sexually assaulting and killing a homeless woman nine years ago faced a judge.

Fifty-five-year-old Willie Watson made his first court appearance Saturday. Watson is being held without bond. Officials at the County Jail say he did not enter a plea during his appearance.

Watson is accused of sexually assaulting and killing Delia McMillan in 2004.

McMillan's body was discovered near some overgrowth by a transmission shop.

Police say 'Touch DNA' linked Watson to the crime.

Watson's next court date has not yet been assigned.
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UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
February 22, 2013

A man accused of killing a homeless woman in Tallahassee nine years ago is now back to face charges.

55 year old Willie Watson was booked into the Leon County Jail last night and he'll make his first appearance before a judge tomorrow morning.

Watson is accused of sexually assaulting and killing 75 year old Delia McMillan. Her body was found in the bushes by a transmission shop back in July 2004.

Watson was just indicted for it after touch DNA linked him to the crime.


By Julie Montanaro
February 13, 2013

A registered sex offender is now under arrest for a Tallahassee murder.

We broke the story last week. Today, Delia McMillan's family had a chance to thank investigators who cracked the 2004 case and we had a chance to learn more about the touch DNA that led to the arrest.

75 year old Delia McMillan was found dead in July 2004. New DNA evidence has just led to the indictment and arrest of Willie Watson.

It's the break McMillan's family has prayed for all this time.

"Some people who said well, they're never going to solve it, she's just an old homeless lady living on the streets, who cares ... I don't feel that way anymore," McMillan's niece Maxine McPhaul said.

Investigator Phil Hinds met McMillan when he was on patrol. When he started looking into her cold case murder, he discovered whoever assaulted McMillan had tried to wash away the evidence. But he noticed a pair of shorts around one of McMillan's ankles were dry and sent them to FDLE for more testing.

"Because of advancements in touch DNA, I figured it would be worth a shot to look at these shorts," Hinds said.

"Touch DNA refers do DNA recovered from skin cells that are shed from the body that come in contact with anything, something you may have handled, worn," FDLE Crime Lab Analyst Jack Martin explained.

Martin says touch DNA has been around awhile, but now analysts can get results with much smaller amounts of DNA like that found on the shorts.

"The profile you get is as viable and as valid as any other profile," Martin said.

McMillan's niece and nephew say they're grateful for the technology and the effort.

"That was my prayer that she get justice and the family get closure.
It's closure for me irregardless of what happens to him," McMillan's nephew Jeff McPhaul said.

Watson is already serving a life sentence for another crime. There is no word on when he might strand trial in this case.


By: Julie Montanaro
February 13, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Delia McMillan's niece and nephew say they are relieved that her case was not brushed aside because she was "an old homeless woman."

They came to the Tallahassee Police Department to thank investigators for cracking the 2004 murder.

The lead investigator had met McMillan while on patrol and when he was assigned to the cold case unit it was one of the first cases he examined.

Investigator Phil Hinds says McMillan's partially clothed body appears to have been washed off in an attempt to destroy evidence, but a pair of shorts around one of McMillan's ankles had never been submitted for DNA.

He submitted those to FDLE and analysts there confirmed a match with Willie Watson. Watson is already serving a life sentence for another sexual assault.

Watson was indicted by a grand jury for McMillan's murder last week.

McMillan's nephew says the arrest is a relief and that he had always prayed his aunt's murder would be solved. It provides closure, he said, no matter what happens from here.


By Julie Montanaro
February 7, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - The murder of a 75 year old Tallahassee woman has been a whodunnit for nine years.

Now there's been an arrest - as a grand jury indicts a registered sex offender.

July 2004. Her body was found in the bushes behind a transmission shop on the corner of Duval and West Tennessee Street.

75 year old Delia McMillan - a homeless woman who swept up and did odd jobs for food - died when someone slammed her head into the concrete curb.

Now nearly nine years later a Leon County grand jury has indicted Willie Watson for her sexual assault and murder.

Willie Watson - a 55 year old registered sex offender - is already in prison. He's serving a life sentence for breaking into a woman's home nine months after Delia McMillan's death and sexually assaulting her.

The break in McMillan's murder came courtesy of a DNA match.

"There's newly discovered DNA evidence, touch DNA which is a relatively new technology so when we reassessed the case we were able to find additional evidence," prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said.

McMillan only stayed at the homeless shelter when it was too rainy or too cold. Those who knew her as Miss Dee say they're grateful that her life and death were not forgotten.

"She was brutally murdered from what we understand and you know, she didn't deserve that," said Shelter director Mel Eby. "We knew her but a lot of people didn't know her at all, so we commend TPD for sticking with it and finding the perpetrator."


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