Mother of man on trial for father's murder thought they'd be OK

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The mother of Robert J. Watts, who is currently on trial in Kingston’s Superior Court of Justice for second-degree murder in the death of his father, told jurors on Wednesday that her late husband “was a good provider for the family and he loved his children, but he had his issues.”

Barbara Watts testified that “he liked to drink” and “he was nasty when he had too much to drink. He was a very aggressive person.”

She also recalled that her son, now 27, wasn’t a cause of any trouble until his mid-teens. He had few friends then, she said, and he found and was accepted by a clique in Ajax whose members were involved in drug use.

“He got involved with these kids who were bad and were not on the right track,” she testified, and she said she wanted him to find better friends, but “he didn’t listen to me.”

Over time, her son’s personality began to change, she said, and he exhibited increasingly strange behaviours. She recalled one incident when he walked into her bedroom covered in tin foil and asked if they had any more. She told Superior Court Justice Gary Tranmer and the jurors that her son said he needed it to protect himself from “the neighbours behind” their house and told her “they’re peeking at me.”

Eventually, she said she became so concerned that “I had him formed,” a reference to the document needed to have someone admitted to a psychiatric facility for an assessment.

She said her son was prescribed medications by a psychiatrist, but he wouldn’t always take them, and when he didn’t “he wasn’t the same person. He was scary.”

Barbara Watts told jurors that Robert Watts ended up having three psychiatric admissions between his mid-teens and Sept. 17, 2015, the night his 65-year-old father, John D. Watts, died. Each time, she estimated, the hospital would hold him for about 15 days and then release him.

Robert Watts’ last admission, she testified, was in July 2015, two months before he drove with his father from Ajax to the family cottage on South Frontenac Township’s Cranberry Lake, where John Watts was found dead in the early morning hours one day after their arrival.

Barbara Watts said her son had phoned her from the hospital during that July admission, insisting she get him released. She said she later called the hospital and asked them to keep him him in longer. She told them “he’s not right,” she recalled, but the response she received was that it was his psychiatrist’s call and if his attending said he could be discharged, he’d be released.

She said she told the person on the other end of the phone that she couldn’t have her son in her home “in that state” and was informed, in turn, that “we give them a bus token,” she said, the suggestion being that it was up to the patient what they did with it.

Jurors were told by assistant Crown attorney Jennifer Ferguson that Robert Watts had been convicted of assaulting both of his parents in late September 2014, one year before his father’s death. She read them an agreed statement of fact that disclosed he’d assaulted his mother first, causing injuries that Barbara Watts said required five staples to close. But after she’d escaped him in her car, the younger Watts attacked his father, knocking him to the ground and delivering multiple punches and kicks. Ferguson told the jury that he was still on the ground, in a fetal position, when police arrived and arrested his son.

A month later, in October 2014, Robert Watts pleaded guilty in an Ajax court to two counts of assault and claimed to have been under the influence of “moonshine” alcohol and marijuana. Ferguson told jurors he received the equivalent of a four-month jail sentence and 18 months of probation with a condition that prohibited him from having contact with his parents, except with their written revokable consent.

Robert Watts didn’t return to live with his parents after that, but his mother said she and her late husband did consent to contact with their son, and until that last psychiatric admission, he continued to visit them at the home where he’d grown up.

Under questioning by the Crown prosecutor, Barbara Watts confirmed that she revoked her consent to contact with her son on Aug. 17, 2015, the day he was discharged from the psychiatric hospital following a 10-day admission.

When she and her husband decided a month later to set their son up at the family cottage on Cranberry Lake, Barbara Watts said she thought they’d be fine together. She told jurors that father and son got on well when her husband wasn’t drinking and “I didn’t want him sleeping on a park bench or in shelters,” she said of her son.

She told the jury that John Watts took some time off work, she filled the trunk of their car with more than a week’s worth of groceries, and her husband and son loaded their three dogs into the car and set out. The plan was she’d join them Friday evening and spend the weekend, then look for a permanent place for their son..

She said she called the cottage around 9:30 that night and again around 10:30. No one picked up. But, she said she assumed “Robert was out fishing like he used to do and John was drinking.”

She told the jurors, “I thought everything was OK,” until she received a call from police around 1:30 a.m. telling her her son had been arrested for speeding on Highway 401.

The trial continues Thursday in Kingston’s Superior Court of Justice.

syanagisawa@postmedia.com