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Watts faces long sentence for school threat

Sunday, August 18, 2013

(Photo)
Tyrone Watts of Tullahoma received a 16-year sentence for murderous threats uttered at Thomas Magnet School last year -- just two days before the Sandy Hook school shootings.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
A 16-year sentence was imposed on a Tullahoma man for threats of violence made at a Shelbyville school last year.

Tyrone L. Watts, 43, will have to serve 35 percent of the sentence for charges of disorderly conduct and attempted terrorism before he is eligible for release.

Two days before the school shooting in Sandy Hook last December, Watts threatened to return to Thomas Magnet School with an AK-47 and kill everyone and himself.

Watts and his wife, the mother of his stepson, had been denied permission to check the boy out early because a letter had not been supplied by the child's custodial parent.

"Not tolerated"

Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell stated when passing sentence that a message has to go out that incidents like this would not be tolerated, calling the actions of Watts "an enormous threat."

Watts received the long sentence due to seven prior felony convictions, including drug sales and burglary. He had been on parole when the threats were made last year.

Watts was represented by attorney Robert Marlow, who presented several character witnesses.

Tina Marie Watts said that her husband was a good role model for her son and changed his own life, turned to God, and has become active in a Tullahoma church.

But under cross-examination from assistant district attorney Richard Cawley, she denied her husband made the threats.

Other witnesses speaking on behalf of Watts included the church's minister and another member who said it was "out of character" for him to make the statements.

Charges

Watts was charged with two counts of terrorism under alternate theories of the same offense -- making false threats that he knew would lead to a response from law enforcement, Det. Sgt. Brian Crews of the Shelbyville police explained earlier this year. and that Watts tried to intimidate the school office staff to influence the policy over checking out children from class.

The disorderly conduct count was for the theory that Watts knew the threats would lead to a response from authorities.

Since school officials held their ground and refused to let Watts take the child out of school, he was found guilty of the attempted terrorism charge.

Threat details

School officials were following a court order that prohibited Tina Marie Watts from having access to the stepchild except for every other Friday. The pair tried to check the child out for his 10th birthday, which was on a Wednesday.

After Watts was denied permission, he became enraged, making statements that were said to the stepson, but directed at the school administrators. The first statement was that Watts would get an AK-47, come back to the school, shoot everyone in the office, and then kill himself.

A similar second comment was made that Watts had a doctor's appointment on Dec. 19, and if he discovered he had cancer, he would return to the school, kill everyone and himself, "then the child wouldn't have to worry about where he went to school, things of that nature," Crews said.

Crews previously said this was the first time local police had taken anyone to trial on terrorism charges.