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Old 03-16-2009, 11:01 PM   #1
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Default Jack Watkins Murder Case Goes to Jury

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Jack Watkins, who once made a daily point of greeting his neighbors, was finally so alienated from his friends and family that it took seven years before anyone knew the 75-year-old was missing, much less dead.

No one reported his May 1996 disappearance, and not even his stepdaughters came looking for him. They were cut out of his life, they said, by the much younger woman he'd taken up with, a woman he told the world he planned to marry. Then he vanished.

Police found his emaciated body almost immediately, stuffed inside a 31-inch-long steamer trunk and left to rot beside a Loudon County, Va., trash can near the Appalachian Trail. But he wasn't identified until 2003. Six more years would pass before his girlfriend, as he thought of her, was tried in his death.

Today, a federal court jury will begin deliberations to determine whether a depressed Watkins killed himself, as defendant Nancy Siegel claims, or if she murdered him to keep her secrets safe, as the prosecution asserts.


Siegel isolated Watkins, the government said, drugged him, starved him and ultimately strangled him at her Ellicott City apartment, standing on his throat until he died of "cervical compression."

But first, prosecutors say, she stripped him of everything he owned. She allegedly pawned his possessions, opened more than a dozen credit accounts in his name, took the proceeds from the sale of his home and convinced him to lease a $44,000 black BMW for her even though he received only $1,200 a month in Social Security and retirement payments (which she pocketed after his death).

And when there was nothing left, she killed him, lawyers said, to keep her fraud from being discovered and to keep him from inconveniencing a relationship she had recently resumed with a rich loan broker, who would become husband No. 3.

She couldn't take the risk that Watkins, or someone he told, would tell police what she had done, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard C. Kay said during closing arguments Thursday.

"She had to get rid of him, but she couldn't let him go," Kay said. "She made a plan that Jack would just disappear."

In court last week, Siegel's face was unendingly stern behind black-rimmed spectacles. She stands about 5 feet tall, with a round torso set upon slim legs and shoulder-length blond hair pulled into a high ponytail.

The government proved that she's a chronic thief, her lawyer conceded, a career con artist with questionable character. But there's no evidence that she murdered Watkins, defense attorney Andrew Levy told the jury.

"The fact that a young woman convinced an old man that she was in love with him and that he should spend money on her is not a crime," he said.

Siegel, who turns 61 this month, is charged with a decades-long scheme that had dozens of victims - including her husbands, daughters and multiple financial institutions. A 21-count indictment accuses her of stealing government property, bank fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and witness tampering by murdering Watkins so he couldn't tell on her.

She faces life in prison if convicted.

Before he met Siegel, Jasper Frederick "Jack" Watkins was a "sociable, energetic person," his stepdaughter Cheryl Jenkins told the court. He was into karaoke, liked to garden and went out of his way to greet his Reisterstown neighbor each evening when the man arrived home. He looked forward to a breakfast club with his friends and attended a few functions held by his late wife's family.

He was in good health, if a little on the trim side for his 5-foot, 7-inch frame, and financially responsible, with a handful of rarely used and fully paid-off credit accounts. He owned his house outright.

But witnesses said everything changed after November 1994, once Watkins opened his door to find 46-year-old Nancy Siegel standing there, selling burial plots door to door using her birth name of Sweitzer. She was a Baltimore native who danced on The Buddy Deane Show as a teenager, and she hooked Watkins from the start: He put down a $259 deposit on a mausoleum.

Watkins gushed about his new friend. He told his stepdaughters they planned to marry. He showed her off to his buddies. He appeared happy, they said. Then he stopped appearing at all. He no longer reached out to family, he skipped the breakfast club, eschewed the senior center.

Multiple credit accounts were opened in his name, and high balances accumulated. He mortgaged his home, then refinanced. And on April 9, 1996, he sold it for $90,500, clearing less than $4,000 on the sale.

He and Siegel took that money to Atlantic City, exactly where she shouldn't have been


Acquaintances have described Siegel as deeply troubled. She lost her father at an early age and developed a serious addiction to gambling. "It will cause you to do things," she later told investigators.

Those "things" began in the early 1980s. Court records show that she used her first husband's personal information to get credit without his knowledge, putting him more than $100,000 in debt and forcing him to file for bankruptcy.

She did the same to her second husband, who threatened to go to police until she got violent. She convinced her friends to co-sign a car loan for her and to lend her the down payment, then she defaulted. She forged checks, conned bank employees and stole wallets, a crime for which she was on probation when she met Watkins.

"I have a tendency to scheme" out of desperation, she told investigators, a confession recorded and played last week during the trial.

Prosecutors say she also tried to have Watkins committed. After their Atlantic City foray, Siegel took Watkins to the Howard County General Hospital emergency room, claiming he drank too much and was confused. Doctors agreed after Watkins insisted, repeatedly, that he was going to marry Siegel.

"Patient appears delusional," hospital records read. Siegel had represented herself as Watkins' caretaker, nothing more.

But she never found a facility to take him, and Watkins went home with her.

A month later, officers found the 111-pound body of an elderly man in a trunk in Virginia, 60 miles from Siegel's home. He was wearing a pajama top and no bottoms, his body folded to fit inside two layers of zipped-up duffel bags. He had sedatives in his system and wounds on his head, knee and neck - the latter consistent with the heel of a shoe, prosecutors said. A coroner ruled the death a homicide.

But no one knew who had been killed.

The case appeared on a November 2001 episode of Unsolved Mysteries; 13 months later, authorities used military records to identify the body as decorated Army veteran Jasper Watkins.

Detectives traced Watkins' Social Security checks to an address in Ellicott City, which led them to Siegel. When they showed her a picture of the trunk, she cried.

Siegel says she found Watkins with a cord around his neck and panicked, disposing of the body in a trunk that belonged to one of her daughters. Maybe she wanted to keep the checks coming, her lawyer said, or maybe she was just afraid she would be blamed.

The jury's verdict will determine the likely truth. This week, 13 years after his death, the case might finally be solved.

Last edited by Zoneboy : 03-16-2009 at 11:18 PM.
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Old 03-16-2009, 11:05 PM   #2
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Default Nancy Jean Siegel Convicted of 1996 Murder

Siegel also convicted on charges including fraud, identity theft

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A federal jury in Baltimore convicted Nancy Jean Siegel today of murdering a Reisterstown man 30 years her senior after conning him out of everything he owned as part of a decades-long scheme that had dozens of victims, including her daughters and husbands.

The verdict was returned after about seven hours of deliberations in U.S. District Court. The jury found Siegel guilty on 20 of 21 counts, including mail, wire and bank fraud; identity theft; and witness tampering by killing 75-year-old Jasper Frederick "Jack" Watkins in 1996 to keep her financial crimes from being discovered. She was cleared on a bank fraud charge that involved changing an address on a credit account.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 23. Siegel, 60, faces life in prison.

The lengthy case has drawn varied attention, first because of its mysterious nature and later because of its facts. A Nevada writer is working on a book about it, a representative from 48 Hours attended some of the trial, and Unsolved Mysteries featured the case in 2001, when it was still far from being solved.

Police found Watkins' body stuffed in a steamer trunk and dumped in rural Virginia shortly after his strangulation in May 1996, but he wasn't identified until January 2003. Soon afterward, investigators discovered that Siegel was cashing Watkins' Social Security checks and indicted her in 2004.

As the jury forewoman repeated the word "guilty" over and over today on all but one of the counts, Siegel rested her head in her left hand. She held a tissue to her eyes and made a slight gasping noise, but that was the extent of her emotional display. She remained calm and staid, as she was during the trial, while some of her family cried in the courtroom.

She never testified during the weeklong trial, and her court-appointed attorneys called no witnesses. They declined to comment today at their client's direction.

The prosecution said Siegel's scheming began in the early 1980s during her first marriage. She had developed a gambling addiction and began using the personal information of others, including those close to her, to open lines of credit and steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, a pattern she repeated.

Siegel met Watkins, a sociable widower living on $1,200 a month, in 1994 when she was selling burial plots door-to-door. She soon became his constant companion, and the older man told his friends and family they planned to marry. He leased her a $44,000 BMW, sold his house and gave her the proceeds, and he eventually moved in with her, in heavy debt because of credit lines she had fraudulently opened.

Siegel tried to have him placed into a group home, hospital records show, but she wasn't successful. And then he disappeared.

Watkins' body was found folded into a trunk and abandoned near the Appalachian Trail. Siegel later said that she found Watkins dead in her Ellicott City home with a cord wrapped around his neck. She said she panicked and disposed of the body. The prosecution called it murder.

"She made a plan, she would sedate him. She made a plan, she would starve him. She made a plan that Jack would die," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard C. Kay told the jury last week, calling Watkins "nothing more than a piece of kindling for the raging flame of her addiction."

Judge Andre M. Davis noted in court today, after dismissing the jury, that jurors had found Siegel guilty of second-degree murder, indicating that they didn't believe the act was premeditated.

Investigators who'd worked on various parts of the case over the years watched the trial, including Bobbie Ochsman of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office in Virginia. She appeared on Unsolved Mysteries in 2001, when she said the case was frustratingly "stymied" because no one knew whose body had been found.

"It took thirteen years of hard work by intrepid investigators and persistent prosecutors for the trunk that served as Jack Watkins' coffin to make it from a curb in Loudoun County, Virginia to a courtroom in Baltimore, Maryland," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "Today, justice has prevailed, and Nancy Siegel's horrendous life of con games and murder is over for good."
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Old 03-16-2009, 11:16 PM   #3
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Default Timeline: Siegel and Watkins

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Timeline: Siegel and Watkins

Nov. 1994: Nancy Jean Siegel (then Sweitzer) meets debt-free Jack Watkins while selling burial sites door to door.

Dec. 1994: The mailing address on many of Watkins' pre-existing credit accounts is changed to Siegel's Ellicott City address.

May 1995: Watkins leases a $44,000 BMW for Siegel.

Aug. 1995: There are tens of thousands of dollars in debts on credit cards opened in Watkins' name. Watkins takes out a $44,000 mortgage on his home.

Nov. 1995: Watkins refinances and takes out a bigger loan, giving the $20,000balance to Siegel.

April 1996: Siegel pawns Watkins' belongings, helps him sell his home, and they take the meager proceeds, less than $4,000 after paying debts, to Atlantic City. Siegel later has Watkins admitted to Howard County General Hospital and tries to have him put in a long-term care facility, but fails.

May 1996: Watkins' body is crammed into a trunk and dumped in Northern Virginia. Police discover it a day or two later.

Jan. 2003: Watkins' body is identified.

Jan. 2004: Siegel is indicted.

Last week: The trial concludes and the case goes to the jury.

Today: Jury deliberations begin.

Sources: U.S. Attorney's Office, federal court records.
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Old 03-17-2009, 01:08 AM   #4
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I hope they put her away for life. I remember seeing the picture of the unidentified body they found, and then when it was identified, the picture of Mr. Watkins flashed on the update screen. It was appalling to see someone who looked so vibrant and full of life for his age had been reduced to the frail shell of a person and then murdered.
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Old 03-17-2009, 07:22 AM   #5
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I'm surprised she is just now being convicted. So glad she was but too bad its life because she definitely deserved the chair for what she did to that poor man!!!!
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Old 04-24-2009, 05:28 PM   #6
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Apparently she was just sentenced a few days ago. Someone sent me this link:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/loc...,5700538.story
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:43 AM   #7
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Good riddance! What a waste of flesh.
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