Jerimiah “Jerry” Matthew Watkins was only 13 years old when he was found dead in a shallow pit near railroad tracks in the tiny town of Terra Alta, West Virginia, one week after the torrential flood of 1985. Now, over 37 years later, police say a man confessed to the murder.
David Monroe Adams, 56, now stands accused of one count of murder in the second degree, according to the Preston County Sheriff’s Office.
In a Valentine’s Day news release, the PCSO says the mysterious murder was reopened just this month by Captain T.N. Tichnell. Making quick work of the cold case file, the deputy “began a thorough review” and “noted a number of inconsistent statements” allegedly made by the defendant during the initial investigation several decades ago.
Watkins was determined to have been murdered by a stab wound to his back, an autopsy showed, but the investigation slowed to a crawl and crucial evidence was likely lost in the flood as the “killing waters” came on Election Day in 1985 as a result of Hurricane Juan. Widely known as the Killer Floods of 1985, the multiple-river-breaching downpours were, up to that point, the costliest floods for both West Virginia and Virginia in terms of lives lost and damage.
“Despite law enforcement’s efforts at that time – which also included helping countless families cope with the recent devastating flood – the case remained unsolved,” the sheriff’s department said.
At the time of the murder, Adams was 18 years old.
In the space of just a few days earlier this month, the PCSO said they, along with the help of other law enforcement agencies “conducted multiple interviews” with the defendant “and he eventually confessed that an argument that started over a stolen bicycle resulted in Jerry being taken into a shed and murdered.”
Adams allegedly told police he first hit Watkins in the face over the bicycle and then killed him in the shed, later dragging the boy’s body into the hole where it was eventually found, according to court documents obtained by Weston, West Virginia-based CBS affiliate WDTV.
The killing occurred at his then-residence, Adams allegedly said. He currently hails from Weston, which is located some 130 miles due south of Pittsburgh, and roughly 80 miles south-east of Terra Alta.
The defendant was arrested on Monday of this week and is currently being detained in the North Central Regional Jail on a $1 million bond, according to jail records reviewed by Law&Crime.
The sheriff’s office says they anticipate that additional charges will be filed in the case. The investigation is said to be ongoing.
Law enforcement in the Mountain State have reportedly been anxious to solve the young boy’s murder for quite some time.
The West Virginia State Police and the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office helped with the latest law enforcement efforts, the PCSO said.
“In the 37 years since his murder, countless agencies and organizations have contributed to this investigation,” the sheriff’s office said in the news release. “May you finally rest in peace, Jerry.”
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