GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) - A man with a long criminal history accused of raping and killing a family attorney was found guilty on multiple charges on Tuesday.
Warren Watson, 54, had been released from prison early and was on parole when he killed 61-year-old Claudia Miller in her office in Lakewood back in March of 2013. It was a case that shook the Lakewood community as well as many who work out of the courthouse where Claudia Miller was a familiar face.
Claudia Miller was a well-known and respected attorney. Her son, Brian Miller, told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann he doesn't think he can forgive the man who stole his children's grandmother.
Two-and-a-half years after his mother's death, Brian Miller still fights back the tears.
"Every holiday that goes by, every birth that happens; she's had two granddaughters that have been born since this happened," Brian Miller said. "It's really hard to hear the details; it's really hard to hear, you know, that's my mom."
Too painful to hear, Brian Miller would often leave the courtroom during the trial. But Penny Linder heard the gruesome testimony for 12 days from her jury seat.
"It was heinous ... he tortured her," Linder said.
It didn't take long for the jury to find Watson guilty on all counts.
"It was nice to be able to get justice for Claudia, and hopefully … (sobs) … get some closure for her family," Linder said.
"After seeing this and what went on I'm pretty sure that if he was ever let out someone would be a victim somehow, some way," Brian Miller said. "We now know that he can't do that to other people and that's the best thing that came out of this. That's the top priority. It's unfortunate that it had to happen to my mom, but it doesn't have to happen to anyone else."
Watson has been found guilty on the following charges:
- 1 count First-Degree Murder – after deliberation
- 1 count First-Degree Murder – felony murder, sexual assault
- 1 count First-Degree Murder – felony murder, robbery
- 2 counts Sexual Assault – serious bodily injury, weapon
- 1 count Sexual Assault – force
- 2 counts Aggravated Robbery
- 7 counts Identity Theft
- 1 count Tampering with Evidence
According to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, Watson had an appointment to meet Miller for the first time the day her body was discovered. He arrived late and showed up after Miller's secretary had left for the day. He admitted to detectives that he threatened Miller with a fake gun, tied her up, strangled her and fondled her, according to the indictment.
"During the 12-day trial, the jury heard evidence that Watson had been planning for months to seek out a female attorney in the practice of family law. His plans included sexual fantasy and robbery of the female attorney," Pam Russell with the district attorney's office said in a statement. "He used a false name, and the title of doctor, hoping to make a female feel more comfortable meeting with him on short notice."
A CBS4 investigation into Miller's murder found that before the murder Colorado's parole board had released Watson from prison several years early, terming him a "low risk" for recidivism. But the CBS4 probe found that Watson had a long history of escaping from parole situations.
According to the Miller family, Watson began crying and hyperventilating when the verdict was read.
Claudia Miller's family is not seeking the death penalty in this case because they say she didn't believe in it. Instead, her killer is facing a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Watson's habitual criminal hearing is set for Sept. 2. That's when the judge will set a sentencing date. Watson has seven prior felonies. He faces life in prison without parole.
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