Appeals court reserves decision on honeymoon death sentence

Published 5:00 pm Monday, July 20, 2009

An Australian Court of Appeal has tabled its decision on whether to lengthen the sentence of a Hoover man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the drowning death of his wife.

Gabe Watson, 32, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in Brisbane Supreme Court June 5. However, a judge ordered Watson’s sentence be suspended after he has served 12 months. Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the October 2003 death of Christina “Tina” Thomas Watson of Helena. The newlywed couple was on a honeymoon dive in Australia.

Watson, a certified rescue diver, admitted in court he failed to fulfill his responsibilities as Christina’s dive buddy.

The sentence sparked protest from Queensland, Australia Attorney General Cameron Dick and Alabama Attorney General Troy King.

Dick called Watson’s sentence “manifestly inadequate,” while King sent a letter to Dick demanding a maximum sentence for Watson. Tommy Thomas, Christina’s father, also filed an appeal requesting a harsher sentence.

Prosecutors on July 17 argued Watson’s sentence should reflect the seriousness of abandoning his wife. The defense, however, claimed a lengthened sentence is inappropriate.

King has vowed to prosecute Watson in Alabama if the case is not resolved in Australia.

“If this matter is not adequately resolved within Australia, I stand ready if necessary to investigate and prosecute this case, and to ensure that Christina and her family receive the justice that is due,” King said.