Watson to return to Alabama to face charges after Australian prison stint

Published 3:23 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2010

By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer

HOOVER — Gabe Watson, a Hoover man accused of murdering his wife while on an Australian honeymoon in 2003, waived his extradition rights in a Los Angeles hearing Nov. 30 and authorities will bring him back to Birmingham in the next 30 days.

Don Valeska, chief of the violent crimes division of the Alabama Attorney’s General Office, said Watson, 33, was arrested in Los Angeles upon his return from Australia where he served 18 months in prison for the manslaughter of his wife Christina “Tina” Thomas. Thomas was a Helena native.

Valeska said Alabama prosecutors believe Watson murdered Thomas on Oct. 22, 2003, just 11 days after their wedding while the couple was scuba diving.

Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter when charged with murder in Australia. While in court, Watson, a certified rescue diver, admitted he failed to fulfill his responsibilities as his wife’s dive buddy during a scuba diving expedition on the Great Barrier Reef.

Valeska said Watson was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury Oct. 22 on the charges of capital murder in the course of kidnapping and capital murder in the course of pecuniary gain.

In the extradition hearing Nov. 30, Watson waived his extradition rights in order to return to Alabama sooner, said Brett Bloomston, Watson’s defense attorney.

“That’s been his desire all along to get home to his family,” Bloomston said.

When the Attorney General’s office receives official notification from the judge in L.A., arrangements will be made for authorities to bring Watson back to Birmingham to be detained in the Jefferson County Jail, Valeska said.

Bloomston said he plans to seek bond for Watson when he arrives.

If bond is denied by the judge, Watson will remain in prison until his arraignment when he’ll issue a plea for the charges against him, Valeska said.

Bloomston said he does not believe the Attorney General’s office will be able to prove the charges against Watson. He said Australian courts were not able to prove that Watson intentionally killed his wife and he believes Watson has been wrongfully accused in the public eye.

“Alabamians will soon find out what Australians already know and that’s that Gabe Watson is not guilty in causing the death of his wife,” Bloomston said.