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Diver Says He Saw Honeymooning Husband Hold Bride Underwater

Michael McLaughlin   |   February 17, 2012    8:58 AM ET

Jurors will hear more about the final moments of Tina Thomas Watson's life, just one day after a diver said he saw the 26-year-old newlywed's husband hold her underwater, shortly before she drowned to death.

Stanley Stutz, a Chicago emergency room doctor, was diving in Australia in 2003, near defendant Gabe Watson. He testified Thursday that he saw Watson clutching his new wife before she sank to the ocean floor, The Associated Press says.

Stutz told the Alabama courtroom that he saw the woman flailing in the water. Then, Watson swam over and wrapped his arms around her for about 10 to 30 seconds.

The prosecution argues that the defendant was restraining his bride, to murder her. Stutz, however, thought Watson was attempting to help the woman, who may have been unable to handle the rigorous dive.

"Then they split apart," Stutz said, according to The Courier-Mail. "After, he went to the surface. She sank."

Watson is charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors in his home state say he drowned his wife on their honeymoon to collect a life insurance payout. The defense maintains that Tina, in her first open water dive, panicked and died accidentally. He served 18 months in Australia for manslaughter.

Ken Snyder, a former Marine on the dive, testified earlier that he was furious that Watson left his wife in the water, according to The Birmingham News.

Snyder also testified that he didn't believe Watson's explanation that she slipped away from him, because she panicked and allegedly dislodged his mask.

"That's bull s**t," Snyder said he told Watson. "That didn't happen."

Other divers testified that Watson, a certified rescue diver, broke a basic scuba-diving rule that all novices know.

"You don't leave your buddy unless they're dead, or they're trapped and you can't get them loose without assistance," testified Doug Milsap, according to The Birmingham News. "But if you can retrieve your buddy, there's no excuse for leaving."

However, some of the divers testified that current was strong, perhaps supporting an earlier claim by Watson that Tina was struggling underwater.

The prosecution says Watson plotted his wife's death before they got married.

Snyder's wife, who was also on the dive, said he seemed "panic stricken" when she saw him on the boat after Tina drowned, according to The Courier Mail. Later, he looked like he was in shock.

The defense played portions of an interview between Watson and Australian investigators, The Birmingham News says. During the video clip, he occasionally became emotional. The defense hopes it will counter the prosecution's argument that he was a plotting killer.


Kyle McGovern   |   February 16, 2012   11:34 AM ET

Gabe Watson, 34, stands accused of murdering his first wife, Tina Thomas Watson, on their October 2003 honeymoon in Australia. Watson served 18 months in an Australian prison after pleading guilty to a manslaughter charge, but is now on trial in Birmingham, Alabama and faces life in prison. His defense contends that her death was accidental while prosecutors say he drowned her to cash in her life insurance policy.

Oct. 11, 2003
Gabe Watson and Tina Thomas, both 26, marry in Birmingham, Alabama, The Birmingham News reports.

Oct. 15, 2003
The newlyweds arrive in Australia for their honeymoon.

Oct. 22, 2003
The couple go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef's historic Yongala dive site. Tina dies in what Watson says was an accident after she panicked underwater.

Watson becomes angry when he's told that his dive computer -- a wristwatch-sized device that records air-pressure, oxygen use and other data -- has been taken by police as evidence.

Oct. 27, 2003
Australian police interview Watson about the incident. Watson says the severe current caused his wife to panic.

Nov. 13, 2007
A coroner's inquest into the incident begins in Australia, The Birmingham News reports.

Aug. 15, 2008
Watson marries his current wife, Kim Lewis.

Nov. 28, 2008
Watson is indicted on a murder charge in Australia.

June 5, 2009
Watson pleads guilty to a negligent manslaughter charge in Australia, essentially admitting that while he did not save his wife's life, he did not intend to kill her. Watson is sentenced to 12 months in an Australian prison.

Sept. 18, 2009
An Australian appeals court extends Watson's jail time to 18 months.

Oct. 22, 2010
Exactly seven years after Tina Thomas Watson's death, Alabama state prosecutors get a capital indictment against Watson in Jefferson County.

Nov. 11, 2010
Watson is released from an Australian prison and is soon after flown to the United States. Upon landing in Los Angeles, police take him to a station for booking.

April 7, 2011
Circuit Judge Tommy Nail indefinitely postpones Watson's trial after state cutbacks leave Alabama courts short on security.

Feb. 13, 2012
Watson's trial in Birmingham begins. He is accused of first-degree murder and faces life in prison without parole.

Feb. 23, 2012
Judge Tommy Nail acquits Gabe Watson, agreeing with the defense that the prosecutors failed to present enough evidence that a crime took place. Prosecutors alleged that Watson drowned his wife for money, but the only witness to her death testified that he thought Watson was rescuing Tina.

Man Accused Of Drowning Wife On Honeymoon Weeps During Trial

Michael McLaughlin   |   February 16, 2012    9:17 AM ET

Gabe Watson, the man accused of drowning his wife while scuba diving on their honeymoon, wept Wednesday when prosecutors played an interview of him talking about his new bride's death.

The 34-year-old Alabama resident says his wife, Tina Thomas Watson, panicked and accidentally drowned in Australia in Oct. 2003. He cried while listening to an interview with Australian investigators in which he recalled learning that the 26-year-old woman perished.

The Alabama attorney general's office alleges that Watson turned off Tina's air supply and restrained her as she struggled underwater, in a ploy to collect her life-insurance payout.

Watson told police that early in the couple's dive with a group, they ran into trouble. The current was strong, Watson said, and Tina struggled to swim against it. She panicked and supposedly dislodged his mask. When he recovered, he says he couldn't reach her.

"She was out of arm's reach," he said in the police interview, according to media reports. "I couldn't grab her hand."

Watson's attorney handed him tissues to dab his eyes at the emotional climax of the day's proceedings, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation says.


The first-degree murder trial opened this week in Watson's homestate. He already served 18 months in Australian prison on a manslaughter charge. Watson, who has remarried, faces life behind bars if found guilty.

Tina was a novice scuba diver, but Watson was experienced. Prosecutors showed on Wednesday that Watson had been certified as an open water scuba diver, an advanced diver, rescue diver and specialty diver, ABC News says.

But when he says his wife was out of his reach, Watson told Australian police that he swam to the surface to get help.

Australian investigator Kevin Gehringer was the first witness on the stand, The Birmingham News reports. He testified that Watson became agitated on more than one occasion when police told him he could not have his dive computer back. A dive computer is a wristwatch-sized device that records air-pressure, oxygen use and other data from a dive, the newspaper said.


Scuba-Diving Murder Trial: Prosecutors Drop One Charge Against Husband

Michael McLaughlin   |   February 14, 2012    8:28 AM ET

Alabama prosecutors dropped one charge against Gabe Watson in the opening day of his trial Monday for allegedly drowning his wife while scuba-diving on their Australian honeymoon in 2003.

Prosecutors from the state's attorney general office charge that Watson, 34, turned off Tina Thomas Watson's air supply while they dove off the Great Barrier Reef in an attempt to collect on a life insurance policy. But they eliminated the count of murder during an abduction against him, The Birmingham News says.

Watson, who has remarried, still stands trial for allegedly carrying out a murder he planned to cash in the relatively modest $33,000 life insurance policy, according to "Good Morning America".

In his defense, Watson has said his spouse died in an accident. He says that Tina -- who was a novice scuba diver -- panicked underwater. When he tried to help, he says she dislodged his mask and by the time he repositioned his gear, it was too late.

Another swimmer on the dive told Australian investigators that he saw Watson restrain her in a bear hug. Prosecutors believe he flipped off the air switch and held her until she lost consciousness, then allowed her to sink to the ocean floor where her body was later recovered.

Tina's father, Tommy Thomas, points a finger at Watson because of advice his daughter sought from him days before she got married, according to "Good Morning America". Thomas claims that Watson asked his bride-to-be to max out her life insurance policy to $130,000 and to name him the beneficiary, instead of her dad. Thomas says he told his daughter to say she made the changes, but not worry about it until after the wedding.

Monday's proceedings focused on jury selection and motions, like dropping the murder during abduction count. David and Glenda Watson, Gabe's parents, sat in the audience. His new wife, Kim, also attended the first day of the trial.

Prosecutors down under went after Watson with murder charges, but reduced it to manslaughter. He was imprisoned until 2010 when he was deported to the United States.

Though Watson is charged with first-degree murder, he doesn't face the death penalty. Australian officials would only return him to the U.S. if prosecutors agreed to a maximum sentence of life behind bars.

Witnesses from as far away as Australia have been subpoenaed, but it's unclear if they will make the trip. The trial is expected to last two weeks.