The man brought back from Mississippi in the knife killings of a pastor’s wife and her two grandchildren at their Land Park apartment last October faced a judge Thursday for the first time in the slayings.
Jerod Michael Watson, 53, stood silent in his courtroom holding cell in front of the victims’ family and friends, who numbered in the dozens and filled every row of Judge Richard Sueyoshi’s courtroom. They wore T-shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts emblazoned with the photos of the victims: Marquise Brown, 23, James R. Ferrell, 20, and their grandmother, 68-year-old Christine Lucas.
Lucas was married to Rev. John Lucas, pastor of Gloryland Revival Center. Ferrell had just graduated high school, while Brown was a young father and worked for Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps.
All three were found dead Oct. 15, 2016, slashed or stabbed inside their apartment in the Alder Grove housing complex on Broadway near Eighth Street.
Watson faces three counts of murder with special circumstances in the October killings. He will return to Sacramento Superior Court April 20 for further arraignment.
Sacramento police say Watson was a former boyfriend of Twanna Lucas, mother of Brown and Ferrell, and had a history of domestic violence.
The Thursday hearing came more than a month after his arrest Feb. 24 in Biloxi, Miss., on a panhandling charge. A manhunt seeking Watson stretched on for months before the arrest by Biloxi police. Sacramento authorities had focused on Watson as a suspect within days of the triple homicide and later found his sport-utility vehicle abandoned in Reno.
Those who filled the courtroom for the afternoon arraignment remained silent through the hearing, the quiet broken by a deep groan from the gallery when Sueyoshi read one of the three murder charges against Watson.
The anger and anguish was too much for Kia Hightower. She sat with family in the center of a row in the front of the gallery, clad in a black sweatshirt that read “I Grieve for My Grandma.”
Outside after the hearing, she paused to sit, then said of Watson: “He doesn’t deserve a life. He did it. They were my cousins. This was my grandma.”
She pointed at Lucas’ image on the sweatshirt and began to cry.