The Black Widow of Alto

In 1990, Cherokee County District Attorney Charles Holcomb succeeded in convincing a biased jury to convict an innocent man of murder. The victim’s CPA, Terry Watkins of Nacogdoches, was sentenced to life in prison by relatives of the deceased who were planted on the trial jury. And lied during voir dire to be seated on the case–a typical Cherokee County maneuver. Holcomb also refused to recuse himself.

After intense public outcry and scrutiny, Watkins’ attorney John Heath, Sr. (also of Nacogdoches, TX) was able to successfully petition the Tyler Court of Appeals and had Terry Watkins released 5 years into his life sentence. It was shown that “the sheriff deputy first on the scene,” as Holcomb’s publicist recalls, and the widow shared the “$800K” life insurance policy with the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office “to hire outside state witnesses” and according to Holcomb’s statements to KTRE an investigator paid “not to solve the case.”

District Attorney Charles Holcomb not only accepted money from the deceased’s father to hire an expert witness, Holcomb also accepted money from the murder victim’s widow to hire a private investigator. In an obvious attempt at shifting the onus of suspicion away from anyone other than Mr. Terry Watkins. Or in defense attorney John Heath, Sr.’s comments to hire an investigator but “not to solve the case.” However the investigator was not allowed by Holcomb to interview the widow nor the Cherokee County Constable first on the scene. Eventually this private investigator came to Terry Watkins’ defense during re-sentencing. As stated earlier, the sheriff deputy as Holcomb ‘vaguely’ recalls was actually a Cherokee County Constable Precinct 2 who formally married the victim’s wife months after the murder.

Judge Charles Holcomb has deliberately omitted some factual tidbits from his State Bar profile about his “last big case in Alto, TX” back in 1990, in which Holcomb convicted an innocent man. Holcomb fails to mention in his profile that the 12th Court of Criminal Appeals in Tyler, which Holcomb was sitting on, reversed this conviction in 1993.

The widow and Cherokee County Constable live happily ever after, splitting a murdered man’s estate, the recipients of an accurately reported $650,000 life insurance payout to everyone involved. As if Charles Holcomb, the prosecutor and now a sitting Justice did not remember. Well preserved news article of the murder trial speak volumes.

Back to Justice Charles Holcomb’s state bar profile, especially the part where he discusses “his last big case in Alto” from 1990. Charles Holcomb, as District Attorney, accepted monies from the widow of murdered business owner Jackie Hicks of Alto, TX as reported by KTRE and the Lufkin News, ostensibly to send a private investigator on a wild goose chase to south Texas. Even though Holcomb had the coffers of the state of Texas at his disposal. Even though the number one suspect would have normally been the promiscuous widow receiving the $600- $800K insurance policy taken out on her estranged husband, Jackie Hicks. Of course the widow and her lover (a Cherokee County Constable “first on the scene”) were never formally questioned nor deposed by the then District Attorney Charles Holcomb nor by his ‘investigator.’

Holcomb gives his version of events to the State Bar in an attempt to rewrite history. The fact is an innocent man was released after 5 years on the above mentioned technicalities because of Charles Holcomb’s handling of the case. The question on the jurors’ and the community’s mind was why was the District Attorney Charles Holcomb accepting money to “hire state witnesses” when he had the coffers of the State of Texas and Cherokee County at his disposal? A double indemnity policy pays out for accidental deaths and would not have paid out in case of a homicide, another misdirection of the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office even then. Holcomb’s quick recap of the case in his State Bar profile quotes the widow “was rumored to have multiple affairs” throughout the community. Because of the number of multiple lovers of the widow that the defense called, State v. Terry Watkins (1990) was the longest running criminal trial in Cherokee County history.

District Attorney Charles Holcomb was elected to the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler, TX and his assistant Cherokee County District Attorney, Elmer C. Beckworth, Jr. continued the façade that the murder of Jackie Hicks was thoroughly “investigated.” The case against Terry Watkins received so much public outcry and so many people cried foul, that the next-in-line Alto, TX police chief Thomas Griffith was called to a grand jury.

Tyler Morning Telegraph article about former Alto, Texas police chief Thomas Griffith predicting the conviction of Terry Watkins for the murder of Alto, TX business owner Jackie Hicks would be reversed and the case reopened because:

“there are people in this area who possess information that would be very useful in this case.” Chief Griffith would eventually be drummed out of his position by Charles Holcomb’s relatives on the Alto, TX city council. Thomas Griffith had publicly maintained his belief that Terry Watkins was in fact innocent and had evidence to back up his statements. Holcomb’s former investigator would eventually become the police chief of Alto, TX, a revolving door position. Any evidence maintaining Watkins’ innocence would be ignored by Beckworth, et al, until Watkins’ conviction was overturned.

Elmer Beckworth argued for the State and against Watkins’ early release which was eventually granted. The 12th Court of Appeals reversed that conviction and acquitted Watkins in 1992 of capital murder. At a 1995 resentencing, Watkins was denied an early release and sentenced to five years for murder (he had already served over 4 years) as reported in 1996 by Charles Holcomb’s hometown paper The Cherokeean Herald.

Terry Watkins was freed by the Texas 12th Court of Appeals, with a commuted murder sentence, thereby closing the door on a local ‘investigation’ into the murder of Jackie Hicks of Alto. However, the statute of limitations is always open for the State’s Attorney to seek murder charges. If any reader has information on this conspiracy, they should contact the Attorney General’s office. Those guilty of this crime should not go unpunished, no matter whose wing they may be under and no matter how long it takes.

It may be commonplace in East Texas for innocent people to be charged with crimes committed by law enforcement, however a sitting Justice on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals lying to the State Bar about a murder case he prosecuted and lost on appeal is another thing all together. Good luck on your website and your expose’ of East Texan politics both good and bad. The narco-trade is alive and well in Cherokee County. Each time I read about one, I’ll post it for the world to see. Who knows, maybe a 6th grader in Rusk, TX might want to do a book report on local corruption or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Or a kid in China might want to find out what’s going on in East Texas. Or a Houston or Dallas/FW based entrepreneur might have second thoughts about doing business in a county that has an entrenched history of drug dealers, rapists and murderers on the payroll.
Remember, this took place before suicides became more popular.

 

 

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