Kentucky

Patrick Watkins: 'She's not asleep. She's dead.'

WINCHESTER — Stephanie Rader was on the phone with her adopted brother, Patrick Watkins, when Joy Watkins walked in.

It was March 11, 2007. Patrick Watkins had just sent his wife and three of their children to Rader's home. Michaela Watkins, Patrick's 10-year-old daughter, wasn't with them.

"Please just come over here," Patrick Watkins told Rader. "I don't want to discuss it on the phone."

Rader got to her brother's apartment about 4 p.m. He was pacing across the small living room.

"It's Sissy," Patrick Watkins said, referring to Michaela. "She's in there 'sleep."

In the next breath, he told his sister: "She's not asleep. She's dead."

Rader, overcome with tears and often sobbing, recounted the ordeal during testimony Friday in the murder trial of Patrick and Joy Watkins.

Before Michaela died on March 11, 2007, prosecutors say, she was scalded and beaten with an object similar to a 2-inch-by-4-inch piece of lumber, which crushed her chest. The couple have pleaded not guilty.

Rader began to cry on the witness stand Friday as she recalled how she rushed to Michaela's room and found the girl bruised and unconscious.

"I kept saying, 'Sissy, get up, get up,'" Rader said.

Patrick Watkins told his sister that Michaela fell down the steps about 45 minutes before her arrival. But "it looked like she had been beaten to death," Rader said.

Rader called 911, but she said Patrick Watkins fed her information to tell the operator. On the 911 tape, which the prosecution played in court Monday, Rader told the operator that Michaela had a lot of medical problems. Medical examiner Dr. Cristin Rolf testified Wednesday that Tylenol and antidepressants were found in Michaela's system during her autopsy.

After the 911 call, Patrick Watkins kept saying that he needed a cigarette and wanted to be with his family, Rader testified.

Patrick Watkins said he was going to jail, and repeatedly asked, "What have I done?" she said.

Michaela had been dead for about four to six hours when Clark County Deputy Coroner Dr. Andrew Hamon examined her at about 5:15 p.m., Hamon testified Friday. He also said Michaela did not die on her bed, where she was found.

Patrick and Joy Watkins have disagreed on when they discovered that Michaela was dead. Joy Watkins told police Michaela was unresponsive during the ride home from Red River Gorge, which was sometime that afternoon. Patrick Watkins said she was alive when the family came home.

Other witnesses — police officers and store clerks — gave testimony about purchases the Watkinses made the day before and the day of Michaela's death.

Penny Hisle, a CVS pharmacy employee, testified that Joy Watkins bought two packages of gauze and a tube of cream at 3:30 p.m. March 10, 2007.

The two women usually engaged in small talk, Hisle said, but that day Watkins was in a hurry.

Michaela was severely burned on the back of her legs and buttocks from sitting in scalding water, according to testimony. Rolf testified Wednesday that she found gauze on the backs of Michaela's feet during her autopsy.

Police found the receipt from CVS in the Watkinses' car, along with receipts, dated March 11, 2007, from and Family Dollar, where they bought a cooler, and Save-A-Lot, where they bought roast beef, bread and Lay's Wavy chips.

Police also found beneath the rear passenger seat of the Watkinses' car a long wooden stick that appeared to be a table leg.

Commonwealth's Attorney Heidi Engel held the wooden object up, showing it to Hamon. She asked if the object could have crushed Michaela's ribs.

"Yes," Hamon answered.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Monday in Clark Circuit Court.

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