October 30, 2020

Man to face Alabama trial in wife’s diving death

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In this undated photo provided by Townsville Coroners Court on June 20, 2008, Gabe Watson, left, and his wife, Tina, pose on their engagement. (AP Photo/Townsville Coroners Court, HO, File)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A dream honeymoon to scuba dive on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef turned into a terrible nightmare, and the horror is about to play out years later in a courtroom in Alabama.

An Alabama man who already served prison time in Australia after pleading guilty to a reduced charged in the death of his bride goes to trial Monday, accused of murdering her for insurance money. Tina Thomas Watson drowned during a scuba dive on the reef just days after her wedding in October 2003.

Gabe Watson is charged with capital murder — which normally is punishable by death — but faces life in prison without parole if convicted because of a deal the state made years ago with Australian officials to guarantee his return to the U.S.

Tina Watson’s father said the family has endured eight years of delays and disappointments getting to the trial date.

“It’s been a traumatic, excruciating ordeal,” said Tommy Thomas, of suburban Helena.

Watson, 34, and Tina met in college. They wed and went to Australia to dive — a trip prosecutors claim Watson meticulously planned so he could kill the 26-year-old woman and make it seem like an accident.

Watson is accused of killing Tina Watson by turning off her air supply and bear-hugging her as she drowned while diving on a shipwreck in 2003.

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