De’asia Watkins didn’t have it easy growing up. Born to a mother suffering from mental illness and addiction issues and a father who was in and out of prison throughout most of her childhood, an unstable home was only the tip of the iceberg. Taken out of her mother’s custody in 1998, at least one woman stepped up to give Watkins the home that she never had, but even that wasn’t enough to provide Watkins with the stability she needed.
Watkins’ mother bounced in and out of her life, dragging her and Barbara Owens – Watkins’ custodial guardian – through at least a dozen court appearances. The constant harassment from Watkins’ mother’s family finally became too much, and at 12-years-old Owens signed custody of Watkins over to one of her relatives. Her biological mother would make one more attempt to gain custody of Watkins two years later, but she failed to show up for court.
That’s the last records the courts had of De’asia Watkins until after she gave birth to her own daughter. Shortly after the birth of Jayniah, Watkins was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. Friends and family say that in the weeks after her daughter’s birth, Watkins began “talking crazy” and told them that she was seeing demons.
Social services removed Jayniah from Watkins’ custody and placed her in the care of her aunt. Watkins could still visit with Jayniah under court supervision and her aunt was told that she was only to see the baby under the strictest of circumstances until the courts determined otherwise. Social services said they had no clue that Watkins’ aunt would allow her to move into the home.
It was just after 6 AM when a frantic woman dialed 911 and reported that Jayniah was believed to be dead. The baby’s “head was open” and her tiny body had sustained 15 stab wounds. The knife had been left in the 3-month-old infant’s hands. A 5-year-old relative was who initially alerted other family members to the carnage that lay waiting in the kitchen.
Police were able to locate Watkins in her bed at the home. She was covered in blood and in a catatonic state. She was taken in and charged for the murder of her daughter, but was first to undergo a psychological evaluation.
Initially Watkins pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but there were circumstances involving the crime scene that suggested that she understood that she was wrong to kill her baby. In February of 2017, Watkins changed that plea to guilty. She is currently awaiting sentencing.