In 2013, Warren Watson had a plan.
For reasons known only to him, he decided to act out his fantasy of killing a female attorney, with a twisted scenario that included sexual assault and robbery.
After months of plotting and targeting other victims, he settled on Claudia Miller, a veteran litigator who specialized in family law.
At the time, Watson was well known to law enforcement, having four pages of charges on his Colorado Bureau of Investigation rap sheet, including forgery, burglary and vehicle theft charges during the 1990s and a couple of escape attempts in the 2000s. He had an active warrant in his name at the time and was considered to be armed and dangerous.
It was about 8:15 p.m. on March 5, 2013, when local police officers in Lakewood responded to a call from an office complex. A cleaning crew in one of the buildings had come upon a woman’s body. Crime scene reports mentioned signs of sexual abuse. Her shirt and bra were pulled up over her chest, her pants were unbuttoned and had been lowered, and her underwear was gone.
In addition, the wrists showed evidence of ligature marks, and there were postmortem abrasions on her stomach. An autopsy later determined that she’d been strangled to death.
Once identification had been confirmed, investigators made contact with Miller’s secretary and learned that the victim had credit cards through Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Capital One and US Bank, plus a debit card with Mutual of Omaha. It was soon determined that many of those had been used between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on the day of the murder. They subsequently obtained surveillance footage from WalMart and another store with still photos showing a man using Miller’s cards. Resolution in some of the video was quite good.
Miller’s phone was found in a dumpster, and a nearby camera captured video of Watson driving up in a 2012 black Honda Accord like the one she owned and depositing a black trash bag that contained blood-stained panties and zip ties of the kind that could cause the ligature marks.
A woman called in a tip, saying she had been staying with Watson at a Best Inn and Suites. She also gave police a cell phone number for him that showed up on Miller’s call logs.
Investigators later found and impounded Miller’s car at a truck stop. They discovered that he had boarded a flight to Idaho on March 7. He was captured there the next day.
By the end of the month, a grand jury had indicted Watson, and their documents reveal chilling details regarding the circumstances of Miller’s death:
“Warren Watson admitted to pulling out, what he described as, a fake gun and telling Claudia Miller to get down on the floor. He admitted to tying her up, going through her purse, and taking her money and her credit cards. He admitted that he strangled her. He admitted touching her labia and running his hands on the outside of her vagina. He stated that he took a Kleenex to wipe her and his hand went inside her. He said that the napkin fell apart and he used water to flush it out. Warren Watson admitted to being sexually aroused and intended to have sex with Claudia Miller at some point. He also admitted to killing her.”
He allegedly “called other female attorneys, who had declined to meet with him on such short notice, before he called Ms. Miller.” He identified himself as a doctor and used a false name when asking for an appointment – and he scheduled it for 4:30 p.m. Calling back to tell her he would be late, he thereby set up a scenario in which she would be alone in the office.
Watson was found guilty on multiple charges, including one count apiece of first degree murder after deliberation, felony murder/sexual assault, felony murder/robbery, sexual assault by force and tampering with evidence, as well as two counts of aggravated robbery and seven counts of identity theft. Because he had seven prior felony convictions, he was tried as a habitual criminal.
On September 29, 2015, Warren Watson was sentenced to life in prison plus 334 years.