LUMBERTON — More than four years after the crime was committed, a Lumberton man has pleaded guilty in the shooting death of a what lawmen say was a local gang leader.
Mikkos Watson, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon Friday in Superior Court and was sentenced to a minimum of eight years in prison and maximum of 12 years. Watson accepted a plea deal that reduced his charges from first-degree murder after a witness was recently killed in an unrelated shooting, according to District Attorney Johnson Britt.
Watson admitted pulling the trigger in the Christmas Eve 2012 shooting of John Rowe, 52, and Sharon Crump, 36, according to Britt. Rowe died as a result of the shooting; Crump was shot in the leg, where the bullet remains. A second, still unknown shooter was also involved in the incident, Britt said.
According to Britt, on Dec. 24, 2012, Watson and his companion came upon Rowe and Crump at an apartment complex outside the 1100 block of East First Street. Words were exchanged before gunfire broke out. Rowe was struck in the leg, severing an artery, and was pronounced dead at Southern Regional Medical Center.
Rowe “was the target of multiple shootings,” Britt said. “We believe this was gang-related. Rowe was a known gang leader of one of the gangs we have here. But we could never prove that Mr. Watson was the member of a gang.”
Crump identified Watson by voice, Britt said.
Kenny Ray Floyd was present during the shooting incident but fled unharmed. Floyd was scheduled to testify against Watson but was shot to death last month at a Wilson Street home in Lumberton.
The case was delayed for several reasons, including the death of Lumberton police Detective Duane Hunter. Hunter died in a motorcycle accident in January 2013.
Additional delays in the case, which was initially looked at as a possible capital case, included attorneys for Watson claiming that their client was mentally disabled. Britt said that testing revealed Watson’s IQ was around 61. By North Carolina statute, a person is considered disabled if their IQ is below 70.
Watson has previous convictions for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon in 2008.
Britt said that his office made concessions in order to close the case, but is glad Watson is headed to prison.
“We are satisfied with what happened, in light with the circumstances being dealt — with the death of the investigator and the death of a witness,” Britt said.
At the plea hearing family members of Rowe spoke, including his uncle, Ricky Roe. A military veteran who now works for the United States Veterans Administration, he spoke of forgiving Watson for what he had done.
Watson has been held at the Robeson County jail since his arrest in January 2013.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly