DNA Cracks 1995 Cold Case Murder of California Nurse

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 DNA Cracks 1995 Cold Case Murder of California Nurse

Christine Munro was attacked while jogging on the south side of the Sacramento River Trail on June 24, 1995. A 37-year-old nurse and mother of four children, her murder devastated our community. At that time, RPD investigators spent hundreds of hours collecting evidence and interviewing dozens upon dozens of witnesses and potential suspects. 

A convicted rapist falsely confessed to the crime in 1997, but there was insufficient evidence to prove he actually committed the crime. Over the years, the case went cold. 

In late 2019, Major Crimes Detective Rusty Bishop began reviewing the entire Munro cold case, including looking at physical evidence that could be analyzed with modern DNA technology. In January 2020, Bishop re-submitted fingernail scrapings of Christine Munro to the Department of Justice for DNA analysis. This past June, Bishop received notification of a possible match through the Department of Justice Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The evidence matched the DNA profile of James Watkins, 42 years, of Texas. Watkins was serving a 14-year sentence for robbery in a Texas state prison.

Detectives immediately went to work reviewing Watkin’s history and whereabouts, before, during, and after the murder of Munro. They learned Watkins moved to Redding, California from Texas in early 1995 at the age of 17 to live with his aunt and uncle. During his short time in Redding, he was contacted by Redding Police eight times over the two-year period. Those contacts included an arrest for shoplifting, a warrant arrest, and an unlawful camping citation. 

In the fall of 1997, Watkins moved back to Texas. While living in Texas, he was arrested, charged, and convicted of multiple crimes to include sexual assault, burglary, escape, and bank robbery. He has spent a significant portion of his life in prison. 

In August 2020, several RPD Detectives and Senior Deputy District Attorney Kelly Kafel flew out to Texas to conduct follow-up on this case, including interviewing Watkins. With assistance from the Texas Rangers, a search warrant was issued for Watkins’ DNA. Upon their return, detectives transferred the Watkin’s DNA sample to the California Department of Justice, Redding lab. 

Within a few weeks, the analysis confirmed the original CODIS hit was a match. It was indeed Watkin’s DNA that was under Munro’s fingernails at the time of her murder. 

Bishop worked with the Kafel to obtain an arrest warrant for Watkins for the murder of Munro. A governor’s warrant was obtained so Watkins could be transferred from Texas to Redding. Upon service of the warrant, Watkins waived extradition. Detectives and Kafel flew to Texas last week. With the assistance of Texas Rangers, the Texas Department of Corrections, and the Texas State Troopers, Watkins was transferred to a waiting private plane and flown back to Redding. 

After an extensive interview with Corporal Mike DiMatteo, Watkins was booked into the Shasta County Jail on multiple charges, to include rape, kidnapping and murder.  

Republished courtesy of Redding Police Department. 

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