Independence woman says man offered to mow lawn, then threatened to kill her: police

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A 31-year-old man was arrested by local authorities last week after he allegedly held an Independence woman hostage at gunpoint in her home when she declined to use his lawn care services.

Theodore Watkins Jr., of Independence, faces a weapons charge in a federal criminal complaint filed Friday in the Western District of Missouri. He is accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felony that carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

According to an affidavit by an Independence police detective, officers were first dispatched around 11:25 a.m. May 12 to the 900 block of South Ann Street on a reported burglary in progress. A neighbor reported to police that a man had forced his way inside the home of an elderly woman and appeared to be holding something in his hand.

Officers arrived alongside the SWAT team and hostage negotiators. As police were making announcements over the loudspeaker, a woman walked out followed by Watkins, who was taken into police custody.

The police detective noted in the court document that the woman was “visibly shaken” and had bruises on her right arm.

During an interview at police headquarters, the woman told investigators she was at home when Watkins knocked on her door, offered to mow her lawn and gave her a business card. She declined, closed the door and heard a knock roughly five minutes later.

When she approached the door again, the woman said Watkins forced his way inside and pointed a handgun at her and told her: “Where’s the money?” She fell into a china cabinet and her television set crashed to the ground, she said.

The woman said she emptied her purse of $100 in cash for Watkins. He allegedly searched for jewelry and unplugged her house phone.

The woman told police Watkins had her sit on a bed while he searched through her house for about 30 minutes. At one point, Watkins allegedly told her that he “was not a bad guy” and “just down on his luck,” according to the court document.

Later Watkins allegedly asked the woman for a screwdriver and she could hear the sound of her vents being fiddled with.

When the police were outside, Watkins allegedly told her to pretend they were friends and that everything was OK.

“If you do that, I am not going to hurt you,” he allegedly said, before saying he had her driver’s license in his possession and his friends would return to kill her if she spoke to authorities.

“Now remember what I told you,” he allegedly said as she was about to walk outside. “I have friends.”

After Watkins and the woman were in police custody, a search of the home was conducted by investigators. Inside of an air vent police found a loaded 9mm handgun that allegedly belonged to Watkins.

During an interview at police headquarters, Watkins told detectives he was in the neighborhood passing out fliers for his lawn care business when he heard a woman stumble inside the house. He said she allowed him to come inside to help her and that he gave her a cigarette and glass of water, according to the court document.

Watkins also allegedly told detectives he was nervous when he saw the police outside because of his status as a parolee. He denied having a firearm during the interview.

Criminal records for Watkins show his criminal history bars him from possessing a gun.

Watkins is currently being held in federal custody. A detention hearing in his case is scheduled for Friday.

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