Murder charge filed in 1985 Johnson County cold case, prosecutors say

Katie Moore
·2 min read

Thirty-six years after a man was fatally stabbed in Johnson County, his family said they can begin healing as prosecutors announced Tuesday that charges have been filed.

Gary Watson, 29, was stabbed to death on March 13, 1985, in Roeland Park. Three men were seen entering Watson’s apartment about two hours before his body was discovered, according to The Star’s archives. At the time, police conducted more than 200 interviews and traveled to St. Louis to conduct additional investigation.

On Tuesday, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said his office has charged 65-year-old Geter Rhymes with first-degree murder. Rhymes was being held in the St. Louis area and Howe said he would be extradited to Johnson County in the next week.

Kate Meyer, a crime scene investigator with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, said evidence from the scene was collected and analyzed in 1985, and again in 2002, 2011, 2012 and 2020.

“Due to the quality of the original scene processing and subsequent evidence storage, it was possible for additional analysis to be performed and actionable results to be obtained approximately 36 years later,” Meyer said.

The Kansas City Star covered Gary Watson’s death in a March 19, 1985, story.
The Kansas City Star covered Gary Watson’s death in a March 19, 1985, story.

Watson’s sister Audrey Walker said when she found out about the arrest, “tears just started flowing.”

“It was just an overwhelming sense of thank you God, there’s some closure, like true healing can begin,” she said.

Watson was a father of three who “had a loving, caring, compassionate spirit for other folks,” Walker said.

She said her family never gave up hope.

“I understood that 1985 to 2021 there have been so many new processes in place for the criminal justice system that you can’t just walk away from what you did even if it took 36 years,” she said.

Howe said there is more than one suspect in the investigation and that as the case proceeds, more information will be released.