A Spartanburg County man received a 30-year prison term today after he admitted to brutally stabbing a 70-year-old woman to death.
Shawn Ryan Watson, 21, of 449 Cotton Drive, pleaded guilty to murder before Circuit Judge Derham Cole only moments before jury selection was to begin in his trial. Watson took responsibility for the May 22, 2001 death of Mary Leaphart, of 587 Plainview Drive.
Family members arrived at the home about 10 p.m. The door was locked. The family entered the home by breaking a window. They found Leaphart sitting in a chair with multiple knife wounds to her head and face. A broken butcher knife was on floor near the chair.
A witness saw him run from the home with Leaphart’s pocketbook.
A short time after discovering the body, deputies found Watson hiding under a car on Cotton Drive. DNA evidence showed that Watson had the victim’s blood on his pants and shirt when deputies confronted him. He also had a scarf, $24 cash and Leaphart’s driver’s license in his possession.
In 2001, Watson was found incompetent to stand trial due to his mental retardation. After further evaluation, the Court found Watson competent to stand trial in October, 2003. The trial was scheduled to begin today but in a surprise move, the defendant entered a guilty plea without any recommendation or negotiations from the State. Watson will serve the entire sentence. He is not eligible for early release. The defendant was represented by Mike Bartosh of the Spartanburg Public Defender’s Office. The State of South Carolina was represented by Deputy Solicitor Donnie Willingham.
“The victim’s family has waited a long time
to see justice done – today justice was done,” Willingham