As a deputy coroner was about to testify about deadly stab wounds a West Toledo woman had suffered five months ago, the victim’s accused killer instead quietly pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter Monday.
James Millard Day, Sr., 67, of 2519 Auburn Ave. was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates for the Jan. 13 death of Joan Watson.
Ms. Watson, 49, was found in her West Sylvania Avenue apartment with her throat slit and her left breast amputated.
Day answered the judge’s questions in a clear voice, thanked him when given the opportunity to make a statement before sentencing, but said nothing else about the brutal crime. His attorney, Thomas Tomczak, simply asked the court to go forward with the agreed-upon sentence of 10 years.
Day had been charged with murder and three specifications that could have landed him in prison for life with no possibility for parole, but instead entered the no-contest plea before his case could go to trial June 25.
Louis Kountouris, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told the court Day was at Ms. Watson’s apartment when firefighters and police responded to the scene about 9:25 a.m.
“When questioned, he acknowledged that he had fallen asleep and had been with the victim earlier that night and had remained in Ms. Watson’s apartment during the course of the evening, drinking and smoking crack,” Mr. Kountouris said. “During the course of his statement to the detective, he acknowledged that he may in fact have mutilated her.”
Mr. Kountouris said Day later retracted that statement and never admitted to killing Ms. Watson. He claimed he had awakaned and found the victim dead.
Ms. Watson’s blood was found on Day’s hands, Mr. Kountouris said, and a mixture of his DNA and hers was found on his pants.
Day was convicted in 1975 in an eerily similar crime in which a woman was found stabbed in her apartment. He served three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an assault in that case. He later was imprisoned for seven years on an unrelated rape conviction.
His plea in the current case came during a hearing planned for taking a deposition from Dr. Cynthia Beisser, a deputy Lucas County coroner who performed the autopsy on Ms. Watson. Dr. Beisser was not going to be available to testify during his trial later this month.
“He suddenly changed his plea, which surprised us,” Mr. Kountouris said afterward.
He said prosecutors agreed to the plea agreement because Day’s DNA was not found on Ms. Watson’s body, while DNA belonging to another individual was found on her body, which could have raised doubts in jurors’ minds.
No one from Ms. Watson’s family was in court Monday.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.