Inmate accused of relationship with jailer was charged in attack

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SIKESTON, Mo. -- An inmate alleged to have a relationship with a Scott County Jail employee was originally charged over an attack on two men in Sikeston.

Christopher M. Garcia, 33, of Charleston, Mo., is being held in the jail on a $250,000 bond charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, four counts of first-degree armed criminal action and two counts of first-degree assault. All are felonies.

Sarina R. Watkins, 29, of Sikeston, was arrested March 5 and is out on a $10,000 bond. She was charged with two counts of attempting to tamper with a witness. According to the probable-cause statement, Watkins tried to influence witnesses in a Garcia's case.

Scott County Sheriff's chief deputy Tom Beardslee said authorities don't know how long the relationship had been going on between Watkins or Garcia or whether Watkins knew Garcia before his incarceration at the jail.

According to the probable-cause statement in his case, Garcia was one of at least four men accused of attacking two men at a Sikeston residence June 9.

The victims, ages 46 and 23, told Sikeston police officers that at about 11 p.m. they were punched and kicked by the men while still sitting inside a vehicle. One man stated he was threatened to be killed if he did not give his wallet to the suspects and that a knife was held against his throat, the report said. He said he pushed the suspect's hand away and got out of the car, at which time he said he was attacked by more men and thrown to the ground.

The other victim told a similar story, only that a knife was pointed at him but never touched him, the report said, and that after a short time the men were able to escape in the car.

The men told police they did not know their assailants, the report said.

Police said Garcia was identified as one of the assailants by a witness at the residence.

A Scott County Sheriff's Department investigator said in the probable-cause statement he was investigating a report of contraband in the jail when he searched Watkins' lunch container March 1, uncovering letters written to the witnesses offering money if they signed and notarized letters stating they falsely implicated Garcia and that they did not want to testify against him. Garcia allegedly signed those letters, the report said.

When signed by the witnesses, the letters would have been sent to the Scott County prosecutor and Garcia's defense attorney, according to the probable-cause statement.

Garcia has a plea hearing scheduled for April 12.

carel@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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