Mother Seeks Answers In Son’s Killing At Utah State Prison
SANTAQUIN, Utah —More than three weeks after learning her son died inside the Utah State Prison under suspicious circumstances, a woman is pleading for more answers and justice in the case.
Wendy Harmon said Monday that few details had come to light beyond what was on 38-year-old Reo Watts’ death certificate.
That document, which Harmon shared with KSL, classified the case as a homicide and stated that the man had been strangled by another person in an assault.
“The medical examiner is the only one who has been completely forthright in giving me all the information that he could once he had finally completed his report,” Harmon said. “There are so many questions that aren’t answered that we are very disturbed about.”
Harmon said of particular concern was where Watts was placed inside the prison and with whom, and she said she wasn’t sure why her son was taken back to prison when he was arrested on July 31.
According to court records, Watts was charged with three misdemeanors — failure to stop at the command of law enforcement, possession or use of a controlled substance and possession of burglary tools — during that stop in Salt Lake City.
The charging documents stated that Watts told the arresting officers that he fled because he thought he had a warrant out for his arrest, which police discovered that he in fact did.
Harmon said she believed the warrant was related to a violation of his parole that was connected to his drug use.
“Why he was taken directly to the prison — I’m told it’s not against the law, but that is not protocol in his history,” Harmon said. “They have never taken him directly to the prison.”
The mother said she believed her son shouldn’t have been placed where he was in the prison or with his particular cellmate.
“Why he was placed with this guy, I don’t know, because this guy has committed several violent crimes,” Harmon said. “There are lots of things we don’t know.”
When asked prior to a Monday deadline about Watts’ prison placement, a Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson responded that she would look into it on Tuesday.
Utah Department of Public Safety public affairs director Marissa Cote said on Oct. 4 that there were no new updates in the case, which was being handled by the State Bureau of Investigation.
Another spokesperson, on duty for the Columbus Day holiday, did not return with any additional updates as of Monday night.
Harmon said she has visited Watts’ grave at the Santaquin City Cemetery practically every day and has been devastated since she learned of her son’s death.
“We were woken up at 2:30 in the morning, and they said my son was killed,” Harmon said. “Of course, I went berserk.”
Harmon remembered her son Monday as a loving, caring, hard-working man who went out of his way to help other people.
She acknowledged Watts had seen his share of legal struggles that she said ultimately stemmed from a drug addiction.
“It hadn’t been for 7½ years — he’d been clean off of meth,” Harmon said.
Watts, according to his mother, hadn’t started to use again until spring 2019 following a knee surgery.
“He tried to come back up from it, and I remember standing with him in the kitchen after his knee surgery,” the mother recalled. “He had slept this off for days and got his mind clear again and he just had tears streaming down his cheeks, just sobbing because he was so remorseful because he felt so guilty about relapsing, so he had relapsed and tested ‘dirty’ a couple of times.”
Harmon said she had even reached out to her son’s parole officer to try to get him into treatment, but to no avail.
“Whenever he’s clean and doing well, you get nothing but the truth out of that kid,” Harmon said. “He hated being where he was and hated that he couldn’t kick that. It just devastated him.”
Harmon said Watts was the type who didn’t want to dwell on the past and always wanted to move forward in life.
“He called me early in the afternoon the day of his death and was just on top of the world, excited because he was completely clear-headed,” she said. “He just told me, ‘Mom, I know I’ve said this before, but I’ve got a good plan and I’m excited about it.’”
Harmon said she hopes more answers will come soon and that the case will ultimately end with justice for her son’s death.
“Never in a million years would I have expected this, murder, to touch my home, to touch my son, to take his life,” she said, teary-eyed. “It should have never happened.”
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