(Halifax Regional Police - image credit)
A Saint John judge has reserved decision on whether a man once described as a "cunning, voracious sexual predator" breached the conditions of his release while at a halfway house in the city.
Christopher Michael Watts, 60, was charged with breaching the conditions of a long-term supervision order that was imposed when he was sentenced in 2003 for manslaughter in the death of a 13-year-old girl.
Watts was also convicted of raping Amanda Raymond before she died, while she was comatose at his Ontario home.
On Thursday, Watts stood trial for breaching two conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada — not to own, use or possess a computer or any device that would allow access to the internet, and not to be in the presence of any female under the age of 18 unless supervised.
The court heard that Watts entered a Saint John store on June 2, 2020, to buy a copy of his own book. The book wasn't in stock, so a sales clerk helped him locate it on a computer that linked to the store's national database.
The clerk, whose identity is protected by a court order, said Watts entered his own phone number into the computer. The woman also testified that Watts spent a few minutes talking to a teenage coworker.
She said she spoke with the girl after Watts left the store and said the girl was shaken up by the experience.
No evidence was heard about the content or context of the conversation.
A video played for the court showed a man identified as Watts speaking with a person identified as the young employee. The man had a prolonged conversation with the girl, left the frame and then returned a few minutes later for another five-minute conversation.
In his closing argument, defence lawyer Charles Bryant said it would be "virtually impossible" under the circumstances — the girl was almost 18 and wearing a mask — for Watts to discern her age.
He also argued that a computer which can only access a store's national website is an "intranet" and doesn't fit the criteria of a computer that can access the internet.
As Crown prosecutor Chris Ryan pointed out in his final arguments, the condition of staying away from girls under the age of 18 has been a part of his release for four and a half years and was reviewed with him many times by probation officials. He said Watts knew the importance of knowing a girl's age.
He said the video evidence showed Watts in the girl's presence for more than five minutes.
"This is not a situation where it's a momentary interaction," said Ryan.
Provincial Court Judge Kelly Winchester is scheduled to deliver her verdict on Feb. 26 at 9:30 a.m.
Watts, meanwhile, remains remanded to Dorchester Penitentiary.
When he was released from prison in British Columbia in 2017, not a single halfway house in the province would take him. He was deemed too great a risk.
Totally defiant, totally without any sense of guilt, totally without any sense of remorse. - Ontario judge
His home province of Ontario didn't want him. Neither did Quebec.
Jamieson Community Correctional Centre, located in a Halifax-area industrial park, finally agreed to take him.
But his arrival triggered a warning from Halifax police to the community. They said he "has been deemed a high risk to reoffend sexually."
"He has exhibited a pattern of providing large quantities of drugs to young girls and engaging in sexual activity with them without regard for their ability to consent," the warning stated.
When he arrived in New Brunswick in August 2019, Saint John police issued a similar warning.
Watts has been assessed as a psychopath, and a judge once described him as a "cunning, voracious sexual predator."
There was no evidence at trial for why Watts was sent to a halfway house in Saint John.
Long criminal history
In the 1980s, he eluded arrest for various crimes in the Hamilton area, where he grew up, by assuming the identity of a dead child with the same year of birth.
In 1989, he was sentenced to four years in prison after he hog-tied and gagged a teenage girl during a three-day cocaine and alcohol binge.
Then, in 2001, during a party at his home on a small private island about 20 minutes east of Kitchener, Ont., he sexually assaulted 13-year-old Amanda Raymond while she was comatose after taking fatal amounts of morphine, oxycodone and amphetamine.
Watts and others wrote degrading things on her naked, lifeless body with a marker. She died in conditions a prosecutor described as "squalor."
When he was sentenced in 2003, a judge said Watts had preyed "on vulnerable, immature, to some extent drug-dependent girls as young as 13 years of age." He said Watts was "totally defiant, totally without any sense of guilt, totally without any sense of remorse."
In addition to a 12-year-sentence for manslaughter, sexual interference and sexual assault, the judge also imposed a long-term supervision order.
Such orders kick in after a person has been released from prison, and can add up to 10 years of supervision while the person is in the community. Those who violate conditions — even if no criminal activity is involved — can be sent back to prison for 90 days.
Watts served every day of his 12-year sentence, which means that, without the long-term supervision order, he would have walked away from prison without any conditions.
The Parole Board of Canada imposes the conditions for such orders. For Watts, they include requirements:
not to consume, purchase or possess alcohol or illegal drugs.
not to own, use or possess a computer or any device that would allow access to the internet.
not to be in the presence of any female children under the age of 18 unless supervised.
But he has repeatedly violated those conditions and been sent back to prison several times. In one case, he was back behind bars within a week.
A Criminal's Handbook
While in prison, he wrote a book under the pseudonym C.W. Michael, called The Criminal's Handbook: A Practical Guide to Surviving Arrest and Incarceration in Canada.
In fact, he was in the process of buying that book in Saint John on June 2, when he was charged with the latest breaches of his long-term supervision order.