No one had spoken to or heard from Watson since the previous week. The lifelong bachelor, whose immediate family lived in England, traveled often. He lived alone, seldom if ever had people over. He liked his privacy, had no cell phone, kept an untidy apartment, and spent time studying his portfolio on his living room table.
Kassar knew Watson could handle any emergency. He was the picture of health, no heart problems, just a bum knee and some bruises from skiing. He was like a senior fitness model in the swim ads for Modern Maturity. He told his sister that he was once robbed at knifepoint in Spain and without a weapon had subdued two assailants, though he was bloodied in the process.
After 6:00, Kassar decided to investigate Watson’s absence. At 8111 Camino del Oro, he, a security guard, and an emergency medical technician rode the elevator to Watson’s third-floor apartment, K.
Knocking loudly, then unlocking deadbolt and doorknob, the guard, the medical tech, and Kassar entered. Kassar saw a “disheveled” apartment that looked as though it had been burglarized. A dresser’s drawers had been left pulled out, and a book, Time Management for Dummies, lay on the floor. One of Watson’s financial statements was set out on the living room table. It caught Kassar’s eye. It was from Watson’s Deutsche Bank account and showed a balance in the millions. Kassar clicked on the answering machine and heard the messages.
In the bedroom came the shock. There, on the floor, beside the red-sheeted bed, lay John Watson, his body speckled with scrapes and scratches, bite marks and bruises. Clad only in low-rise black underwear, he was on his back, arms rigid at his side. He was facing up, like a stone sarcophagus. Watson, Kassar recalled, seemed “perfectly posed.”
The medical tech checked for a pulse, but there was none. The lividity of the body was pronounced; Watson had been dead at least a day. Soon, San Diego police arrived and found only the phone number of Beth Martinez, Watson’s emergency contact. She and her husband Manny were very close friends. Their kids called Watson “Uncle John,” and the children and parents often spent ski holidays with him. The Martinezes were devastated by the news.
The following morning Beth arrived at the apartment and was told that Watson’s wallet was missing. His 14-year-old Saab was still parked in the parking lot, and eight ripe pineapples, Watson’s favorite fruit, were in the fridge. No one could locate his computer, where phone numbers for his family in England were stored. It was obvious, she told the detectives: there had to have been foul play.
Kassar, who also came by on Wednesday, felt the same. Thinking that Watson’s death reeked of financial theft, he called William Conn, Watson’s financial advisor with Deutsche Bank in San Francisco. He conveyed the sad tidings and then told Conn to check Watson’s account. The account showed no withdrawals.
But when Conn looked the next day, there was a request from Scottrade, via its office in La Jolla, to transfer a very large sum to a new Scottrade account — in John Watson’s name. This can’t be, Conn thought. He had met his client at the Marine Room in mid-May to strategize about investments. He said that Watson had told him then that he was concerned about fraud. Someone had been using his personal information to open bogus accounts.
On Thursday, when Conn checked Watson’s account, he saw that a transfer of funds to Scottrade had gone through — of Watson’s $11.77 million, $8.9 million had been taken. As if from the grave, Watson had transferred that money to himself.
A Millionaire Opportunity
Kent Keigwin’s plan to get at John Watson’s money began in early 2009. He opened a Yahoo email account in Watson’s name. The applications at Citibank and E*Trade for new accounts, about which Watson had alerted police, also fit Keigwin’s M.O. As one detective who investigated Watson’s death said, Keigwin’s profession gave him “a great deal of knowledge about how money moves in our financial system.”
Some of Keigwin’s internet searches in the spring of 2010 showed a design: “Taser Gun Superstore”; “Scottrade”; “GPS tracker”; “Millionaire Opportunities,” a website with advice for attaining the “mentality” of the rich; and an online store for purchasing “fantasy swords, bowie knives,” and a “lock-picking kit.”
In April, Keigwin used the name, birth date, and address of a longtime client, Lance Keith, who lived in China, to buy a stun gun online from Taser International. To get the civilian model, the C2, the buyer had to pass a background check. For that, Keigwin used Keith’s personal information. Keith’s record was clean, so the Taser was shipped to Keigwin. To pay, Keigwin used his own credit card.
On Sunday, June 6, two days before his body was found, Watson left his home around 3:00 p.m. for the Walmart at Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and I-805. A security camera videotaped him parking, making his purchases, and walking back to his car, all between 3:30 and 4:30.
What Watson didn’t know was that Keigwin had installed a tracking device on the Saab and was following Watson’s movements. While Watson ran his errand, Keigwin waited in his car, the Taser in his backpack, three blocks from Watson’s La Jolla home. Keigwin received a ping every two minutes on his cell phone telling him the location of his prey — driving on 52 to Walmart, parking, driving home.
Keigwin most likely let himself into Watson’s apartment. Soon after Watson came in, Keigwin tased him in the back.
An electronic firearm, the Taser shoots twin probes attached to wires 15 feet long. Keigwin fired the probes — which deliver a 50,000-volt shock — from three feet away. They punctured and burned into Watson’s lower back. The sensation, said one criminal investigator whose training included being stunned, is “extremely painful: it’s like grabbing ahold of electricity on the end of a jackhammer.”
Keigwin’s C2 Taser was unlike a law enforcement Taser: the jolt from that Taser lasts 5 seconds. The civilian Taser’s jolt lasts 30 seconds. It’s built for a longer stun so whoever uses it, presumably in self-defense, can get away. When the C2 fires its probes, it also releases a confetti stream of some two dozen “afids,” antifelon identification “tags.” On these paper dots, in microprint, are the gun’s serial number, traceable to the owner. Keigwin picked up as many of these as he could. In addition, the Taser scatters, from its front-loaded cartridge, two “blast doors,” one of which Keigwin also retrieved.