Redding Police make arrest in cold case of 1995 murder

The Redding Police Department announced Friday an arrest in the 1995 murder of Christine Munro.

Posted: Nov 13, 2020 4:17 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2020 11:13 PM

REDDING, Calif. – The Redding Police Department announced Friday an arrest in the 1995 murder of Christine Munro.

Munro was attacked while jogging on the south side of the Sacramento River Trail on June 24, 1995. She was a nurse and a mother of four.

In 1995, investigators conducted several interviews and followed up on many leads. A convicted rapist confessed to the crime in 1997 but there is no evidence to prove he actually committed the crime, and the case went cold, RPD said.

In late 2019, Major Crimes Detective Rusty Bishop started reviewing Munro’s case. Later in January of 2020, they resubmitted fingernail scrapings, and later in June, a possible match returned. The evidence matched the DNA profile of 42-year-old James Watkins, of Texas. Watkins was serving a 14-year sentence in a Texas state prison for a robbery.

Investigators learned that Watkins moved to Redding from Texas in early 1995 at the age of 17 to live with his aunt and uncle. During his short time in Redding, he was contacted by RPD eight times over a two-year period. The contacts included an arrest for shoplifting, a warrant, and unlawful camping citation, according to the department.

In the fall of 1997, Watkins moved back to Texas and was then arrested and convicted of crimes including sexual assault, burglary, and bank robbery, and escape. RPD said he has spent a significant amount of his life in prison.

In August of 2020, RPD detectives and Senior Deputy DA went to Texas to conduct a follow-up investigation, including an interview with Watkins. Authorities got a search warrant for DNA from Watkins and brought it back to call for a match. It was then confirmed by the test results that Watkins DNA was under Christine Munro’s fingernails at the time of her murder, RPD said.

An arrest warrant and governor’s warrant were obtained so Watkins could be transferred from Texas to Redding. Watkins was then brought to Redding the morning of Nov. 13, 2020.

Watkins is currently being interviewed and RPD said following that interview, he will be booked into the Shasta County Jail on rape, kidnapping, and murder charges, according to the RPD.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett also spoke at the news conference regarding this investigation. Bridgette said on July 6, 2020, RPD detectives contacted her about the new evidence found in Munro’s murder.

Detectives said on Oct. 21, 2020, they presented the DA with new evidence that proved James Watkins is responsible for the death of Christine Munro. The following day, the DA filed criminal charges including murder, and three special allegations. The DA said if convicted, he is eligible for life without the possibility of parole. He will currently remain in the Shasta County Jail with no bail.

The DA said they expect that early next week Watkins will be in court for his first appearance.

Christine Munro's daughter, Lisa, thanked all those involved in helping with her mother's case. "She loved the river trail and I take comfort that she died in the place she loved so much."

Authorities said Watkins provided no motive for what he did.

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