CHESTER, S.C. Clayton Eli Watts, a teenager accused of shooting his grandmother to death in their Chester County home, spared no emotion when a magistrate told him Thursday that he could face 30 years behind bars, life in prison or the death penalty for allegedly orchestrating a plot to commit murder.
But Marqueas Issale Eric Buchanan, 18, also charged with murder, sniffled and looked at family members who struggled to hold back tears as he learned he wouldn’t be getting out of jail.
Deputies charged Watts and Buchanan in the killing of Jimmie Diane Paul, who for three years worked in the Chester County Clerk of Court’s Office as a jury coordinator and was described by co-workers as a “bubbly” woman who cared for others.
A day after he was arrested and charged with murder and possession of a firearm, Watts appeared in front of Chief Magistrate Dianne Moore for his initial appearance without his co-defendant at his side. For a little more than four minutes, he stared down at the floor, his eyes hidden beneath golden hair that covered his brow.
Moore told him that she would not be setting bail for murder or possession of a firearm during a violent crime, which carries a five-year prison sentence. Magistrates cannot set bail for a murder charge.
Bail for those charges, Moore said, will be set in Circuit Court, where Watts is scheduled to appear first March 14 and then again April 18.
After mumbling “Yes, ma’am” to a question about whether he wanted to sign a form consenting to a preliminary hearing April 9, Watts clutched a blue pen, signed the paper and said he didn’t have any questions.
A detention center officer then escorted Watts out of the courtroom.
Investigators said they believe Watts orchestrated a planned attack on his grandmother, said Mary Ann Tolbert of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.
The shooting wasn’t a robbery or home invasion, she said, but police would not discuss a motive Thursday.
Watts and Buchanan are friends, Tolbert said. Deputies are searching for a third suspect, who officials say knows Buchanan. By Thursday evening, no new arrests had been made.
Both Watts and Buchanan attend Chester High School, school district officials confirmed Thursday.
According to a Chester County sheriff’s report, deputies were called to 1313 Williamsville Church Road about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in reference to an unresponsive person who was bleeding.
When they went into the house, they found Paul dead on the kitchen floor, bleeding from gunshot wounds to her right leg and chest.
Authorities found Watts sitting in a chair in the laundry room and took him in for questioning, Sheriff Alex Underwood said.
About 3 a.m. Wednesday, police arrested Buchanan.
Both Watts and Buchanan admitted to shooting Paul with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a .357 revolver, according to arrest warrants.
All three suspects are believed to have used guns to shoot Paul, Tolbert said Thursday.
Paul, who co-workers said was never without a smile, was married to Mack Paul, Chester County’s director of building and planning. Carlisle Roddey, county supervisor and a family friend, said the couple raised Watts, who just turned 17 last month.
A half-hour after Watts left the courtroom Thursday, Buchanan walked in sniffling. Members of his family stood a few feet away.
Moore told Buchanan the details of his charges and the consequences he faces. Like Watts, Buchanan agreed to a preliminary hearing and learned that he’ll appear in Circuit Court on the same days.
Buchanan’s family members declined to comment, except one woman who, in the parking lot, said, “He’s a good kid.”
Inside the courtroom, she was his most vocal supporter when she said, “Love you, Paco.”
Buchanan – “Paco” – now an inmate, mumbled under his breath, “Love you, too.”
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