Austin James Watkins
November 15, 2003 - November 9, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial
Was a free $10,000. life insurance policy incentive to starve a little boy to death? Police were trying to figure that out. A year before he died, Austin James Watkins was taken to the hospital where doctors were told he was sick. Police also wonder if that was as cover-up for the fact that he was was being slowly starved to death.

Who could have tortured this child by making him watch those around him eat and not giving him so much as a scrap of food to eat? It wasn't some stranger, it was his aunt and his grandmother. Stephanie Bell and Janice Mowdy allowed Austin to starve to death. When he was found by police, they believed he had not eaten at all, for almost two weeks. Police believe Austin was locked in a room and was only given water and that he was kept in a cage or tied up. Police say that though some people knew about it, no one called them:

"No one was contacted here at the Scott County Sheriff's Department" 
Scott County Sheriff Mike Lee

SHOCKINGLY someone DID know and admitted it saying that she wished she had told someone. Brenda Peterson, who is the sister of Janice Moody, KNEW what was happening and never called anyone to get help for Austin:

"They'd let the other children eat in front of him, make him stand in one place, let them eat and 
drink with him just starving to death with nothing to eat" 

What kind of heartless monsters could DO this to a child? What kind of a heartless monster could KNOW it was being done, WATCH it and not get help:

"Anyone who did not call could be accountable. If someone had any knowledge about it, 
that this was going on, they should have called every day. They should have 
done anything they could to get law enforcement and DHS involved"

Administrators at Austin's school had voiced concerns as to why he was looking so unhealthy, he was immediately taken out of school by Janice and no one at school reported his sudden absence. The woman who runs the school, Mabel Odam, who SHOULD have reported the absence and the possible abuse simply said of the case:

 “I don’t want to get involved”

How sad, because if you HAD been involved, other than to ignore his absence and abuse, Austin might not have had to suffer the way he did and he might still be alive. In my opinion you, Mabel Odam, are an accessory to the 
killing of this child.

Reporters were telling police about people who had said they knew what was going on inside the trailer and never reported it. Austin, who was only four years old, starved to death and when police found him, he weighed only 19 pounds. Those who saw him said that he was literally skin and bones and his cheeks were sunken in. Mike Lee said that they were investigating if Austin had been kept away from the other children in the home:

"Our speculation is that he was kept away, possibly locked some where, somewhere else 
in the home, or somehow held, without being able to get out, or get away. Investigators 
right now are taking a look at there is some evidence the child may have been tied up"

Stephanie Bell and Janice Mowdy were charged with murder and felony child abuse and were held without bond. 

The case was being investigated by Laurie Woodruff a Deputy Administrator of Family And Children's Services for the Department Of Human Services. Laurie said this was one of the worst cases she has ever seen:

"This is a social workers' nightmare, we want these calls before the incidents happen" 

Pinned to the wall in his room was the $10,000. life insurance policy, which was given free from Gerber. Of course, these two disgusting excuses for human beings deny that they did anything wrong. Three other children, ages nine, six and two, were removed from the home and placed in foster care. Not everyone knew what was going on and some residents in the town were stunned to learn about it:

"It broke my heart. I have three grand babies"
Loretta Herring

"It's horrible. I'm just sick to my stomach. In fact, it's the worst crime I have heard of"
Billy Frank Alford

The Department Of Human Services admits they received one call in 2006. An inspection was done in the home and they found nothing to cause worry:

"I cannot talk about this particular case, although I would love to. But what we do know is if 
DHS had received a call, such as this, in any county any time we would have immediately responded"
DHS Deputy Director Lori Woodruff

Joe Bradford, the county Coroner said that tests showed no poison or drugs of any kind in Austin's system, he was not sick at all. This will help prosecutors who had been told by his killers that he was sick and that was why he lost so much weight. The coroners report also said that there was little to nothing in Austin's stomach at the time of his death. His weight, 19 pounds, was the same as an average one year old child. The coroner said that he is learning a lot about how Austin died:

"There was so little in the stomach and digestive system that you can't tell what, if anything,
the boy might have eaten"

Austin's biological mother said that the DHS was wrong to take her son away from her. Tammy Watkins admits that she has made some mistakes in the past and that she had done drugs, she says that last time she did any drugs was in 2002. Tammy says that her husband, Austin's father, has a problem and was in jail at the time on drug and statutory rape charges. Tammy says she lost custody of Austin because CPS thought her house was unkempt, but, insists she had not done drugs since 2000 and she had taken drug tests:

"I have not done any drugs, since, I would say 2000. I had one in 2002, I mean I am willing
take a drug test, tomorrow, any day. I mean I do not do drugs, I have not done drugs"

Tammy was in a court hearing trying to get custody of two of the other children from the trailer. Kenney, who was six and Erin who was nine, were both her children as well as Austin. The other child who had been placed into foster care was a cousin to the children, four year old Courtney. Tammy had been the one to make a report in 2006, saying Austin was being abused:

"I heard she was treatin Austin bad back in '06, you know and I called and DHS said they went 
out there, and they didn't see no bruises on him or anything" 

Mike Lee said that the purpose of the hearing was to see if Tammy would get her children back. Mike also confirmed the presence of the life insurance policy in the room:

"The mother was going to see about getting custody back, and pretty much DHS was making 
sure that these children stayed in protective custody. There was a life insurance policy, it may
be another motive, we are searching right now for anything for answers"

Tammy was told during the custody hearing that she would need to get a job and prove that she could provide a stable home for her two children before she could regain custody of them. Tammy said the pain of what has happened will take a lot of time to heal and that she is angry at the two women who killed her son, she refers to them as monsters:

"I'm going to get a job and try to fight for them. It's the most important thing in the world to me 
right now. I'm going to get a job and try to fight for them. It's the most important thing in the 
world to me right now"

Mike Lee said Tammy lost custody of her children in 2005 due to her drug problems. The children were removed and placed with the two women and they wouldn't allow anyone to visit:

"We weren't allowed up there. She kept all of us from there. She didn't like me"
Tammy Watkins

Tammy says that the last time she saw her son, he had been happy and appeared healthy:

"She could have given him back to me instead of doing this. If she didn't want him, she could have 
handed him back. I would have gladly taken him"

Tammy is turning her attention to getting her other two children back. She has spoken to them and is hoping that soon, they can come and live with her again:

"I'm looking for a job. I will do anything and once I get the job and I can hold it like six months, 
I think DHS will really be interested" 

At Austin's funeral, a friend of Tammy's commented about the case:

"That grandmother is not a human, that can abuse a child like that. I had people telling me in 
that funeral home, that they had seen her tie this baby up on the porch" 
Deborah Scarberry

A bouquet of flowers covered his tiny, white coffin as he was buried. Tammy said:

"I may not have been the best mama, but I was a mama. I didn't do this and he was healthy"

Relatives claimed to have called CPS several times:

"They went out there but they never did nothing about the way the baby was"

A DHS spokesperson did not confirm or deny a case having been open on Austin, saying only:

"Our people in Scott County are working with authorities to help gather information on the case"


UPDATE:

Today is June 12, 2014 and I am searching for information about Austin's case and this is what I have found:

In September of 2009, Janice Mowdy, who was 44 years old and Stephanie Bell, who was 23 years old, entered pleas of guilty to capital murder. Both women sat stone faced in court and Stephanie's lawyer, Shawn Harris said it was a hard decision for both of them to make:

"It was, it was. Because they're making a decision that ends both of their lives basically"

Janice's lawyer said:

"I think she clearly grasped the severity of the charge. I think one thing, they were scared"
Andre DeGray

A motive for the death had never been found, though thoughts centered around the life insurance policy that was found in the home:

"I don't know of any motive. I have racked my brain during the entire course of this case
to try to figure out how or why this happened and I just do not have an explanation"
District Attorney - Mark Duncan

Each of these women was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole. Life without parole is EXACTLY what it should be, for ANYONE who kills a child while abusing them!

Death Occurred in the state of Connecticut

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