Mystery of a Renton crime

And it remains cold to this day

Yariana Velasquez, Staff Writer

Single mother, Elizabeth Watkins, moved to Renton, Washington with the incentive of a new start.

“She just was the most kind wonderful person,” Barbara told the Renton Reporter.

Barbara (last name undisclosed) was a close family friend of the Watkins; she had the shock of finding the deceased bodies of Elizabeth and Nicole Watkins on November 9, 1995.

Elizabeth Watkins was unwavering when it came to her new life. According to Barbara, Watkins was homeless when she arrived in Renton. However, almost instantly, she made new friendships, found a job, and a place to live. She had joined a church community that guided her as she went through her new journey of building a stable life for her child and herself. This is what made it difficult to process that 3-year-old Nicole Watkins and her 39-year-old mother, Elizabeth Watkins, were found brutally beaten to death in their Renton Highlands apartment.

Barbara was the closest hope of coming to a reasonable conclusion, not only was she Elizabeth’s best friend, but she also found the bodies and had plans with the single mother from California that afternoon.

“She didn’t show up for lunch that Saturday,” Barbara told the Renton Reporter.

She claimed she had tried to contact Elizabeth multiple times, but never got a response. She then said she went to check up on Elizabeth in her apartment when she noticed something unusual with her sliding door.

“I looked at the sliding glass door and it was partially open,” she continued.

Barbara also claimed she heard the TV on from inside the house, but as much as she knocked, she got no response.

Barbara then let herself in through the back of the apartments, finding herself in front of the bodies of her former best-friend Elizabeth and her daughter Nicole, on the floor of the kitchen.

Penny Bryant, a police spokeswoman, maintained the scene inside the apartment was very graphic. They rapidly came to a conclusion that the mother and daughter were not beaten with a gun, but an unusual blunt object.

What puzzled investigators and police officers was the little to no evidence in the crime scene. There was no evidence of intrusion, no speck of DNA, no sign of struggle on the victims, and no sign that they were robbed.

However, it was very clear Elizabeth was trying to protect Nicole during the fatal beating. Unfortunately, both died of head injuries.

Detective Montemayor has been investigating this case for 21 years. Yet, after 400- name matrix of contacts and endless interviews, he believes this cold case will probably remain unsolved forever.

If there was no break in, no robbery, no sign of struggle, and no DNA, then who could’ve done this? What was the possible motive?

Given the facts that Elizabeth was new to the city, her reputation among her community was being the kind, friendly, new girl from California, who could possibly want her dead?

The Theories

  1. It was a Church member. After a lot of speculation, readers find themselves believing this could be a possibility. This is due to the fact of no intrusion, which could mean that Elizabeth saw one of her church members and let them in. The person then proceeded to beat them and escape through the back sliding door, Allegedly, after her death, her church didn’t organize a memorial in the honor of the Watkins, making it more believable of a theory. However, this theory was debunked by others due to a lack of motive among church members.
  2. A robbery gone wrong. Others believe it was meant to be a robbery all along. The robber sneaked through the back door, which was left open for a number of possible reasons. The robber saw the duo in the kitchen and planned to knock them out by hitting them on the head and beating them frantically. The person realized he or she had unintentionally murdered the victims and left the apartment without taking anything due to shock or fear. This also seemed unlikely due to the lack of DNA and struggle. It’s also unusual for robbers to be so shocked they forgot to rob.
  3. A neighbor. This theory is much like the first one. For some reason, one of their neighbors disliked Elizabeth and beat her along with the child before escaping through the back door so they weren’t seen. Since it could be a planned murder, they gained knowledge on how to clear any DNA from the scene, and since it was a neighbor Elizabeth let them in with no sign of intrusion. This was also debunked by lack of motive but could be a possibility.
  4. A serial killer. Some believe someone did this for fun. A sick person living somewhere near them was a serial killer and decided to write them down as one of their victims. They probably pretended to be in despair, which resulted in Elizabeth letting them in. They proceeded to continue their plan, clear all DNA, and go on with their normal lives. In Renton, there had been 10 slayings in that same year. This theory is one of the most believable in skeptics eyes.
  5. Scott Holm. He was a suspect of a similar case where a mother and her child were also murdered. The bodies of Stacey Falcon-Dewey, 23, and her 3-year-old son, Jacob John, were found Oct. 28, 1994, in the middle of a road in a remote area. The two had been shot to death. This made some believe that maybe the cases were related somehow. However, this was instantly debunked by the police themselves.


There are crazier theories roaming around in the deeper parts of the internet, for example, some think Barbara did it, or Nicole’s father somehow found them and traveled from California all the way to Renton. Others actually say it could be something paranormal, like black-eyed children who are known as an urban legend.

Any of these could really be a possibility; unfortunately, there is no way we can come to a conclusion this far into a cold case.

Barbara and Detective Montemayor hope they can somehow get the case back into the public eye. Maybe after two long decades of contemplating, someone could report something they heard, something they saw, anything that could lead to a suspect.

Barbara checks in with the police on November 3rd every single year. She ends the interview with the Renton Reporter by stating, “Liz and Nicole deserve to have justice for what happened to them.”

Who do you think was there that tragic afternoon?