Pair Pleads Guilty to Starving Grandson, Nephew

Just shy of a year after 4-year-old Austin Watkins' death, his paternal grandmother and aunt have entered pleas of guilty to his death.

Tuesday morning, both pleaded guilty to capital murder in Austin's death in November 2008.

At the time of his death, Austin was staying at his grandmother's house in Ludlow and where officials say he weighed only 19 pounds.

Described as being stone-faced after entering the plea, attorneys for both 44-year-old Janice Mowdy and 23-year-old Stephanie Bell say accepting the plea bargain was a difficult decision for both women to make.

"It was. It was, because they're making a decision that ends their lives basically," said Bell's attorney, Shawn Harris.

The attorneys say both women were of sound mind when doing so.

"I think she clearly grasped the severity of the charge. I think one thing, they were was scared," said attorney Andre DeGrey who represented Mowdy.

The big question now is why this happened to the boy. In previous reports, family members had said that there was an insurance policy on Austin and that it was hanging on the wall in his room at Mowdy's mobile home. Officials say the insurance policy had lapsed before Austin died.

"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 for it," said Scott County district attorney, Mark Duncan.

Austin had an older sibling and cousin who also lived in the house with him. Officials say both of those children were fed, but not often.

Scott County Sheriff Mike Lee says both of the children are now in foster care.

Mowdy and Bell were sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to Lee, both Mowdy and Bell are expected to remain at the Scott County Jail until they are officially turned over to the Mississippi Department of Corrections Thursday.

Since they were first arrested, Lee said the two had to be transferred to jails in Leake and Neshoba counties due to threats.

"Well, the sheriff's department, we had received death threats on the two through letters, phone calls, and so we have pretty much had to have them under close guard everywhere that they went," the sheriff said.


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  • by Terri Location: Meridian on Oct 1, 2009 at 10:40 AM
    My heart aches to imagine what that sweet, innocent little boy endured. The thought that the two monsters responsible for his death will enjoy ANY comforts makes me angry. These women make me sick to my stomach. How anyone could intentionally hurt a child isn't something I can fathom. God Bless his sweet soul! All I can say is their punishment should fit the crime...
  • by Brandon Location: Dekalb on Oct 1, 2009 at 06:09 AM
    CHILD PROTECTION SERVICE HAVE SO MUCH CLASS. CPS FOCUS ON PEOPLE THAT TAKE EXCELLENT CARE OF THEIR KIDS AND THEY ALWAY HAVE OVERLOOKED SERIOUS OFFEND LIKE THIS ONE. CPS PLACE THIS KID IN THIS HOME AND THEY NEVER LOOK BACK TO CHECK ON THIS CHILD. WHY NOT HOLD CPS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS AS WELL?
  • by lane Location: Meridian on Sep 30, 2009 at 07:12 PM
    Yea, Our tax dollars are paying for them 3 meals a day, a/c, big screen tv's, but education budget will be cut. Why not cut all this free ride in prisons.
  • by Discusted! Location: Meridian on Sep 30, 2009 at 07:57 AM
    This is horrifying that something like this even went un-noticed! Where was the mother? Where was other family? Somebody could have done SOMETHING! These people deserve death by whatever means necessary..Attorney says it was a hard decision..was it a hard decision for them to let him starve to death! Why should they get to live comfortably in prison? I hope they get the mess beat out of them evey day of their miserable lives in prison!
  • by Shan on Sep 30, 2009 at 07:46 AM
    I really don't think their lives will be filled rest and relaxation. Once they make it to the real prison, their torture will begin. Their new "roommates" will make their lives a living hell. God help them.
  • by Anonymous Location: MERIDIAN on Sep 30, 2009 at 06:07 AM
    I THINK THEY SHOULD DIE THE SAME EXACT WAY THAT BABY DIED. HE IS IN A MUCH BETTER PLACE NOW.
  • by Heartbroken Location: Chunky on Sep 29, 2009 at 07:56 PM
    GOD have mercy on their souls! It breaks my heart to try and imagine the horrible death this child indured at these "monsters" hands. He looked to them for security, compassion, hope, and LOVE. He got neglect, starvation, and ultimately death instead! They will live in prison until their death, eat 3 hot meals daily, take showers, have clean clothes, and YES LIVE OFF OF THE TAX PAYERS!! That's our tax dollars HARD AT WORK people....
  • by upset Location: Meridian on Sep 29, 2009 at 04:31 PM
    Well, it looks like someone sure was eating good. I cannot even begin to imagine. working too much, well ya know what, that is what they make time off for/emergency HELLO you fools. Well, I hope you truly get what you both deserve. I have an idea, let me take care of the two of you....oh, and by the way, no food for either of you, only small water and crumb of bread
  • by jack of all trades Location: there on Sep 29, 2009 at 03:27 PM
    I don't know about what all they'll have but I do know without a shadow of a doubt that that lil boy is in heaven right now as I'm typing this playing with Angels... And it consoles my mind!
  • by Anonymous Location: MERIDIAN on Sep 29, 2009 at 02:24 PM
    EXACTLY - let them die the way they killed the little boy. How could anyone watch as he starved and do NOTHING! sick people in this world!!
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