One mentally ill teen with a Dungeons and Dragons fixation has taken his fantasies to a new level, attempting to kill a home health aid.
The Williamsburg teenager who brutally stabbed a hospice nurse in April 2020 outside her residence was sentenced Thursday to 18 to 36 years in prison.
Michael Douglas Watson, 15 at the time of the stabbings and now 17, apologized to the victim in the same Blair County courtroom where he pleaded guilty in November to attempted homicide, assault serious facts, possession of an instrument of crime, recklessly endangering another person and tampering with material evidence.
“Although I never fully understand or realize why I did it, I know you didn’t deserve it and I sincerely regret what I did.” Watson said in court Thursday.
The teenager also said he would not insult the victim by asking for forgiveness.
“I just want you to know that if I could change what I did that night, I would do it in a heartbeat and faster if I could,” said Watson. “I would give anything to take away your pain.”
The victim, Rebecca Detwiler, who allowed the Mirror to print her name, said on Thursday she agreed with the sentence imposed by Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle.
“Nobody Wins Here” Detwiler said after the end of the four-hour sentencing hearing where she, her family and fellow nurses spoke about the lasting effects of the stabbing, including the fear it generated for nurses in palliative and palliative care.
Nurse Jennifer Miller told Doyle she was staying “so mad” to Watson for bullying her friend and fellow nurse.
“If it can happen to Becky in a sleepy little community, it can happen anywhere,” said Miller.
Hollidaysburg State Police arrested Watson at his home on Stone Row Drive near Williamsburg after learning he had severely stabbed Detwiler, who was at home caring for his grandfather.
Detwiler, who said Watson offered to walk her to her car, said the teenager punched her in the head from behind and knocked her down, then used a sword to stab her multiple times while telling her she was going to die.
In court on Thursday, Detwiler spoke of screaming for help and receiving no response from anyone in Watson’s home or two dark houses nearby. She then grabbed the blade of the sword with her hand and pushed Watson in a way that allowed him to close the car door, lock it, and drive away. She drove to nearby Williamsburg with her fingers on her neck to limit blood loss and asked for help.
First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith told Doyle that but for Detwiler’s training as a trauma nurse, this would have been a homicide case.
Detwiler, 53, told the judge that while she appears to have recovered, the reality is much more complicated and no part of her life is the same. She was unable to return to nursing as the use of her right hand, damaged when she grasped the sword, remains severely compromised.
“My fingers don’t even stretch enough to hold my husband’s hand” she says.
She also suffers from lung damage, chronic pain and nerve damage.
District Attorney Pete Weeks and Smith asked Doyle to impose the maximum possible sentence of 23.5 years to 47 years in prison, depending on Watson’s crimes, the victim’s injuries and the impact of those crime on the community.
“It may not have been as much as we asked for, but I think the judge held Mr. Watson responsible,” Weeks said after the sentencing hearing.
Defense attorney Julia Burke told Doyle that prosecutors were seeking revenge by asking for a maximum sentence. She asked the judge to consider a mitigated sentence of no more than six years for the young defendant who will turn 18 in mid-August.
“He was, and remains to this day, a child…a child who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders,” said Burke.
At the time of the attack, Watson was caring not only for his aging grandfather, but also for his mother and stepfather who had health issues limiting their mobility.
Reading psychiatrist Robin Altman, who met with Watson in preparation for the sentencing, told the court that Watson’s reason for the stabbing was rooted in his anger at Detwiler for the way she assessed her grandfather’s injury -father following a fall.
The teenager feared that the grandfather had suffered a concussion, which was why Detwiler was called home.
Altman said Watson told him he had always heard that someone with a concussion should not be allowed to fall asleep, but Detwiler gave the grandfather a sedative to help him sleep, which made him angry.
When Detwiler spoke in court, she said Watson’s versions “were not true.” She said she explained to the teenager why her grandfather did not have a concussion and that there was “no feelings of disagreement or anger” between them.
Weeks asked Altman if she knew that Watson had ever told the police, as well as a clinical psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist, that he had “eliminated from memory” night stab wounds and heard voices telling him to hurt people.
According to Altman, Watson indicated that he did not know why he told the other doctors that.
“But he remembers everything now,” Weeks said.
Doyle said his challenge in sentencing Watson would be to settle for a term that gives him a chance to rehabilitate and inspires him to improve.
She acknowledged an assessment showing Watson at low risk of reoffending, that his actions on the night of the stabbing were irrelevant and that he has already shown potential for rehabilitation in prison where he graduated from high school. in December.
The judge also acknowledged prosecutors’ arguments for a long sentence.
“You have done monstrous things” Doyle told Watson, who cried and wiped tears from her eyes during parts of the sentencing hearing. “You gave Ms. Detwiler a life sentence for pain and trauma.”