Mulberry man accused of killing his own mother 19 years ago is being held without bond

Mom was pregnant at time of murder

MULBERRY, Fla. - It took 19 years, but authorities in Polk County have made an arrest in a cold case involving murder.

Jahala Watson was killed back in June of 1993, and the man taken into custody on Thursday is her own son, 38-year-old Shane Knight.

While nearly two decades have passed, a lot of people in the victim's small town of Mulberry know and remember Watson.

She owned a popular restaurant called Jahala's Place.  It closed down right before she died.   

"She was a good-hearted person.  She used to bring me cakes and pies," said Evelyn Mullis who used to live right across the street from Jahala.  "She was just a really good-hearted person."

You can understand the community's heartache, when on Father's Day in 1993, Jahala was reported missing. The last person to see her alive was her son who has since changed his last name to Knight.

Within a few days, Jahala's body was found in nearby Sumter County with stab wounds to the neck. She was seven months pregnant at the time.

On Friday, Sheriff Grady Judd said her Shane was a person of interest over the years, and always cooperated with detectives.

But in recent years, he says Shane kept making incriminating statements during interviews, and on Thursday detectives got enough out of him to make an arrest.

"When asked if he killed his mother, Shane said 'I want to say no but I might have. It all points to me. It looks to me like I done it','" Judd said. "The person who killed Jahala is the person that most in the community suspected all along."

Judd admits there's not much physical evidence, but he says the detectives put together an iron clad circumstantial case.

They believe Shane, who was 19-years-old at the time, got into a big argument with his mother the night of the murder and stabbed her to death.

I was beginning to think that they would never make an arrest… after 19 years. It's been a long time," Mullis said. "Now it's finally over. Thank the Lord it's finally over."

Many in the small community know and remember Jahala and the case that became a mystery.

"Still to this day, I have people ask me when I go to the Mulberry area, 'you ever going to make an arrest of that person who killed Jahala?" Sheriff Judd told reporters. "Well my answer to them today is yes."

Friday afternoon, Shane appeared defiant during his first visit with a judge. He's charged with the murder of his mother and death of his unborn baby brother. He's being held without bond.

Print this article Back to Top