Don't Buy the Hype

A serial killer isn't getting out, no matter what TDCJ says

Serial killer Coral Eugene Watts confessed to killing 13 Texas women, and he's suspected of killing many others across the country. That's why he's safely behind bars.

And there he is going to remain, even though the Texas Department of Criminal Justice seems intent on scaring everyone into thinking otherwise.

TDCJ has been sending computer-generated form letters to people who have been asked to be updated on Watts's status, informing them whenever a parole review is scheduled. Included on the list is Andy Kahan, the guy who heads the Criminal Victims Assistance office at City Hall.

One such letter went out in August, which was odd because Watts has been in a Michigan prison since 2004, when he was convicted of a Detroit murder. (In return for confessing to his Texas crimes, Watts was only convicted of burglary and received a 60-year sentence; in Michigan the murder conviction brought a sentence of life without parole.)

That was bad enough, but a January 10 letter from TDCJ said Watts would be released April 9 because he had served enough time, using the formula in effect when he was convicted.

"I was getting phone calls and e-mails from people all over the country asking what was going on," Kahan says. "I told the TDCJ, 'I understand these are form letters, but seeing as how this guy would be the first serial killer ever to be legally released from prison, maybe you should clarify things.'"

Which TDCJ did, in a January 26 letter to the same list of interested parties. In boldface print the letter loudly proclaimed that "offender Watts will not be released on that date since he is currently incarcerated in Michigan," with the "will not be released" underlined for good measure.

That should have settled matters. Until Kahan opened his mail February 16 and found another form letter from TDCJ, once again (wrongly) informing him that Watts "will be released" on April 9.

"They're just scaring the bejesus out of people," he says.

TDCJ spokesperson Michelle Lyons admits the letters are confusing. "Technically it is true; he will be leaving our custody April 9," she says. "But it doesn't mention he will remain in custody in Michigan. We don't want to convey the message that he will be loose on the streets."

So maybe...stop sending letters that say that? Just a thought.

Where Is The Love?

Valentine's Day can be a horror in middle school, if your mailbox is empty while others are filled with hearts and trinkets. LaRoyce Sublett, the new principal at Lake Olympia Middle School, decided to do something about that -- he bought a carnation or a lollipop for every student in the school. The next day he was no longer principal.

Lake Olympia students -- who generally liked Sublett, who was less draconian in punishing than his predecessor -- immediately figured he got canned because of the Valentine's Day episode.

Not true, says a spokesperson for the Fort Bend school district. "I will tell you that is not the case," says Mary Ann Simpson. What is the case, she won't tell -- it's a personnel matter. Simpson says Sublett -- a former elementary principal -- will be reassigned within the district.

Lake Olympia has been hampered by overcrowding issues, and Sublett has tangled with the PTA and individual parents, who say he hasn't responded to their concerns.

That's never a good sign, but canning a new principal midway through his first year -- and in mid-week, no less -- is rare.

So if you're a principal in Fort Bend, just to be safe it's probably better letting those unpopular kids deal with a tough Valentine's Day on their own.

The Greatness of Me

Milo Hamilton has been the voice of the Houston Astros for more than 20 years, and had a long and successful career before that. He's written a memoir called Making Airwaves: 60 Years at Milo's Microphone. Carefully leaked excerpts have gotten some publicity here and in Chicago because Hamilton craps all over Cubs icon Harry Caray.

We've read the book, and while it's clear Hamilton has no love for Caray, he has plenty of love for Milo Hamilton.

Number of times he cites someone praising him in a six-page opening chapter: four.

Self-assessment of his talent besides baseball announcing: "This may come as a shock to those who know me only as a baseball broadcaster, but there are some guys in the record promotion business who will tell you to this day that I should be in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame."

Self-assessment of his nobility (after describing how Caray criticized him for missing games while being hospitalized): "You can imagine the temptation for me later on, when that sonofabitch suffered a stroke in 1987, to say something bad about him. But I didn't. It's not in my nature."

On his dashing looks: He not only includes a Hollywood glamour shot of him from the 1940s, he notes one guy hired him for a TV gig because "the guys from Rawlings told him I wasn't a bad-looking guy."

After describing being elected to the halls of fame for baseball, radio and Texas baseball (two of which we've heard of): "Being honored by a hall of fame is significant and a career-defining experience, but I do prefer receiving acknowledgment from the common fan. From the warm receptions I receive...it's clear that a lot of fans are appreciative of my efforts on the air."

And apparently there is one big fan in the booth whenever Hamilton's announcing games. Especially if he's alone.

No No-Spin Zone

Colleges and universities seem to live and die by media stories ranking their status, and the University of Houston is no exception.

Their Web site for their Bauer College of Business notes proudly that UH's "Executive MBA program ranks 17th in the U.S. among public EMBA programs, according to the 2004 Financial Times' evaluation of the top 75 EMBA programs in the world."

Read it fast and it's impressive -- 17th out of 75 worldwide? Wow.

Read the actual FT article, however, and you'll learn that UH indeed ranks 17th among U.S. public universities on the list, of which there are a total of...17. And where do they rank among all of the top 75 public and private schools? Right behind Number 74.

Isn't that kind of misleading?

"I'm not sure it was intended that way, but I can see where you're coming from," says Bauer spokesman Russell Reese.

As Reese went on to mention, making the top 75 list -- when you're talking about schools all over the world -- is a pretty nice achievement.

But apparently they don't teach "leave well enough alone" to future MBAs at UH.

--As told to Richard Connelly

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