Honeymoon death suspect freed by Australia, faces U.S. murder counts

An American suspected of killing his wife on their honeymoon on the Great Barrier Reef has been indicted on two murder counts in his home state of Alabama after serving 18 months in an Australian prison for her 2003 drowning death, the state attorney general said Thursday.

LOS ANGELES — An American suspected of killing his wife on their honeymoon on the Great Barrier Reef has been indicted on two murder counts in his home state of Alabama after serving 18 months in an Australian prison for her 2003 drowning death, the state attorney general said Thursday.

Gabe Watson, 33, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday morning after he was deported on a commercial flight from the southern Australian city of Melbourne.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Watson was accompanied by two Immigration Department staff and three Queensland state police officers on the flight.

Los Angeles Lt. Aaron McCraney told The Associated Press that Watson was taken to a local police substation after his arrival.

Watson pleaded guilty last year in Australia to the manslaughter of his wife of 11 days, 26-year-old Tina Watson.

Australia, a stanch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge from the U.S. government that it would not seek the death penalty against Watson.

Troy King, the Alabama attorney general, has promised not to seek the death penalty as a condition for getting Australian authorities to extradite Watson.

He said Watson was indicted by an Alabama grand jury on capital murder in the course of kidnapping, and capital murder for pecuniary gain.

Alabama hopes to make arrangements to bring Watson back to the state early next week.

Bowen said Watson returned to the United States voluntarily after both Alabama and U.S. federal authorities guaranteed that he would not face the death penalty.

Watson’s lawyer, Adrian Braithwaite, said his client was happy to go. “He’s looking forward to returning home and successfully defending himself if there’s a trial there,” Braithwaite told The Associated Press.

Watson was dubbed the “Honeymoon Killer” by the Australian media after his wife drowned during a 2003 scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland’s tropical coast with her husband, an accomplished diver.

In 2008, the Queensland state coroner found there was sufficient evidence to charge Watson with her death, and he was officially charged with murder a few months later.

In 2009, Watson — who had remarried — travelled to Australia to face trial.

Queensland Coroner David Glasgow said a possible motive for the killing was Tina Watson’s modest life insurance policy.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has said he believes Watson devised a plot in Alabama to kill his wife on their honeymoon, which would give the U.S. state jurisdiction to charge him. King has argued there are no international standards on double jeopardy that prevent Alabama from trying Watson again over the death.

Bowen said it was not an issue for Australia whether there was a new prosecution.

“My role has been to ensure that we fulfil our treaty obligations, we’ve done that,” Bowen told reporters in Canberra. “Double jeopardy is not covered by our treaty obligations.”

“There is various speculation about what Mr. Watson may or may not be charged with — I’ve seen some speculation that they would be different charges to what he’s been charged with in Australia — but that is not a matter the Australian government has a role in,” he said.

Under Australia’s Extradition Act, a person cannot be deported to face prosecution on a capital charge unless there is an assurance the death penalty will not be imposed.

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