Prosecutor paints drugged-out picture in former Hilldale athlete's murder case

The draw of methamphetamine converged the paths of former star athlete Kenneth Watson and new father Damon Whitney in 2002. Soon afterward, Whitney would be dead, and Watson a main suspect in his killing.

On Monday — nearly six years after the crime — attorneys presented their opening statements in court as Watson faces murder charges. Watson, a former standout football player at Hillsdale High who briefly attended UC Berkeley on an athletic scholarship, faces one count of murder with the special allegation of shooting from a moving vehicle. Now 37, Watson will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, if convicted.

Both men sold methamphetamine, and a dispute about money, drugs and territory led Watson to shoot Whitney in the bridge of his nose as Whitney sat in an SUV in his friend’s Millbrae driveway July 10, 2002, Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher told the jury.

Outside the courtroom, however, Whitney’s family said there was more to the case than drugs. Whitney, who left behind 7-week-old daughter Taylor, was loved by everyone, said his mother Cathleen Lozon, who traveled from Arkansas to attend the trial.

“I believe Ken was angry and jealous of the respect and friendships Damon had,” Lozon said.

Watson was a recent parolee with a warrant for his arrest stemming from a high-speed chase after allegedly kidnapping his wife. In June, Watson and Whitney, who had many of the same friends, had an argument about respect and Watson began telling witnesses he planned to kill Whitney, Gallagher said. While prosecutors believe the conflict was about drugs, Lozon said Watson was angry with her son for helping his wife escape.

On June 10, Whitney pulled into a friend’s driveway on Elder Drive in Millbrae shortly before midnight in anticipation of making a drug deal, Gallagher said. The friend heard several shots ring out. Moments later, a bloody Whitney appeared at the door, Gallagher said. He walked into the apartment and splashed water on his face before collapsing and dying a short time later.

Watson was arrested in Berkeley two days later.

His attorney, Jeff Boyarsky, told the jury Monday that Watson was selling drugs in order to make money and survive long enough to resolve kidnapping charges against him and that there is no conclusive evidence showing he killed Whitney.

tbarak@examiner.com

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