DNA evidence links Lacey robbery to man with 34 criminal convictions

A Thurston County judge on Wednesday set bail at $50,000 for David N. Watts, the suspect in a Lacey Burger King robbery.

Lacey detectives were able to crack the two-month-old case using DNA evidence. They arrested the 31-year-old Lacey man Tuesday on suspicion of first-degree robbery, and he was booked into the Thurston County Jail.

Watts appeared before Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon on Thursday afternoon. Dixon read through the suspect’s lengthy criminal history, which includes 34 convictions.

“Yes, I said 34 convictions,” Dixon said. “He is a danger to our community. Anyone with 34 convictions is a danger to our community. … That may even be a record.”

Because of the severity of the crime and the Watts’ criminal history, Deputy Prosecutor Carol La Verne recommended that bail be set at $50,000. Dixon agreed.

Lacey Police Sgt. Terence Brimmer said officers were dispatched to a Burger King restaurant at 4830 Yelm Highway SE the night of Feb. 8. They found the robbery victim, a Burger King employee, sitting in the parking lot without his shoes, wallet and keys.

“Basically, all of his personal property had been stolen,” Brimmer said.

The employee told police that he had been closing the restaurant when he noticed three suspicious men in the parking lot. The men approached him, and the victim said he heard the sound of a bullet being loaded into the chamber of a gun.

The suspects took his belongings and fled the scene.

When police arrived, the suspects were gone, Brimmer said. The only evidence they left behind was a smoking cigarette butt, found near where the suspects’ car was parked.

Detectives sent the cigarette butt to the State Patrol crime lab, and DNA from the butt matched Watts’s DNA.

Lacey police were able to locate Watts and arrest him. So far, he hasn’t provided any information about the other suspects, Brimmer said.

“He’s denying being in the area, and he’s denying having anything to do with the robbery,” Brimmer said. “He’s not giving us any information about the accomplices.”

At the Wednesday hearing, Office of Assigned Counsel attorney Tammy Shuffield objected to the proposed first-degree robbery charge, arguing that the victim allegedly hearing the sound of a bullet being loaded into a gun didn’t constitute probable cause.

“In this case, there was definitely no gun displayed,” Shuffield said.

But Dixon disagreed, and found probable cause for the first-degree robbery charge.

He set Watts’ arraignment for April 28.