Alabama jury finds man not guilty in murder of two Rome sisters

Tuesday, March 19, 2024–8:00 a.m.

-Adam Carey, Rome News-Tribune-

This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at

An Alabama jury acquitted a Rome man on a capital murder charge stemming from the killing of two Rome sisters in May 2020.

Devin Lashawn Watts was found not guilty after a weeklong trial in Cherokee County, Alabama. However, he will remain in custody as other criminal charges regarding the case are resolved in Floyd County.

Watts, along with two others, were accused of participating in the killing of Armuchee High student Vanita Richardson and her sister Truvenia Campbell and disposing of their bodies off the loop near Grizzard Park.

Deputy District Attorney Brady Burns delivered closing arguments for the prosecution, summarizing the prosecution’s case against Watts.

“Drug dealers take their money very seriously,” Burns said. “These sisters were killed over a missing wallet.”

The prosecution tried to make the case that Watts shot Richardson, as there were two guns used in the sisters’ deaths. The prosecution’s witness Christopher Pullen testified that he saw Desmond Lavonta Brown — who was earlier convicted and sentenced to life in prison — shoot older sister Campbell.

During closing arguments, prosecutors attempted to link Watts to the killing.

“It was Watts who shot Richardson in the back as she tried to run, and it was Watts who placed garbage bags on their heads,” District Attorney Summer M. Summerford said. “And it was Watts who told them they needed to dump the bodies in the water.”

Watts, Brown and Pullen were originally charged with murder in Floyd County, until evidence showed that the killings took place in Alabama. They all still may face prosecution regarding the case in Floyd County.

Watts’ attorney Chad Stallings, in a lengthy closing statement, questioned the accuracy of cellphone data used to track the car. He also called into question testimony given by Watts’ co-defendant Pullen. Stallings suggested that Pullen was lying and that there were other people involved in the killing.

Pullen is charged with felony murder and has not yet been tried in the case.

Stallings also suggested that Pullen’s testimony was devised because perhaps he stole Brown’s wallet and was afraid of reprisal.

“Remember, the government has the burden to prove their case,” Stallings said. “Watts doesn’t have to prove a thing. And if there’s even one thing they can’t explain in your mind, then you must find him innocent.”

In closing, Summerford stated that the women, their parents and the community deserved justice.

“A sister is always there for you, and these two sisters shared a horrible fate, to be murdered together,” Summerford said. “Justice is to find him guilty.”

The jury, however, determined there was not enough evidence to convict Watts of the killings.

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