A year later, Chester man still grieves for his wife; police say grandson masterminded murder plot

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 25, 2014 

Jimmie Paul

— Three teenagers who police say plotted a murder sit in jail a year later. The wounds their alleged crimes carry still linger for the husband left behind.

On a windy afternoon last week, Mack Paul worked in his yard. A golden retriever ran beside him.

He misses his wife “terribly,” he said. They had been married since 1992.

“She was my best friend.”

She was also best friend to Linda Wylie, with whom she was scheduled to go on a cruise to Hawaii.

And she was jury coordinator at the Chester County Clerk of Court office.

More, she was the grandmother and primary guardian to the teen police say masterminded her death.

A year ago Wednesday, Jimmie Dianne Ray Paul was shot to death in her Chester County home, allegedly ambushed by two assailants who planned to earn $5,000 if they successfully killed both Jimmie and Mack Paul. They were to be paid by the Macks’ grandson, Clayton Eli Watts, police say.

They only killed Jimmie.

The killing

On Jan. 29, at about 6:41 p.m., deputies arrived at the Williamsville Church Road home Jimmie Paul shared with her husband and grandson. The call, according to a police report, was for a woman who was found “unresponsive and bleeding.”

When deputies walked inside, they met with Mack Paul, who found his wife dead on the kitchen floor. She bled from her right leg and chest, suffering from at least three gunshot wounds.

In the laundry room sat Watts, her 17-year-old grandson. Mack Paul told police that he walked into the house to find his step-grandson lying on his bed with headphones in his ears and a toboggan on his head. He appeared to be sleeping. While his wife was being shot, Mack Paul had been outside in a shed working on his boat. He didn’t hear the gunshots. He had planned to go fishing the next day.

The house had been staged, police said, to look like a burglary gone wrong. Police found spent bullets on the floor. The ammunition belonged to a revolver and pistol investigators realized was missing from Mack Paul’s gun collection.

Watts spoke with detectives, eventually giving them a written statement admitting that he discussed killing both his grandparents with Marqueas Buchanan, an 18-year-old classmate at Chester High School.

He wanted his grandparents dead because they were too strict – they didn’t let him do what he wanted.

“He was tired of being treated like a child,” Lt. Cindy Henry of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office told a judge last year during a preliminary hearing.

Deputies said Buchanan, known as an aspiring rap artist named “Paco,” brought in a third person to help: Shaiderius Cohen, a Chester High graduate who lived with his grandmother and worked at a local restaurant. Authorities found Buchanan at his grandmother’s home and searched his book bag, where they found a 9mm handgun belonging to Mack Paul.

In his first interview with police, Buchanan said Watts was the shooter. Then, he gave another statement saying Cohen was the one who fired the gun.

Cohen told police that Watts picked him and Buchanan up in his pickup truck and took him to his house. Cohen and Buchanan hid behind a recliner. When Jimmie Paul walked inside, Cohen fired a .357-caliber revolver at her.

Cohen admitted to police he was the lone shooter, investigators said, after Buchanan realized he could not pull the trigger. When Jimmie Paul fell to the floor, the two teens ran out of the house through the front door and walked back to their homes in downtown Chester, at least five miles away. Buchanan showed deputies the path he and Cohen took home, where police found the clothes the two discarded after the killing. Cohen told police he took Watts’ offer because he needed money to help his grandmother. Deputies were unable to find the revolver used to kill Jimmie Paul; Cohen claimed he sold it.

The wait

Watts’ lawyer, Rock Hill attorney Nathan Sheldon, said the case has maintained a “holding pattern” for the past year.

Court documents show that Sheldon has requested that a bond be set for Watts, who has been jailed for more than 350 days. He turned 18 last month. In a motion for a bond hearing, Sheldon indicates that he is still waiting for evidence from prosecutors, and Watts continues to be “incarcerated with no end in sight.” A judge denied bond for Watts last year.

“The defendant believes these factors constitute a substantial change in circumstances that warrant the issue of bond to be revisited,” he wrote in a motion.

Sheldon would not comment on specifics of the case but implied that Watts’ defense team, which includes a private investigator, would be probing the validity of statements Watts “allegedly freely and voluntarily made” while in police custody – a standard procedure for evaluating any case, he said.

“He’s doing OK,” Sheldon said about Watts. “He’s doing as well as anybody can be doing” in his situation.

Mack Paul, Chester County’s director of building and planning, said he missed “Eli” but was also glad the teen was still jailed.

“It just shows you how deceitful someone could be,” he said, declining to comment further.

Like Sheldon, Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield would not comment on the specifics of the case.

“Nothing is resolved” on any of the three cases, he said.

Investigators sent evidence to the State Law Enforcement Division, but Barfield said he had not received any results he could “discuss at this point.”

Rock Hill lawyer Cyrus Hinton, who is representing Buchanan, also declined to discuss the case aside from saying that his client is “ready to, as best he can, move forward.” Buchanan turned 19 while in jail.

Last month, Buchanan wrote a letter to Clerk of Court Sue Carpenter asking if the court could compel his attorney to meet with him because he had not heard from Hinton in weeks. He considered the possibility of retaining another attorney, court documents show.

Hinton did not want to address the letter other than saying he has spoken and met with Buchanan several times in the last year. Efforts to reach Cohen’s lawyer, Rock Hill attorney Leah Moody, were unsuccessful last week. Cohen turned 20 while in jail.

The loss

Losing Jimmie Paul “has been really, really difficult because we still don’t have any answers,” Linda Wylie said. “We still don’t know why Eli did this. If she had been a mean grandmother and if she had had a lot of restrictions on Eli, I could’ve understood that. I was around her enough to know that didn’t happen.”

Wylie said Jimmie and Mack Paul bought Watts the pickup truck he used to gather Cohen and Buchanan on Jan. 29 last year.

“She did expect the best from him and expect him to do well in school,” she said. “If he didn’t like it, why not just leave?”

Wylie, who taught Watts in Sunday school, said she has not been to the jail to see him. Just before Christmas, she mailed him a card, asking if he would put her name on his list of visitors. She hasn’t heard back yet.

If he agrees, “I’m not going to ask questions the first time,” she said. “I will not be ugly. I’ll just tell him I’m there for him. That’s what Jimmie would want me to do and that’s also what Jesus would want me to do.”

“My heart aches for him too,” she said. “I just hate her sweet, little life was cut short.

Together, Jimmie Paul and Wylie were part of the Great Danes of Richburg Red Hat Society. For the group’s meetings, Wylie would always cook a pot of chicken and dumplings.

On Tuesday, the day before the anniversary of her best friend’s violent demise, Wylie says she’ll “feed my friends dumplings, in memory of Jimmie.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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