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67-year-old man enters plea in decades-old murder of Johnson County man in 1985 cold case

Nearly four decades ago, 29-year-old Gary Watson was stabbed to death inside his Roeland Park apartment.

On Thursday, 65-year-old Geter Watson Rhymes pleaded no contest to the charge of second-degree murder in Watson’s killing, according to court documents.

Watson was stabbed to death on March 13, 1985.

About two hours before his body was discovered, three men were seen entering Watson’s apartment, according to The Star’s archives. Although police conducted more than 200 interviews, including traveling to St. Louis for additional investigation, the case went cold.

The Kansas City Star covered Gary Watson’s death in a March 19, 1985 story.
The Kansas City Star covered Gary Watson’s death in a March 19, 1985 story.

Every so often, investigators would analyze evidence collected from the scene. This was done when the crime first happened in 1985, and then again in 2002, 2011, 2012 and 2020. The quality of the evidence and how it was stored allowed for additional analysis to be performed, ultimately leading to charges in the cold case, according to prosecutors.

In April 2021, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced that his office charged Rhymes with first-degree murder in Watson’s death.

Rhymes, who was scheduled to go to trial in July, instead reached the plea agreement with prosecutors, agreeing to plead no contest to second-degree murder, according to court documents.

The maximum sentence he faced was 20 years. However, the plea agreement allowed him to instead seek the minimum sentencing requirements, with prosecutors asking for seven years and Rhymes asking for five.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 14.