Murder charges filed in case of missing Michigan mom Heather Kelley

Posted at 11:41 AM, January 10, 2024

PORTAGE, Mich. (Scripps News Grand Rapids/Court TV) — On Wednesday, prosecutors announced an arrest in the case of a Michigan mother who has been missing for more than a year.

Heather Kelley disappeared in December 2022. Investigators say she was about to leave home when she told her eight kids she would be back soon. She never returned.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said at a news conference that charges of open murder have been filed against Kelley’s boyfriend, Carlos Watts Jr.

Missing Michigan Mom Heather Mae Kelley.

Heather Mae Kelley (Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office)

On Dec. 11, 2022, her abandoned vehicle was discovered in Comstock Township. It had been set on fire, according to officials, and blood was found in the backseat and her clothes were found nearby.

About two months later, her disappearance started being considered a homicide.

Watts, Kelley’s boyfriend, was staying at a halfway house when he allegedly escaped two days after Kelley’s disappearance. He pleaded guilty to escaping the halfway house in July 2023, a plea he asked to withdraw shortly after.

Recently released federal court documents say Watts Jr. murdered Kelley hours before he escape from the halfway house, reports Scripps News Grand Rapids.

In a memorandum filed on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, which charged Watts Jr. with felony escape last year, rejected claims made by him in recently written letters to the court that said he ran away from the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program during his parole because of threats from Kelley’s brother, who is referred as “TK” in the document.

Federal prosecutors argued Watts did so to escape prosecution.

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“Hours before his escape, defendant was involved in the murder and disappearance of TK’s sister,” wrote prosecutors. “Defendant’s escape from KPEP was not done to avoid a harm from TK, but to avoid the ensuing police investigation. Defendant was escaping criminal liability for murder.”

They added, “Defendant had alternative legal options other than escape if he did feel threatened by TK.”

Watts Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced in the case on Friday.

Other documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office allege his ankle monitor went offline for eight hours the night Kelley vanished. Analysts also reportedly found his DNA on clothing by Kelley’s vehicle, which KCSO found abandoned and burned out a day after she was reported missing.