DeAngela Watson, left, and her grandmother Virginia Stinson comfort each other at Stinson's Atlanta home after the remains of Watson's brother, Alan Watson, were found in 2010. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)
Photo: Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton

How the AJC covered the Alan Watson case from “ATL Homicide”

From the archives: Remains of Atlanta teen who disappeared in 2001 were identified nine years later.

The second episode of TV One's true-crime series "ATL Homicide" centered on the case of Alan Watson, a 15-year-old who went missing in 2001. His remains were discovered and identified nine years later. 

The AJC did not cover Watson's disappearance in 2001 but devoted several articles to his case in 2010. Those articles are republished below. 

"ATL Homicide" recreates Atlanta murder cases as told by David Quinn and Vince Velazquez, two retired Atlanta Police Department homicide detectives. The first episode featured the case of Tereon Grant, a mother who was murdered in 2003. 

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From May 7, 2010: 

Skull ID'd as that of teen 

McNair student disappeared in 2001. Atlanta cops use DNA swabs to help Virginia lab confirm identity. 

By Larry Hartstein

Nine years after 15-year-old Alan Watson was shot to death, the investigation into his killing is just starting. 

Alan Watson was 15 when he was killed in 2001.
Photo: Family photo

Police told Watson's family this week that remains found in some woods in northwest Atlanta are a DNA match to the boy, who disappeared in August 2001 after saying he was going to the movies. 

"He was a good kid who went to school and on the weekends he would cut grass to make extra money," said his 30-year-old sister, DeAngela Watson. "I don't know why anybody would want to hurt him or kill him." 

His disappearance was a total mystery until a surveyor found a skull, with a large bullet hole in the forehead, lying near a creek near the intersection of Abner Place and Arno Drive in July 2009. Investigators found skeletal remains underneath brush nearby. 

Months later, DeAngela Watson saw a TV report detailing the discovery of a teenage boy's remains. The report mentioned a crown on the victim's left front tooth. 

"I just knew that was him," she said. 

Her call prompted Atlanta police Detective David Quinn to take DNA swabs from three of Watson's family members. The FBI forensic lab in Quantico, Va., determined the remains "had the mitochondrial DNA of his natural grandmother." 

Watson's mother died of cancer when he was 5 and he and his sister were raised by their grandparents in the Gresham Park community. Watson, a McNair High School student, was killed less than a month before his 16th birthday. 

"The grandmother was giving him an opportunity to be a little more independent," Quinn said. "She normally took him everywhere. The first time she lets him go by himself, he never comes back." 

Quinn said the boy was killed by a large-caliber bullet. Police do not have a motive. 

"We don't know anything because as far as the family is concerned, he left to go to the movies," Quinn said. "We just think somewhere along the line, he ran across some unsavory character." 

Watson was found several miles from his home. His sister, who was living in her own apartment at the time of his death, speculated that maybe he was "hanging with the wrong crowd." 

Quinn is distributing fliers asking the public for tips and DeAngela Watson is urging anyone with information to call Atlanta police. 

"He was only a child," she said. "He didn't do anything." 

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From May 27, 2010: 

Man, 34, arrested in 2001 death of teenager 

Surrender comes without incident in south DeKalb home. 

By Larry Hartstein

It didn't matter that it happened nine years ago. The tips came pouring in. 

As soon as police identified skeletal remains as those of Alan Watson — a 15-year-old boy who disappeared in 2001 — they were flooded with phone calls this month. Wednesday morning, police arrested Dion Sims, 34, in Watson's shooting death. 

Dion Sims is charged with murder in the 2001 shooting death of 15-year-old Alan Watson.
Photo: Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

"We had multiple people calling in who remembered a particular night in 2001 when something happened," Atlanta police Detective David Quinn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They believed a person was killed but it could never be proven because there was never a body. 

"As soon as the body was identified, everybody stepped up the way they needed to," Quinn added. "He was a handsome young man and people just remembered him being there that night." 

Quinn said Watson, a McNair High School student who told his grandmother he was going to the movies, was killed at the Flipper Temple Apartments on Abner Terrace in northwest Atlanta in August 2001. His body was buried in woods nearby, Quinn said. 

Watson and the much older Sims knew each other, Quinn said. They lived around the corner from each other in the Gresham Park area of south DeKalb County --- several miles from the murder scene. 

"Right now we're still not sure what the actual motive was," Quinn said. "We just have indisputable evidence that he is the shooter. We have at least one eyewitness and multiple other witnesses." 

Watson's disappearance was a mystery until a surveyor found a skull — with a large bullet hole in the forehead — in woods about 100 yards from the apartment complex last July. Investigators found skeletal remains nearby. 

A few months later, Watson's sister saw a TV report on the discovery of a teenage boy's remains. The report mentioned a crown on the victim's left front tooth, and "I just knew that was him," DeAngela Watson told the AJC. 

DNA tests performed at the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., determined the remains were those of Watson. 

Quinn distributed fliers in the area near where the body was found. Those fliers, along with media coverage, spurred lots of tips. 

Wednesday morning, police arrested Sims without incident at his mother's home on Gresham Road in south DeKalb. 

"He pretty much knew what the deal was," Quinn said. "He didn't offer any kind of resistance." 

DeAngela Watson greeted the news with joy and relief. 

"I feel so good that they got him," the 30-year-old said. "[Alan] was nothing but a child, 15 years old. And this guy got away for nine years." 

Watson was killed less than a month before his 16th birthday. 

His mother died of cancer when he was 5. He and his sister were raised by their grandmother. 

"He was a good kid who went to school and on the weekends he would cut grass to make extra money," DeAngela Watson said. "I don't know why anybody would want to hurt him or kill him." 

Sims is being held without bond in the Fulton County Jail. 

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From July 22, 2010: 

Atlanta Briefs: Nine years later, man indicted in murder 

It took nine years, but an Atlanta man was indicted Wednesday in the shooting death of a teenager in 2001. 

Dion Renaldo Sims, 35, was formally charged with the murder of Alan Watson, 15, in 2001, said Yvette Brown with the Fulton County district attorney's office. The teen was shot and killed and his body discarded in a wooded area behind the Flipper Temple apartments on Abner Place, Brown said. 

In 2009, a surveyor discovered a skull in the woods where the body was buried. DNA testing confirmed the skull was Watson's. 

Following news reports, anonymous tips began pouring in to police identifying Dion Sims as the shooter, Brown said. Sims was arrested in May. —ALEXIS STEVENS

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More coverage of the case: 

From May 26, 2010: Police: Flood of tips cracked 2001 murder 

From May 6, 2011: Murder conviction ends decade-long search for missing DeKalb boy 

David Quinn and Vince Velazquez are featured in the new TV One crime show "ATL Homicide" debuting July 9, 2018. CREDIT: TV One

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