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One Way of Handling Oslo Syndrome

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Watson gets more than 9 years

Man held wife, daughter hostage in 2005

By Robyn Moormeister, robynm@theunion.com
January 10, 2007

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In a two-hour court hearing this week, Grass Valley engineer Larry Watson was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison for holding his wife and 16-year-old daughter hostage in August 2005, holding guns to their heads and threatening to kill them.

"This was an odd case and an amazing sentence because (Watson) had no (criminal) history," Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Francis said Tuesday. "There really is something very sinister about him and the way he has been treating his wife and daughter for the last 17 years."

Francis said Watson had been inflicting psychological and emotional abuse on his family for so long that his wife was nearly void of self esteem.

She compared the situation to "Sleeping with the Enemy," a movie about a man's pathological need for power and control over his wife and her struggle to be free of his abuse.

"(Watson) would make (his wife) hang his shirts all facing one direction on the same-colored hangers," Francis said, adding that Watson would often punish his wife if she overlooked such details.

"He would make her stand outside naked in the winter," Francis said. "He made her sleep on the floor without a blanket."

Abuse reaches a boiling point

Watson's 16-year-old daughter, who he had recently begun physically abusing, reported the 2005 incident for which he was charged:

It started when Watson, upset with birthday cards he had received from his wife and daughter, gave the cards back and told them to re-write them.

"The guns didn't come out until later that night," Francis said.

She said Watson pointed handguns - one of which was loaded - at his wife's and daughter's heads, locked all of the doors, turned on the house alarm, shut off the phones and lights and threatened to kill them if they called police.

Watson had been drinking alcohol and taking a lot of Xanax at the time, Francis said.

The next morning, Francis said, Watson's wife made their usual breakfast of hash browns, eggs and coffee. Watson "acted like nothing had happened" and he drove his daughter to school.

"Once she got to school she went straight to the principal's office and wouldn't say a word until she could verify that Mom had made it to work," Francis said. "Then there was full disclosure of everything."

Police arrested Watson and he was released from jail at 4 a.m. the next morning. Soon afterward, he located his wife and daughter, who were staying at a local motel under a fictitious name.

He had recognized their car, even though his daughter had tried to conceal it with a car cover.

"He put his thumb over the peephole," Francis said. This time, Watson's wife called the police, who found a copy of an emergency restraining order in Watson's briefcase while they arrested him.

The Nevada County District Attorney's Office charged Watson with two counts of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, violating a restraining order, stalking and brandishing a weapon.

Longtime victims get closure

Francis prosecuted the two-week jury trial that concluded on Aug. 17, 2006, when Watson was found guilty. She argued for the maximum sentence during Monday's sentencing hearing, and Judge Robert Tamietti granted it; nine years and eight months in state prison.

Francis said state law dictates Watson is required to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Four of the eight charges Watson was convicted of count as violent "strike" offenses, Francis said, which means that if Watson is convicted of one more felony in California, he will be automatically sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

"(Watson's wife and daughter) are so excited about the sentence and you could just see the relief on their faces," Francis said. "But they do believe that he will hunt them down when he gets a chance."

She said the woman and her daughter have been attending counseling and plan on leaving the area soon.

"It's a chilling story," Francis said. "It's incredibly typical."


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@ theunion.com or call 477-4236.

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