Family of missing woman asks for 8 years: ‘Where is Trukita?’ Now, a recent arrest brings the pain back
The news of Trukita Scott’s disappearance eventually faded from headlines, but her relatives’ pain has lingered. And Carl Watts Jr.’s arrest made the ache worse.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The search for Trukita Scott ended long ago.
Her family frantically looked for any signs of the 24-year-old mother of two who disappeared on June 25, 2014. Scott’s maternal aunt, Lynnette Finnie, can’t remember what year they finally stopped searching, only that there were no longer any places left to look.
Her body was never found. Her car, a 2007 Nissan Altima, was found a week after she disappeared, discarded in Liberty City, a 2015 story from the South Florida Sun Sentinel says.
The emptiness in their lives has persisted these eight years later. They have learned to live with unanswered questions: What happened to her? Where is she? Why was no one ever held accountable in her disappearance?
“We gave up physically, but mentally we didn’t give up. At a point you have to continue to live, but live with that hole in your heart,” Finnie, 45, said.
Carl Watts Jr., 45, of Miami, was arrested recently in the shooting death of his wife, Shandell Harris.
And Watts Jr. was dating Scott at the time she vanished, Finnie and Scott’s father, Charles Scott, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in interviews. They have long believed he is the one person who knows what happened to Scott.
The news of Scott’s disappearance eventually faded from headlines, but her relatives’ pain has lingered. And Watts Jr.’s arrest made the ache worse.
Harris, 30, had been hiding from Watts Jr. from Saturday afternoon into Sunday afternoon after an argument started over texts Harris found on his phone, a Miami Police report says. Watts Jr. stabbed her six times Saturday, the report says, leading her to come up with a plan to hide from him at her mother’s home.
But last Sunday, thinking it might be safe enough at a public place, she went to the pool at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in Miami with her mother and her daughter for the girl’s swimming class. Watts Jr. knew she would be there, Harris’ mother, Dulcinea Harris, told the Sun Sentinel.
Watts Jr. approached Harris and offered her money to drop the charges that were pending after he had repeatedly stabbed her the day earlier, a Miami-Dade Police incident report says. She refused, and he fired rounds and rounds of bullets into her, the report says.
Private security officers detained Watts Jr. at gunpoint, and he is now facing a second-degree murder charge and a felon in possession of a weapon charge in Harris’ killing, police said.
Now, Scott’s family and relatives of Vickie Simmons, a woman who also dated Watts Jr. and was found murdered in 2009, are left wondering whether they may ever get long-awaited answers about what happened to them.
Unanswered calls, ‘gut feeling’
Learning of the public killing of Harris in “broad daylight,” Finnie said, has forced the family to relive the pain they felt the day Scott disappeared. Seeing Harris, for their family, is like seeing Scott again.
“Our prayers was answered when he was arrested, partially … To hear that was like, ‘OK good, at least he’s not in the streets anymore,’” Finnie said. “But then we right back at square A. Where is Trukita?”
Scott’s mother was one of the last people to see her that day in late June eight years ago. Scott picked up her mother, who had just had surgery, and was driving her around, Charles Scott said. She told her mother she had a headache and wanted to take a nap but needed to meet up with Watts Jr. for money he was supposed to give her for their son, C.J., who was 1 at the time.
Scott’s mother, Kengeral Allen-Scott, pleaded with her not to meet Watts Jr. alone, her father told the Sun Sentinel. Their daughter assured Allen-Scott everything would be OK.
“That’s the last we’d seen or heard from her,” he said.
Finnie described the moment she learned from her sister that Scott wasn’t answering her phone.
‘I said, ‘Let’s give it two days, see what happens,’” Finnie said. “We called that whole entire day, nothing.”
They learned Scott never showed up to pick up their son C.J. and her then-3-year-old daughter Monai from daycare. Days went by. Still nothing. That was unlike Scott, Finnie said.
“Her phone went completely dead, no nothing. As a family member, you get that gut feeling,” Finnie said.
Watts Jr. told Scott’s family he didn’t know where she went or what happened to her, Finnie said. The Sun Sentinel previously reported that phone records placed Watts Jr. in Liberty City, where Scott’s car was found, the day she disappeared.
The search for Scott was on. Charles Scott said they searched from West Palm Beach to the Florida Keys. They checked airports, malls, parking garages and a canal in Miami Gardens. Finnie did “stakeouts” in places Watts Jr. was known to go. She drove around in places he hung out — all to no avail.
After Scott’s disappearance, Watts Jr. turned himself in to police on an unrelated charge, Finnie and Charles Scott said. The Sun Sentinel reported in August 2014 that Watts Jr. turned himself in for violating his probation on a weapons charge.
By November 2014, the Sun Sentinel reported that Watts Jr. was in prison on a weapons charge.
Finnie said that detectives questioned Watts Jr. at the time. The Sun Sentinel said in the August 2014 report that Fort Lauderdale Police questioned Watts Jr., who invoked his right to remain silent.
Fort Lauderdale police said in a statement that the agency is aware of Watts Jr.’s arrest in Miami and named him as a person of interest in Scott’s disappearance. An attorney representing Watts Jr. declined to comment when reached by email.
Once the news of Scott’s disappearance made headlines, her family learned Scott wasn’t the only one to have a rocky relationship with Watts Jr.
Vickie Simmons, 26, was murdered, her body found in a motel on Biscayne Boulevard on Feb. 18, 2009. Lashon Jones, Simmons’ sister, recalled calling Scott’s mother when she heard of the 2014 disappearance. She told Allen-Scott that she felt it was not a coincidence that both Simmons and Scott had been dating Watts Jr. when something happened to them.
Similarities between the three women and their relationships with Watts Jr. reveal a pattern of unsettling behaviors. A Miami Police incident report says Harris told Watts Jr. she wanted a divorce. He punched her in the face and stabbed her six times before pointing a gun to his own head, threatening to kill himself if she left him, the report says.
That scenario sounded all-too-familiar to Simmons’ and Scott’s family members.
Simmons, who was living with Watts Jr. and her two children in North Miami Beach at the time of her murder, had been arguing with Watts Jr. in the days leading up to her death, Jones said. And Scott’s mother wrote in a September 2014 Facebook post that her daughter received a “threatening” message from Watts Jr. hours before she disappeared.
“When they tried to get away, he managed to still always find them. If you wanted to leave, it was hard for you to leave, like how he did Mrs. Harris. He stalked her, he found out where she was and come there. That’s just him. That’s how he was with my sister,” Jones told the Sun Sentinel
Finnie said when Scott worked at a U-Haul store in West Park, employees often said Watts Jr. would show up there, and Scott had a “scared look in her face” when he would appear. Another time, Finnie said Watts Jr. followed Scott in his car as she drove to Finnie’s workplace.
The words a police report says Watts Jr. uttered the day he stabbed Harris — “he could not and would not live without her” — Charles Scott said he once heard Watts Jr. say to Scott in an argument.
“He always has a favorite saying that he says to all the girls, ‘I can’t live with you, I’m not going to live without you.’ When he was outside my house going back and forth with my daughter, I heard him make that statement,” Charles Scott said.
Watts Jr. has a decades-long history of arrests, dating back to 1995 in Miami-Dade County. He had previously been arrested on burglary, robbery and kidnapping with a weapon charges in 2003 by Miami Springs Police, but the charges were dropped, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records say.
He spent three years in prison after being convicted of a weapons charge and grand theft and fraud charges and was released in 2007, Florida Department of Corrections records say. He was again arrested on kidnapping and battery charges a few months after he was released from prison in 2007, which were also dropped, Miami-Dade County court records say.
Watts Jr. had also previously been accused of attempting to force an 18-year-old high schooler who was sitting at a bus stop into his car, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Jones said she didn’t know about Watts Jr.’s past arrests until after her sister’s death. His background made Jones wonder whether there may be other victims who have yet to be discovered.
“I just feel like this is a rebirth for her. She passed Feb. 18, but the day that Mr. Watts got arrested, this is your new rebirth date. Maybe we can get justice for everyone and maybe some more people will come forward. I believe for a fact there’s more people,” Jones said.
Det. Angel Rodrigues, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade Police, said in an email to the Sun Sentinel that the department’s Cold Case Squad is “revisiting” Simmons’ case but that they do not “name anyone a ‘person of interest’” in their cases.
‘They deserve peace’
Dulcinea Harris, 48, was shopping Friday afternoon with her granddaughter, Harris’ daughter, for a dress to wear to Harris’ funeral. She told 11-year-old Simiyah Davis that she wanted her to stand out.
She said she hopes Watts Jr.’s arrest brings the Scott and Simmons families closure.
“As you’re already hurting and you don’t have justice and no peace in your heart, that’s even more pain on top of pain. I’m very appreciative that this came ... because they deserve peace. They deserve some type of justice as well. They deserve that,” Dulcinea Harris said.
Simiyah will join Scott and Simmons’ children in growing up without their mothers, Scott’s children now in their early adolescent years and Simmons’ children now in their early 20s.
C.J., Scott and Watts Jr.’s son, no longer remembers his mother, Charles Scott said.
The anniversary of Scott’s disappearance is not marked by family vigils or memorials, Finnie said. Without answers, Finnie said those gestures feel empty.
“We all deal with it in our own way. But we don’t meet up to do anything because we don’t really have closure to do it,” Finnie said.
And to this day, Jones avoids driving on Biscayne Boulevard where Simmons’ body was found. She never wanted to know any details about how her sister died or was found.
“We were close, then not close. We had our ups and downs. She just was an outgoing person, she was just always happy. She’s always smiling, always smiling. She had these little pretty white teeth and this nice pretty smile. I miss those days,” Jones said.
What Jones, Charles Scott and Finnie agree on was that Watts Jr.’s arrest gives them some solace, though they don’t know if they can call it justice or closure.
“The best thing about it is he’s not on the street no more,” Charles Scott said. “He’s not free anymore. But I mean closure … At this point, no it doesn’t really matter. My daughter is still not here.”
Seeing justice, Jones said, for her sister, Scott and Harris may be a step in her being able to confront the lingering trauma she suffers from her sister’s death that she has never wanted to face.
“I need justice also for my sister. I need justice for Trukita, Mrs. Harris. Carl need justice. He need justice for [himself.] He needs help. It’s sad to say … because at the end of the day, he was traumatized somewhere in his life,” Jones said.
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