OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Stunning new details emerge during Wednesday’s bond hearing as testimony reveals the Auburn mother, who police say killed her emaciated son, was a licensed counselor who claimed the child died from a reaction to vapor rub.
A Lee County Judge is deciding if Kelly Watford will be released on bond. Before adjourning the Aniah’s hearing Judge Russell Bush said pictures of six-year-old Sulivan Watford, taken by Auburn police shortly after his death are “like nothing he has ever seen outside of Holocaust documentaries.” A postmortem exam indicated Sulivan weighed just 21 pounds at the time of his death. Judge Bush said he would issue his decision on bond within 48 hours.
47-year-old Kelly Watford entered the courtroom for Wednesday’s Aniah’s hearing wearing prison coveralls, her gray hair in a half braid. During the entirety of the hearing, Watford kept her head down and never looked at anyone. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom per the request of Watford’s defense team, so we were unable to record video or testimony. Journalists were permitted to take notes as Lee County prosecutors Garrett Saucer and Clay Thomas argued Watford was a clear danger to society and should be held without bail. Watford’s defense attorney argued she should get a bond.
According to Wednesday’s testimony, Watford is a licensed professional counselor who had worked at the Lee County Department of Mental Health. The child’s father, Mark Watford, is facing Aggravated Child Abuse associated with Sulivan’s death. Mark Watford has made his $30,000 bond. WRBL did not see Mark Watford in court, but we did confirm via testimony he is a registered nurse who works at an Opelika plasma center. According to testimony the family homeschooled their seven children and had not taken them to a doctor since COVID-19 hit. It appears Sulivan may have never been to a pediatrician.
Chad Smith, a former co-worker and current family counselor in Opelika, testified for the defense at the hearing. Smith told the court Watford was good at her job and based on what he knew of her she would not be a danger to society. However, when prosecutors Smith was shown the pictures of Sullivan taken shortly after his death, he was visibly upset. After seeing the pictures prosecutors asked Smith, who does not have any children, if he would leave a child alone with Watford, and he testified he would not.
Meanwhile, on the day of her son’s death, we learned Watford told investigators her son was coughing and she used a vapor rub she had never used on him before. According to testimony from Watford’s mother and brother Watford told them Sulivan died from an allergic reaction to the rub. Watford’s mother and brother testified she was a good person, who excelled in school, cared for others, and was a good mother. They both testified Sulivan was a “picky” eater. Watford’s mother, Janet Dean, testified she saw the six-year-old child the day before he died, and said Sulivan was sitting up and playing. Immediately after this part of her testimony prosecutors stood up and told the court Dean may have just legally exposed herself. Judge Bush read Watford’s mother her Miranda Rights.
When prosecutors showed both Watford’s brother and mother photos of Sulivan taken shortly after his death, they were visibly shaken and upset. When asked by prosecutors, if what Wadford’s mother saw in the pictures looked like Sulivan had died from an allergic reaction to a vapor rub, Dean testified “No, sir.”
Watford’s defense attorney, Algert Agricola, is requesting a bond claiming she is not a flight risk or danger to the community. We learned in court Watford no longer has custody of her other six children. The defense said the judge could confine Watford to house arrest and require her to pay for an ankle monitor. Agricola declined to comment to WRBL after the hearing.
Prosecutors maintain Wadford is a danger to the community and allege testimony proves she was good at deceiving others, and covering up long term abuse of Sulivan.
On June 14, medics were called to the Core Drive home and found Sulivan unresponsive, their life-saving measures were unsuccessful.
According to court documents Kelly Watford claimed Sulivan became unresponsive while she was bathing him, and she never left him unsupervised during the bath. A post-mortem indicated drowning, fluid was escaping from Sulivan’s mouth, while life-saving measures were underway. During the autopsy, fluid was found on the top of his nasal cavity, and in his lungs, consistent with drowning. In terms of his weight and physical appearance, prosecutors believe Sulivan couldn’t walk or sit up without assistance.
When Judge Bush issues his ruling on Watford’s bond, we will update you.