How California Mom Slain While Jogging River Trail in 1995 Cold Case Led Police to Alleged Killer

A 25-year-old cold case solved: James Watkins arrested in the murder of nurse and mother of four, Christine Munro
Redding Police Department

Christine Munro was 37 when she was attacked while jogging on the south side of the Sacramento River Trail on June 24, 1995.

Police had made an arrest in the 1995 cold case killing of a California nurse and mother of four who was reportedly raped and murdered, and the break in the case was thanks to the victim herself, officials said. Christine Munro, 37, was attacked while jogging on the south side of the Sacramento River Trail on June 24, 1995.

After her death, investigators conducted several interviews and followed up on many leads. In 1997, a convicted rapist confessed to the crime, but there was no evidence to prove he actually committed the crime, and the case went cold, according to the Redding Police Department reported Action 12 News. 

In late 2019, a detective started to review Munro’s case and in January 2020, resubmitted Munro’s fingernail scrapings for analysis with DNA technology that didn’t exist at the time of the murder, authorities said.

In June, a possible match turned up. Authorities said the evidence matched the DNA profile of James Watkins, 42, of Texas. He was serving a 14-year-sentence in a Texas state prison for a robbery, the news station reported. 

At a Friday news conference, Redding Police Chief Bill Schueller shared the stunning break in the case. "In simple terms, Watkin’s DNA was under Christine Munro’s fingernails at the time of her murder."

Schueller said that Watkins had been living with his aunt and uncle in Redding in early 1995. He was 17 at the time and reportedly had several run-ins with the Redding Police Department for minor offenses. When he moved back to Texas in 1997 he had a list of convictions that included sexual assault, burglary, space and bank robbery, Fox News reported. 

Schueller said Watkins had spent a good part of his life in prison, reported the news outlet. 

In August, detectives and a local prosecutor flew to Texas to interview Watkins and obtain a DNA sample, reported the Record Redding Searchlight

Watkins was flown from Texas to Redding on rape, kidnapping and murder charges, Fox reported. 

On Oct. 21, 2020 detectives presented the district attorney with new evidence that authorities said proved that Watkin was responsible for the death of Munro. The district attorney filed criminal charges including murder, and three special allegations and said that if convicted, Schueller could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently in the Shasta County Jail being held on no bail, police said.

Authorities said they haven’t been able to determine a motive.

"This case is a good reminder of how a community never forgets when a person has been murdered," Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said at Friday’s news conference 

One of Munro's daughters, Lisa, who also spoke at the news conference, thanked officials for their work on the case and seeing that justice was finally done on her mother's behalf.  

"Not a single day goes by that I don't think about the day my mom was murdered," she said. "She loved the river trail, and I take comfort knowing she died in the place she loved so much. Thank you, all of you."