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Texas fugitive arrested in St. John faces rape trial in Colorado

Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News
Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News

CRUZ BAY — A Texas man who allegedly fled to the British Virgin Islands to avoid sexual assault charges in Colorado had his day in an Aspen courtroom Friday.

Peter Duane Watkins, 40,  is accused of brutally raping a 65-year-old Aspen, Colo. hotel employee in the spring. He was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in St. John May 18.

But Watkins told District Judge Gail Nichols that the allegations against him were false, that he wasn’t a flight risk and that he wasn’t a danger to anyone.

“I’ve never been in any trouble,” Watkins said. “This is all new to me. I have no criminal record.”

Nichols, however, told Watkins that the punishment for sexual assault could be as much as life in prison, and granted prosecutor Andrea Bryan’s request to set his bond at $100,000.

The alleged assault occurred March 7 at an Aspen hotel, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in court Friday. The Virgin Islands Free Press does not identify victims of sexual assault.

According to the warrant: Watkins and his wife first stayed at the hotel for two months between October and December, when they became friends with the employee. At some point after they left the hotel but apparently stayed in Aspen, the couple separated and the employee tried to help them both by providing marital advice.

The employee characterized the relationship as “like a mom,” and told an Aspen police detective that she would have a drink with Watkins or go on walks with him, but never had any romantic interest in him or did anything to give him that impression. The employee said Watkins later was depressed after his wife took their baby and returned to Texas.

At some point, Watkins traveled to Texas to try and reconcile with his wife but returned to Aspen after a short time. Then, on March 7, he texted the employee that he was suicidal and wanted to come to her apartment. The employee agreed and told Watkins that she cared about him and that he needed to get help.

During that interaction, Watkins texted his wife and said he was going to have sex with the employee. When his wife didn’t respond, Watkins allegedly said, “I guess that’s an OK? So I’ll go ahead and do it,” the warrant states.

The victim said Watkins then pulled the victim from a chair to the bed and started removing her clothes. The victim said she told him to stop and “don’t do this,” but he held her down and had sex with her anyway.

The victim said she’d never had any physical intimacy with Watkins before and that she’d been celibate for the past nine years. She was later examined by a nurse at Aspen Valley Hospital trained to look for signs of sexual assault, who found multiple bruises.

Nichols entered an order of protection Friday forbidding Watkins to contact the victim. The warrant states that his wife has been sending the victim “nasty texts,” which had forced her to change her phone number twice.

Watkins’ father and wife told the detective they believed the sex between Watkins and the employee had been consensual, according to the warrant.

Watkins said in court that he’d been in the Virgin Islands staying with friends who owned a charter business to find out if he wanted to start a similar business. He said he doesn’t currently have a job and his only address is his wife’s home in Naples, Texas.

Watkins told Nichols that had he known about the arrest warrant, he would have traveled back to Aspen of his own accord to face the charges. He said that based on his conversations with the detective in the case before he went to the Virgin Islands, he was under the impression the case would be dropped.

Watkins was arrested in May on the Aspen warrant by officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol when he arrived at the Cruz Bay Ferry Terminal in St. John from Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Database system checks of the Watkin’s U.S. passport led to the discovery of an arrest warrant by the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center in Colorado.

“CBP enhances border security by providing officers with critical data on individuals encountered at our borders”, said St. John area port director Louis Harrigan. “Our officers cooperate with other law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of U.S. laws by ensuring that passengers who have transgressed our justice system and attempt to elude detection are identified and detained.”

The Texas native was arrested at that time and his custody transferred to the Virgin Islands Police Department for extradition procedures.

Watkins cited his lack of a criminal record in asking that the “false allegations” be resolved and asked for a public-recognizance bond.

But Nichols denied his request, citing Watkins’ lack of a job and that he doesn’t live in Colorado, in addition to the extradition matter. The judge also signed a mandatory protection order for the alleged victim. Watkins is next due in court on July 20, when he can request a bond reduction.

Watkins refused to have his mugshot taken Friday at the Pitkin County Jail, said Don Bird, jail administrator.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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