Memory of father’s 40-year-old cold case killing remains fresh for Fort Myers councilwoman

FORT MYERS, Fla. City Councilwoman Teresa Watkins-Brown knows all too well the pain Dunbar has endured.

Her father, Samuel Watkins, was shot and killed on Henderson Avenue in front of the old McCarter’s Grocery Store.

“I don’t let the grief and hurt be what I wake up to every morning because if I stay back to that day of December the 9th, 1977, I probably wouldn’t move on,” said Watkins-Brown, who grew up in Dunbar and has represented the community since 2009.

WINK News is bringing attention to a number of local cold cases in hopes that renewed interest will result in new clues.

Out of 95 killings investigated by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office within the past five years, 26 remain unsolved.

In Fort Myers, only 24 of the city’s 74 murders were solved within the past five years.

While Samuel Watkins’ killing occurred nearly 40 years ago, the memory remains fresh for Watkins-Brown.

Her father was delivering papers at about 4 a.m., one of several jobs he held to support his 11 children, when he was shot and killed.

Investigators pinned robbery as the likely motive, but money was found in his wallet.

“It’s hard to think that a father, who all he wanted to do was bring home the best for his kids, and support them, that his life was taken just like that,” Watkins-Brown said.

There were no witnesses.

No murder weapon was found.

“We had guys working it day and night, and we’re still working it,” said then-Lee County Sheriff Frank Wanicka, according to newspaper reports at the time. “But you can’t make a case out of nothing.”

The family hired a private investigator, but still no answers.

Watkins-Brown and other city council members have been vocal in their desire to reform the Fort Myers Police Department and allocate needed resources to Dunbar since a highly-critical audit of the agency was released in February.

“I can’t change the things of the past,” she said. “So I have to be optimistic about the future. The future of the community. The future of the police department. That we as a council and mayor move in the right direction.”

Watkins-Brown has not heard from the sheriff’s office, which covered Dunbar at the time, about her father’s killing in about four years.

They also would not answer questions about the case to WINK News.

Anyone with information about Watkins’ killing is asked to contact Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 800-780-TIPS.