A Tangipahoa Parish man who admitted he broke into a pregnant Kenner woman’s apartment almost daily for a month before raping her in her bedroom was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Friday (March 18) as a career criminal.
Brandon Watkins, 26, a former Kenner resident who lived in Independence at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty as charged last year to forcible rape and residential burglary in connection with his most recent crimes in 2013.
In announcing the sentence for the rape and burglary, Judge Ray Steib of the 24th Judicial District Court noted “that Mr. Watkins felt he could take what he wanted whenever he wanted.” Judge Steib also disputed Watkins’s assertion that he didn’t intend to rape the woman, that it “just happened” during the break-in.
“I find his excuse unbelievable,” Judge Steib said in announcing the 25-year sentence for the forcible rape and 12 years for the burglary. Steib ran the sentences concurrently.
Watkins then pleaded guilty to being second offender because of a similar crime he committed in Kenner in 2011. Prosecutors filed the double bill on the forcible rape charge, meaning that Watkins faced 20 years to 80 years in prison as a two-time felon under Louisiana’s habitual offender law.
Prosecutors told the judge that the victim wanted it known that she was pregnant when Watkins raped her, and she was placed in the position of pleading for her safety and that of her unborn child.
Watkins admitted he broke into a woman’s apartment on Clemson Place about 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2013, having done so every day for about a month by entering through a rear window, according to the Kenner Police Department. The woman told authorities she had noticed items moved in the apartment during the period but assumed her son was responsible, unaware that an intruder was entering her home.
On the final break-in, Watkins went to the woman’s bedroom in search of money. She woke up and saw him next to her bed, leading to a struggle and then the rape, according to the arrest report. The woman told police she pleaded with Watkins, telling him she was pregnant and asking him to use a condom. He refused to use a condom, she said. After raping the woman, he fled without stealing anything.
Authorities linked Watkins to the crime through his DNA he left at the scene during the rape, according to the arrest report. Watkins’s DNA profile already was included in a database managed by the Louisiana State Police, leading to the match.
Police arrested him on Oct. 13, 2013, after confirming Watkins was, in fact, the DNA donor. During the interview in Kenner, Watkins confessed that he entered the woman’s apartment through a back window almost every day for a month.
He pleaded guilty as charged forcible rape and burglary on Aug. 24. In seeking double-offender status on Friday, prosecutors relied on Watkins’s 2012 guilty plea to burglary of an inhabited dwelling, for which he had been sentenced to two years in prison.
In that crime, Watkins broke into a woman’s apartment on Curtis Avenue in Kenner on Dec. 11, 2011, by climbing through a window, police said. He hid in the woman’s bedroom. She later was in bed when she heard a noise about 4:48 a.m., looked over and saw Watkins crawling on the floor, according to the arrest report.
Watkins jumped to his feet and asked her to not call police before he ran out without stealing anything. He was linked to that crime by his fingerprints, police said. At the time, Watkins lived on Lesan Street in Kenner, two streets over from Curtis Avenue, police said.
In accepting the guilty plea last year for the rape and burglary, Judge Steib ordered a pre-sentence investigation. The state probation and parole office investigates and makes sentencing recommendations to guide judges in their decisions, but those recommendations are not disclosed publicly.
In addition to the 25-year sentence he received Friday, Watkins will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life when he is released from prison, court records show.
Assistant District Attorney Angad Ghai prosecuted the case.