SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The trial of the man accused of killing a Shreveport couple whose bodies were found in their burned-out car in November 2018 came to an abrupt halt Wednesday afternoon when the judge in the case declared a mistrial.

Willie DeWayne Watkins, 37, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of 43-year-old Kelly Jose and 33-year-old Heather Jose. The trial got underway Monday with jury selection, which continued into Wednesday morning.

Opening arguments were expected to begin Wednesday afternoon, but the Caddo District Attorney’s Office confirms Judge John D. Mosely Jr. declared the mistrial after it was learned that an attorney involved tested positive for COVID-19, and a key witness also was symptomatic.

The DA’s office says contact tracing could have led to other potential quarantines and no recess was possible due to witness and juror availabilities. State prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to the mistrial and a new trial date, August 22, 2022.  

Heather and Kelly Jose two were found burned beyond recognition in a vehicle in the carport of a vacant home in the 3400 block of Penick Street in the Queensborough neighborhood on November 8, 2018.

Watkins was arrested two days later at his home just two blocks away, after a standoff that lasted nearly six hours. Shreveport police say the couple had given Watkins a ride from Mall St. Vincent on the night of the slayings, where they had eaten dinner with their children earlier in the evening.

The case, which has been winding through Caddo District Court for more than three years, has been delayed multiple times, starting with the Caddo Parish grand jury upgrading Watkin’s original second-degree murder charges to first-degree murder in a Feb. 14, 2019 indictment. The trial had to be rescheduled in February 2022 under a court order issued in January postponing all jury trials until at least March 1 due to COVID concerns.

It has also been the subject of controversy after the Caddo Parish District Attorney initially moved to seek the death penalty in the case only to take the death penalty off the table in early 2021 in an effort to move the case along.

If convicted, Watkins faces life in prison.