ALABAMA prosecutors will allege Gabe Watson murdered his wife on their Queensland honeymoon to pocket $US200,000 in insurance payouts.
The theory was revealed just minutes after Watson walked off a Qantas flight from Melbourne and into the waiting handcuffs of US authorities at Los Angeles international airport.
“Gabe Watson has been served a warrant in Los Angeles,” said Don Valeska, head of Alabama’s Attorney-General’s violent crime division.
“He is in custody.”
Watson is locked up in a cell at the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street complex in south central Los Angeles, an area known for murders by violent gangs, including the Bloods, Crips and Mexican Mafia.
The 33-year-old is likely to spend four to seven days in the lockup before a Los Angeles judge decides whether he will be extradited from California to Alabama.
Shortly after Watson’s arrest at the airport, Alabama Attorney-General Troy King announced a grand jury in Birmingham, Alabama last month charged Watson with two murder counts: capital murder in the course of kidnapping; and capital murder for pecuniary gain.
The grand jury’s decision had to be kept secret until Watson’s arrest.
The indictment states Alabama will not seek the death penalty against Watson.
Mr Valeska said Watson was motivated to kill his wife of 11 days, Tina, for the financial windfall insurance policies would bring him.
“The total would have been about $US200,000,” Mr Valeska said.
“Her work insurance would have been $US150,000 and $US50,000 from another.”
Alabama authorities believe Watson hatched a plan to kill 26-year-old Tina before they departed Alabama for their 2003 honeymoon in Australia, which included a seven-day scuba dive trip off the coast of Queensland.
Tina drowned on the first day of the expedition while the newlyweds dived the shipwreck Yongola, off Townsville.
Watson’s Alabama lawyer Brett Bloomston has vowed to clear Watson’s name and questioned the “ethical reasons” behind the attorney-general’s office pursuing charges against Watson when he has already served time in Queensland for Tina’s death.
Watson completed an 18-month jail sentence in Queensland earlier this month after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Tina, but Alabama authorities and Tina’s parents were outraged by what they thought was a lenient sentence.
Three Queensland police officers and two Australian Immigration Department officers escorted Watson on Qantas flight 93 from Melbourne to LA on Thursday.
Passengers said Watson was seated at the rear of the plane.
LAPD officers drove Watson under guard from the airport to the 77th Street Police Station, managing to evade a large contingent of Australian and US media waiting at the expansive airport.
The earliest a judge will hear Alabama’s application to extradite him from California to Alabama is Monday, but it could be later in the week.
Watson will likely not be allowed to apply for bail until he appears in an Alabama court.
While Mr Valeska said he was disappointed with the Australian Immigration Department’s failure to keep Alabama informed about Watson’s deportation to the US, he praised Queensland’s assistance with the case.