News Local

Verdict handed down in 2006 murder case

Tracy McLaughlin

By Tracy McLaughlin, Special to Postmedia Network

Amanda Watson (centre), mother of Orillia murder victim Alyssa Watson, leaves the Barrie courthouse Friday with a  friend, and the victim’s sister, Nicole Watson, after hearing the man convicted in her murder was sentenced to life in prison.
Tracy McLaughlin Photo

Amanda Watson (centre), mother of Orillia murder victim Alyssa Watson, leaves the Barrie courthouse Friday with a friend, and the victim’s sister, Nicole Watson, after hearing the man convicted in her murder was sentenced to life in prison. Tracy McLaughlin Photo

Evil. That’s the word that comes to mind when mother Amanda Watson looks at the man who was convicted of the first-degree murder and sadistic mutilation of her 20-year-old daughter, Alyssa Watson.

Standing in the prisoner’s box with his waist-length hair, Roy Niemi didn’t bat an eye as a jury found him guilty after deliberating for only 24 hours — an unusually short length of time for a murder case.

But as he was taken away in handcuffs, the 34-year-old Niemi could be heard kicking, banging and screaming obscenities.

But the judge had no sympathy for Niemi’s fate of spending the rest of his life in prison for killing the Orillia woman.

“Your crime was sickening and deplorable with horrendously tragic consequences,” Justice Cary Boswell said as he sentenced Niemi to life in prison. “You are not only a sadistic murderer, you are a thief. You stole a mother from her young children. You stole a daughter, a sister, a friend.”

Watson’s battered and half-naked body was found in the bushes off a nature trail in Orillia on Aug. 19, 2006. She had been strangled to death, then, after she was already dead, her throat was slashed, she had been cut from her throat to her groin and her breast was sliced apart.

“You are a sick, twisted and sadistic killer. Your motives for doing what you did will forever remain a mystery to me,” continued the judge.

“As you strangled the precious life from Alyssa, one wonders what you were thinking. Did you think of her two young children, sleeping in their beds, wondering why their mother didn’t come home that night?”

During the trial, the jury listened to the intriguing story of how police, lacking evidence to charge Niemi with murder, conducted an elaborate undercover sting often referred to as a ‘Mr. Big’ operation, where officers posed as members of a lucrative criminal gang. They tempted Niemi with easy money, fancy cars, drives in limousines, fancy Toronto hotels and they called him “brother.”

After several months in the Hollywood-style act, the fictitious ‘boss’ eventually convinced Niemi to divulge how he strangled Watson — all while it was secretly videotaped — which was played in court.

“Why did you cut her up?” asked the boss, as he strutted around an upscale Toronto hotel suite.

“Just to throw the police off,” Niemi said, often guffawing as he talked about the details.

Day in and day out, Watson’s mother sat through the trial, often bowing her head and holding back tears as the man who sat across from her in the prisoner’s box could be heard divulging his sordid secret of how he killed her daughter.

Sometimes, she would have to leave the courtroom.

“I felt dirty, being in the same room,” she said.

But this silent, strong, woman refused to weep in the courtroom.

“I don’t want him to see me cry,” she said.

Listening to that confession which was played several times in the courtroom was “horrific,” Watson said.

“I have never experienced evil before,” she added. “But listening to what he did to my daughter, I know I was face-to face with evil when I looked at him.

“His evil has touched all of our lives.”

She said her daughter’s two young children were just toddlers when Watson was murdered, and couldn’t understand where their mother was or why she didn’t come home.

She and Watson’s sister are now raising the children.

“They know about the bad man who took their mommy away from them,” said Watson outside court, her eyes reddened with tears.

She described her daughter as sometimes problematic, but kind, with a big heart.

“But she was very naive and far too trusting,” Watson said. “I think that’s why Niemi got to her in the first place. … he didn’t just trash her life, he trashed all of our lives and he trashed his own life.”

It troubles her that her daughter believed Niemi was her friend.

At first, she didn’t want to believe it.

But as the details began to unravel, she knew police had the right man.

“I knew it in my soul. I knew it was him.”

Relieved that the nightmarish trial is now over, Watson says she is grateful to the police and the justice system for getting a killer off the streets.

“The police, the Crown, the court staff, the detectives, they were all amazing,” she said.

Indeed, police were like a dog with a bone in cracking the Niemi case. After several months of operating the undercover operation, sometimes working around the clock to try to lure Niemi to a confession, they failed and the operation shut down in 2007.

But several months later, the operation started up again, this time with a new player to act out the big crime ‘boss’ who might have a better rapport with Niemi.

It worked.

In an odd twist, Niemi’s own father, Gair Niemi, was convicted in the murder of a young college student who was killed with a roofer’s hammer in 1992. In that case, the jury heard Niemi had sex with her when she was dead. The father died in prison of an alleged heart attack in 1997.

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