Early media reports of Sam Watson’s involvement in his brother’s alleged murder of Carol Chacon in the thrift store she worked in Wednesday have tarnished the name of a man who, according to his lawyer and many public social media posts, is a family man respected in his community.

imageSam Watson’s brother, Christopher, has been charged in the stabbing death of Chacon, 54, a clerk at the Project Thrift Store in Sanford.

Sam Watson was arrested by Sanford Police and charged with being an accessory after the fact. While the Sanford Herald reported today that Sam Watson remained in the Lee County Jail without bond, sources have confirmed to The Rant that his bond was reduced Thursday morning to $50,000. He has posted that and been released.

Christopher Watson remains jailed without bond.

That Sam Watson’s bond was reduced could indicate any of several things – but primarily that he is not perceived by the judge as a threat to his community or a flight risk. Sam Watson has no prior criminal record.

His attorney, Chip Post, told The Rant that Sam Watson maintains he is innocent of “allegedly aid(ing) Christopher in attempting to escape and in the concealment of evidence after learning that Watson committed murder,” as the Sanford Herald reported.

“My understanding is that Mr. Watson is respected in his community. He is gainfully-employed to provide for his wife and children,” Post said. “He maintains his innocence and we plan to vigorously defend him against these accusations by the government.”

Innocent or not, the damage to Sam Watson’s name has been done, specifically in online comment forums on The Herald’s Facebook page  and at WRAL.com.

“Scumbags!” wrote one Facebook commenter, earning 16 “likes” in the process.

“I’m so glad they were caught right away. Piece of crap, both of them,” wrote another, earning 15 likes. “I tell you God is going to deal with these two men, they didn’t have to kill her.”

“It doesn’t matter how they was (sic) when they was growing up, a sweet lady is gone because of these ‘good guys.’”

The comments go on. But others are pushing back against the bloodthirsty chorus attempting to implicate Sam Watson in the crime.

“We aren’t 100 percent sure that his brother had anything to do with it. I know they are saying that he was an accessory but, from what we know he is the one who actually tipped off the police,” wrote commenter deepntheshadows on WRAL’s report.

Richard Blackwelder, who identifies himself as a friend of Sam Watson, also posted a comment to the Herald’s Facebook site, saying Sam Watson was with him at the time of the murder and that he was responsible for alerting police to his brother’s crime.

“Sam Watson is a good friend of mine, and I KNOW EXACTLY where he was when this terrible crime was committed, he was with me,” Blackwelder wrote. “Sam turned his brother into the police. Can you imagine how difficult that was? What Sam’s brother did is horrible and he will get what he deserves. But what Sam did was right and just and extremely difficult.”

While the idea that Sam Watson told the police his brother was responsible for the murder hasn’t been corroborated by the police or media, there is some evidence to support the theory. In time-stamped mugshots provided by the Sanford Police Department, Sam Watson’s arrest is listed as taking place at 225 W. Weatherspoon Street – the address of the Sanford Police Department – on Wednesday, May 28. His brother wasn’t arrested until the next day. That could be consistent with the idea that Sam Watson was at the police department voluntarily.

Additionally, Sam Watson has been the subject of local media recently — only in a much more positive light.

In December, The Herald profiled Sam Watson’s daughter, who used money she’d saved all year for a doll to buy Christmas gifts for a needy child instead. In that story, Sam and his wife were identified as not “the stereotypical image of philanthropists. But they said they’ve given to the Salvation Army or other charities for years because it’s the way they were raised and the way they’ve been trying to raise their own kids.”