Less than three months ago, Arthur “Clay” Watkins, 56, was a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arroyo Grande, a former president of the local Rotary Club, and a father of two young children.
In the past three months, however, Watkins allegedly robbed a Santa Maria bank, was charged with seven felonies, spent more than a month in jail, and, on Feb. 2, drove his motor home 600 feet off a cliff near Ragged Point on Highway 1.
Watkins was killed in the crash.
According to California Highway Patrol Officer Bill Long, the CHP has interviewed a witness who saw Watkins’ 1988 Southwind motor home plunge off the cliff, but the precise cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Long said Watkins was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s coroner unit is currently conducting an autopsy and will produce a toxicology report.
On Nov. 16, authorities allege that Watkins, wearing a ski mask and brandishing a .45-caliber Glock handgun, robbed the Wells Fargo Bank on East Main Street in Santa Maria.
After reportedly running off with more than $950 in cash and pointing his gun at a pursuing officer during a foot chase, Watkins was arrested minutes later in the Sears parking lot across the street.
Watkins was charged with seven felonies by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office on Nov. 19: burglary, five counts of robbery (one for each bank employee), and brandishing a firearm at a peace officer.
After posting his $100,000 bail on Dec. 18, Watkins was released from Santa Barbara County Jail. He had yet to enter a plea, and was due back in court for an arraignment on Feb. 6.
On the day before his fatal crash, Watkins posted an 11-minute video to his YouTube channel. In the video—which appears to have been recorded in a mobile home—he reminisces about his childhood and his family.
Arroyo Grande photographer and community organizer Vivian Krug said she knew Watkins from various community events, and that the news of his death was “devastating.”
Krug said that Watkins had been actively posting on his Facebook page in the days before his death with his usual good humor.
“It’s very bizarre and sad, and my heart goes out to his two young children,” Krug wrote in an email to New Times.