Police: Watts died trying to rescue lost dog; watch video from news conference; cause of death released

 Jacquelyn (Kleine) Watts
Jacquelyn (Kleine) Watts

4:30 p.m.

Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton R. Nolting is ruling the death of Jackie Watts an accidental drowning, pending toxicology results.

“Investigators believe Mrs. Watts was attempting to rescue a dog that had previously been reported missing when she entered the river and drowned,” a news release from the coroner said.

12:20 p.m.

Jackie Watts, who spent nearly her entire life caring for animals, lost her life trying to rescue a lost dog named Ringo, police said.

A witness saw a woman matching her description chasing a small white dog near 23rd Street about 2 p.m. Friday. And between 2:15 p.m. and 3 p.m., two witnesses said they saw her vehicle abandoned and running on Riverside Drive.

Police said they believe she went into the Flat Rock River trying to save the dog, who also died. Authorities found Ringo’s body about 2:11 p.m. Sunday south of Noblitt Park.

Watts cared for animals since she she was a young girl. As an adult, she fostered dogs and rabbits and provided hospice care for sick and dying animals.

A statement from her family said she gave her life for what she believed in. Excerpts from the statement include:

“At a young age, Jackie  developed a love for animals. To say that this was Jackie’s passion would be an understatement.”
“She cared deeply about the well-being of animals. If she believed she could help an animal in need she was going to do so without hesitation. We know Jackie gave her life for what she believed in.”

Police released new details about the death investigation at a noon press conference.

The investigation is continuing, and an autopsy is scheduled for today.

Get Tuesday’s Republic for more information.

11:50 a.m.

Police are getting ready to start the news conference. A statement from the family will be read and then police will release details about the investigation. Watch the news conference live on our Facebook page. Click here. 

9 a.m.  Monday

Police have planned a  news conference at noon today. Watch it live on our Facebook page. Click here. 

7 p.m. Sunday

Columbus Police Department detectives said they are not suspecting foul play in the death of a 33-year-old Indianapolis woman who disappeared from her car in the 2300 block of Riverside Drive.

An autopsy is scheduled today at an undisclosed location for Columbus native Jacquelyn (Kleine) Watts, whose body was found on a sandbar in the Flat Rock River at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday during a ground search.

Watts was reported missing at 5 p.m. Friday after her vehicle was found running on Riverside Drive with its flashers on, police said.

The family reported on social media that Watts’ purse and cellphone were in the car and the passenger side door was open, although police have not yet confirmed those details.

Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman, said the department hoped to release more details about the case after the autopsy is completed on Monday.

Harris notified media on Sunday night that police are not suspecting foul play. On Saturday, Harris and police asked the public to refrain from speculation about the case, saying many social media posts were rumors that were upsetting to the family.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.