Modern Times

Plus: School Spirit; Evil Eyes Averted

Not that he thinks Modern Luxury competes with D or Paper City or any other publication in Dallas. (Of course, every publisher says this, even as they scan rival pubs for advertisements to cherry-pick.)

"Wick does a great job at D, and Texas Monthly is a great publication. But we're different," Carroll says. "We offer concentrated distribution in the Park Cities, if that's what you want." Twenty-five thousand copies of Modern Luxury are mailed to affluent ZIP codes, about 10,000 copies are distributed in other controlled environments, and about 5,000 are offered to newsstands; they claim (through pass-along) more than 200,000 readers, while D claims more than 300,000.

"But we're a different product. And if you are trying to sell your $200,000 kitchen to a potential customer, the question is, where do you want to advertise that? We think the answer is us."

Which is the one time Carroll makes a patently inaccurate statement. The answer, of course, is the Dallas Observer. Goes right after the ad for The Lodge. --Eric Celeste

School Spirit

On a rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon, two young women huddle under umbrellas outside the student union at the University of North Texas, gathering signatures on petitions. A steady trickle of wet students stops by their table to sign up for the cause--not an anti-war protest, but something more prosaic: They want more time to study for finals.

Earlier this month, UNT rescheduled three exam days, moving them up five days after the school's Mean Green football team won its fourth straight invitation to the New Orleans Bowl on December 14, right in the middle of UNT's finals week. Texas is Texas, after all, and we're talking football here, so what's a few days of study time?

Try telling that to someone who has a statistics final to prepare for, like junior Kathryn McNally, one of the students collecting signatures.

"I only have one final that didn't change," McNally says. Resetting the exams may give students more time to get to the big game--and, more important, party in New Orleans--but that's not the point, she says. "I'm not saying I'm against partying, but people shouldn't be partying during finals."

"We think they're compromising our academic standards for athletics," says Michelle Sears, the other petition-gatherer at the student union.

University spokeswoman Kelley Reese says the decision to move finals came after consultations with student government executives and the faculty senate. It was necessary, she says, because UNT's fall semester started a week later this year, pushing finals week into conflict with bowl day. The decision to reschedule came late because the university held off until after it was certain of the bowl bid.

It also was motivated in part by a traffic accident that killed four UNT students returning from last year's bowl game, Reese says.

"Safety absolutely was a concern," she says. "They did not want to have a situation that demanded students drive all night both ways because they have to take a final exam."

As for the hundreds of signatures collected on several petitions circulating online and on campus, that's not likely to change the decision, Reese says. Provost Howard Johnson changed the exam dates with the understanding that once changed, they won't be changed back. --Patrick Williams

Evil Eyes Averted

Serial killer Coral Eugene Watts will face a mandatory sentence of life without parole now that a Michigan jury has convicted him of killing 36-year-old Helen Dutcher in 1979. Based on the testimony of an eyewitness, the conviction prevents Watts' possible 2006 release from a Texas prison where he was serving 60 years in a controversial 1982 plea agreement, a nightmare scenario outlined in "Evil Eyes," a Dallas Observer cover story published June 19, 2003.

The story triggered a 60 Minutes segment in October; covered by Court TV, TV newsmagazines, and German and Canadian networks, the trial was attended by many families of Watts' Texas and Michigan victims, each woman chosen, Watts has said, because they had "evil eyes."

Prosecutor Donna Pendergast says that Watts at times appeared agitated and plagued by facial tics. At the end of each day, while he was being chained and taken from the courtroom, Watts would turn and cast a sweeping gaze at the victims' families.

"He studiously avoided looking at me," Pendergast says. "At one point, our eyes locked. Both of us refused to let go first."

Watts' legal saga is not over. While the jury was deliberating, the Kalamazoo District Attorney's Office announced the indictment of Watts for the 1974 stabbing murder of 19-year-old Gloria Steele, when Watts was a student at Western Michigan University. And the Michigan State Police task force formed to re-examine cold cases possibly committed by Watts has requested DNA tests for hairs found on the clothing of Hazel Conoff. The 23-year-old Detroit woman was strangled and hanged in a seated position in 1980. Pendergast says that Conoff's murder was similar to the slaying of Phyllis Tamm in Houston two years later, to which Watts confessed.

"I've become more and more convinced that Watts may be the most prolific serial killer in the history of the United States," Pendergast says. She estimates that his victims total from 60 to 100. "Seeing his pattern--he'd kill two women in one night--it was like a blood lust," Pendergast says. --Glenna Whitley

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