Arrest made in the homicide of former VAHS student

Chief Brecklin during the video statement. 

A 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with the August 2019 homicide of Shay Watson, a former Verona Area High School student, at his Fitchburg home.

The 17-year-old Watson was found dead by his family in the evening of Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, at their residence on the 2700 block of Lyman Lane, in the Tower Hill neighborhood. Fitchburg police investigators determined that a gunshot killed Watson.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office and the Fitchburg, Middleton and Verona police departments, executed a search warrant at a Verona residence early Thursday, May 14, in connection with the death, according to a Fitchburg Police Department news release later that day.

The juvenile suspect, whom police have not yet been identified because of his age, was taken into custody as the primary suspect. He was booked into the Dane County Jail on recommended charges of first degree intentional homicide and armed robbery, the release said. Narcotics, cash and a firearm were discovered at the residence during the arrest, it said.

Investigators determined that Watson and the 15-year-old male knew each other and had arranged a meeting on Aug. 25. At some point during the meeting, the release said, the 15-year-old shot and killed Watson.

Investigators met with Watson’s mother to personally share the news of the arrest.

“I want to personally acknowledge the grief that Shay’s family had to experience because of his death. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the last eight months have been for them,” Fitchburg police Chief Chad Brecklin said in a video statement. “It is my hope that this arrest will allow Shay’s family an opportunity to move into the next chapter of their grieving process.”

Watson was a star track athlete at VAHS, having become one of the top long jumpers in the school’s history and his coach said he was nearing that level in the triple jump, as well. He also was a wide receiver on the football team.

Watson attended VAHS as a sophomore and junior but had planned to transfer to Madison West for his senior year.

Investigators believe others may still be connected to the homicide and the case remains open and active, the release stated. Police encouraged anyone with valuable information to come forward.

“News of the homicide understandably generated a significant amount of community concern. We are fortunate in our community that violence of this magnitude occurs infrequently,” Brecklin said in the video statement. “The loss of a life, especially by violent means, is tragic regardless of the circumstances. Such losses are even more tragic when they involve the senseless loss of such a young life, leaving grieving parents and family behind.”

During the execution of the search warrant in Verona on May 14, police also arrested a 40-year-old man in violation of his extended supervision. The man is not believed to be connected to the murder of Watson.

The Madison and Sun Prairie police departments and the Dane County Narcotics and Gang Task Force and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation also assisted with the nine-month investigation.

Neal Patten can be contacted at