Police find man's body stuffed in closet after victim 'tortured' to death in Hollywood

Suspect arrested in connection with fatal sexual encounter during Hurricane Irma

Police say Travis Watson told detectives that his partner tortured and beat Ariel Gonzalez to death in his Hollywood apartment because his partner was jealous of Watson's sexual encounter with the victim.
Police say Travis Watson told detectives that his partner tortured and beat Ariel Gonzalez to death in his Hollywood apartment because his partner was jealous of Watson's sexual encounter with the victim.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Three days after Hurricane Irma impacted South Florida, police officers conducting a welfare check entered a storm-shuttered Hollywood apartment complex, noticed blood stains and found the decomposed body of a man wrapped in a comforter in a bedroom closet.

A police report obtained Wednesday by Local 10 News details the graphic events that led to the death of Ariel Gonzalez and subsequent arrest of Travis Watson.

The body was found Sept. 13 at an apartment on Lincoln Street.

A friend of the victim called police after she said she had been unable to get in touch with him in the days after Irma, so she went to his apartment and noticed a foul smell coming from inside.

According to the report, Detective Desiree McClintock observed chairs positioned along a wall in the dining room. One of the chairs was blocking the door, and another was overturned, McClintock said.

McClintock could see blood spatter and feces in several areas throughout the bedroom, as well as drag marks on the floor leading to the closet where the body was found, the report said.

"The deceased appeared to have some body parts wrapped in plastic and swathed in a comforter, with only a small portion of the head visible," McClintock wrote in the report. "The visible part of the head had obvious signs of injury."

Neighbors who were interviewed by detectives said they saw two men going in and out of the apartment during the hurricane. One of them was described as wearing a long, blond wig. 

Residents later identified Watson, 30, and the other man from photographs that a detective showed them. Police asked Local 10 not to release the identity of the second suspect, who remains at large.

During an interview with detectives, Watson said Gonzalez, 50, got their attention by whistling at them to follow him inside his apartment. Watson said he and Gonzalez had anal sex, which angered the unnamed suspect.

"Once Watson came back into the living room, (the other man) accused of Watson of cheating on him," the report said.

Watson said Gonzalez then tried to seduce his partner, but he refused Gonzalez's sexual advances, according to detectives. Still angry with Gonzalez for having sex with Watson, the man followed Gonzalez into the bedroom and punched him, Watson told detectives.

The second suspect asked Gonzalez where he kept his money, but when he didn't answer, the man "tortured him," Watson said.

Watson told detectives that his partner beat Gonzalez with a hanger from the closet and a broomstick from the kitchen. Watson went on to describe how the man used an extension cord to knock Gonzalez off the bed and tied the victim's hands together with a sheet, unsuccessfully, and then a belt. Watson said the man then "poured hot grease over him."

"He tortured him and beat him to death," Watson said of his partner, according to the report.

Watson said he tried to stop the attack once the grease was poured on Gonzalez, but he noticed that the victim "had turned purple and his tongue was sticking out."

Realizing that Gonzalez was dead, Watson and his partner placed the body in the bathtub to wash off the blood and evidence, and then carried Gonzalez into the living room, where they wrapped him in a sheet and industrial shrink wrap, Watson told detectives.

"Once he was folded and secured into position, he was concealed in the bedroom closet," the report said.

Watson and the other man tried to clean the crime scene by placing items inside clear plastic bags they found in the kitchen, including the towels they used to wipe up the blood, he told detectives.

During the attack, Watson told detectives, he stole the victim's wallet and cash. Watson said he and his partner left the apartment about 7 a.m. Sept. 12.

Five days later, Fort Lauderdale police said they found a man who matched the description of Watson sitting at a bus bench, drinking a beer from a brown paper bag.

During a search of Watson's property, police found a wallet that held a gray card with Gonzalez's name on it, the report said.

Watson was arrested on multiple charges, including robbery and kidnapping. Detectives are still searching for his partner.