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Jonylah Watkins' Father: 'I Changed My Life' After Daughter's Death

By  Darryl Holliday and Josh McGhee | May 28, 2013 6:48pm 

 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins' father Jonathan speaks at a news conference Tuesday with Pastor Corey Brooks at New Beginnings Church.
6-month-old Jonylah Watkins' father Jonathan speaks at a news conference Tuesday with Pastor Corey Brooks at New Beginnings Church.
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

ENGLEWOOD — Jonathan Watkins spoke softly, in short sentences, as he talked to reporters for the first time following the death of his 6-month-old daughter, Jonylah.

The 28-year-old wore jeans and a grey blazer Tuesday as he told reporters he's changed his life since Jonylah's death. Tattoos highlighted the neck of the ex-gang member, who said he got out of that life nearly a decade ago.

"It's been rough for me and my wife [Judy]," Watkins said at a Tuesday news conference at New Beginnings Church. "It changed my life. I don't stand on the corner anymore. I got a job."

"I know my baby's up there looking down on me."

Watkins said he had pulled around a block in Woodlawn on March 11 to change his daughter's diaper. He then heard the shots as he pulled up her Pampers and kissed her, then crawled under the passenger side when he realized he and the baby were shot.

The bullet that struck Jonylah in the left armpit ripped through her torso. She died at Comer Children's Hospital.

Jonathan Watkins survived three gunshot wounds.

Judy Watkins was unable to attend the event in which she and her husband were to speak out for the first time on the death of Jonylah, her only child. The couple spent Monday at their daughter's grave site.

The case shocked the city and became of symbol of violence in Chicago.

Pastor Corey Brooks, who stood next to Jonathan Watkins and has acted as the family's spokesman since Jonylah was killed, deflected questions he said related directly to the trial, including details about any relationship Jonathan Watkins may have to the alleged shooter, Koman Willis.

"Judy wants to go on with her life and get past it," Brooks said.

According to police, Watkins stole a video game console from Willis, who was held without bail Tuesday, resulting in a retaliatory shooting that was aimed at him but killed Jonylah.

Willis, who goes by the name "Ko Killer" on the street, has a criminal record that includes 38 arrests dating back to 1998.

He was charged with attempted murder of a police officer with a firearm in 2002. Willis plead guilty to aggravated assault and other lesser charges in that case and was sentenced to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Brooks defended Watkins, as he has in past months.

"He's accepted here," Brooks said. "If no one else believes in him, I believe in him."