Slain Apple Valley native remembered as kind-hearted cop, dedicated mom
Heather Watkins Hirsch wants people to remember the kind and intensely driven person her sister was.
Her sister, Kathryn “Michelle” Walters, knew she wanted to be a police officer even before her freshman year at Apple Valley High School, and when as an adult she signed on with the Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas, she brought a big heart to the job.
Once, Watkins Hirsch recalled, Michelle was involved in the arrest of a woman accused of stealing milk. When the woman told her she needed the milk to feed her kids, Michelle drove off in her squad car, returning a short time later with a supply of milk for the woman she’d purchased with her own money.
“That’s just who she was,” said Watkins Hirsch, of Savage. “She wore her heart on her sleeve. She was the most giving person I’ve ever known.”
Watkins Hirsch and her siblings celebrated Michelle’s life – and the life of Michelle’s 5-year-old son Max – at a memorial service Feb. 1 at Klecatsky’s Funeral Home in Eagan.
The mother and son were killed Jan. 21 in their Boulder City, Nev., home at the hands of Hans Walters, Michelle’s husband and Max’s father. According to the police account of the incident, Hans Walters, a Las Vegas police lieutenant, fatally shot his 46-year-old wife and their child and set fire to the home before turning the gun on himself.
Many questions remain as to what triggered the grisly incident and the truth may never be known, Watkins Hirsch said. In the aftermath of the deaths, Watkins Hirsch took exception to news accounts merely referring to her sister as a “victim” in the incident, because her sister was so much more to everyone who knew her.
Growing up in Apple Valley, Watkins Hirsch recalled, Michelle had her sights set on a career in law enforcement at an early age. While attending Apple Valley High School, Michelle did ride-alongs with Apple Valley patrol officers to get an inside look at life on the beat. The ride-alongs were arranged by her father, Mike Watkins, an Apple Valley firefighter who was friends with many on the city’s police force.
After high school – Michelle graduated from AVHS in 1984 – she served a stint in the Army before enrolling in the police academy in Las Vegas.
After signing on with Las Vegas police, she appeared multiple times on the TV show “Cops” – even making an appearance on the “Cops: Too Hot for TV” special – but some of her proudest moments came as a community volunteer, Watkins Hirsch said.
Michelle spent more than 10 years volunteering with child cancer groups, helping to run two Las Vegas summer camps for child cancer patients. As a counselor at one camp, she was known as “Wonder Woman,” donning the attire of the female superhero for the amusement of campers.
She gave up police work to focus on family life following the birth of Max. Born in February 2007, Max would have celebrated his sixth birthday on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Following the memorial service Feb. 1, Michelle and Max were buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights. The mother and son were interred near the burial plots of Michelle’s parents, Mike and Elizabeth.
“The one positive thing from all of this is they were buried next to my mom and dad,” Watkins Hirsch said.