Saturday, March 08, 2008

Someone Lived To Tell

The brother and uncle of several of the victims has been charged with the Lester St. killings. As of 7PM Friday, 33 yr. old Jesse Lee Dotson has confessed to all the tortures and murders, of one of the most horrific crimes in Memphis history. I think the police suspected him all the time. They gave his history right off the bat. Him and his younger brother Cecil Dotson. Had already had an altercation that required calling the police. This man attempted to murder everyone in the house. I'm sure he didn't intend to leave any witnesses behind. It's just by the grace of God, that someone lived to tell.

9 Comments:

Blogger Common said...

Sibling argument led to Lester Street mass murder, police say
By Trevor Aaronson (Contact), Kristina Goetz (Contact)
Saturday, March 8, 2008

In a mass murder so gruesome it garnered international attention and caused police to consider gang conflict, a child witness led investigators to a family member who confessed to the brutal killings.


Stuffed animals around a telephone pole at Lester and Faxon Saturday memorialize the victims of the Lester Street massacre. This view is looking north on Lester.

Jessie Dotson, 33, was charged Saturday with six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons said he would announce in the coming days whether his office will seek the death penalty.

During an argument with his brother at 722 Lester, Jessie Dotson pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and shot Cecil Dewayne Dotson, police allege. He then slaughtered the others in the house, including children, in an attempt to cover up the shooting.

Cecil Dotson, 30; Marissa Rene Williams, 27; Hollis Seals, 33; and Shindri Roberson, 22, were shot and killed.

Jessie Dotson also stabbed and killed two of his nephews, Cemario Dotson, 4, and Cecil Dotson II, 2, both sons of Cecil, police say.

"It is our belief that when Jessie left the home, he believed everyone in the home was dead," Police Director Larry Godwin said during a Saturday press conference. "But as we all know, by the grace of God, three children survived."

Cecil Dotson Jr., about 9; Cedric Dotson, about 6; and Ceniyah Dotson, about 2 months old, survived being attacked with a knife and are in treatment under protective custody at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center.

One of the surviving children told police Jessie Dotson was responsible for the killings, according to an affidavit filed Saturday. Dotson then confessed to the mass murder.

For Dotson, the gruesome killings on Lester Street made for an end to what was at times a hostile relationship with his family, arrest records show. His teenage home at 600 S. Lauderdale was a volatile place, where he regularly fought with neighbors and siblings.

In 1990, at age 15, Dotson was charged with disorderly conduct for making threats against his mother as she tried to discipline him. A month later, he was charged with assault after a 13-year-old told his parents Dotson punched him in the face and threatened to "put him in the hospital" if the teen didn't bring him $25 the next day.

One year later, in fall 1991, police arrested Dotson for disorderly conduct after his mother told police he came home and wanted to fight his brother. "After placing her son in bedroom, locking the door, (Dotson) broke door open and punched several large holes in wall," the arrest report stated. "(Dotson) then placed his finger in mother's face, telling her he was going to kill her. When officers arrived, (Dotson) was loud and angry, refusing to calm down and still wanting to fight brother."

Police charged Dotson again in 1992 with disorderly conduct following an incident in which Dotson cussed at a neighbor during an argument and then threw two beer bottles into her apartment.

On Dec. 13, 1991, six days before his 17th birthday, police pulled over a car Dotson was riding in, arrest records show. On the floorboards, an officer saw a .20-gauge sawed-off shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol.

A little more than two years later and one year into adulthood, the 19-year-old Dotson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in an apparent drug deal gone bad.

On Jan. 8, 1994, after purchasing drugs from Dotson, Halle Cox discovered he had in fact bought shavings of soap. The two men argued, and during the conflict, Dotson killed the man.

Four months later, on May 5, 1994, police arrested Dotson for the murder. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, second-degree murder, and spent nearly 14 years in state prison.

He was released Jan. 26 and rekindled his relationship with brother Cecil, who worked as a maintenance man at an apartment building and rented the Lester Street house just north of Summer Avenue in Binghamton.

But as in his youth, Jessie's relationship with his brother came with conflict.

On Jan. 29, three days after the man's release from state prison, Jessie, Cecil and several other men were playing cards at Cecil's home. After the card game, Jessie stood up, put on Cecil's leather jacket and began to walk out of the house. As Cecil tried to stop him, Jessie drew a semi-automatic pistol and challenged his brother to take the coat back from him, Cecil would later tell police.

Cecil then followed his brother in his car to the Goodwill Village Apartments in North Memphis but eventually lost him. Although Cecil reported to police that his brother robbed and threatened him, Jessie was not charged with a crime.

Whether the stolen jacket remained an issue between Cecil and Jessie is unknown. But last Sunday, Jessie returned to Cecil's home at 722 Lester, police say.

An argument followed.

It ended in a bloodbath.

Although Jessie is now in police custody, the investigation continues and the victims' family members remain in protective custody, said Godwin.

When asked if he was certain that Dotson acted alone in the killings, the police director offered an ambiguous answer.

"We are very confident in where we are, but again, we will continue the investigation," he said.

Erica Smith, the mother of one of Cecil's children, said Dotson's arrest for the mass murder hasn't brought her relief.

"I'll never be relieved," she said. "I've never got my son no more."

Cheryl Green, the sister of victim Shindri Roberson, said she was surprised to learn Dotson confessed the killings.

"It's just a shock someone could do that to their own flesh and blood," she said. "The little babies."

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lester Street suspect back in court
Preliminary hearing date set for April 30
By Lawrence Buser (Contact)
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The man accused in the Lester Street killings "is in good spirits for someone facing what he's facing," his attorney said Monday.

Jessie Dotson, 33, made a brief appearance before General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Joyce Broffitt, who set a preliminary hearing date of April 30.

If probable cause of Dotson's guilt is established, the case will advance to a grand jury.

He is charged with killing six people last month on Lester Street, including his own brother and two of his nephews.

The four adults were shot multiple times and the children were beaten and stabbed to death. Three other children survived.

Police say Dotson admitted killing his brother following a longstanding dispute and then killing the others to cover up the crime.

No one else has been charged.

State prosecutors Reginald Henderson and Ray Lapone said evidence in the case still is being processed and would not comment on whether there are any other suspects in the killings that attracted national attention.

"We feel confident with who we have," Henderson said, referring to Dotson. Prosecutors said they will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.

Defense attorney Gerald Skahan said the case still has "a long way to go" and still is being investigated. "He's looking forward to his day in court," he said.

He said Dotson is being kept in closely watched administrative segregation in the jail for his own safety. Dotson faces six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The murder victims include Dotson's brother, Cecil Dotson, 30, and two of his nephews, Cemario Dotson, 4, and Cecil Dotson II, 2, both sons of Cecil. Also killed were Marissa Rene Williams, 27, the mother of Cemario, and the surviving children; Hollis Seals, 33; and Shindri Roberson, 22.

The surviving children -- Ceniyah Dotson, 3 months, Cedric Dotson, 5, and Cecil Dotson Jr., 9 -- were hospitalized with critical injuries, but are "making progress," said attorney Valorie Smith, the children's court-appointed guardian ad litem.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Autopsy documents ghastliness of Lester Street murders
By Trevor Aaronson (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Originally published 02:06 p.m., June 26, 2008
Updated 04:14 p.m., June 26, 2008

The four adult victims of the Lester Street murders suffered a combined 20 gunshot wounds and the two minor victims were stabbed multiple times, according to final autopsy reports released today.

Autopsy reports
Cecil Dotson

Cecil Dotson Jr.

CeMario Dotson

Shindri Roberson

Marissa Williams

Hollis Seals


One week after the February mass killings, police charged Jessie Dotson, the 33-year-old brother of one of the victims, with the murders.

Dotson's brother, 30-year-old Cecil, was shot eight times, near the mouth and on the neck, chest, right thigh, left thigh, left leg and left foot.

Hollis Seals, a 33-year-old friend who was visiting Cecil at his home at 722 Lester, bore three bullet wounds, one to the mouth and two to the chest.

Marissa Williams, the 27-year-old live-in girlfriend of Cecil and mother of three of his children, took five bullets, to the head, chest, left leg, right thigh and abdomen.

Shindri Roberson, a 22-year-old friend who was also visiting Cecil, was hit by four bullets, to the right thigh, left knee, left calf and left thigh.

Cecil Dotson, Seals and Williams tested positive for alcohol, suggesting they were drinking the night of the murders.

But it is Roberson's report that raises additional questions about what went on inside 722 Lester. According to the autopsy report, Roberson's blue jeans were pulled down to her knees and underwear to her ankles. Her shirt and black bra were pulled up. A plastic bag containing what the report describes as a "hard yellow substance" was found in the genital area. However, Roberson's genitals did not show signs of trauma, the report stated.

Two of Cecil Dotson's children, 4-year-old Cemario Dotson and 2-year-old Cecil Dotson II, died in equally violent ways, the autopsies found. Both suffered from blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds to the head and body.

Three of Cecil Dotson's other children survived the attacks, and one of the survivors then identified their uncle, Jessie Dotson, as the killer.

Jessie Dotson is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blood relatives: Story of Lester Street Killings unfolds
By Trevor Aaronson (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, July 6, 2008

"You took a man's life."

Yusuf Hakeem, a member of the state Board of Probation and Parole, addressed Jessie Dotson on July 30, 2007, eight months before the Lester Street mass murder.

It was Jessie's fourth appearance before the board. His disciplinary record was still a problem -- 29 violations in 13 years in prison -- and he failed a drug test three months after his last hearing.



"You say he was reaching?" Yusuf asked.

"Yes, sir," Jessie replied.

"You didn't waste any time. You just shot him."

"He was saying he's got something for both of us. Both of us was reaching."

"Did he have a gun?" Patsy Bruce, another parole board member, interjected.

"I don't know."

Jessie stopped.

"I don't know," he repeated.

The answers were the same every time, at every parole review hearing. He didn't sell drugs. He was just holding the gun. He went outside. He heard shouting. The man reached. He reached.

It happened the night of Jan. 8, 1994. As Jessie was walking toward Lauderdale Street with his friend, Anthony Cole, 43-year-old Halle Cox approached them.

We don't sell drugs, Jessie told him.

But Anthony, known in the neighborhood as Two Time, didn't want to turn down the money. He told the man to follow them to the Cleaborn Homes housing development, to a seven-unit, rundown, concrete-and-brick apartment structure three buildings away from the one in which Jessie's family lived.

Jessie and Anthony went inside as Halle waited in the courtyard. Anthony handed Jessie a .32-caliber handgun. If Halle was an undercover cop, he told Jessie, he'd take a rap for drugs, not for the gun.

I don't want both charges, Anthony told him.

Anthony walked outside. Jessie waited in the apartment.

It should have been a quick transaction. But it was taking too long.

Jessie stepped into the courtyard with the gun. He could hear the shouting as he walked around the corner of the building. This is fake dope! Halle was yelling at Anthony, and then he saw Jessie coming toward them.

You've got something to do with this, Halle said to Jessie.

I didn't serve you Jessie responded.

Angry, Halle said: I've got something for you. He reached into his pocket.

Jessie grabbed the gun he'd been given and fired. Halle, struck in the head, dropped to the dirt and patchy grass of the housing project.

* * *

At the parole review hearing, Yusuf Hakeem turned to Jessie's family, there to plead for his early release. Priscilla Shaw, his mother, came, as did his father, Jessie Dotson Sr., and his sister, Nicole Dotson.

Jessie received an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in 1994. He'd served more than 13 years, his entire 20s, and now had an opportunity to be released on parole more than four years early.

"What we normally try to do is afford the mother the first opportunity to address the board, so Ms. Shaw, I'd like to ask you if you have anything that should be addressed," Yusuf asked Priscilla.

"I would like to ask that you please allow my son a chance to come home and start his life," Priscilla responded. "Meet his son that he's never seen. I know it may seem like this because I'm his mother, but I really feel like he made a mistake and he's learned from it. Please give him a chance to come home and be with his family."

"Thank you, ma'am," Yusuf said. "The father, Mr. Jessie Dotson?"

"I feel just like she does ..." Jessie Sr. said. "When he comes out, he'll be working with me. He'll be at work every day, and if he can keep his mind occupied, I think he'll be all right."

"Then Nicole?"

"I just want my brother to come home and be a part of this family," Nicole said. "We miss him so much. I feel like, just from talking to him when I do, I feel like he's truly become a better man for being here."

"Mr. Dotson," Yusuf continued, "we're going to afford you the opportunity at this time to share with us why you think you should be given the opportunity for parole at this time."

"I know what I did in the past. I know it was wrong, you know?" Jessie said. "This ain't how I want to spend my life, in detention. This is not the life I want for me.

"I have learned, you know, from the mistakes I made by being in here. I hate what I did to be in here, but I feel like by being in here, I have become a better person. Back then, I didn't listen to nobody. Didn't care about how other people felt. None of that. But now, you know, I take all that into consideration -- other people's feelings; I listen to people more."

Jessie paused.

"I'm sorry for what I did."

The state Board of Probation and Parole voted to approve Jessie's early release, returning him to Memphis under state supervision in August 2007.

* * *

Jessie's younger brother, Cecil, didn't attend the final parole hearing. In fact, Cecil never visited Jessie in prison, and when the murderer returned to Memphis after nearly 14 years, he found a different sibling in Cecil. His kid brother was now a 30-year-old family man whose devotion was visible.

On his chest, one tattoo read "1 Baby Cierra," above "3-2-95," his first daughter's date of birth. On his left leg, Cecil had another tattoo of a flower next to the name "Priscilla," for his mother.

He had six children now and a live-in girlfriend, the mother of four of them. From his earnings as an apartment maintenance man, Cecil rented a small house at 722 Lester. Every weekend, all of his children would pile into the house and play.

He was a different person than the 17-year-old that Jessie knew in the mid-'90s. That Cecil was a lot like him, a high school dropout who settled scores with violence. But as teenagers, Jessie proved to be a better shot than Cecil, and that fact sent their young lives in two different directions.

It was 1994, not long after Jessie was arrested for murder, and 16-year-old Lawanda Abston was pregnant with Cecil's baby. Lawanda lived with her aunt a few doors down from Cecil at the Cleaborn housing project. Every night, against her aunt's orders, Lawanda would sneak out and spend the night at Cecil's.

Cierra, a little girl, was born March 2, 1995. For Yolanda Abston, Lawanda's aunt, her niece sneaking off in the middle of the night was bad enough; now, with Cierra, she wouldn't tolerate Lawanda running to Cecil's in the dark, baby in arms.

"She still had to abide by my rules," Yolanda said of Lawanda.

When Yolanda saw her niece near Cecil, she punished her. If she caught her on the phone with him, she pulled out the plug.

"She just didn't like him," Lawanda remembered.

The tension between Yolanda and Cecil culminated on Aug. 24, 1995, when Yolanda discovered Lawanda talking on the phone with Cecil once again.

Hang up the phone, Yolanda demanded.

Lawanda complied. But a few seconds later, the phone rang. Yolanda grabbed it, and Cecil was on the other end, cursing and threatening. Yolanda hung up and a few minutes later, Cecil was outside the apartment, yelling and cursing more. Yolanda yelled back, indignant and angry.

Just then, 16-year-old Antonio Abston, Yolanda's son, opened the front door, gun in hand, and began firing at Cecil.

He ran, escaping unwounded. Back home, Cecil grabbed his own gun, a black 7mm pistol with a brown handle that could discharge both .32- and .380-caliber bullets. Cecil loaded .32s, the same type of ammunition Jessie fired in this housing project a year earlier.

Five minutes after Antonio had fired on him, Cecil returned. Yolanda and Antonio were still on the stoop in front of the apartment.

The first bullet hit the apartment with a clatter. Yolanda immediately grabbed her son and pushed him inside. The bullets continued, each missing. Yolanda rushed in, swung the wooden door back and pushed it closed with her right hand. As she did, a bullet came through the door and grazed one of her fingers. Blood spilled out.

The shots continued, and Antonio ran out the back door. Seeing him, Cecil chased Antonio into the Foote housing project, where Cecil lost him.

The 17-year-old Cecil was arrested and charged with attempted murder. He pleaded guilty and served two years of his four-year sentence.

By 19, the age Jessie was when he was first incarcerated, Cecil was free and began to rebuild a life in Memphis.

* * *

Jessie and Cecil often fought as teenagers, and when the brothers recently reunited as adults, Jessie, now 33, and Cecil, now 30, the old ways remained.

On Jan. 29, several months after being paroled, Jessie came to Cecil's house on Lester. During the visit, he grabbed Cecil's leather jacket and began to walk out. As Cecil tried to stop him, Jessie drew a gun.

Cierra and the other children in the house ran toward the bedrooms. I'm gonna kill you, Cierra heard Jessie say. Jessie left and drove away.

One month later, on Feb. 28, Cecil's oldest, Cierra, was sick at school. She had a panic attack, and Cecil picked her up, took her to the hospital, then to Lawanda's apartment in South Memphis. Every weekend, Cierra would come to the Lester Street house to be with her brothers and sister. But that weekend, because she wasn't feeling well, she stayed at her mother's.

The next evening, Cecil was at home wearing a red, white and blue shirt with jogging pants. Marissa, his 27-year-old girlfriend, was at home as well when two friends, 33-year-old Hollis Seals and 22-year-old Shindri Roberson, came to visit.

Cecil's five younger children -- Cecil Jr., Cedric, CeMario, Cecil II and Caniyah, ranging in age from 9 to 4 months -- were in the bedrooms.

In the early hours of March 2, all four adults and two of the children were slaughtered with bullets and knives. Three children, though critically wounded, survived the attack.

Cecil died on his eldest daughter's birthday, exactly 13 years after the date tattooed on his chest.

* * *

After police found the bodies on March 3, Lawanda called Jessie. She had tried to reach Cecil all day on Cierra's birthday. He wasn't answering his phone.

What happened? she asked Jessie.

I'm going to find them, Jessie told her. I'm going to find who did this.

He did.

One week later, Jessie confessed to the Lester Street killings.

--Trevor Aaronson: 529-2864.

About this story

This report is based on court and police records, files from the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office, recordings and documents from the state Board of Probation and Parole, autopsy files and various interviews. Quotes people recalled from memory are italicized.

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