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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Argument with his brother
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: January 8, 1994 / March 2, 2008
Date of arrest: 5 days after
Date of birth: December 19, 1974
Victims profile: Halle Cox / His brother Cecil Dotson, 30; the brother's girlfriend Marissa Williams, 27; Hollis Seals, 33; Shindri Roberson, 22; and his two nephews Cemario Dotson, 4, and Cecil Dotson II, 2
Method of murder: Shooting - Stabbing with knife
Location: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Status: Sentenced to 18 years in prison on November 21, 1994. Released on parole on August 27, 2007. Sentenced to six death sentences on October 12, 2010
photo gallery

Convicted murderer Jessie Dotson receives maximum 120-year sentence

By Lawrence Buser -

November 9, 2010

The man already sentenced to death six times for the city's worst mass murder case received an additional 120 years in prison Tuesday for beating and stabbing three children who survived.

Neither the relaxed, smiling Jessie Dotson nor his lawyers had anything to say in his defense as the judge and prosecutors said Dotson has no regard for human life.

"In my 40 years of being in the criminal justice system in Shelby County, I've seen a lot of cases and I don't know of anything more (legally) aggravating than this," said Criminal Court Judge James Beasley Jr. "I guess we're used to seeing adults (as victims), but it is uncommon for us to see children get killed, to see children mangled and butchered like this.

"In my opinion, Mr. Dotson should never be allowed to walk the streets of society again. He's given up that right."

In imposing the maximum sentence, Beasley gave Dotson 40 years consecutive for each of three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Last month, the jury that convicted him of the six Lester Street murders gave him death sentences on each one.

Prosecutors Ray Lepone and Reginald Henderson said the additional sentences are more than legal window dressing.

"These are nine separate cases with nine separate victims and we're using every legal measure to make sure he never walks the streets again," said Lepone, noting that each conviction will be reviewed on appeal. "Each victim deserves a sentencing hearing. He brutalized those children and left them to die in that house."

Dotson, 35, who had served almost 14 years in prison for a 1994 murder, was convicted of shooting to death his brother, Cecil, 30, on March 2, 2008, at 722 Lester St. and then eliminating witnesses, including Marissa Williams, 27, Shindri Roberson, 22, Hollis Seals, 33, and Cecil's children, Cemario, 4, and Cecil II, 2.

Jessie Dotson, the children's uncle, then beat and stabbed Cecil "CJ" Jr., 9, Cedric, 5, and Ceniyah, 2 months. CJ, who was found with a knife protruding from his skull, and Cedric, both testified that "Uncle Jessie" was the lone attacker.

The dead and injured were left in the house for some 40 hours before they were discovered.

"The children were devastated," said their grandmother, Ida Anderson, who now is raising the children. "This is something that has wrecked them completely. The children have been in counseling, the whole family has been in counseling. The grandchildren want to know why it happened, why he killed their parents. The children loved him (Uncle Jessie).

"All I can tell them is that God is in control and that He will take care of us."

A special-needs fund established for the children two years ago by First Baptist Church on Broad raised $139,000 and was placed in a trust in Probate Court. Last month officials issued a new plea for continued social and financial support, setting up the Dotson Children's Benefit Fund. Donations can be made at any BankTennessee branch.

"People have contributed to our needs, but our lives have been turned upside down," Anderson said. "The children have undergone surgeries and have more to come. There's still scarring."

Jessie Dotson's execution date is set for March 2, 2012, four years to the day after the murders, though a delay is a virtual certainty.

Automatic appeals typically continue for more than a decade.

Jessie Dotson timeline:

Nov. 21, 1994: Pleads guilty to second-degree murder of Halle Cox in bad drug deal. Gets 18-year sentence.

Aug. 27, 2007: Released on parole.

Jan. 26, 2008: Parole and sentence expire.

March 3, 2008: Dotson's brother, three other adults and two children are found shot and stabbed at 722 Lester St. Three children are critically injured.

March 8, 2008: Jessie Dotson confesses after one of the surviving children identifies him, "Uncle Junior," as the lone attacker.

Oct. 11, 2010: Dotson is convicted on all counts.

Oct. 12, 2010: Dotson receives six death penalties.

Nov. 8, 2010: Dotson receives an additional 120 years in prison.


Jessie Dotson Gets Six Death Sentences for Memphis Mass Murder, One for Each Life He Took

By Naimah Jabali-Nash -

October 14, 2010

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CBS/AP) The same jury that convicted Jessie Dotson of savagely killing six people, including his brother and two young nephews, in a Memphis home two years ago, sentenced him to six death sentences, Tuesday - one for each life he took.

In less than two hours jurors sentenced 35-year-old Dotson to die by lethal injection for the shooting murders of his brother, his brother's girlfriend and two other adults, and the fatal stabbings of his two nephews, ages 2 and 4.

Three other children were stabbed but survived the grisly massacre.

Dotson was convicted Monday of three counts of attempted first-degree murder in addition to six counts of first-degree murder for the 2008 attack. Authorities say the grisly massacre is marked as one the city's worst mass murders.

Police say that after a day of drinking, Jessie Dotson shot and killed his brother Cecil Dotson in the head during an argument in the early morning hours of March 2, 2008. He then went after everyone else in the house with two guns, boards and several knives.

Cecil Dotson's girlfriend, Marissa Williams, 4-year-old Cemario Dotson, 2-year-old Cecil Dotson II, and friends Hollis Seals and Shindri Roberson were also killed.

Jessie Dotson, an ex-convict, showed little emotion as Criminal Court Judge James Beasley imposed the death sentences Tuesday, he merely nodded as officers escorted him out of the courtroom.

Jurors listened to more than two weeks of emotionally grueling testimony before convicting Dotson, but it was the personal account of one of the survivors, 11-year-old Cecil Dotson Jr., that helped convince the Tennessee jury that it was Dotson who committed the crimes and not members of a gang as he had alleged.

The boy known as "CJ" was 9 years old at the time of the attack and waited some 40 hours for help until he was found in a bathtub with a 4 1/2-inch knife blade lodged in his skull.

"CJ solved it," said prosecutor Ray Lepone. "He had the courage to come in here and point out his uncle."

The boy, his 8-year-old brother Cedric Dotson and Jessie Dotson's mother were key prosecution witnesses.

The young boy told jurors in his testimony that he went to call for police and tried to fight off his uncle before ending up in the bathtub with a kitchen knife embedded in his head. Paramedics testified they thought he was dead until he started to twitch.

According to authorities, Dotson, who was released from prison about seven months before the killings for a previous murder conviction, fled from the house by riding off on a child's bicycle.

He is set to be put to death March 2, 2012.


Jessie Dotson gets death penalty for Lester Street murders

By Lawrence Buser -

October 12, 2010

As a state prosecutor finished his impassioned plea for the jury to return the death penalty Tuesday against convicted mass murderer Jessie Dotson, the defendant clapped his hands softly in mock applause.

His attorneys said Dotson was not surprised when the Criminal Court jury later sentenced him to death six times, once for each of the 2008 murders on Lester Street. Their guilty verdict in 90 minutes the previous day sent a clear message, the attorneys said.

“He was disappointed, but not surprised,” said lead defense attorney Gerald Skahan. “When the jury came back with the quick guilty verdict, he knew (the death penalty) was probably a foregone conclusion.”

Judge James Beasley Jr. set Dotson’s execution date for March 2, 2012, four years to the day when the six men, women and children were shot and stabbed to death.

“May God have mercy on your soul,” the judge said as Dotson was led away by officers.

The nine women and three men of the jury — chosen in Nashville and sequestered in Memphis — deliberated less than two hours before agreeing on the sentences. Defense attorneys had asked for life in prison without parole.

Automatic appeals will continue for years, however, making the execution date mostly a legal formality.

Dotson, 35, was convicted in the worst mass-murder case in the city’s history.

“He’s a convicted killer out of prison just five months and he kills six people, including two children,” state prosecutor Ray Lepone told jurors in asking for the death penalty. “If not this case, what case? If not that defendant, what defendant gets the death penalty?

“The children were chased down and carved up with kitchen knives. ... You know those (two) women were begging for their lives. And now Jessie’s begging for his?”

Across the courtroom, Dotson shook his head no and moments later mockingly applauded as Lepone took a seat. For the afternoon part of the sentencing hearing, Dotson changed from street clothes back to jail clothes that revealed forearms heavily tattooed with playing cards, dice and other designs.

Earlier in the hearing, two jurors wiped tears from their eyes as they viewed photos of the young children who had been beaten and stabbed to death at the house.

Dotson, 35, was convicted of killing his brother and another man, two women and two children on March 2, 2008, at 722 Lester. He told police and his mother that he killed his brother during an argument and then began eliminating witnesses.

He also was convicted of three counts of attempted first-degree murder for beating and stabbing three other children, including two who told jurors that he — their Uncle Junior — was the lone attacker.

Jurors returned the death penalties after finding aggravating circumstances — aspects that increase the enormity of a crime — for each victim. At least one such circumstance is required in each case when prosecutors seek the death penalty:

Cecil Dotson, 30: Jessie Dotson had a prior second-degree murder conviction and he posed a great risk of death to two or more others when he killed Cecil.

Marissa Williams, 27: Same as above. Also, the murder was committed to eliminate her as a witness, and the defendant committed mass murder of three or more people within a 48-month period.

Hollis Seals, 33: Same as above.

Shindri Roberson, 22: Same as above.

Cecil Dotson II, 2: Same as above. Also, the victim was less than 13 years old and the murder was heinous, atrocious and cruel, and involved abuse well beyond that necessary to cause death.

Cemario Dotson, 4: Same as above.

The children were repeatedly stabbed and beaten with boards.

Prosecutors Reginald Henderson and Damon Griffin noted that Dotson’s calm courtroom demeanor during most of the 14-day trial dissolved into anger when he testified on cross-examination Saturday.

“I think we saw the real Jessie on Saturday,” said Griffin. “You saw some anger and some rage. That was the real Jessie. He couldn’t hold it in.”

For the defense, mitigation expert Glori Shettles told jurors that Dotson came from a broken family that moved frequently, was a disciplinary problem at home and at school, was an eighth-grade dropout and was 19 when he went to prison for 14 years for killing a man.

“There was a lot of movement, a lot of instability,” said Shettles, who works for Inquisitor Inc. “He repeated the fourth grade twice, not because his grades were bad, but because he missed so much school. ... There was an absence of a stable home life. That was very important.”

She said that during his 14 years in prison, he had one family visit and a few phone calls.

Beasley set a Nov. 12 sentencing date for Dotson’s three attempted first-degree murder convictions involving the children — ages 9 years, 5 years and 2 months at the time of the crimes — who survived their stabbings.

Dotson will be the 88th inmate on Tennessee’s death row and the 34th from Shelby County, which has by far more than any other county in the state.


Jessie Dotson Found Guilty of Memphis Mass Murder, Could Get Death Sentence

By Naimah Jabali-Nash -

October 12, 2010

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CBS/AP) After listening to more than two weeks of emotionally grueling testimony, it was the personal account of an 11-year-old victim that helped prosecutors convince a Tennessee jury that his uncle was guilty of six murders in one of  Memphis' worst mass slayings, a prosecutor in the case said.

Jessie Dotson shot his brother in the head during a 2008 argument and, attempting to eliminate all witnesses, killed five other people including two of his young nephews. He then stabbed three more boys who survived after waiting in agony for some 40 hours until help arrived, prosecutors said.

Two years later, two of the boys who survived the bloody Memphis rampage pointed to their "Uncle Junior" as the man who fatally shot their father and mercilessly left them for dead.

One of the survivors, 11-year-old Cecil Dotson Jr., known as CJ, was found in a bathtub wit a 4 1/2 -inch knife blade lodged in his skull.

"CJ solved it," said prosecutor Ray Lepone. "He had the courage to come in here and point out his uncle."

The boy, his 8-year-old brother Cedric Dotson and Jessie Dotson's mother were key prosecution witnesses.

In less than two hours, jurors convicted 35-year-old Dotson.

The penalty phase of the trial begins Tuesday when the same jury who convicted the mass murderer will decide whether he should be sentenced to death by injection.

In his testimony Jessie Dotson claimed gang members were responsible for the horrid attack, but jurors concluded that it was in fact Dotson who committed the crimes. Authorities say that after a day of drinking, Jessie Dotson shot and killed his brother Cecil Dotson in the early morning hours of March 2, 2008. He then went after everyone else in the house with two guns, boards and several knives.

Cecil Dotson's girlfriend, Marissa Williams, 4-year-old Cemario Dotson, 2-year-old Cecil Dotson II, and friends Hollis Seals and Shindri Roberson were also killed.

The young boy, who was 9 years old when the attack occurred, told jurors in his testimony that he went to call for police and tried to fight off his uncle before ending up in the bathtub with a kitchen knife embedded in his head. Paramedics testified they thought he was dead until he started to twitch.

According to authorities, Dotson, who was released from prison about seven months before the killings for a previous murder conviction, fled from the house by riding off on a child's bicycle.

The jury was selected in Nashville because of intense local coverage of the case.


Jessie Dotson Murder Trial Opens: Memphis Mass Killing Motivated by Fear of Jail, Says Prosecution

By Edecio Martinez -

September 28, 2010

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CBS/WREG/AP) Prosecutors say Jessie Dotson committed one of the worst mass killings in Memphis history on March 2, 2008.

The 35-year-old had been out of prison several months when an argument at his brother's house turned violent, police said, and he gunned the man down. Desperate not to return to jail, he tried to rid the scene of witnesses - shooting and killing three other adults, then using knives and boards to kill two of his brother's children and seriously injure three others, a prosecutor said at his trial Monday.

A defense attorney countered in his own opening statement that there isn't enough evidence to convict him and that the brother had gang ties that could have played a role in the killings.

Dotson has pleaded not guilty to six first-degree murder charges in the slayings at the Memphis house. Dotson also is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Prosecutor Ray Lepone said Dotson shot his brother Cecil Dotson over their argument, then attacked the rest of the people in the house to eliminate witnesses. Authorities said he then fled on a child's bicycle.

"He wasn't going back to jail, ladies and gentlemen, and he did whatever he had to do to get out of that house with no witnesses," Lepone said.

Dotson, who served prison time for murder and was released about seven months before the killings, confessed to police and to his mother days after the bodies were found, Lepone said.

According to CBS affiliate WREG, defense attorney Marty McAfee argued prosecutors don't have enough evidence. There is no DNA connecting Jessie Dotson to the scene, while police also found several unidentified fingerprints and hair from an unknown Asian person, McAfee said. The victims and the suspect are black.

McAfee also said Cecil Dotson had ties to Memphis' "Gangster Disciples" and suggested the killings could have been gang-related. Cecil Dotson recently had a falling out with a gang member and even called the police to a gang member's house, McAfee said.

The jury was chosen last week in Nashville in an effort to find people unfamiliar with the case. In addition to national media coverage, the investigation was featured on A&E's reality crime television series "The First 48."

Shot to death were Jessie Dotson's 30-year-old brother Cecil; Marissa Williams, the brother's 27-year-old girlfriend; and Hollis Seals, 33, and Shindri Roberson, 22, a couple who were at the house visiting. Four-year-old Cemario Dotson and 2-year-old Cecil Dotson II also were killed.


Sibling argument led to Lester Street mass murder, police say

By Trevor Aaronson and Kristina Goetz -

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.

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.



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