Jessie Dotson Was Given The Death Penalty For Killing 6 Of His Family Members

Jessie Dotson Was Given The Death Penalty For Killing 6 Of His Family Members

Jessie Dotson went to his brother Cecil Dotson’s house in Memphis on Saturday, March 1, 2008, to watch a University of Memphis basketball game with his father Jessie Sr., his brother, his five nephews, Cecil’s fiancée Marissa Williams, and his half-brother William Waddell.

Jessie Sr. left because the game was not coming in on Cecil’s television, and Waddell left later that night.

Dotson was not ready for work Sunday morning when Jessie Sr. came to pick him up. He later called his dad, explained he had gotten in a fight with his girlfriend, and went out to dinner with Waddell that night.

Erica Smith, the mother of one of Cecil’s children, was unable to reach Cecil on Sunday and feared something was wrong. When he did not show up for work Monday, she decided to call the police.

The officers sent to Cecil Dotson’s house discovered a gruesome scene when they arrived that evening.

“Officer Randall Davis arrived first. As he walked in the front door, he could ‘smell the dead bodies.’ The storm door was closed but the interior door was partially open, and he could see a person’s foot lying on the floor inside,” the ruling states. “Entering the front door, Officer Davis discovered four adult bodies, later identified as Cecil, Ms. Williams, Hollis Seals, and 22-year-old Shindri Roberson. All appeared to have sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Officer Davis did not check for vital signs because it was obvious to him that they were deceased.”

Davis then discovered 9-year-old C.J. in the bathtub with a knife in his head but still alive.

Dotson’s 4-year-old nephew Cemario was found dead in one bedroom, and two others appeared to be dead in another room. Cecil II was pronounced dead but Cedrick was still alive when paramedics found him.

A fifth nephew of the assailant, 2-month-old Ceniyah, was found alive.

The officers noted that the bodies of Cecil and Roberson were staged with marijuana and crack cocaine strewn on or near them.

A firefighter who responded to the scene described the bathroom as a “mess” with “blood everywhere,” according to the ruling. He described seeing C.J. with a knife in his head as the worst thing he has ever seen in his life.

Dotson had killed Cecil and his fiancee, Seals, Roberson, Cemario and Cecil II. He had also attacked C.J., Cedrick and Ceniyah with kitchen knives and wooden boards.

Despite a confession to police and his mother, Dotson blamed the attack on gang members. He testified he was at the house on Lester Street, a poor and crime-ridden part of Memphis, and hid under a bed during the slayings. He said he didn’t report them to police because he feared for his life.

A key moment during the sentencing phase Tuesday was when a prosecutor showed the jury two graphic photos of the two slain boys with gruesome injuries. Two female jurors wiped tears from their eyes as the jury passed around the photos.

Jurors also heard for the first time that Dotson already served 14 years in prison for murder. He was released about seven months before the killings.

“He’s only in his 30s and he’s taken seven human lives,” prosecutor Ray Lepone said while arguing for the death penalty in his closing argument. “If not this case, what case?”

After Lepone spoke, Dotson clapped softly before being stopped by a defense team investigator sitting next to him.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before deciding his fate.

Dotson was convicted of six counts of premeditated first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to death for each of the six murder convictions and also given three 40-year consecutive sentences for the attempted murder charges.

The massacre drew nationwide media coverage and was featured on A&E’s The First 48. In 2013 Jessie Dotson’s conviction was upheld on appeal. According to court records, Cecil Dotson was a member of the Gangster Disciples and Jessie was a Kitchen Crip. As of 2021, Jessie Dotson’s execution has still not been carried out and he remains incarcerated on Death Row by the Tennessee Department of Corrections at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

All three of the surviving children have recovered from the majority of the physical injuries inflicted upon them by their uncle.