Matthew Dotson trial continues
Jasmine Moses, 15, recounted the alleged choice — help or be killed — forced on her by the accused murderer of her mother and brother Wednesday, while the defense continued to chip away at her credibility.
Her stepmother, Misty Marshall, 32, and brother Day-Min, 9, were allegedly murdered by Marshall’s fiance, Matthew Dotson, at the end of November 2015.
The state claims Jasmine was forced to assist Dotson in disposing of her mother’s body, then to accompany him cross-country to South Carolina and Georgia under threat of a similar fate.
Dotson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison. Alternate verdicts available to the jury are second-degree murder, manslaughter and not guilty. Jury selection in Judge Vernon Clark’s court began Monday.
Jasmine, looking pretty much like any other teenager, was on the stand for about 40 minutes Wednesday, outwardly calm while rehashing the alleged events of Nov. 30, 2016 and the days thereafter.
She said she had gone to bed early the night before since school was resuming from the Thanksgiving break and her mother had said she had a friend coming over. She said she heard nothing until getting up the next morning.
Jasmine did not identify the friend, nor did subsequent testimony. Whether the unnamed friend or friends actually came that Sunday evening was not established.
Jasmine awoke the next day to find her mother and Day-Min not in the mobile home in which the family lived in Simpson. She said baby sister Zinnlee, 2 at the time, was there and that the living room was in more disarray than usual.
The state alleges the mother discovered Dotson molesting the boy sometime that night and that he killed her, then killed the boy.
Dotson, the teenager testified, on that morning “walked in and out of the house, acting flustered and kind of in a hurry.” He told her, she said, that the three of them had to pack and leave and go to Shreveport and that the mother and brother had already gone there. Dotson then picked up two video consoles and a bundle of games as well as a bag of clothes and went outside.
Step by step, Jasmine recounted for the jury the alleged events as she went outside:
“I went out and saw Mom lying on the ground at the front of the steps, wrapped in a white sheet and blue bubble wrap. Her face was covered in dirt and blood. I put the baby in the the truck (a pickup) while Matt put an engine hoist around her (Misty) ankles. But he couldn’t lift her into the truck bed. I had to help do it.”
She asserted that Dotson said he had killed Misty and Day-Min and that if she didn’t help he “would hurt her.” She said he had what appeared to be a handgun in his waist band.
“If you don’t help, I will shoot you. If I am caught we’ll go down — both of us,” she quoted Dotson as saying.
He took the mother’s arms and Jasmine the ankles, she said, and they loaded the body into the truck bed, covering it with bags of clothes and a sheet of plywood.
She recounted to prosecutor Lee Hall, Jr. and the jury of nine women and three men events of the next several days as she and the toddler rode with Dotson to dump the mother’s body near New Llano, then to a retail outlet to sell the gaming equipment, then to South Carolina and Georgia as Dotson allegedly sought refuge from a building law enforcement storm.
Testimony from the cousin he visited in South Carolina included that Dotson allegedly asked about someone from whom he could secure fake ID and/or Social Security cards, assist in getting to Mexico, and help in removing tattoos.
The bodies of mother and son were found on Dec. 4, her in a drain in woods near New Llano, his stuffed behind the front seats of an abandoned Mustang on the Simpson property.
Dotson’s mother, Angela, testified she eventually went to Georgia and brought the trio to her New Llano residence, having secured legal representation for Matthew and others in her family because of concerns prompted by phone conversations with her son. She said Matthew made arrangements for counsel for Jasmine.
Defense attorney Bob Noel reiterated on cross-examination that Jasmine actually saw nothing of what happened or heard anything while she was sleeping. She testified everything was normal when she went to bed and that she heard “no commotion” during the night.
He asked why the girl had not sought help at any of the stops between Vernon Parish and South Carolina. She testified she feared the consequences for her and/or ZinnLee.
Noel elicited testimony from Angela Dotson that Jasmine “did not seem upset or rattled on the return trip to New Llano”, that she slept most of the way back.
She said the girl “seemed normal and didn’t seem fearful” once they reached the house. She said Jasmine never went out, but was not watched all the time.
During her testimony, Jasmine said she did not remember signing an immunity agreement with the prosecution and said she didn’t know what it was until it was explained to her in the trial preparations.
She said she continues to undergo counseling, adding, “I wished I could have heard something and could have helped, and wondered why couldn’t it have been me?”