HURLOCK - A cross-country missing-person case that grew more mysterious by the day arrived yesterday in this Eastern Shore town - where the star of the 1999 state high school basketball championship team has been implicated in the disappearance of a Texas college teammate.
Baylor University basketball player Patrick Dennehy, 21, has been missing for nearly three weeks and authorities say they have found no body and have filed no charges.
In documents filed with the court, though, an informant said Carlton Dotson, 21, who grew up in Hurlock, told a cousin he shot Dennehy in the head as the two argued last month in Waco, Texas.
While Waco police and the FBI continue their investigation, people here say they are amazed that the laid-back youth they remember as "average" - save for his 6-foot-7-inch frame and basketball ability - is now the focus of a national case.
"I've never known [Dotson] to fight anybody, let alone shoot a gun," said Junior Thelmaque, 17, who played basketball at the same high school as Dotson.
Dotson told The Dallas Morning News last week that he was cooperating with police in Texas and had been asked not to discuss the case.
His great-aunt, Pat Waters, and others said yesterday that Dotson was around Hurlock and nearby Federalsburg as recently as the weekend. She said he has an attorney, but she didn't know his name. She also said she talked with Dotson on Sunday but he never mentioned Dennehy. He is still somewhere - she doesn't know where - in Maryland, Waters said: "He's probably scared."
"I couldn't believe it," said resident Ladonya Johnson. "That's the talk of the town."
Hurlock folks are used to talking about Carlton Dotson, but for a different reason,
Outside the North Dorchester High School gymnasium, a basketball signed by members of the championship team sits on display. The star center's signature, scrawled with a black marker, is surrounded by the others, but it is faintest of all.
Carlton Dotson #55.
That was typical Dotson, those around this town of 1,874 said yesterday. Though his talent made him the center of attention, he was never one to stand out by making a bold stroke. Even when the topic was his basketball successes, he never liked speaking to reporters, relatives said.
"Carlton was known for his basketball," said former classmate Brandi Helmer, 20, a waitress at Hurlock Family Restaurant, a four-booth and 10-table establishment on Main Street. "Carlton's not the type of person to do anything crazy."
He's so ordinary that he didn't even have a nickname here, said Corey Hughes, an acquaintance and 1997 North Dorchester graduate. No one around town yesterday thought Dotson capable of a violent crime.
He was often as quiet as the town he grew up in, residents said.
Until yesterday, the talk of Hurlock was last weekend's parade in Easton, about 20 miles northwest. Hurlock has no bars and no traffic lights, only a blinking light where the two busiest roads meet.
Its two largest employers are a pickle factory and a chicken farm. The tallest structure is a water tower with a locomotive painted on the side. Train tracks bisect Main Street, and if you stand on them, you can see one side of town and the other with vision to spare.
The high school is too small for a football team, so basketball is the biggest sport.
Dotson graduated in 2000 from North Dorchester. His father was also a star for the North Dorchester Eagles basketball team. But even though his parents were both around and saw him from time to time, Dotson was raised by his great-grandmother in a brown cinderblock bungalow a few miles out of town.
Across the street from his house is a wheat field; behind it are woods. In the back yard, a young Dotson often rolled around in the dirt, Waters said. She said he was constantly playing basketball or baseball.
"You always had to call him in for dinner," she said.
Dotson's only previous brush with the law stems from a theft charge in October 2001, but authorities opted not to prosecute.
Dotson played his first two years after high school at Paris [Texas] Junior College before transferring to Baylor, a Baptist college of more than 14,000 students in Waco. At Baylor, he met and roomed with Dennehy, a 6-foot-10 player from Santa Clara, Calif.
By most accounts, they were friends.
But on June 19, Dennehy's parents reported him missing. And Monday, a court document was released in McLennan County, Texas, detailing how a police informant in Delaware had implicated Dotson in Dennehy's alleged death.
According to the court document, the informant told police that Dotson admitted getting into an argument with Dennehy while they were shooting guns near Waco. Dennehy pointed a gun at Dotson, and Dotson shot him in the head with a 9mm handgun, the informant said.