Texas authorities on horseback and foot searched a gravel pit near Waco yesterday for the body of missing Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy as his former teammate, Marylander Carlton Dotson, was held without bail in Chestertown on murder charges.
A Kent County judge said yesterday morning that a hearing would be held within 30 days to determine whether Dotson would be extradited to Texas to face charges that could bring the death penalty.
A Texas arrest warrant says Dotson, who helped his high school team win a state championship, admitted killing Dennehy, a friend and former roommate.
The rush of activity contrasted with the previous two weeks, during which Dotson - called by Waco police "a person of interest" - had gone into seclusion with relatives on the Eastern Shore.
Last week, he emerged to call authorities in Cambridge and met with them and the FBI for five hours. On Sunday, in Chestertown, he called 911 and told local police he needed help. After spending hours under observation in a hospital, he asked to talk to the FBI and Monday night was charged, bringing a crush of national news media to the waterfront town.
People who spent time recently with Dotson on the Eastern Shore portrayed a young man deteriorating physically and emotionally under the strain of being publicly named in a sensational case of suspected murder.
Dennehy, 21, vanished in mid-June, shortly after telling friends that he and Dotson were being threatened and had bought guns to protect themselves. As Waco police investigated the disappearance as a homicide, Dotson, who had recently lost his basketball scholarship to Baylor, came home to Hurlock, a town of about 1,900 people near Cambridge. He said nothing about Dennehy's disappearance to those closest to him, family members and his former high school coach.
Sunday night, in his second call to authorities, Dotson told a 911 operator that he was hearing voices, Chestertown Police Chief Walter Coryell said.
Two local police officers, not realizing that Dotson was a key figure in a possible murder case, took him to Chester River Hospital Center, where he spent the night in the emergency room. There he asked to talk to an FBI agent and confessed to the killing, law enforcement sources told The Sun and The Dallas Morning News yesterday. Waco police spokesman Sgt. Ryan Holt told the Morning News that Dotson described the location of Dennehy's body.
Dotson's lead attorney, Grady Irvin Jr. of St. Petersburg, Fla., described his client as confused and said the 21-year-old was wandering around his home near Hurlock muttering Bible passages.
"A major concern at this time is Carlton's mental state," said Irvin, who plans to fight extradition.
Melissa Kethley, Dotson's estranged wife, told the Associated Press yesterday that she does not believe he killed Dennehy. "I've known that he's needed psychological help for a very long time," she said. "Maybe, if he did do this, it's a blessing in disguise, and he can get the help he needs."
Dorchester County Sheriff James W. Phillips Jr. was skeptical. Phillips met Dotson on Thursday, when the young man went to the sheriff's office for a long, inconclusive talk with local authorities and a Salisbury-based FBI agent.
"He seemed perfectly normal to me," Phillips said yesterday, suggesting that Dotson's attorneys were laying the groundwork for a possible insanity defense.
Relatives said recent media attention led Dotson to spend much of his time away from Hurlock, where in 1999 he led the North Dorchester High School team to the state Class 1A championship. Most of the time he was living 55 miles north in Chestertown, at his grandmother's house.
"He's been staying with us for a little over a month," said Elbert Hicks, Dotson's step-grandfather. "Everybody was always calling all the time [in Hurlock], and he just couldn't rest. It's a shaky situation with the media. Nothing like this has ever happened."
Unlike the stars on top-ranked college teams, Dotson was not surrounded by an entourage of agents, scouts and hangers-on. The young guard, a walk-on at Baylor, found himself alone most of the time with not much to do except talk on the phone to his lawyer and idly shoot baskets with a 15-year-old cousin, Hicks said.
For the first time since February, he got in touch with his former high school coach, Victor Burns.
On Thursday, Dotson called the Dorchester County Sheriff's Department at 2:15 p.m., said he wanted to make a statement and asked that the FBI be present. Two Dorchester sheriff's detectives picked him up at his home and took him to the county emergency services complex about 3:30 p.m. An agent from the FBI's Salisbury office sat in on the interview, sheriff's officials said.
"He wanted to talk; we listened," Phillips, the Dorchester County sheriff, said that night.