Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pregnant woman tortured to death

March 22, 2008

Advertisement

Officer Manuel Espinoza, left, and detective Peter Vambaketes, right, of the Alton (Ill.) Police Department, help Michelle Riley from a house in Alton after the body of Dorothy Dixon, 29, was found inside in this photo taken Jan. 31. Dixon, who was developmentally disabled and pregnant, was later determined to have been tortured to death. Riley was one of six people - two adults, three teenagers and a 12-year-old boy - charged with murder in the case.

Officer Manuel Espinoza, left, and detective Peter Vambaketes, right, of the Alton (Ill.) Police Department, help Michelle Riley from a house in Alton after the body of Dorothy Dixon, 29, was found inside in this photo taken Jan. 31. Dixon, who was developmentally disabled and pregnant, was later determined to have been tortured to death. Riley was one of six people - two adults, three teenagers and a 12-year-old boy - charged with murder in the case.

— Banished to the basement, the 29-year-old mother with a childlike mind and another baby on the way had little more than a thin rug and a mattress to call her own on the chilly concrete floor.

Dorothy Dixon ate what she could forage from the refrigerator upstairs, where prosecutors say housemates used her for target practice with BBs, burned her with a glue gun and doused her with scalding liquid that peeled away her skin.

They torched what few clothes she had, authorities say, so she walked around naked. They often pummeled her with an aluminum bat or metal handle.

Dixon - six months pregnant - died after weeks of abuse. Police have charged two adults, three teenagers and a 12-year-old boy with murder in the case that has repulsed many in this Mississippi River town.

"This is heartbreaking," police Lt. David Hayes said. "It was almost as though they were making fun of the abuse they were administering. This woman was almost like living in a prison."

Suspects

Investigators put much of the blame on Michelle Riley, 35, who they said befriended Dixon but pocketed monthly Social Security checks Dixson got because of her developmental delays.

Dixon saw little, if any, of the money, Hayes said. For months she weathered the torment to keep a roof over her head and that of her year-old son, who weighed just 15 pounds when taken into state custody after his mom's death.

"I've never seen an almost conspiratorial effort by a group of people to continuously torture someone until she finally died, then not really show any remorse," Hayes said. "It was just a slow, torturous, tragic way to die. I highly doubt Dorothy Dixon even knew she was dying."

Riley, 43-year-old Judy Woods and three teenagers, including Riley's 15-year-old daughter, LeShelle McBride, are charged with first-degree murder, aggravated and heinous battery, intentional homicide of an unborn child and unlawful restraint. Riley's 12-year-old son is charged as a juvenile.

Riley, her daughter, Woods and 16-year-old Benny Wilson have public defenders who did not immediately return messages for comment. An 18-year-old defendant, Michael Elliott, planned to get his own attorney, court records show.

All remain in jail on $1 million bond.

'Evil, vindictive'

Messages left with a Chicago-area sister of Dixon went unreturned, but neighbors, Hayes and newspaper accounts offer a mosaic of the months leading to Dixon's demise inside the small, white, blue-shuttered house.

Riley and Dixon, police said, had lived in Quincy, a Mississippi River town about 100 miles north of St. Louis, Mo. Quincy is where Riley worked as a coordinator for a regional center that helps the developmentally disabled with housing and other services. Dixon was a client.

For years, an impoverished Riley struggled raising her children. Her use of methamphetamine and cocaine brought drug convictions in 2002 and 2004. But with treatment and housing help from the Quincy YWCA, Riley put her life in order - so much that in February of last year, the Quincy Herald-Whig did a story on her comeback.

Last summer, Dixon and Riley moved into the $800-a-month, three-bedroom rental in Alton about 15 miles north of St. Louis. From the start, neighbors Chad Hudson and Terri Brandt considered Riley trouble.

"Michelle was evil, vindictive. Manipulative," said Hudson, convinced the teenagers were Riley's powerless minions.

"She was angry, vicious," added Brandt.

'Shocking' turn of events

Riley considered Dixon her slave, making her rub Riley's feet until Riley fell asleep and forcing her to run naked around the house when she got in trouble, the neighbors said.

"Being in their house was like being in a prison day room," Hudson said. "They just sat around the kitchen table and fought."

There was little question that Riley ruled the roost.

While doing fix-ups on the home last fall, landlord Steve Atkins saw Riley "barking orders" at the children and everyone else. Atkins joked to her whether he needed to call the Army and see if they wanted their drill sergeant back.

"She didn't laugh about it at all," Atkins said. "Obviously, I hit a nerve."

Atkins said Dixon generally kept to herself "but was always nice when she spoke to you." He saw no hints she'd been suffering or tortured.

"I would have never, ever suspected something like this," he said. "It's definitely shocking."

Police said Dixon was allowed out of the house but didn't say under what conditions. Hayes didn't know who the father of Dixon's fetus is.

'Disgraceful' death

Hayes said things apparently came to a head Jan. 30, when investigators believe that Woods, during a dispute, beat Dixon on the head with an object Hayes wouldn't identify. The next day Woods found her dead.

Hayes watched the autopsy and found her injuries disturbing. X-rays revealed roughly 30 BBs lodged in her. Deep-tissue burns covered about one-third of her body - her face, her chest, her arms and feet - and left her severely dehydrated. Her face and body showed signs of prolonged abuse. Many of her wounds were infected.

None of the injuries, Hayes said, proved singly fatal to Dixon. Her system already was taxed by her unborn baby.

"The autopsy sort of indicates her immune system just shut down," he said. "It was not capable of fending off any more."

In the rental home's basement, Atkins said, he found spots of blood in a shower and tiny smears on the concrete floor, washer and dryer.

"It's disgraceful the way this girl died, as kind and as sweet as this girl was," he said. "She didn't deserve to die the way she did. It's just terrible, senseless. It's just a total shame."

Comments

Ragingbear 6 years, 9 months ago

Humans de-volving before our eyes. Morlocks in the making.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 9 months ago

My guess is that they are big fans of Dick Cheney and "24."

weluvbowling 6 years, 9 months ago

Can we say DEATH PENALTY? Can we say Menace to Society?

People like this are evil and don't deserve to be spared! This is just wrong in every aspect...and then raising your kids to do this? They will NEVER be productive, upstanding citizens.

I say lock them all up and throw away the key...better yet, give the girls family the items they used on her to kill her and let them lose on them! Save the tax payers money and let them beat them till they die-of course slowly and painfully! An eye for an eye!

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

You mean, you want us to sink to their level. Disgusting as this story is, I would hope we would hold our society to a higher standard than people who beat pregnant women to death.

kathy white 6 years, 9 months ago

Did the neighbors not feel an ethical or moral obligation to have this situation investigated, what about the landlord? How very, very sad.

Newell_Post 6 years, 9 months ago

In a just and moral society, there would be one trial, one appeal, and two executions. Over and out, all within 6 months. In this case, there is no hint of racial bias or errors of fact or any of those other legitimate concerns about the death penalty. Not sure what to do about the juveniles.....

Christine Pennewell Davis 6 years, 9 months ago

I have nothing, so much in my head but nothing will come out right. most is just anger a complete anger.

emceelean 6 years, 9 months ago

Developmentally Disabled adults are abused so often. I'm sure this happeneing elsewhere. Quite sad.

pisafromthewest 6 years, 9 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says:

"My guess is that they are big fans of Dick Cheney and "24.""

Funny, they just sounded like regular bozos to me.

Only our local bus-riding cretinous clown would jump in first on a story of unimaginable human tragedy with his typically disjointed, unrelated and inane politicized drivel.

scott3460 6 years, 9 months ago

"Only Bozo would make a link in this article to the President of Vice-President. Bozo, you really need to get back on your meds!"

bush, cheney and crew are actually far worse than these animals. The subhumans in the story broke a law, sought to conceal it and will ultimately pay the price for it.

bush/cheney/etc. claim such behavior is justifiable, direct others to undertake such actions in our name, and apparently will never pay a price for such shameful deeds.

pisafromthewest 6 years, 9 months ago

scott3460 (Anonymous) says:

"bush, cheney and crew are actually far worse than these animals..."

Why don't you and your buddy bozo go post your political ranting on one of the threads where it's pertinent?

People who can say things like "yes these people are animals, but hey, look at [fill in the name of whichever politician you're currently whining about here]?" just make the rest of us want to puke.

Geez there are a lot of trolls around here.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 9 months ago

What do you need a link for? It's been throughly verified that he shot his friend-- with a whole lot of BB's.

Becca 6 years, 9 months ago

Oh, my god. I would kill somebody if something like this happened to my sister. My mother and I would be going to prison. My younger sister has developmental problems. It makes me sick knowing there are people out there who could do something so disgusting to another human being. I don't feel a damn bit sorry for those teenagers either. They're just as guilty because they did nothing to stop it.

It makes me wonder though, where exactly the girl's parents? Why weren't they taking care of her?

weluvbowling 6 years, 9 months ago

So, Jonas, tell me, you see this person that they hurt as just a "pregnant woman"? If I read the article right this poor woman was developmentally challenged, or am I wrong? I use to teach developmentally challenged individuals and they do not "think" like the average person. They feel if they have a "friend" they have something, no matter how bad they treat them. And today...so many people take advantage of these individuals - shame on you people! Then, not only was she "beat to death" she was TORTURED...TORTURED! Not just beat! And then they take her money as well...the poor girl!

Do I want us to "sink to their level"? HLL YEAH! If that is what it takes to stop the stupidity and meaness in this Country you dmn skippy!

Kinda like my feeling on child molesters...nail their b*lls to the floor and let the family yank up!

These offenders and murderers might think twice about doing things like this if we started enforcing laws that are stronger than 3 hots and a cot for the rest of their life!

Lethal injection? Hanging? Electric chair? OH YEAH! I like the electric chair, and just about the time they are "about dead" turn it off, let them breathe, and then fire it back up again...several times! wicked evil laugh BURN B_!!!!

Darn good thing I don't make the laws I'd have fun with offenders and murderers!

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

"Do I want us to "sink to their level"? hll yeah! If that is what it takes to stop the stupidity and meaness in this Country you dmn skippy!"

Which it, of course, won't.

"These offenders and murderers might think twice about doing things like this if we started enforcing laws that are stronger than 3 hots and a cot for the rest of their life!"

Future deterrent only seems to work on a percentage of the populace. A very large percentage, but that remaining percentage seems cursed by the apparent inability to think forward in a rational manner. If people are not deterred by the death penalty, and it is clear that there are many who are not, then corporal punishment would seem to lack efficacy as well.

"Darn good thing I don't make the laws"

Yes, well it's good that we agree on something.

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

"So, Jonas, tell me, you see this person that they hurt as just a "pregnant woman"? If I read the article right this poor woman was developmentally challenged, or am I wrong?"

Oh, sorry. I didn't know how many extrapolations were apparently required of me in discussing the particulars of the case to capture the right amount of horrific disgust. I guess I can work on that, but I was under the impression that most of the people on this site are capable of reading the above article for themselves.

notajayhawk 6 years, 9 months ago

jonas (Anonymous) says:

"If people are not deterred by the death penalty, and it is clear that there are many who are not, then corporal punishment would seem to lack efficacy as well."

Not entirely true. First, many people fear pain much more than they fear death. And second, you can't really learn anything from dying; corporal punishment, however, can be reapplied as many times as it takes to learn the lesson.

notajayhawk 6 years, 9 months ago

Multidisciplinary (Anonymous) says:

"(Perhaps he [the cat] just doesn't like green eggs.)"

Pretty sure you have to serve them with ham.

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

notajayhawk: I'll concede that, but it still has to be an after-the-effect issue for the most part, as I see it. I'm going to have to disagree with the idea that many people fear pain more than death, but I doubt either of us have anything particularly factual that we can base that on.

MultiD: Yeah, I know that. But I have to admit, somewhat sheepishly, that at times I greatly enjoying drawing out a fool or a troll. I would imagine that you've noticed that by now.

Confrontation 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm just surprised these people aren't from Missouri.

weluvbowling 6 years, 9 months ago

Sorry Multi, No...I never worked "for a local respite care company"! I was a former victim of abuse as a child and an adult and know how it feels to "be" helpless. This also taught me to be strong and take nothing from anyone.

Also, I raised my son and my daughter is still in the home, both very happy and healthy.

I wouldn't hurt anyone unless they are harming someone I love or someone who cannot help themselves.

On that note, have a good day...HAPPY EASTER everyone!

scott3460 6 years, 9 months ago

"Really? Got a link? No? Slanderous moron."

It has been reported widely in even the mainstream corporate media. bush, cheney, etc. continually argue that CIA agents must not be prohibited by law from waterboarding. Even his own Attorney General acknowledges waterboarding is torture. The bush administration has admitted engaging in waterboarding. Thus, my argument that these politicians are far worse than the monsters in this story. They engage in these acts as a matter of policy and purport to do so in our good name. And by good name, I mean those of good conscience who oppose their unconstitutional regime. Those of you who voted for these cretins and continue to voice support for them deserve every single slur your foolishness begets.

Slanderous moron? I don't think so. I'm just a vocal part of the 70%+ that's had enough.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 9 months ago

Criminal acts are criminal acts, PA. Whining because you can't make a cogent argument doesn't change that.

Ceallach 6 years, 9 months ago

Even if Obama visited there regularly, I'm sure he was not present on the day those outrageous deeds were done.

niacey 4 years, 1 month ago

Typical.. Jesus was treated the same way..

Commenting has been disabled for this item.