Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tortured to Death

by Donna Weaver

What happened to Dorothy Dixon did not happen in some third world country or as an act of war. It happened in the basement of a rented house in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois.

Dixon--the developmentally disabled mother of a 1-year-old boy--was six months pregnant at the time of her death caused by months of torturous abuse at the hands of the people she lived with. She was frequently beaten with an aluminum bat and was burned with a glue gun. Her housemates had set fire to the few clothes she owned, leaving her to walk around naked. She and her year-old son, who weighed only 15 pounds, were virtually held captive, forced to sleep on the basement floor. Dixon's autopsy also revealed deep-tissue burns as a result of being scalded with hot liquid that peeled away her skin, and approximately 30 BBs embedded in her body.

Charged with first-degree murder, aggravated and heinous battery, intentional homicide of an unborn child, and unlawful restraint are: Michelle Riley, 35, Judy Woods, 43, Michael Elliott, 18, Benny Wilson, 16, and Riley's 15-year-old daughter, LeShelle McBride. Riley's 12-year-old son is also charged as a juvenile. Police say Riley was the ringleader--befriending Dixon and moving her into her home in order to steal Dixon's monthly Social Security checks.

Reading the CNN story about the sweet and childlike young mother's slow horrific death I had to wonder if her murder could have been prevented. Neighbors Chad Hudson and Terri Brandt were interviewed after the homicide saying:
"Michelle was evil, vindictive. Manipulative," said Hudson, convinced the teenagers were Riley's powerless minions.

"She was angry, vicious," added Brandt.

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."
Sometimes being a good neighbor means minding your own business. Sometimes doing the right thing means minding your neighbors.


Anonymous said...

This story brings me to tears. The only appropriate sentence is death and that would be too good for them. Especially in cases like this I wish punishment was 'an eye for an eye' where the criminals were put to death in the same way they tortured their victim(s). Only in that case would justice be served.

Kathryn Casey said...

How awful, Donna. So sad. Too bad Hudson and Brandt didn't do something to help Dixon, assuming they made no effort.

It's tough reporting a neighbor. Years ago, I had a neighbor, a stay-at-home mom, with an 18-month-old girl I kept finding playing alone in the middle of the street. We lived in a quiet neighborhood but, hey, that wasn't safe. One day, I saw a car almost hit the kid from my home/office window.

I talked to the mom and got nowhere. (She needed to fix her fence. The kid was escaping out of the backyard.) When it happened again, I called the police. I felt awful about it, but I figured priority one was the little girl's safety. The family moved a short time later. I'm sure they still think of me as the nosy neighbor, but I figure I did what I had to do.

Diane Fanning said...

All for her social security checks? How cheaply they valued her life and bartered their own humanity. A horrific story.

Donna Weaver said...

Anon, yes this is an especially sad story. I've seen and heard about some pretty horrific murders over the years, and I have to admit I have found myself wishing more than once the justice system provided that a remorseless offender could be made to feel the same fear, horror, and pain as his/her victim(s) as punishment. Thanks for your comment!

Donna Weaver said...

It is a tough call, Kathryn. Many of us can recall a frightening moment when we learned just how fast our little ones could be- and realize how tragic the consequences could have been. A responsible parent immediately takes steps to ensure it never happens again. You definitely did the right thing!

Donna Weaver said...

Indeed, Diane. Another piece of this disturbing story is that the two met (Riley and Dixon) while Dixon was a client where Riley worked as a coordinator at an agency that provided assistance to the developmentally disabled. It appears this all began with Riley looking for a helpless victim to live off of.

Jan said...

Good God. This makes me weep for the lack of humanity. We shouldn't treat animals with such cruelty, much less people. How? Why? WHY?