The Lester Street Murders in Memphis

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Thomas R Machnitzki/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0


On March 3, 2008, a horrific scene was discovered in the Binghampton neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee. After receiving a phone call from a concerned relative, Memphis Police officers entered a home at 722 Lester Street to check on its occupants. What they found was shocking: The bodies of six people, ranging in age from 2 to 33, were scattered throughout the house. In addition, three other children were found seriously injured.

The Victims

The murder victims were soon to be identified as Cecil Dotson, age 30; Cecil Dotson II, age 2; Cemario Dotson, age 4; Shindri Roberson, age 22; Hollis Seals, age 33; and Marissa Williams, age 27. The injured were identified as Cecil Dotson, Jr., age 9; Cedric Dotson, age 5; and Ceniyah Dotson, age 4 months.

Although it took some time to sort out, autopsy reports eventually showed that the adult victims were shot while the children were stabbed multiple times and suffered blunt force trauma to the head. The surviving victims also bore stab wounds, one of whom was found with a knife still stuck in his head.

The Aftermath of the Crime

As the community reeled from the violent discovery, rumors began running rampant regarding the possible motivation and perpetrator of such a crime. For several days, the general consensus was that the murders must have been gang-related due to the brutality of the killings.

The Murderer

With this line of reasoning in mind, it was particularly disturbing when police announced just days after the murders that they had arrested and charged Jessie Dotson, age 33, with the crime. Jessie Dotson was the older brother of victim Cecil Dotson. Jessie was also the uncle of all five of the children involved. According to an account by one of the surviving victims of the massacre and a confession by Dotson, himself, Jessie shot Cecil during an argument. He then attempted to kill everyone else in the house to eliminate any witnesses.

The investigation of the Lester Street murders was featured on the A&E show, The First 48. Dotson's confession was also aired during this episode. The murder was also covered by the national media.

Jessie Dotson was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder after his October 2010 trial in Memphis. He was sentenced to the death penalty.