WACO, Texas -- Carlton Dotson made a sudden change in plans when he grew increasingly anxious about his future as his murder trial drew closer.
The former Baylor basketball player pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing teammate Patrick Dennehy two years ago.
After months of failed attempts at a plea bargain with prosecutors, Carlton Dotson's attorneys were ready to go to trial Monday. But on Wednesday, Dotson suddenly pleaded guilty to murder -- without a plea agreement -- in the death of Patrick Dennehy, who was missing six weeks before his body was found in a field near campus in July 2003.
His attorney Russ Hunt Sr. declined to discuss why Dotson pleaded guilty. But he said he was confident the judge would impose a fair sentence June 15. Dotson faces from five years to life in prison.
"He has been very, very frightened at the prospect of going to trial," Hunt said.
McLennan County District Attorney John Segrest said defense attorneys approached him about a plea deal but that he never made an offer because he was unsure how many years would be enough. Segrest said he was surprised but pleased about Dotson's plea.
"It's a good resolution," Segrest said. "There is no question as to guilt."
A few days before Dennehy's body was found, Dotson was arrested in his home state of Maryland after calling authorities saying he was hearing voices and needed help.
According to documents filed in court Wednesday, Dotson told FBI agents that he thought people were trying to kill him because "he is Jesus, the son of God."
Dotson, who moved in with Dennehy at the beginning of May 2003, said he had received threatening telephone calls and that the two bought guns for protection. Dotson said two assistant basketball coaches refused to help him.
He told FBI agents that on June 11, he and Dennehy went to gravel pits for target practice but that Dennehy pointed a gun at him. When it jammed, Dotson said "Father, please forgive me," and fired at his friend. He then went to pack his belongings, called a relative to wire him money and drove home to Maryland, throwing the gun in a lake along the way.
According to the autopsy reports, Dennehy, 21, was shot once above the right ear and once behind it toward the back of the head.
Valorie Brabazon, Dennehy's mother, told The Associated Press she was unaware that Dotson would plead guilty until a prosecutor told her earlier Wednesday.
"I don't feel good about this whole thing," Brabazon said by phone from the Seattle area.
Dotson was ruled incompetent to stand trial last fall and was sent to a state mental hospital until earlier this year. A psychologist there said Dotson had a non-specified psychotic disorder and needed medication, but appeared to be faking hearing voices and seeing things.
Melissa Kethley, who filed for divorce from Dotson last year after two years of marriage, was too upset to comment, said her mother Pam Bayuk. Dotson has remained in touch with Kethley and her relatives, calling as recently as Tuesday, but has never discussed the case with them, Bayuk said.
"In the back of our minds, Melissa and all of us still had hope that he didn't do it," Bayuk said.
Interim President William D. Underwood said Dotson's plea brings Baylor a step closer to ending a painful chapter. Underwood said he hoped Dennehy's relatives could have closure and that he also was praying for Dotson's family.
Dennehy's death uncovered a scandal in the Baylor basketball program that led to the resignations of head coach Dave Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton and self-imposed sanctions, including a ban from postseason competition in 2003-04.
A Baylor probe discovered that Bliss improperly paid up to $40,000 in tuition for two players, including Dennehy; the coaching staff didn't report players' failed drug tests; and Bliss lied to investigators in trying to cover up his misdeeds.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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