Real Name: Dorothy May Donovan
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Harrington, Delaware
Date: June 22, 1991
Details: Seventy-year-old Dorothy Donovan was the mother of factory worker Charles Holden. At around midnight on June 22, 1991, Charles stopped at a fast food restaurant in Harrington, Delaware after his shift ended. After he left the restaurant, he got into his truck. As he prepared to leave, a stranger approached him, asking for a ride. The man said that his sister was having a baby and that he needed to get to the hospital in Georgetown. Charles first said he couldn't because it was late and he lived just a few blocks away. However, he eventually he changed his mind and agreed to take him for a certain distance.
Charles drove the stranger three miles down Highway 14. He stopped at an intersection where he would normally turn to drive home and told the stranger that this was as far as he could drive him. The stranger became angry and attacked him, demanding his money as well as his truck. Charles grabbed his keys and jumped out of the truck. He ran to a store to get help, but the stranger, armed with a screwdriver, raced towards him. The stranger threatened to kill him. At that point, Charles said he would take him where he wanted to go. However, as the stranger went around to enter the passenger side of the truck, Charles sped off. The stranger tried to run after him but gave up.
After leaving the scene, Charles began to drive around in the opposite direction of his house, trying to shake off his experience. When he finally started to return home, he noticed the stranger was lurking around his trailer. He drove away again to call the police at a pay phone. Police officer Myrna Kinney went with him to his residence to make sure that the stranger was not there.
They examined his trailer but found nothing was out of place or unlocked. Charles then asked Myrna to look at his mother's home. She lived in a farmhouse behind his trailer. When they went to Dorothy's home, they found that the back door window had been broken and there was blood inside. They then went up the stairs to her bedroom and found her dead. She had been brutally stabbed in the chest, arms, and face.
Nothing had been stolen from Dorothy's house and investigators ruled out robbery as a motive. At first, they suspected that Charles was responsible due to his bizarre story. However, physical evidence was found that did not belong to him and he was ruled out as a suspect. Dorothy's murder devastated Charles and the rest of their family, as they were all very close. They hope that her killer will some day be identified.
Suspects: At first, the police suspected Charles of the murder given the complexity of the crime. They did not believe that it was likely that the stranger would happen upon Dorothy's house after Charles left him some distance away. They also were suspicious when they learned that Charles was one of the beneficiaries for Dorothy's life insurance.
However, they soon found witnesses at the fast food restaurant who confirmed that the stranger did exist. A witness also saw the struggle between Charles and the stranger in his truck. More importantly, they also found a bloody palm print on a banister and DNA evidence that did not match Charles. As a result of this evidence, he was cleared.
The stranger is described as being in his late 20s or early 30s (in 1995), 5'8", with a slender build and pock-marked complexion, and he wore plastic framed glasses with over-sized lenses. Due to the extremely violent nature of the crime, investigators believe that the stranger may have been on drugs, most likely crack cocaine, at the time of the murder.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 12, 1995 episode. It was also featured in the Court TV series, "Forensic Files."
Results: Solved. DNA found at the scene was later uploaded to CODIS, the national DNA database. In November of 2005, the DNA evidence along with the bloody palm print on the banister identified Dorothy's killer as forty-one-year-old Gilbert E. Cannon of Delmar, Maryland. Cannon lived in Delaware at the time of the murder. He had previously served time for a 1997 murder; he has also served time on robbery and drug charges. Prior to his release, his DNA was collected, which was used to connect him to Dorothy's case. In January of 2006, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
When first questioned, he denied any involvement in the murder. However, when confronted with the evidence, he confessed to the crime. He told authorities that he was high on cocaine on the night of the murder. He said that after Charles left him at the intersection, he walked down the road, looking for a place to sleep. He passed several houses, but they all had lights on. He said he chose Dorothy's house because it was the first one he could find that didn't have any lights on. When he broke the glass on the back door, Dorothy woke up. He then killed her to keep her from identifying him.
Cannon confirmed that it was just a coincidence that he chose Dorothy's house. He said that he did not know either her or Charles. He also confirmed that he acted alone. He pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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- Obituary for Dorothy Donovan
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