LEROY, Texas – A missing Baylor (search) basketball player and his roommate bought three guns and took target practice on a rural property outside Waco (search) after claiming they had been threatened by a fellow player and feared for their lives, the landowner said Thursday.
Patrick Dennehy, 21, was last heard from almost three weeks ago. His sport utility vehicle was later found abandoned without its license plates in a Virginia Beach, Va., parking lot.
The search for the 6-foot-10 center has focused on the land 20 miles north of Waco where he and former teammate Carlton Dotson (search) shot guns days before Dennehy disappeared. Authorities returned to the 52-acre site Thursday with thermal-imaging equipment, but the aerial search found nothing.
No charges have been filed in the case; however, authorities have described Dotson as a "person of interest."
A search warrant affidavit made public Monday said an unnamed informant told investigators that Dotson told a cousin he shot Dennehy with a handgun while the two played with firearms near Waco.
Tammy Cox, who lives with her husband and three teenage children in a mobile home on the property, said Dotson and Dennehy visited the family three or four times a week.
She said Dotson called her husband Darren on June 10 asking if he knew of a good shooting range. He invited the players to come out and shoot at their place, she said.
Dennehy had a .22-caliber rifle that he said he bought at a Wal-Mart and a semiautomatic pistol, she said. Dotson had a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, she said. They said they bought the pistols at a pawn shop, she said.
She said Dennehy and Dotson told them they bought guns a day earlier for their protection because "something happened the night before" and they had been threatened by a fellow player.
"But I don't want to talk about that. That involves that other guy. We're kind of scared about retaliation," she said.
She said she did not know the player's name, but it was someone Dotson and Dennehy once brought to the property.
She said her husband recognized him on television this week, standing in the background as Baylor Coach Dave Bliss talked to reporters about Dennehy's disappearance.
Cox said the family first met Dotson in late February or early March when he and his then-wife, Melissa, answered a newspaper ad they had placed selling pit bull puppies.
He said the couple couldn't have a dog at their apartment, but Dotson later brought Dennehy to the house and he bought one puppy from the family and another from a friend.
"The first time Patrick came out, he got out of the car and saw a rooster and he said, 'Look, a turkey.' I said, "Boy, where are you from? That's a rooster.' And he said, 'Hey, I'm from California."'
Dennehy and Dotson later started coming out to the property to hang out, fish or play basketball with their children.
Cox said when Dennehy and Dotson came on June 10, they had at least one box of ammunition for each weapon, and didn't use it all. They took the couple's two boys out to a creek on the property and shot at trees.
"They only shot here one time that we were here," she said.
She said she last saw the boys at a Taco Bell near Baylor on June 12 when she took her children to Waco for a doctor's appointment.
"They were fine," she said.
She said her husband then talked to Dotson on June 19, the day Dennehy's family reported him missing, to see if the family had seen or talked to Dennehy. She said they hadn't.
Dotson called the family again on June 28, but didn't discuss Dennehy's disappearance.
"We haven't talked about any of this stuff. We just try to keep our lines of communication open and not jeopardize our friendship," she said.