MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A convicted killer recently released from prison was charged Saturday with fatally shooting his brother during an argument and then killing five witnesses, including two of his brother's children, police said.
Three remaining children were critically wounded in the attack last Sunday, but one of them was able to tell investigators about their assailant, an arrest warrant affidavit said.
Jessie L. Dotson, 33, was arrested on Friday — five days after the six bodies were discovered in a small rental house in a rough neighborhood called Binghampton. The affidavit said Dotson admitted to the killings.
"He tried to kill everyone in the house. He thought everyone in the house was dead," police Lt. Joe Scott said.
Dotson was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder, police said. Among those killed was Dotson's brother, Cecil, 30, who was the father of all the children, ages 9 to 2 months.
Also killed were Hollis Seals, 33, Shindri Roberson, 25, and Marissa Rene Williams, 26, the mother of four of Cecil Dotson's children. Police identified the dead children as Cemario Dotson, 4, and Cecil Dotson, 2.
The surviving children remain under police custody at a children's hospital, but police declined to reveal their identities or their conditions.
One of the children "implicated Jessie Dotson as the person responsible," an arrest warrant affidavit said.
Police said the bodies of the victims were discovered Monday. The adults were shot with a semiautomatic handgun, while the children were stabbed with a knife or bludgeoned, police said.
The adults were found in the living room and the children were found in the two bedrooms of the residence and in the bathroom, Police Director Larry Godwin said.
Police said the bodies were discovered after relatives were unable to make contact with them, either by phone or in person.
Cecil Dotson and Seals each had extensive criminal records that include possession of illegal drugs and firearms. Cecil Dotson is identified in jail records as a known gang member.
Godwin said investigators at first thought the killings might have been some kind of "gang-related retaliation."
"I know the fear that gripped this community. I think we all felt it," Godwin said.
Records also show that Jessie Dotson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1994 and spent 14 years in prison. He was released from prison in January. No other details were available.
District Attorney General Bill Gibbons said his office has not yet decided if it will seek the death penalty.
Jail records showed Dotson was not yet allowed visitors and no lawyer was listed for him. No court dates had been set.