The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Monday, September 12, 2011
By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer
Charges of second-degree murder and assault during the commission of a felony against a Fork Mountain man were certified to a grand jury Friday in Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The charges against Christopher Neil Dotson, 21, are in connection with the death of Dotson's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Katherine Ballad McMannis, 43, who was shot in the face with a large caliber handgun on the evening of April 30.
Testimony during the preliminary hearing Friday came from three Franklin County Sheriff's investigators, a medical examiner and a resident who lives near the residence where the shooting took place at Fork Mountain.
Investigator Jay Mason testified that he was the first law enforcement officer to respond to a residence at 252 Canton Church Road just after 9 p.m. where the shooting occurred.
Mason found McMannis just inside the doorway of the residence, he said. McMannis was not breathing and had what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the face. She was later pronounced dead at the scene by public safety officials and the medical examiner.
The residence was owned by Earl Dotson and his grandson, Christopher Dotson, was also living there at the time of the shooting.
Mason followed a trail of blood from where McMannis was lying to a bathroom at the back of the house, he said. The shooting occurred in the bathroom where blood spatter was found. A .357 magnum handgun was found at the residence in a back bedroom, Mason added.
Dr. Charles Lane, the medical examiner, testified that he was called to the scene and determined that McMannis died from a single gunshot wound to the face just below her mouth.
Investigator Justin Sigmon who responded to the scene of the shooting, learned that Christopher Dotson had left the residence after the shooting. Sigmon said he left the scene and drove down nearby Crooked Oak Road looking for Dotson.
Sigmon found Dotson at a friend's house and detained him until other officers could transport Dotson to the sheriff's office for questioning.
Caleb Sigmon, the friend, testified that Dotson came to his house after 9 p.m. He said Dotson initially told him his girlfriend shot herself.
"But he finally said he was playing with a gun and it went off and shot her," Caleb Sigmon said.
Investigator Harry Clingenpeel testified that he and Investigator Gary Shively interviewed Dotson at the sheriff's office. Dotson told them he was messing around with a gun in the bathroom where McMannis was sitting on the commode texting, Clingenpeel said. Dotson said he gave the gun to McMannis and she started playing with it and it went off. Dotson then said he left the house because he was scared, Clingenpeel added.
After all witnesses in the case had testified, Christopher Dotson's attorney, Jim Cargill, said the evidence presented warranted at most a charge of reckless use of a firearm, which would be involuntary manslaughter. Cargill asked that the charges against Christopher Dotson not be certified to a grand jury.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Deatherage said the evidence met probable cause for the charges to advance to a grand jury.
Judge Phillip Wallace certified the charges to a grand jury, but agreed that the case may not be a strong one for murder.