On March 2, 2008, an act of barbarity occurred in the Memphis neighborhood of Binghamton that would stick in the minds of homicide detectives for years to come. After receiving a call from a distressed relative, police entered 722 Lester Street to discover a shocking, horrifying scene.
The bodies of nine people lay scattered throughout the home. Six are dead: four adults and two children. Three struggle to survive, all children under the age of 10.
30-year-old resident Cecil Dotson has been shot eight times, one each to the head, neck, chest, and right leg, and four more shots to his left leg. His girlfriend, 27-year-old Marissa Williams, has been shot five times. They were being visited by their two friends, couple Hollis Seals, 33, and Shindri Roberson, 22. They have been shot three and four times, respectively.
In a back bedroom, the bodies of two of Cecil’s children, 4-year-old Cemario and 2-year-old Cecil II, have both suffered multiple stab wounds. Cemario suffers severe blunt trauma and a stab wound to the chest. Cecil II is stabbed seven times, mostly to the head.
The three surviving children, also Cecil’s, are 9-year-old Cecil “CJ” Jr., 5-year-old Cedric, and 2 month old Ceniyah. Cecil hides in the bathtub for over 40 hours until police arrived on the scene. They find a four and a half inch blade lodged in his skull.
Cedric and Ceniyah have both suffered stab wounds, but survive the attack and remain in critical condition for a time.
Police were at a loss as to who the perpetrator, or perpetrators, were. Because of the level of violence, the initial theory was that it had to be gang violence. A hit being ordered on an entire family is not entirely unheard of in the underground world.
But, just days after the murders, police’s theory was turned on its head when CJ identified the killer responsible: Uncle Jessie.
Jessie Dotson, or “Uncle Jessie,” is Cedric’s older brother and uncle to all five children. At the time of the murders, he had been out of prison for less than seven months for a different murder.
Dotson had already spoken to police a few days prior to being identified as the attacker. At that meeting, he helped point police in the direction of Gangster Disciples members, and encouraged their gang violence theory.
On March 8, six days after the murders, Dotson confessed to police that he had been arguing with Cecil while out and all the way back to the Lester Street home. Upon entrance, Dotson claims that as his brother reached for a shotgun he began to shoot.
“I just started shooting,” Dotson confessed.
When Dotson realized that the kids, his nephews and infant niece, saw him commit the crime, he felt that he had to eliminate those witnesses, he confessed to his mother.
“I stabbed them.”
“You did that?” Dotson’s mother asks him.
Dotson was arrested and charged with six counts of first degree murder. He later recanted his confession, claiming he had been threatened by police into confessing to the crime. Despite his pleas of innocence, it took jurors just 90 minutes to convict Dotson of all six charges and sentence him to death.
CJ, Cedric, and Ceniyah have been in their maternal grandmother’s custody since the attack.
“We are in counseling,” Ida Anderson says in an interview. “It’s hard. We’re making adjustments. It’s hard, but we’ll get through it.
“With God’s help, we will get through.”