Stepson held on felony murder charge

November 30, 1999|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD


A woman found dead last week in the bedroom of her mobile home in Berkeley County allegedly was killed by her stepson, who told police he attempted to cover up a violent encounter with her by setting the residence on fire, police said.

Thomas Anthony Dawson, 21, of 343 Blair St., Berkeley Village subdivision, was being held without bond in Eastern Regional Jail on one count of felony murder.

According to a criminal complaint filed by State Police Sgt. D.E. Boober, Dawson admitted in a second interview with police Tuesday that he repeatedly struck his 41-year-old stepmother in the head with a claw hammer Aug. 30 after she interfered with his robbery of the home.


Police said the fire was set in the home to destroy evidence, but it was not clear how much damage the blaze caused and Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Tuesday that part of the case still was under investigation.

Jeannette K. Dawson, of 345 Blair St., died from multiple blunt force trauma, according to information Boober obtained from the state medical examiner's office in Charleston, W.Va.

Her time of death or of the encounter itself was not available Tuesday, Games-Neely said.

Police said the accused had been residing with his father's parents in a mobile home next door to the victim's and initially provided a "timeline of his whereabouts."

"It was determined that specific information that the accused provided as it related to his timeline was not accurate," Boober said in his complaint.

At his arraignment hearing just after 4 p.m. before Magistrate Jim Humphrey, Dawson was wearing a black bandanna with a white printed pattern, a large black T-shirt and a long-sleeve, gray-and-white shirt beneath it, baggy blue jeans and white sneakers without laces.

He appeared calm and yawned twice and asked about being able to contact his parents, who apparently did not know he was arrested.

State Police responded to the home off Berkeley Station Road, north of Martinsburg about 5:43 p.m. for a report of a suspicious death.

Games-Neely confirmed the next day that Jeannette Dawson's death was being investigated as a homicide.

When members of Bedington Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene, the fire was extinguished, but Dawson's bedroom was filled with smoke, officials said.

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