A Father Fights for Resolution
(Forensic Files, ‘The Killing Room’)
Before jumping into the recap, I wanted to mention my new book. Forensic Files Now: Inside 40 Unforgettable True Crime Cases includes blog posts along with some extra information that doesn’t appear on my website. It also has a Q&A with Forensic Files creator Paul Dowling and a biography of narrator Peter Thomas, who started out doing Listerine commercials.
So please pick up a copy online (at the very end of this post, you’ll see links to six of the e-tailers) or at Barnes & Noble or your local independent bookstore. Or just spread the word on social media, an area where I can always, always use extra help.
Business in the front. And speaking of the internet, here’s a case that began before most laypersons had heard of it and finished when the whole world was posting its relationship status on Facebook:
Jim Dunn might have appeared as though he came from at least a slightly different socioeconomic group than his son Scott, but he was utterly devoted to him.
When Jim, a distinguished-looking CEO from Yardley, Pennsylvania, learned that his mullet-wearing child had disappeared, he immediately traveled to Lubbock, Texas to search for him.
Unfinished story. Once it became clear that Scott, who worked installing audio systems in cars, met a violent end at the hands of a girlfriend, Jim found a way around the Texas law that required a body in order to make a murder case.
Thanks in part to his diligence, a jury convicted Leisha Hamilton of beating Scott to death.
She went off to prison in 1994, but by the time Forensic Files produced “The Killing Room” in 1999, Jim still had no remains to bury beneath the headstone placed on an empty grave in the City of Lubbock Cemetery.
Checkered past? For this week, I checked on whether Scott’s body ever turned up and also looked for more information about the case. So let’s get going on the recap to “The Killing Room” along with extra information from internet research.
Roger Scott Dunn came into the world on Feb. 10, 1967, one of two sons born to James and Mary Sue Dunn. He used his middle name as his first. His family lived a financially comfortable life in the Philadelphia area.
Scott served in the military and moved to Lubbock, reportedly to start anew after making some bad choices. Nevertheless, he ran into trouble in his new home. At age 23, he was arrested in connection with a Domino’s Pizza robbery. The Abilene News-Reporter article about the alleged crime listed him as a car stereo installer at MGM Electronics.
Two timing, or more. It’s not clear what, if any, consequences came about because of the incident but, in the meantime, he was enjoying a successful career. He loved working on cars. According to KCBD, he had won stereo-installation competitions. He also bought, restored, and resold used automobiles on his own.
But vehicles weren’t the only things Scott enjoyed toying with. At age 24, the fair-haired Scott was living with Leisha Hamilton, a 28 year-old waitress, at the same time he was engaged to another woman, and possibly had relationships with others.
In one of the rare narratives in which Forensic Files leaves a storyline unfinished, the show opens by revealing that the day before his death, Scott played a joke on his buddies by bringing a gorgeous date to a party. His friends enjoyed flirting with her. But they later realized that, underneath the sexy outfit, there was a man.
Regular Florence Nightingale. His friends were not amused, and Scott got sick at the party. But, confusingly, those incidents don’t seem to have anything to do with each other or his imminent disappearance.
During her Forensic Files interview, Leisha said that Scott was compromised the night of the party and needed help getting dressed for bed after she brought him home to the place they shared at Oakwood Club Apartments at 5818 24th Street. Leisha said that she made him some tea in the morning and left for her waitress job.
Then Scott vanished.
Leisha stopped by Scott’s employer to pick up his 1991 yellow Camaro. Scott had run off with another woman, she told his boss, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article from November 16, 1997.
Dramatic vehicle. Next up, Leisha called Jim Dunn—who up until that time didn’t know about her existence—on May 19, 1991 to alert him to Scott’s disappearance.
Jim got in touch with the Lubbock police, and ended up calling them every day, according to one account. Sympathetic detective Tal English remembered Jim’s telling him how unusual it was for Scott to leave the Camaro — nicknamed the Yellow Submarine — and his tools at work for the night, according to his interview on The New Detectives. Jim would make numerous trips to Lubbock to do his own fact-finding, interviewing witnesses and searching for evidence, all the while maintaining a good relationship with local law officers.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to control the narrative, Leisha led police to a corner of her and Scott’s bedroom with recently replaced carpet pieces —not a good sign in any missing-person story. And yikes, under the rug, luminol revealed red stains. They came from Scott’s blood, and there was lots of it.
Financial offense. Crime-scene consultant and semi-regular Forensic Files guest Tom Bevel got in on the act. He conducted blood splatter tests in the bedroom and found the pattern consistent with blows from a blunt object or pipe.
Leisha, in her grief, found the strength to tell Jim Dunn that she wanted to keep Scott’s Camaro for herself.
Jim traveled to Leisha’s former home of Albuquerque to look into her past. She had a police record for embezzlement.
Next victim. But it was what Scott’s associates told investigators about her that was more worrisome. A female friend of Scott’s said that Scott was afraid to break up with Leisha. According to the New Detectives, Leisha’s ex-boyfriends warned Scott that she could lather herself up into violent jealous rages.
Leisha, meanwhile, tried to throw off suspicion on her new boyfriend, Tim Smith, who came from a sheltered background and was a “lovesick admirer” of the worldly Leisha, according to a story in The Times of Trenton. She probably thought he would take the fall.
When police dropped in on Tim at his place, they found a roll of duct tape similar to the tape used to attach the carpet pieces in Scott and Leisha’s bedroom. Stuck to the adhesive were green trilobal fibers like the ones in Scott’s bedroom. The tape also had Tim’s and Leisha’s hairs on.
Pro bono aid. Despite the evidence, the authorities couldn’t make Scott’s death into a murder case until they had a body.
In 1992, Jim appealed to the VIDOCQ Society (pronounced vee-DUCK), a group of law enforcement professionals including forensic sculptor Frank Bender, who helped to catch John List. The VIDOCQ Society investigated cases for no fee.
Richard Walter, a forensic psychologist who belonged to the group, found Leisha’s behavior suspicious and, bless his heart, offered to help Jim “go after that bitch.”
Clever claim. Scotland Yard even got into the act after VIDOCQ forwarded evidence to the British detectives. They agreed that someone had murdered Scott via blunt force involving at least four blows.
The Associated Press called the evidence “signs of a nasty butchering.” Scott had lost an estimated one quart of blood, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
The big break in the case came when Richard Walter persuaded authorities to move forward with the case because blood is a bodily part. In a way, they had a body.
Ruining another man’s life. In 1994, Leisha was charged with perjury and tampering with evidence. The perjury charge stemmed from her lying about not having possession of what media reports called a radio-controlled boat belonging to Scott.
But soon enough, she and Tim were charged with murder. The motive for the homicide? Revenge. Leisha was angry after finding out Scott planned to marry another woman.
When Tim Smith fell under her Leisha’s spell, instead of just using him as a rebound boyfriend until she got over Scott, Leisha enlisted him to carry out a plan for revenge.
Good riddance. The authorities made a case that on May 16, 1991, someone attacked Scott as he slept and beat him to death.
After separate trials, Leisha and Tim were convicted of murder. Leisha got 20 years. Smith received a $10,000 fine and 10 years probation. Either the judge or jury, or both, believed that Tim helped with the disposal of the body but Leisha wielded the weapon.
It’s not clear why Leisha got such a short sentence — in Texas, no less — but she had to serve it in full after losing multiple bids for parole. Leisha dropped out of sight once she got out of prison.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
Literary effort. By 2004, the Dunns still had no body to bury in Scott’s grave, but that didn’t mean the public forgot about the case. In fact, a writer from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal thought the story would make a good book.
“That father just caught my heart, because I am a parent myself,” Wanda Evans said in a Plainview Writers Guild video interview. “I kept seeing my son in Scott.”
She and Jim ended up collaborating on Trail of Blood: A Father, a Son, and a Tell-Tale Crime Scene Investigation, which found a publisher and got positive reviews on Amazon.
Over the years, Jim Dunn maintained a good relationship with the authorities who helped put away Leisha Hamilton. Jim was not adversarial, detective Tal English told the Lubbock-Avalanche Journal. “Sometimes the family gets so disgruntled with investigators.”
Theory proves right. There was much relief in 2012, when Lubbock Victims Assistance Services got word to Jim Dunn that a work crew (a.k.a. the folks who tend to discover stuff on Forensic Files) had uncovered skeletal remains in a sewage system near Scott’s apartment complex. Dental records confirmed they came from Scott.
Just as the prosecution argued in court, Scott died from blunt force trauma. The killer or killers had wrapped his body in a vinyl sheet from his waterbed. Investigators discovered a gold ring belonging to Scott’s grandmother at the scene, The Times of Trenton reported in a story from October 28, 2012.
Jim nearly passed out when he first heard the news about his lost son, according to his interview with KCBD TV.
On June 16, 2012, the Dunns buried him in a grave beneath a stone engraved with a likeness of Scott’s Camaro.
“I tell everyone,” Jim told The Times, “that Scott came home for Father’s Day.”
That’s all for this post. Until next time, cheers. —RR
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