FRANKFORT, Ky. (9/12/13) – Circuit Judge Brian Wiggins presided over the first day of the trial of Lennie J. Dillon of Drakesboro on Wednesday, charged with murder in the death of Amy L. Dennison of Beechmont in February of 2012.
Dennison was found in the floor of her van by law enforcement, dead from multiple gunshot wounds on February 29th of 2012. The van was stuck on a muddy embankment off of Highway 175 North just outside Bremen. Officers suspected someone else had been in the van, and Dillon was found lying in the woods nearby after a K-9 unit was brought in. Dillon was suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, with a black .38 Smith & Wesson lying nearby, according to officers on the scene.
Dennison, the mother of five children, and Dillon, had a relationship, but Commonwealth Attorney Ralph Vick sought to prove that relationship was about to be terminated by Dennison at the time of her death.
Dillon served 10 days in jail in 2011 on a 4th degree assault charge after law enforcement officers responded to a domestic violence incident. After that assault Dennison was taken to the Muhlenberg County Hospital for treatment of several cuts and bruises.
According to testimony from one of Dennison's daughters, in the days before her mother was found dead, she was making immediate plans to move to Spencer, Indiana with her children. Dennison's daughter said she did not think her mother planned for Dillon to move with them.
Commonwealth Attorney Vick told the jury that after the December 2011 assault charges were filed, "Things had changed between the two. She planned to move to Indiana and told Dillon to pack his belongings and leave."
Defense attorneys for Dillon, Eric Stovall and Mandy Perkins began their opening statement by stating that, "Mr. Vick has painted a grim picture. But there are two sides to every situation."
“As Mr. Vick said, the deceased was shot once in the abdomen and once in the head. Dillon was the only other person in the van." Perkins observed, adding that it was possible that "she pulled out the gun, and in fear for his life, the defendant grabbed for the gun, and it fired twice."
Perkins added that in another domestic violence incident on New Year’s Eve in 2011, "Dillon was not doing the assaulting." Further details of that incident have not yet been brought forward in the case. Concluding her opening statement, Perkins told the jury, "Amy brought the gun, pulled the gun, and that's why the gun fired."
Although there are no witnesses to what actually happened on February 29th, 2012, testimony did bring out a few facts regarding the day of Dennison's death.
Testimony indicated that Dillon and Dennison left her home on Merle Travis Highway together in her van between noon and 1pm.
The first witness called, an employee of Quality Plus service station near Dennison's home, told Vick that he had known the deceased and the defendant for four or five years. “I was working from 5am til 1pm. I saw them right before 1 pm and she was driving. They got some cigarettes and thirty dollars in gas."
Vick then asked the witness if he ever saw the deceased again.
Ironically, he replied that the next time he saw Dennison was that night, explaining that the service station also owns a towing service that towed the van to the Central City Fire Department.
Perkins asked the service station attendant "Did the two talk in the vehicle?"
He replied, "Yes."
Perkins continued, "Did she seem in distress? Did you see a gun? Did she seem to be held against her will? Did she seem afraid?"
"No," was the witness' answer to all of these questions.
Further testimony from Dennison's daughter, when questioned by Perkins, revealed that Dennison did own a gun.
"Yes, a 9MM semi-automatic." her daughter replied.
Several law enforcement officers, who were the first to arrive at the location of the van, noted that it appeared that someone had attempted to drive the van off of Highway 175 and into the woods but the van became stuck in the mud.
One officer noted that when they arrived on the scene, all doors on the van were locked, but that they could see Dennison's lifeless body on the floor. One Kentucky State Trooper broke a window out, unlocked the door and verified that Dennison was deceased.
A K-9 unit was called in when it was suspected that she had not been alone in the van. It was stated that Dillon was soon found lying in the woods, with a revolver nearby. It was noted that Dillon's hand was close enough to the gun that he was instructed by the officers to "get away from the pistol." One officer then saw the gunshot wound in Dillon's head and kicked the gun away.
Unable to talk due to the head wound, Dillon was read his rights, and told to nod in answer to questioning.
"Did you shoot your girlfriend?" he was asked, and nodded "yes".
"Did you shoot yourself?" Again Dillon nodded in the affirmative.
"Did you want to die?" The defendant answered "Yes" by nodding his head.
While searching the area near Dillon, officers found his wallet, and a bottle of prescription drugs with the deceased's name on the bottle.
Defense attorneys attempted to make a case against questioning Dillon at the scene, when his mental and physical condition from the head wound may have caused him to be unfit for giving credible answers.
Various forensic experts also testified, emphasizing that the shell casings found in the van matched up with test rounds fired from the .38 Smith & Wesson involved. However ownership of the gun was not established due to the age of the gun, which was made prior to current laws that allow easier tracking of ownership of weapons.
Experts also noted it was nearly impossible to obtain fingerprints from guns of this type due to the design of the grip of the gun. Several also noted it was just as hard to obtain fingerprints from fired shell casings for numerous reasons, including the heat of the blast when the gun is fired, and the muddy conditions of the area where the van was found.
The case is expected to continue today. SurfKY News will keep you updated on further testimony and the verdict when it is available.
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