Murder In The Family: Dawson Andrew McGehee stabbed his mother, Kathleen Karen “Katy” McGehee, to death; Sentenced to 16 years to life in prison

From McGehee’s appeal: In October 2011, defendant lived with his mother and father, Kathleen and Thomas McGehee, in Manteca.2  He was 26 years old.  While defendant previously worked as a music instructor and server at a local restaurant, his employment “ground to a halt” earlier in the year.  Defendant’s younger sister, Katelyn, also lived at the house, having moved back home the previous month after completing a master’s degree program.  Thomas frequently traveled for business and was out of town during the latter part of October.

On Friday, October 28, Katelyn went to a weekend church retreat with her friend, Samantha.  Defendant was home when Samantha came to pick Katelyn up.  Despite the fact defendant and Samantha “had been good friends and he had previously been a groomsman in her ․ wedding,” defendant “seemed like he wasn’t very comfortable” talking to her and “ended up leaving pretty quickly.”  Before Katelyn left for the retreat, her mother agreed to pick her up at the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton the following Sunday, October 30.  The plan was for Katelyn to call her mother about an hour before she arrived at the school.

The morning of October 30, Kathleen went to church with one of defendant’s older brothers, Justin, and his family.  Sometime during the day, she called another of defendant’s older brothers, Colin, and left him a voicemail.  Colin returned her call around 4:00 p.m. She was making jambalaya for a potluck the following day and needed instructions on how to use the rice cooker Colin left at his parents’ house when he moved out.  The potluck was part of a victims advocacy training program;  Kathleen signed up to become a volunteer advocate in the program through her church.  Colin provided his mother with the requested instructions.  Kathleen mentioned during the phone call that she planned to pick Katelyn up that evening.  Colin described his mother’s mood as “very good.”

Around 5:00 p.m., Katelyn called her mother to let her know she was about an hour away from UOP. There was no answer so Katelyn left a message on the home answering machine.  A few minutes later, she received a call from defendant’s cell phone, but the call ended “almost immediately.”  Katelyn thought the call was a mistake because defendant “almost never” called her, so she did not try to call him back.  Instead, she called her mother’s cell phone, which also went unanswered.  Katelyn left a voicemail.  About a minute later, she received another call from defendant, who claimed he was “just calling to see how [she was].”  Katelyn told him she had been trying to reach their mother to pick her up.  Defendant responded:  “Oh, yeah, I think the home phone hasn’t really been working.”  Katelyn said she also tried their mother’s cell phone.  Defendant responded:  “Oh, yeah, I don’t think that’s been working, either.  I think she’s having trouble with those two.”  Assuming defendant was home, Katelyn asked him to find out whether their mother was still coming to pick her up.  Defendant replied sternly:  “I’m not at home, Katelyn.  I’m not at home.”  Katelyn then asked defendant whether their mother asked him to pick her up.  Defendant denied having been asked to do so before ending the call.  Katelyn found the conversation to be “bizarre” because defendant rarely called her, and especially not “to just chat.”  A couple minutes later, Katelyn tried the home phone again and left another message.

Closer to 6:00 p.m., as Katelyn was approaching UOP, she called the home phone three more times, leaving a final message, and also tried her mother’s cell phone once more.  Two minutes after Katelyn’s last message on the answering machine, defendant again called her.  This time, defendant said:  “Oh, you know what?  We actually sort of talked about that, like maybe we had talked about maybe I could come pick you up.”  Defendant also “made a few remarks about how [their mother] had just been seeming kind of tired that day.”  Katelyn agreed to have defendant pick her up and hung up the phone.

Kathleen was murdered in her bedroom sometime between her conversation with Colin and Katelyn’s missed calls.  She was stabbed ten times in the neck, chest, and abdomen.  There was also evidence of neck compression.  Strong circumstantial evidence pointed to defendant as the murderer, including the fact the jacket defendant was wearing when he was arrested two days later had his mother’s blood on it, there was no sign of a break-in at the house, Kathleen’s bedroom was “neat, orderly, nothing appeared to have been taken or broken,” defendant was the only other family member at the house that weekend, the strange phone calls between defendant and Katelyn described above, and his equally strange and incriminating behavior after he picked her up at UOP, which we recount immediately below.

Defendant’s Attempts to Prevent Discovery of the Body

Katelyn’s friend Samantha and Samantha’s husband, Ben, waited with Katelyn until defendant arrived at about 6:30 p.m. Katelyn and Samantha were walking another girl to her apartment near the UOP campus when defendant pulled into the parking lot.  Defendant engaged in “small talk” with Ben while he waited for Katelyn to get back, but Ben “got the impression he didn’t want to really talk.”  When Katelyn and Samantha returned and joined the conversation, defendant “started looking elsewhere” and “seemed uncomfortable.”  Samantha and Ben then helped Katelyn get her bags loaded into defendant’s car.

As defendant and Katelyn drove away, defendant said he had “some errands” to run, including picking up his “medicine,” which Katelyn understood to be marijuana.  Katelyn assumed these would be local errands.  Instead, defendant got on the freeway and headed north to Sacramento.  During the drive, defendant seemed “more social” than he had been in recent years.  Katelyn described:  “He actually seemed like he was in a good mood.  He seemed cheerful.  He was talkative and chatty and just seeming like very casual.”  Defendant talked “positively” about their mother, saying:  “Oh, yeah, she’s been doing great on her diet.  She’s lost 21 pounds in the last four weeks, but this diet she’s doing it’s only like 500 calories a day.  She’s been acting really tired lately.  I think it’s not enough calories for her.  She’s been seeming really tired.”

At some point, Katelyn mentioned her lips were chapped.  Defendant offered to stop at a drugstore so she could pick up some Blistex, which surprised Katelyn because defendant rarely offered to do things for people, at least during the previous few months.  When defendant stopped at a Walgreens in Sacramento, Katelyn went inside, bought the Blistex, and used the restroom at the store.  She then returned to the car, but defendant was not there.  Katelyn found defendant inside the store, “sort of pacing the aisles.”

After Walgreens, defendant and Katelyn drove to a fast food restaurant to get some food.  They ate in the car on the way to pick up the marijuana, but defendant appeared to be lost.  He apologized and said:  “I usually come out here in the daylight, but it’s dark this time, so I’m—it’s throwing me off a little bit.”  After about an hour of “driving up and down ․ the same few streets,” Katelyn asked defendant:  “Is there a specific street that you’re looking for?”  They arrived at the apparent destination soon thereafter, which was “maybe a minute or two away” from where they started at the Walgreens.  Defendant parked at a Mexican restaurant and said:  “I know this might seem a little strange, but Mom understands.  We’ve done this before.  I need to park here and walk to where I’m going to go.”  Katelyn stayed in the car and locked the doors.  Defendant returned from wherever he went about 20 minutes later and said he vomited during the walk back to the car.

Defendant then drove Katelyn back to their home in Manteca, arriving just before 11:00 p.m., about four hours after they left UOP. Katelyn unloaded her bags in her room and then walked to the bathroom.  Defendant stopped her in the hallway and said:  “Katelyn, Mom’s asleep.”  Katelyn described his tone as “abrupt and urgent.”  She found the warning to be strange since she assumed their mother was asleep and did not normally bother her in the middle of the night.  Katelyn used the bathroom and then returned to her room.  At various points later in the night, she left her room and found defendant “sort of pacing in the hallways.”

The next morning, defendant was already up when Katelyn emerged from her room.  He asked whether she got his text message.  Katelyn’s cell phone died the night before, so she had not.  Defendant explained he texted her earlier in the morning to say their mother got up at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. and told him she had not slept well so she would be staying in bed for the day.  When defendant went outside for a few minutes, Katelyn knocked lightly on their mother’s door and called for her, but did not receive a response.  She tried to open the door, but it was locked.  Concerned, but also conflicted because of what defendant told her about their mother not sleeping well the night before, Katelyn knocked a little louder and again called for her mother, but again received no response.  Katelyn then went outside to try to look into her mother’s window, but the shutters were closed.  Feeling like she was being “paranoid” because she did not have any reason to disbelieve defendant, Katelyn returned to her room.  She then went about her day.

At defendant’s suggestion, which he claimed was a request their mother made earlier that morning, defendant drove Katelyn to the bank so she could take care of an errand there.  Katelyn described his demeanor as “much like the previous night,” explaining:  “He was being unusually, you know, cheerful, seeming—being chatty and just, you know, eager to have conversations, and just being very casual.”  After Katelyn was done at the bank, defendant asked if she needed to go anywhere else, suggesting Target.  Katelyn said she did not need to go to Target and asked if he did.  Defendant answered:  “Not really.  Just for fun.  Just to go walk around Target.”  Katelyn then asked to go to the AT & T store located on the way back to the house to buy a phone charger.  Defendant suggested they go to a different AT & T store farther away from the house.  After picking up the charger, they returned home.  Katelyn then went out to lunch with a friend.  When she returned later in the afternoon, defendant was not home.

Around 5:30 p.m., still seeing no sign of her mother, Katelyn decided to check on her again.  Knocking on her door and calling for her, progressively louder with each attempt, Katelyn again received no response.  She then called her brother Justin, who told her to call 911, which she did.  Emergency responders arrived a short time later, broke the lock off the bedroom door, and found Kathleen’s body in the condition previously described.  Police were then dispatched to the scene.  Defendant was arrested early the next morning.  As mentioned, his mother’s blood was on his jacket when he was taken into custody.

Manteca Woman Stabbed To Death; Son Accused
Family grieves for slain mom, struggles to understand the son who killed her
Police recover bloody mask
Jury finds man sane in mother’s stabbing death
Man gets life for killing his mom
16 years to life for man who killed his mom
The People of the State of California v Dawson Andrew McGehee 2016 (conviction and sentence affirmed)

Movies/Documentaries
Snapped: Dawson McGehee

INMATE INFORMATION

Inmate Name MCGEHEE, DAWSON ANDREW
CDCR Number AN4127
Age 32
Admission Date 02/05/2013
Current Location Mule Creek State Prison
Parole Eligible Date (Month/Year) 09/2024

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