Guilty: Jury finds Raynella Dossett-Leath guilty in murder of husband

9:58 AM, Jan 26, 2010   |    comments
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  • Raynella Dossett-Leath in court
  • Raynella Dossett-Leath
  • David Leath

A Knox County woman, twice a widow, and twice accused of murdering those husbands, has now been convicted in the death of one of them.

A Knox County jury found Raynella Dossett-Leath guilty of first degree murder shortly before 2 p.m. on Monday for the death of her second husband, David Leath.

Leath, a retired barber, died of gunshot wound to the head on March 13, 2003.

After the foreman announced they found the defendant guilty, Dossett-Leath's jaw dropped in shock and her daughters began to cry.

Judge Richard Baumgartner immediately sentenced Dossett-Leath to life in prison with the possibility of parole.  The judge then cleared the courtroom as he allowed her to say good-bye to her family.

"The hardest ordeal to endure was taking her to the dark dank cell and telling that woman 'the Lord has a plan'," Dossett-Leath's defense attorney Jim A.H. Bell said.  "She's in jail being fingerprinted.  We're getting her medicines to her, getting the nursing staff to do a clinical assessment."

Bell befriended Dossett-Leath and her first husband Ed Dossett when they were in college.  The defense attorney plans to stabilize her family and his staff as they cope with the shock of Monday's verdict.  "Getting knocked down hurts," Bell said.  "Getting back up hurts worse."

Bell said the 61-year old breast cancer survivor will be transported by officers on Tuesday to a prison in Nashville.  On that same day, her oldest daughter, Maggie Conaster is scheduled to deliver a baby boy.

"We have great sympathy for the children of Raynella Dossett-Leath and the hardship they must be going through but we were called here to do a job," prosecutor Joseph "Mac" McCoin said.

Before marrying Dossett-Leath in 1993, David Leath was married to Peggy Rowe for 7 years.  They had a daughter together.

His only daughter has waited nearly 7 years for a resolution to her father's case.

"Everybody can rest now," Cynthia Wilkerson said.  "My dad can rest in peace and it will be closure for my kids.  I love him and I miss him still everyday."

"We finally seen justice and our family's been through it for so long," Peggy Rowe said as she cried outside the courtroom.

During an interview after the verdict, prosecutor Cindy Lecroy-Schemel said they learned from the hung jury in March 2009.  "I believe we closed the gap as to any question as to whether it was homicide or suicide, and I believe because of that, the jury was able to see in fact that it was homicide and that she [Dossett-Leath] was the only person who had access and motive to commit the homicide."

"I think Knox County should be proud today, the cup of justice is full," Lecroy-Schemel said.

While emotions were running high on Monday afternoon, the Leath family and prosecutors congratulated Knox County Sheriff's Detective Perry Moyers.

The defense attacked Moyers investigation of the case in both trials, and had the detective followed by an investigator during this trial.

"They attacked him in a personal way which was inappropriate and he has suffered long and greatly with this case as all of us have," McCoin said.

Leath still faces another trial in August for the death of her first husband, Ed Dossett.

Prosecutors anticipate the defense will file for a new trial and they will announce at that time if they will pursue the Dossett murder case.

Final look

Jurors looked intense as they walked into the courtroom on Monday afternoon.

Shortly after 1 p.m. the panel asked to see the crime scene video shot by the Knox County Sheriff's Department at 3031 Solway.

For the second time during the trial, jurors watched as an investigator carried the video camera into David Leath's bedroom.

Raynella Dossett-Leath turned her back to the video as it played in the courtroom.

One woman on the jury covered her face as the camera zoomed in on Leath's face to show the bullet wound to his head.

While the courtroom remained silent for the showing, sounds of the defendant's daughter's sniffling and crying could be heard.

Maggie and Katie were comforted by their aunt as they cried.

On the other side of the aisle, Cynthia Wilkerson cried as she looked at her father's body.

Previous coverage

The fate of a retired nurse from Solway remains in the hands of 12 Knox County jurors.

Shortly before 9 a.m. Monday morning, the panel resumed deliberations to decide if Raynella Dossett-Leath is guilty of killing her second husband, David Leath.

Leath was 57 years old when deputies found him shot to death in his bed in his Solway home.

His widow told investigators he had been depressed and shot himself.

However, the Knox County Medical Examiner said the gun was fired was fired from 12 to 14 inches away from his head.

Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan also testified she found sedatives in Leath's system.

It has been nearly 7 years since Dossett-Leath called deputies to her home at 3031 Solway.

Since then, the widow has faced two different panels of Knox County jurors.

In the first trial for the death of David Leath in March 2009, Dossett-Leath's trial ended in hung jury.

On Sunday, the second jury to hear the case deliberated for 6 hours before leaving for the night without agreeing on a verdict.

The retired nurse is also expected to face another Knox County jury in August for the death of her first husband, Ed Dossett. Dossett, a former Knox County District Attorney, was found dead among his cattle, and his death was originally considered a farming accident.

However, toxicology reports indicated an extraordinary level of morphine in his system, to the point the medical examiner opined he wouldn't have been able to walk at all. Dossett was terminally ill with cancer and on a morphine pump at the time of his death.

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