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Palm Coast Friday, May 18, 2018 1 year ago

Dorothy Singer convicted of first-degree murder in February 2017 killing of her husband, Charles Singer

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The defense argued that Charles Singer's killing was in self defense.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

A Flagler County jury didn't believe Dorothy Singer's stories.

Dorothy Singer had testified in the final day of her first-degree murder trial May18 that on the day of her husband Charles "Butch" Singer's death, he'd killed her kittens and laid them out on her porch steps for her to find. Then later that day, carrying her gun, he'd dragged her out toward a hog cage behind the property, saying he'd lock her inside so she couldn't eat, and threatening to kill her, she said. It was a struggle at the hog cage, she said, that killed him when the gun went off and hit him in the chest. 

"I was petrified, I was terrified," she told the jury. "He took me outside, dragged me outside. ... by the hair, and it was just a struggle. ... He was going to put me in the hog cage, the trap, so I couldn’t eat. ... We are struggling and (the gun) went off."

The jury of seven women and five men was not convinced, and they convicted Singer of first-degree murder in the February 2017 killing of her husband at the couple's home at 80 Pine Tree Lane in western Bunnell.

The jury deliberated for about three hours and 45 minutes before handing down its verdict. Judge Dennis Craig then sentenced Singer to mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.

CONFLICTING STORIES

Prosecutor Jennifer Dunton shows the jury the firearm used to kill Charles "Butch" Singer. (Photo by Jonathan Simmons)

By the time Dorothy Singer testified in the trial, the jury had heard a number of different variations of the story of Charles Singer's death from Dorothy Singer.

In a suicide note — which she'd addressed to Sheriff's Office detective Annie Conrad and left in a car parked at Matanzas Inlet for detectives to find, before trying to flee the state — Dorothy Singer had written that her husband had shot once toward her feet to try to get her into the hog pen. After that, she wrote, she didn't remember much, but remembered emptying the gun until it clicked. 

But there was a problem with that story: The revolver had five shots, and Charles Singer had been shot five times. If he'd fired toward her first, that would have made six shots.

Under questioning by prosecutor Jennifer Dunton, Dorothy Singer contradicted her suicide note, and said she didn't recall if Charles Singer had shot into the ground.

Dunton pointed out that the gun only had five shots, and said that Dorothy Singer had had more than a month to come up with the story that she wrote into the suicide note.

Dunton then got Dorothy Singer to admit to a string of lies:

Dorothy Singer had told detectives before her arrest that her husband had left after an argument and that he'd taken his wallet, credit cards and phone. That was a lie: She admitted on the stand that she'd had been using his credit and EBT cards after his death. 

She admitted that she'd been using his phone to impersonate him through text messages to his family members to make them think he was still alive.

She admitted she'd played an old voicemail of her husband's to a detective to make it sound like he was still alive. 

She admitted she'd lied to detectives when she told them she thought her husband was just staying away to "mess with" her. 

As to the story about the alleged killing of the kittens, Dunton said, Dorothy Singer hadn't mentioned that to any family members and hadn't mentioned it to the detectives on the case, either. 

And although Dorothy Singer had told a detective that she'd emailed photos of her domestic violence injuries to her mother, investigators weren't able to recover any such photos on her mother's phone. Dorothy Singer's mother, asked in court if she'd received those photos, said, "No, I’d be the last one that she would have sent them to."

And although Dorothy Singer's defense alleged during the trial that her husband had beaten her and that the killing was accidental as she fought for her life, Dorothy Singer had met with detectives numerous times between her husbands's killing in early February 2017 and her arrest on May 9, 2017, and didn't tell law enforcement that her husband had beaten her until detectives were walking her property's yard, where they ultimately found her husband buried under an overturned jon boat and a pile of brush, wrapped up in a tarp and a bed comforter. 

AFTER THE KILLING

According to the prosecution, Charles Singer didn't die in the area out near the hog pen where his body was found. He died in his bed, where crime scene investigators found a large spray of blood caked across the headboard. 

A prosecution presentation slide showed the overturned jon boat and pile of brush under which detectives found Charles Singer's body.

He'd been shot once through the chest, once through the temple, and three times in a tight pattern on the top of the head.

Then. according to there prosecution, Dorothy Singer wrapped his body in a blanket, dragged him out near the hog pen, covered him with brush and a tarp, placed moth balls around his body and overturned the Jon boat on top of him.

Dorothy Singer told the jury she didn't remember placing the mothballs. But she did remember planning with a friend to flee the state. That friend contacted law enforcement, and deputies then stopped their car as it headed north on Stat Road A1A, and arrested Dorothy Singer.

Singer admitted on the witness stand that she'd left the suicide note in her car at Matanzas Inlet, along with two pill bottles that were each empty except for a single pill, to make it look like she'd killed herself.

THE DEFENSE

According to Dorothy Singer's defense team, Dorothy Singer was a battered woman who'd been attacked multiple times by Charles Singer. 

Defense attorneys Junior Barrett and Kevin Carlisle called several of Dorothy Singer's family members, including her mother and two daughters, to testify that they'd seen Dorothy with marks on her.

The two daughters both testified that they'd seen, after the killing, injuries on their mother.

One of those daughters — who'd moved in to Dorothy Singer's doublewide trailer less than two weeks after the murder and was sleeping with her boyfriend in the bed with the headboard that had been smeared with Charlie Singer's blood — said she'd seen bruises that looked like finger marks on her mother's neck. 

There was also a section of hair pulled out of her mother's head, she said, and a long cut on the back of her leg. (Singer initially said that the cut on her leg came from a dog. Later, she said that she'd gotten it as her husband tried to force her into the hog pen.)

Other family members also testified to seeing injuries, and to witnessing a violent incident in Interlachen years earlier, before Dorothy Singer married Charles Singer, in which he'd attacked her, dragged her by the hair and kicked her, according to their accounts.

One acquaintance who lived in Daytona North testified that he'd seen Dorothy Singer in her car outside the store at Cody's Corner with injuries, including a black eye, after the killing. 

Barrett said that it didn't make sense that his client could have shot her husband in the top of the head when he was lying in bed, with his head toward the headboard. 

He also said it would have been difficult for her to have dragged her husband's body the 150-plus feet from the house to the site where the body was found, and to do it without leaving any blood along the way.

"That defies common sense. That makes no sense," he said. 

He also pointed out that Singer had bought the mothballs and tarp she'd used to conceal the body after her husband's killing, not before, suggesting, he said, that the killing was not premeditated.

THE PROSECUTION

Charles Singer was legally blind. He wasn't so blind he couldn't see at all, especially if he had glasses on, but he could see well enough to drive. 

"To believe her story, to believe Dorothy Singer’s story, you have to believe that a legally blind man who was all but blind without his glasses, grabbed her off the couch with her in his left hand, a gun in his right hand ... and without his shoes and without his glasses, in the dark in the middle of the night, he drug her out there with a comforter and pillow resting on his shoulder," Dunton said, summarizing Dorothy Singer's most recent version of events.

It's reasonable to believe that Charles Singer, after an argument, fell asleep in bed, "not necessarily with (his) head at the headboard," and that she shot him in bed as he slept, Dunton said. 

Dorothy Singer, Dunton said, had told "lie after lie after lie," changing her story repeatedly. The story about the dead kittens, Dunton said, only came out at the trial. "It’s a ploy on your sympathy,” Dunton said.

As to the relative lack of blood in the house, she said, the medical examiner had testified that the kinds of wounds Charles Singer sustained from the 22-caliber revolver would not have bled copiously. 

And although there was a good distance between the house and the place where Charles Singer's body was found, Dorothy Singer could have dragged him out into the yard on his bedsheets, and had plenty of time to do it, Dunton said. 

"Something made her mad at Butch, and she wanted to get along without him," Dunton said. "Her actions after the homicide indicate consciousness of guilt. She buried his body, she took his cards, she continued to access his account, she lied and lied and lied and lied."

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