Update: Kathleen Dorsett to Serve at Least 51 Years in Murder of Ex-Husband

man repairing girl bike smallMay 15, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Kathleen, Thomas and Lesley Dorsett all pleaded guilty last week in connection with the murder of Kathleen Dorsett’s ex-husband, Stephen Moore. Read the latest here (Asbury Park Press, 5/10/3). Prosecutors recommended sentences of

  • Fifty-eight years, with a 51-year period of parole ineligibility, for Kathleen Dorsett;
  • Fifty years, with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility, for Thomas Dorsett;
  • Eight years, with an almost-seven-year period of parole ineligibility, for Lesley Dorsett.

Here and here are my original articles on the murder.

Moore and Kathleen married in 2007 and, by 2010, had a 20 month old daughter. They divorced and of course Kathleen got primary custody. But Stephen started demanding more time with his daughter which Kathleen resisted. Also, their divorce decree specified that, if Kathleen moved to Florida, she had to provide Stephen with living accommodations and not charge him more than $600 a month rent. Sure enough, the whole Dorsett clan planned to move from their native New Jersey to Florida and Moore, not wanting to lose contact with his daughter, planned to move too.

All of that seemed to provoke the Dorsetts who are invariably described as a “close-knit” family. So they all planned Stephen Moore’s murder. Here’s how Kathleen described it in court:

Kathleen Dorsett knew the end was near for her ex-husband, Stephen, when she sent him to pick up tools that he left at her house.

Stephen Moore had no idea what was waiting for him that day, when he dropped his 20-month-old daughter at his ex-wife’s house.

“I took my daughter into the house, knowing all the time my father was back there, waiting to kill him,” said Dorsett, a former third-grade teacher in Neptune.

As she changed her daughter’s diaper, she heard screaming coming from the driveway, she said.

…Kathleen Dorsett told of how after she heard her ex-husband’s dying screams, she went back outside. He was lying in the driveway, so she got down next to him to shield his body from her neighbor, who was yelling out her window, asking what was wrong. Later that day, she told the neighbor the dog was having a seizure, a former county jail inmate testified earlier this year…

Then, Kathleen Dorsett said she and her father lifted Moore’s body into the trunk of his mother’s car and her father drove off in it.

She said she met her father at Rooney’s restaurant in Long Branch, and then followed him to another location in Long Branch to abandon the car. She drove her father home, and they cleaned up the area where her former husband had been killed, she said.

She later learned her father disposed of the cleanup items in a dumpster at Rooney’s, she said in court Thursday.

Prosecutors say Thomas Dorsett paid another man — Anthony Morris of Long Branch — $3,000 to set the car on fire. When he entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to desecrate human remains, Morris admitted he took the money, but claimed he did not set the fire, which took place down the street from the apartment where he had been living.

It didn’t take the police long to figure that one out. After all, Stephen and Kathleen were having a custody dispute and – lo and behold! – he ended up “missing.” Morris, the man who torched the car, rolled on both of them the first time police questioned him, and Thomas and Kathleen were jailed and charged with murder.

But the three weren’t finished. While in jail awaiting trial, Kathleen found something else that warranted murder, at least in her mind. With Stephen dead and Kathleen behind bars, the family court had to place their daughter in someone’s care. That person turned out to be Evlyn Moore, Stephen’s mother, which didn’t sit well with Kathleen. She started talking to a fellow inmate about murdering Evlyn and of course the inmate told her she could find someone to do the job.

Instead, she went straight to the police who set up an undercover officer as a “hit man.” Kathleen dragooned her mother Lesley into making the arrangements and delivering the $1,000 down payment on the hit. In due course, she did so and was herself arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Into the bargain, Thomas and Lesley were involved in laundering money – about $96,000. What that has to do with the murder of Stephen Moore, if anything, I have no idea. What it looks like is that the Dorsetts were a family, however “close-knit,” that all too readily turned to crime to solve their problems. After all, one murder and a second attempted one, just because Dad wanted to see his kid, seems a bit excessive, don’t you think?

In all this, Stephen Moore has been largely forgotten. The linked-to article has only this to say about him:

Donald Lomurro, the Freehold Township attorney representing the interests of the little girl, said the tireless work of the prosecuting attorneys and detectives led to the plea agreements and admissions of wrongdoing by the Dorsett family. But, he said, nothing will change the fact that a child will now grow up without her father.

“As we reflect on the events of today, the one thing of which we should not lose sight is that a good 42-year-old man will never get to raise his daughter and see her graduate from high school, marry and all the significant events in her life to which he was looking forward,” Lomurro said.

In his younger days, Stephen Moore was a world-class speed skater. More recently, he seems to have been loved and respected by many. Here’s a quotation from an article back in 2010:

“Stephen never had a mean bone in his body,” said Donn Calvano, who was Moore’s skating coach after he moved to New Jersey about seven years ago. “His life revolved around his daughter and his mother who needed his help. Skating was his passion…”

Missy Queen, his former roommate and skating buddy for more than 20 years, says Moore was the best roommate she has ever had.

“Stephen was loved by many, many people here in Orange County,” said Queen, sobbing. “He did not deserve to die like this.”

He sounds like a thoroughly decent man. Funny, isn’t it; just 2 1/2 years after his murder, he’s largely omitted from the article about the plea bargains of his killers.

As I mentioned in my first piece on the murder of Stephen Moore, it’s a classic case of maternal gatekeeping gone to its greatest extreme. Kathleen Dorsett had decided to cut Stephen out of his daughter’s life. He resisted and paid the highest price a father can pay – to be bludgeoned to death because he loved his daughter.

The connections between parents and children can be amazing to behold.

Oh, and do I have to add that no article has yet referred to this case as domestic violence?

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