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The Florida TImes-Union Jacksonville
Published Wednesday, November 23, 2005
While his 5-year-old son played in the cool outside air at home Tuesday evening, Darren Dorsey sat in a Clay County jail, rocked by what he said he had done.
“‘I’m sorry’ isn’t going to cover it when you do something so heinous, so drastic,” Dorsey said, trying to explain what drove him to race his car down a Doctors Lake dock Monday with the boy inside and launch it into the water.
In what investigators said was a botched murder-suicide attempt, Dorsey is charged with attempted murder and aggravated child abuse and jailed in lieu of a $1 million bail.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“It had built up from my older son and I couldn’t deal with it. That’s the bottom line.”
“I’m sure everyone is really upset with me.”
“I know why I did it but it’s not really an answer.”
“He said that the water was swirling all around him,” she said of her son. “He said he never wants to be in an accident again and that the never wants to be in the water again.”
“Today he is very whiny. I think he realized that something bad happened.”
“Sometimes you don’t get to understand why things have happened.”
ARCHIVE: Woman rescues boy from sinking car (11/22/05)
Under a suicide watch, wearing shackles and a quilted suicide suit, the 39-year-old father described how he took his son from school, fed him at his apartment and how the two talked before getting into the car Monday afternoon.
Pressures in his life, including a recent separation from his wife, had gotten too great, Dorsey said.
“For years and years and years I tried to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
Melissa Hawkinson (left) smiles with Cameron Dorsey, 5, his mother Alicia Dorsey (right) and Ashley Anderson, 10. “By the grace of God I’m not burying him,” Alicia Dorsey said. JOHN PEMBERTON/The Times-Union
Just miles north of the jail, Cameron Dorsey laughed and played in front of television cameras and reporters that afternoon, bruised but not seriously hurt after a passer-by pulled him from that sinking car the day before.
“By the grace of God I’m not burying him,” his mother, Alicia Dorsey, said. “I’m watching him play.”
And although the bruises are superficial, Dorsey said her son has been marked.
“He asked if his dad was dead,” she said. “He said, ‘I think my dad is dead.'”
In an emotional moment late Tuesday afternoon, the mother met the woman who saved Cameron from the car. Melissa Hawkinson, 41, who jumped into the water and pulled the crying youngster from the back seat, arrived at Dorsey’s house about 6:30 p.m. to a tearful reception.
“You’re my new best friend,” Dorsey told Hawkinson before giving her a vase of flowers.
Investigtors said if Hawkinson had not gone into the water, it is likely Cameron would have drowned.
Alicia Dorsey, 35, filed a petition for a protective injunction against her husband and on behalf of her son Tuesday, but a Clay County judge had not made a ruling by the afternoon.
“I am very angry,” she said. “Up until then he had been an excellent father. And for him to take our child and do the unthinkable, it blew me away.”
In the petition, Dorsey said her husband tried to kill their son when he drove into the lake. She also states that her husband was in a psychiatric ward about a year ago but gives no further information. She said he suffers from depression and anxiety and has a drug problem involving the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and anti-depressant Prozac.
Investigators with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said Dorsey left his new teaching job Monday morning and picked up his son at another school, spending time with him before driving into the Eagle Harbor subdivision that rests against Doctors Lake.
Witnesses watched as Dorsey’s Volkswagen Jetta picked up speed and roared down the 200-yard dock from Lakeshore Drive, running off its end and plowing into the water.
“He told me his dad said they were going to the doctor’s office,” Alicia Dorsey said. “Then he told me he said his dad said he was sorry. Before they went into the water.”
Neither father nor son was seriously injured, but the act shocked and confused family members and friends and spotlighted old and new difficulties the Dorseys faced.
Darren and Alicia Dorsey had known each other since 1998 and married in 1999, then built a brick house on Fleming Island they moved into two weeks before Cameron was due to be born.
In the six years they lived in the house, banker Darren Dorsey and nurse Alicia Dorsey had struggles.
The couple filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2004. The filings showed that they had $224,000 in assets, including a home worth $195,000 and that they owed $149,000 on it as part of their $277,000 in debts. They also had more than $40,000 in credit card debts.
Darren Dorsey was laid off in 2004 and became a substitute teacher. He became a full-time reading teacher this year at Orange Park Junior High.
In an evaluation by an assistant principal at Thunderbolt Elementary School when he was a substitute teacher, Dorsey was described as “always helpful, polite and a good role model for students.”
In October, Dorsey moved out to an apartment, where he has had weekend visitation with Cameron.
Despite the teaching job he enjoyed, Dorsey said he had been depressed. He said the family’s financial trouble stemmed in large part from legal battles with an ex-girlfriend over visitation involving their son, now 8. In the past year, visitation with that son has been strictly limited, he said
“It wrecked our marriage, it wrecked our finances, it ruined everything,” he said.
He said he wanted to sell the house to get back on their feet, but his wife would not.
Alicia Dorsey’s friend, Amy Barr, said Alicia saw the house as a way to keep the family together and stable.
“She is holding the family together, working to keep this house,” Barr said. “She’s a role model for motherhood.”
Over the weekend, Cameron stayed with his father. Dorsey said he was reminded of past pain with his older son.
“He’s 5 years old,” he said of Cameron. “He just doesn’t understand. ‘When are you going to come home? Why do you live in an apartment?'”
Dorsey said he dropped his son off at school Monday but could not work.
“I wasn’t in any condition to teach,” he said. “It was almost like being sick and just wanting to go home.
“Basically, the end result is what happened.”
Times-Union writer Jim Schoettler contributed to this report.
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