Obsession with house he lost was the death of Dallas man
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, September 11, 2010
By SELWYN CRAWFORD and TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News
Staff researcher Erin Amburgey-Sood contributed to this report.
A foreclosure forced Donald Pennington Jr. to move out.
Donald Pennington Jr. lost this house on Gayglen Drive in southeast Dallas in 1996, but he kept coming back, harassing each new tenant and insisting it was his.
Police say he was shot by the current resident, Nakisha Kelly, as he harassed her, something authorities and neighbors say he did constantly for the five years she has lived there.
"I think he was delusional in that he believed that he still owned the property and had been harassing her numerous times, and she's filed numerous reports trying to get him restrained from coming onto her property," said Dallas police homicide Sgt. Bruce McDonald. "He believes that he still owns the property. He's constantly coming over and telling her to get off her property."
Kelly wasn't the first to find Pennington, 60, at the home over and over again. Neighbors say previous occupants found him inside the house, watching TV on their sofa, or in the kitchen eating their food.
Kelly, 31, was not charged. She could not be reached for comment, and her father, Will Kelly of Mount Pleasant, referred calls to his attorney. The attorney did not return calls.
McDonald said the case will be referred to a Dallas County grand jury, but from the initial investigation, the shooting seems justified.
"It appears that she was trying to protect herself," he said. "If the evidence didn't support her story, we would have arrested her."
Years of incidents
By most accounts, Tuesday's shooting was the unsurprising end to years of harassment and threats against people who lived in the home after Pennington. Neighbors say – and court documents show – that after Pennington lost the home, he kept behaving as if it were his.
He kept his mail going to that address, even filing a police complaint as recently as three months ago claiming that someone was tampering with it. He would have the utilities disconnected there, and "at times when the house was vacant, he set up residence in the property," records show.
State driver's license records show Pennington listed at the house's address in the 7500 block of Gayglen Drive.
Two neighbors said this week that a former resident came home one day to find Pennington sitting at her kitchen table eating her food. Another time, different residents, a couple, returned to find Pennington lying on their sofa watching television.
Neighbors told police that the harassment was so intense that at least two residents moved away because they could not take it. A third, they said, threatened to kill him if it continued.
Those neighbors also say Pennington, who according to police stood just under 6 feet and weighed more than 300 pounds, often abused his wife, once breaking her arm. She took out a protective order against him in 1992, the year they divorced.
Reached by phone Thursday, she declined to comment.
Pennington's odd behavior apparently escalated after Will Kelly bought the house in 2005 and his daughter moved in. Burgess and other neighbors said Pennington would often stand across the street from the home and stare at it for hours, even during the hottest days of summer.
Court records show he also took out an insurance policy on the property, met with a contractor to have burglar bars installed and would call police to investigate Kelly's visitors. Neighbors said he would call tow trucks to have visitors' cars removed from the property.
"He was just torturing her," said one longtime neighbor who asked that her name not be used. "It was her house but it was like she was in prison."
That torture went to an entirely new level on June 4, 2006, when Kelly was served with official eviction papers ordering her to leave her own home. Pennington had previously filed two eviction lawsuits against Kelly's father – the legal owner – but both were dismissed. But Pennington won a third lawsuit by default after neither Kelly nor her father appeared in court to fight it.
Kelly was able to get that eviction order overturned, and in March 2007 a judge entered a permanent injunction against Pennington. Among other things, the injunction barred him from "entering or trespassing" on Kelly's property or coming within 500 feet of it; "causing any constable to oust" Kelly from the property; or "committing any further acts, harassment or interference" with the Kelly's ownership and occupancy of the property.
Neighbors along Gayglen said the injunction did little to stop Pennington. Willie Burgess, who lives on the street, attended a court proceeding with Kelly and said that when the judge told Pennington that he could send him to jail if he didn't behave, Pennington was unbowed.
" 'I ain't scared of jail,' " Burgess said Pennington replied. " 'I've been to jail before.' "
It's unclear what drove Pennington to the tirades that neighbors say were often profanity laced and threatening. A court document shows that on New Year's Eve 2007, Parkland hospital prescribed a bevy of medications for Pennington, including one often used to treat bipolar disorder and another used to treat depression.
In April, Pennington was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault. Police say he attacked an acquaintance, Sammie Childs, with a knife because he believed Childs shortchanged him over $5 worth of fried chicken.
"He started talking crazy and pulled a knife," Childs said. "He just lost his temper."
The two tussled and both were cut before witnesses broke them up. The case was still pending when he was killed.
Neighbors say the harassment had made Kelly even more distraught recently, especially after someone broke into her home in March. Police said the intruder stole several items including a gun, a DVD player, a computer, and jewelry. The thieves also apparently used Kelly's own gun to shoot her 4-year-old Rottweiler. The dog survived, but
no arrests have been made in the case.
Locksmith called in
Police say that Tuesday night's events began when Pennington called a locksmith to the home telling him that he had been locked out of his house. He verified his right to the property by showing the locksmith a state-issued identification bearing his name and the Gayglen Drive address. But when the locksmith opened the door, police said Kelly appeared with a gun.
The locksmith quickly began to leave and as he did, he heard two gunshots, but did not see the shooting, according to McDonald. He said Kelly, who called 911 and is heard on the tape telling Pennington to get off her porch, fired a warning shot first, and then a second shot that struck Pennington in the head.
"She was terrified of him," said McDonald, who also noted that Kelly was aware of Pennington's arrest in the April stabbing incident and she believed he had a "propensity" for violence. "She said that he started approaching her and started coming towards her and at that point, she was in fear for her life."
Staff researcher Erin Amburgey-Sood contributed to this report.