By Signal Staff Writers Caleb Lunetta & Raychel Stewart.
Michelle Dorsey always put her kids first.
As members of her community mourned her loss, that’s how they remember the 39-year-old Saugus mother of three, putting her kids first, even as she was making a hushed 911 call while mortally wounded with multiple stab wounds allegedly inflicted by her estranged husband as her children slept in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Gathered in front of their small cul de sac on Fir Court, her neighbors expressed their shock and dismay at learning of her death. Many expressed that she was a dedicated parent and kind to all those around her, regardless of who they were.
“Michelle was an amazing mother, daughter, sister and friend,” said Danielle Quemuel, a lifelong friend of Dorsey’s who has been helping the family in the aftermath of the tragedy. “She was the type of person that put everybody first and herself last.”
According to Quemuel, even during her separation and filing for a restraining order against her estranged husband, James Matthew Dorsey, 41, who she named as her attacker just before she died, the mother placed her three sons, aged 13, 11, and 9, at the center of her life.
“When it came time for her (separation), it was all about her children, the love for her children, how she wanted those boys to be raised and taken care of,” said Quemuel. “Michelle has always taken family first.”
“That was always Michelle, even in high school. Michelle was that way with friends and family. She was just so sweet and always giving, and always receiving last.”
Dorsey was raised in the Santa Clarita Valley, particularly the Castaic area. She attended Live Oak Community Elementary School, Castaic Middle School, and eventually Valencia High School before going on to complete her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The love she showed those around her, especially her children, extended until her very last act, according to Quemuel.
“She was a hero yesterday,” said Quemuel, speaking of the final moments of Dorsey’s life, after her estranged husband is suspected of having entered their home in the early morning hours while their three boys were still asleep. “She kept it very quiet, she did not want the boys to hear. And she composed herself to a point that they wouldn’t know.
“That to me is a mom taking care of her kids.”
Quemuel said that just after Dorsey had been stabbed multiple times, she was able to call 911 herself. She was pronounced dead at the hospital soon after, and James Dorsey would allegedly steal her Chevy Malibu. Shortly before 5 p.m., he would crash the vehicle on a remote road in Quartz Hill and keep deputies in a standoff for more than five hours before being taken into custody.
In a statement she signed on Aug. 27, 2019, Dorsey had said she was “afraid that the violence would reoccur” when she gave notice to James Dorsey that she was filing for a legal separation and restraining order.
“Ultimately, restraining orders are given if a victim is being harassed or intimidated to the point where they do not feel safe,” said Krysta Warfield, program director of the domestic violence program at the SCV Child & Family Center. “The most dangerous time for a victim is when they leave or when they’re preparing to leave an abuser, so a restraining order can be necessary.”
Warfield added violence can still occur after a restraining order is served, and the stigma of “just leaving the situation” isn’t the end of domestic violence.
“A victim can do everything right, they can leave the situation, get a restraining order, but sometimes it’s not enough,” Warfield said. “This is a prime example of how ‘just leaving’ isn’t enough.”
Dorsey is survived by her three sons, sister Jessica, her brother DJ and mother, Cheryl.
Following the events on Thursday, Dorsey’s three sons were given over to the custody of her mother. Since the news broke Thursday, dozens of families have signed up to provide meals and support for the children who lost their mother.
In the comments section of a GoFundMe page, community members and even first responders who were called to the scene of the murder on Thursday have expressed their grief and desire to remember the kind mother by supporting her children. The proceeds for the GoFundMe will go to assist Cheryl, who although only a few years from retiring, will now take custody of the three boys.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau did not provide additional details on James Dorsey’s arrest as of this publication.
Those wishing to financially assist the Dorsey boys can donate at the following page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/dorsey-boys-fundraiser?qid=91039535169d06c877880b20ee220f15.
Anyone experiencing domestic violence can seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or reach out to the Santa Clarita Valley Child & Family Center’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 661-259-4357.