Arraignment continued for estranged husband accused of murdering Michelle Dorsey

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies investigate a stabbing on Fir Court in Saugus on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Tim Whyte/The Signal

For the second time since his arrest, Michelle Dorsey’s estranged husband — who is accused of having killed his wife in her Saugus home last month — had a continuation of his arraignment.  

James Dorsey, 41, has been charged on suspicion of having driven down from the state of Washington to attack his wife at her Fir Court home in the early morning hours of April 15. Investigators have expressed their belief that, after stabbing Michelle Dorsey multiple times, James Dorsey then stole her vehicle from in front of the house and led law enforcement on a daylong manhunt throughout northern Los Angeles County.  

The search ended at around 4:45 p.m. that day, after James Dorsey crashed Michelle Dorsey’s Chevy Malibu on a remote road in Quartz Hill. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies took Dorsey into custody at around 10 p.m., after an hourslong standoff. 

Dorsey has been accused of one count of each of the following: murder, attempted kidnapping, residential burglary, evading police and resisting a law enforcement officer. The degree of murder was not declared as that process generally occurs in the later stages of a case. 

After appearing in court Monday for his first continued arraignment, Dorsey saw his case continued once again and was ordered to return on May 17 to enter his plea.  

During an arraignment, defendants are asked to enter a plea to the charges levied against them — guilty, not guilty or no contest — and the issues of bail and release, as well as a future court date, are decided upon.  

Officials from the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said arraignment hearings can be continued for a litany of reasons, especially for murder cases. However, specifically in Dorsey’s case, leniency was needed for his legal defense, which resulted in the delays.  

“It was the first appearance for the new public defender working on the case,” said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, “that’s why the arraignment was continued.”  

Court documents show that the charges don’t have accompanying sentencing enhancements, a process by which prosecutors can seek life without parole for certain defendants if there are certain extenuating circumstances in the case, meaning that Dorsey could face a maximum 20 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole — when elder parole and good behavior are considered. 

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