Dorsey pleads no contest to all charges in death of estranged wife

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies investigate a stabbing on Fir Court in Saugus on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Tim Whyte/The Signal
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The estranged husband accused of killing Michelle Dorsey, 39, in her Saugus home pleaded no contest to five felony charges Monday.  

James Dorsey, 42, pleaded no contest, what is essentially treated as a guilty plea, to the following: murder, attempted kidnapping, residential burglary, evading police and resisting a law enforcement officer.   

Dorsey is now set to return June 21 for sentencing, according to Danielle Quemuel, a spokeswoman for Michelle Dorsey’s family.  

In the wake of Dorsey’s plea, the family was “feeling numb” Monday, Quemuel said, and now eagerly awaiting the sentencing next month.  

“We kind of figured that he was going to plead,” said Quemuel. “He planned it, he drove 18 hours down here, waited a little bit and he did what he did.”  

The case, which resulted in only three court appearances, including Monday, was set to show the evidence investigators had compiled since Dorsey was found fatally wounded at her home on Fir Court on April 15.  

Prosecutors alleged James Dorsey broke into the home and fatally stabbed Michelle Dorsey while their sons slept inside the home. After James Dorsey had fled the home, she was able to call 911, according to sheriff’s officials shortly after the murder. She named her husband as her attacker, and was pronounced dead at the hospital later that same day. 

The charges also stemmed from allegations James Dorsey stole Michelle’s Chevy Malibu and led law enforcement personnel on a Southern California manhunt in search of both the car and their primary suspect in the murder.  

The search ended at around 4:45 p.m. that day, after James Dorsey crashed the 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 hours-long standoff, much of which was televised. 

The family’s eagerness to see what occurs at the sentencing next month is shared by law enforcement officials, who once again expressed on Monday their disdain toward the lack of sentencing enhancements — ways in which prosecutors add years to sentences in particular cases.  

“It would have been nice to have seen enhancements added to the case,” said the lead investigator on the case, Detective Chris Dimmit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “Because, theoretically, with elderly parole, he’ll be eligible for parole in 20 years.” 

When asked how the case had moved relatively quickly in comparison to a number of other murder trials, Dimmit said it could be for a number of reasons: Dorsey having “a change of heart” and not wanting the family to suffer through a lengthy trial; him wanting to avoid sentencing enhancements should District Attorney George Gascón be recalled and a new district attorney were to change the order; the suspect possibly wanting to move on with his life in prison.  

Dimmit added he is certain that it is good for the family that they won’t have to go through the trauma of a trial, and Quemuel concurred. 

“Him pleading (today) saves us from going to a very long, drawn-out trial,” said Quemuel. “He will just go to sentencing.”  

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