Estranged husband gets 35.5 years for Michelle Dorsey’s murder

Friends and family members of the Dorsey's embrace after Michelle Dorsey's estranged husband was sentenced Monday to 34.5 years in prison for murder. Caleb Lunetta / The Signal

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Monday sentenced James ”Matthew” Dorsey to 35.5 years to life in state prison for the stabbing murder of his estranged wife, Michelle Dorsey.  

All eight speakers, friends and members of the Dorsey family, requested a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the man who pleaded no contest to the charges last month.  

Judge Cynthia Ulfig ultimately passed down the sentence with the possibility of parole, which she gave with reluctance, while reminding those in attendance that the recommendations were guided by District Attorney George Gascón’s special directives.  

The sentence included 26 years to life for the murder charge, and 9.5 years for the remaining four charges, which included attempted kidnapping, residential burglary, evading police and resisting a law enforcement officer. The years were to be served consecutively, per the Ulfig’s ruling. 

Due to California’s statutory Elderly Parole Program, an inmate is automatically eligible for a parole hearing once the person is over the age of 50, providing the person has served at least 20 years of their sentence. The law makes Dorsey eligible for parole in 20 years, when he’ll be 61. 

What Happened?  

In court on Monday, eight victim impact statements were read by the friends and family of Michelle Dorsey, detailing what had transpired on that morning. 

According to their statements, those closest to Michelle said her estranged husband had been both emotionally and verbally abusive for fears – from tearing family photos off the wall and throwing them in a barbecue, to threatening to sell his share of equity in the home unless she had sex with him, and purchasing a car for a waitress he had just met.  

During her statement before the court, Jessica Jordan, Michelle’s sister, said one of her three nephews awoke on April 15 at their Fir Court home and tried to help his mom after his father had broken into the home in the early-morning hours, waited for Michelle and then punched and stabbed her to death.  

“I looked down at my nephew’s legs … there was blood from his mother covering his legs,” said Jordan. “I couldn’t help but feel numb. How could this have happened?”  

The family alleged that the incident not only was the result of years of abuse that resulted in court orders against Matthew, but also the fact that Michelle, in the last few months of her life and two years after she had filed for legal separation, had begun dating another man.    

“I was blessed to have Michelle in my life and to call her my girlfriend for the last few months,” said Skye Girard, Michelle’s boyfriend who she had met in December. “A beautiful soul who is working so hard to better herself, and build a better life for three boys, was taken, and she will never get to live the life she was working so towards. The monster that took her life should have no hope for a future either.” 

After traveling from Washington to carry out a plan to fatally beat and stab his estranged wife to death, and after having followed through with that plan, Dorsey then took the Chevy Malibu parked in front of the home and led law enforcement on a daylong manhunt that covered a large portion of northern L.A. County. He would be arrested later that day, plead no contest to all five charges a little over a month later, and be sentenced on Monday — 67 days after Michelle Dorsey was pronounced dead at the hospital.   


Ulfig expressed her hope that any future parole hearings would take into account the eight victim impact statements — read in court Monday by tearful friends and family of Michelle, most of whom had expressed their fear for themselves and the three Dorsey sons should their father have the chance of release.  

Danielle Quemuel, a lifelong friend of Michelle, returned to a previous phrase to express her feelings regarding possible parole, calling it once again a “miscarriage of justice.” 

“He should never be able to have parole,” said Quemuel. “I mean, we’re happy he’s off the streets, for now, but the fact is on any given day, our case before (this case’s) time, he would live the rest of his life in prison.”  

“And it’s scary to know what (the family) is going to have to endure in the future, thinking about where they live or what they’re doing and have to leave,” she added. “Justice was not served today.” 

Detective Chris Dimmitt, who had investigated the case on behalf of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau, said he hoped the sentence gave some closure to the family and called it a “step in the right direction.” But he added that given the circumstances he and his department were not happy with the sentencing — one they saw as a possible outcome nearly two months ago. 

“He should be sentenced to life without parole,” said Dimmitt, following the sentencing. “That should be the sentence and it’s what we were seeking today and we didn’t get it.”   

He added that “without a doubt,” if the new policies from the D.A.’s office had not been in effect, the case — had it gone to trial — would have resulted in life without parole.   

“Gascón has forbidden the filing of special circumstances in any new case,” according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, who’s been a vocal critic of the D.A.’s special directives that have significantly limited potential sentences. 

“That means in Los Angeles County, we no longer have the death penalty and we no longer have life without the possibility of parole,” he said. “(Gascón’s special directive) is even more dangerous because of ‘elder parole,’ which Gascón supported.” 

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