Upon hearing from their uncle that their mother had died after being beaten and stabbed multiple times by their father, Carson Dorsey, 13, the oldest of Michelle’s sons, whose legs were covered in his mother’s blood, collapsed and began vomiting.
The middle brother, Logan, 11, slumped over and began to cry. The youngest, age 9, would join his siblings in wondering where they would be living now that their father’s actions had essentially left them orphaned.
During the portion of Monday’s sentencing for James “Matthew” Dorsey, who was given a 35.5-year sentence for murdering his estranged wife, family and friends of Michelle Dorsey shared how her estranged husband’s brutal and tragic act of violence on the morning of April 15 would tear the family apart and cause unfathomable grief.
Throughout the testimony, Dorsey, clad in his yellow inmate shirt and blue pants, stared straight ahead, never turning to look at the gallery, and occasionally shaking his head.
“You can see the joy has been removed from their lives. They continuously wake up with night terrors, each from different moments from that (morning),” said Daniel Smith, Michelle’s brother. “Carson cannot go to bed alone, and makes sure that house locks are triple-checked. He’s asked multiple times that we make sure (Matthew “James” Dorsey) never gets out of jail, because he’s afraid he and his brothers are going to be murdered.”
Cheryl Smith, the boys’ grandmother, said her grandsons must now all sleep in the same room together and in the same room as her.
“When I saw my daughter for the last time on April 15, her face was bruised and swollen from where he hurt her; there was no mercy in the way my daughter died,” said Smith, remembering what she and the boys had been forced to see that morning. “My daughter was afraid when she died and she most likely suffered — I know my daughter, I know she thought of her boys as he cut her with that knife.”
Michelle was described by those who loved her most, such as her sister-in-law Mikaela Smith, as a strong, fierce and independent woman, and yet generous, kind and sweet to those around her. She was said to enjoy the outdoors, watch her sons participate in BMX activities, and teach them to fish. In addition to teaching them camping and sporting skills, as well as the importance of Sunday family dinners, she was said to be an accomplished baker and craftswoman — she was said to be an ever-present maternal figure imparting these talents and lessons onto her sons.
The statements made in open court Monday ranged across the emotional spectrum, and the three most prevalent expressions were grief, anger and fear.
“She was Superwoman, she was a super mom, a super sister, a super daughter and a super friend,” said Mikaela Smith. “And on April 15, we lost our Superwoman.”
Multiple people who spoke called Dorsey a “monster,” called his actions inhumane, expressed their feeling that he lacked remorse and demanded that he be locked away for the rest of his life — to the benefit of the boys and the family.
“Michelle’s poor boys are so traumatized, constantly in fear of when/if (their father) will get out,” said Mikaela Smith. “(They’re asking) their granny if he will be coming for them next.”
The children, according to the family members, would now be raised by their grandmother, as well as the “village” on the Smith side of the family. However, nothing they said would be able to replace the mother and daughter that Michelle was.
During the sentencing, Judge Cynthia Ulfig emphasized that the defendant, who was not facing the death penalty, would be eligible for parole under the policies of L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón in a few decades.
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 Matthew James Dorsey eligible for parole in 20 years, when he’ll be 61.
“However, if the defendant is given the opportunity to have a parole hearing,” said Ulfig, “the parole board will carefully review the file in this case, in its entirety, including the sentencing memo provided by the people, as well as obviously the hearing today and the various victim impact statements.”