“He was one of the most cold-blooded murderers I’ve ever prosecuted,” Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller said after a jury convicted Donald Gray Dunn Jr. Thursday of the first-degree murder of his stepfather and the attempted first-degree murder of his mother.
The jury did not give a recommendation for mercy, meaning 24-year-old Dunn will spend the remainder of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Dunn admitted he lied to his parents and long-time girlfriend for several years about attending classes at Marshall University. Instead of telling them the truth, he plotted a fake murder-suicide to look like his mother, Johanna McDermott, had killed his stepfather, Mark McDermott, then taken her own life.
Dunn shot Mark twice in the head on what his family believed to be his graduation day, May 25, 2013, but when he tried to pull the trigger against his mother’s temple, the gun misfired.
Dunn’s defense attorney David White said he does plan to file an appeal, as a juror issue may have caused an impact on the outcome of the trial.
A juror misunderstood court instructions Wednesday, believing that the jury did not have to reach a unanimous recommendation for “no mercy.” She said she believed Dunn should be given mercy. However, after an additional hour of deliberating Thursday, the jury reached a unanimous “no mercy” recommendation.
But overall, White said, “The outcome was not unexpected.”
During his closing arguments Wednesday, he urged the jury to give the young man a second chance because his mother has already forgiven him.
“A mother’s love is greater in this case than in any set of circumstances you could find,” White said after the verdict was delivered. “His mom still loves him and she was still pulling for him.”
Three of Mark’s family members, two sisters and a niece, flew in from Australia to attend the trial proceedings.
Nicole Devoy, the youngest of the five siblings in the McDermott family, said Mark was the oldest.
“He was a beautiful and innocent man,” Devoy said of Mark. “Guilty without mercy was the only acceptable outcome.”
Keller said this is a case in which the criminal defendant “has no heart and has no soul.”
She said Dunn “does not love anyone but himself” and clearly wanted his mother dead.
“If he had succeeded in murdering both his father and his mother, he very well could have gotten away with those murders he had planted so well.”
Dunn will be sentenced Sept. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
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