Dalzell Investigation, This Smells…

Something here doesn’t sound right, it’s all too serendipitous. And what’s with the 2nd-degree murder charge? They can’t make 1st-degree stick?

Trinket trail led police to suspect

By ANNE BLYTHE, Staff Writer

News and Observer

CARRBORO — It was the last day of August when police got the break they were waiting for in a case that had haunted the department for nearly seven years.

Andrew Douglas Dalzell, a man investigators long had suspected in the disappearance and presumed death of Deborah Leigh Key, asked officers Aug. 31 to stand guard while he removed personal property from an Abbey Court apartment, according to Orange County court documents obtained Friday.

Nine days later, Dalzell, 27, a former Carrboro resident, was booked into the Orange County jail, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Key. Bail was set at $60,000, according to Orange-Chatham District Attorney Carl Fox.

Police will divulge few particulars of their case.

But two warrants — one from a search Sept. 1 in Carrboro and a second from a search Wednesday in Lincoln County — provided some details in a case that began Dec. 1, 1997, when Key, 35, was last seen outside a Carrboro bar and pool hall.

Anthony L. Westbrook II, an investigator with the Carrboro Police Department, went to Apt. B-4 in Abbey Court on Aug. 31 and met with Dalzell, according to a search warrant application dated Sept. 1. While inside the apartment, Westbrook noticed jars of paint, small hand-painted figurines, model airplanes, model tanks, handbooks for the game Dungeons and Dragons, and other goods from a hobby store.

Dalzell told the officer he worked at Hungate’s Arts, Crafts & Hobbies at University Mall in Chapel Hill, and that the figurines came from there. Dalzell packed some of the items, but left others behind.

Manager interviewed

On Sept. 1, according to the search warrant application, Westbrook spoke with a manager at Hungate’s. The manager said Dalzell had worked at the store for fewer than two months and had been fired for taking money from the safe, according to the court document. The manager also suspected Dalzell had taken Warhammer figurines and other items from the store without paying for them, the warrant application states.

Westbrook encouraged the manager to file a larceny report with the Chapel Hill police department. A warrant was granted to search the Abbey Court apartment in Carrboro. From there, police seized paint, brushes, figurines, a chess set, models, a black leather jacket and magic cards. Many of the items, according to court documents, still had Hungate’s price stickers on them.

The investigator also seized a piece of paper with “Hungate’s Negative Item Control Slip” printed on one side and a handwritten VISA number on the other side.

“It was later determined that Dalzell copied the VISA debit card number from a customer’s card while Dalzell was working at Hungate’s,” Westbrook said in a search warrant application dated Sept. 8. “Dalzell then used the VISA card to obtain $100 worth of Internet service from Svetlana’s Agency, LLC, which is an Internet site for Russian mail-order brides.”

With that information, Westbrook persuaded a magistrate to issue a warrant for a search of 6406 Sterling Court, a house near Stanley where the suspect and his girlfriend were thought to be living with her parents.

With the assistance of Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies, Carrboro investigators searched the home, two cars and a truck this week. They seized more figurines, books, computer equipment and floppy discs. Police will not say what among the items seized led to charges in the Key case.

Police said Thursday that no one else in the Lincoln County home was a suspect in Key’s disappearance and presumed death.

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