Interesting comments from Andrew Dalzell’s mother: Let’s see… Daslzell couldn’t keep his room clean therefore he couldn’t be a killer? Ya, that makes sense.
And no, I do not feel any guilt for writing about Dalzell for all these years, and in some sense “outing” him. I didn’t ask for him to be inserted in my life, that just sort of happened one day when the police came knocking on my door.
Did Gastonia man charged with Internet sex crime get away with murder?
For the past several years Andrew Douglas Dalzell has stayed under the radar living first in Stanley and then in Gastonia with his wife on East Eighth Avenue.
But the 32-year-old man’s arrest Tuesday in Buncombe County on a charge of soliciting sex over the Internet with a child not only brought that incident to light, but also a past that includes a suspicion of murder.
Police have suspected Dalzell in the slaying of Deborah Leigh Key ever since she disappeared from outside a Carrboro pool hall on Dec. 1, 1997. Witnesses report that Dalzell was the last person to see Key in the early morning hours after the bar had closed.
“Certainly, without a doubt,” answered Carrboro Lt. John Lau when asked if he still feels Dalzell killed Key. “He confessed.”
But a judge threw out that 2004 confession after finding out Carrboro police tricked Dalzell into thinking he’d already been charged with murder in Key’s death. In fact, the warrant and a letter from the former Orange County prosecutor were fake, and Dalzell only faced a theft charge.
Lau was the lead detective in the case and was present when Dalzell confessed to the crime. The prosecutor would dismiss charges in 2005, saying the confession was his primary evidence in the case.
Dalzell maintains that Carrboro police threatened him into confessing to a killing he did not commit.
A man who answered Dalzell’s home telephone Wednesday and identified himself as the man’s father-in-law declined to comment. He also said his daughter would not comment.
But Dalzell’s mother, Juanita Mullen of Pittsboro, remembers those days when her son was under suspicion for murder for years before he was formally charged.
Dalzell was a 20-year-old high school dropout who suffered from attention deficit disorder and other learning disabilities, although he would get his GED, said Mullen, who adopted her son at 10 weeks old.
Police still have not found Key’s body nor any physical evidence linking Dalzell to her, said his mother.
“The boy couldn’t keep his room cleaned, much less his car, and those police went through his car and didn’t find anything,” Mullen said.
“I can’t defend this latest stunt, but the way he was treated in Orange County and the wrong information they used against him wrecked his life,” she said.
Dalzell didn’t work and relied on financial support from his mother and wife, Mullen said.
“He can’t get a job because of the publicity,” Mullen said. “The minute someone goes online and looks up his name he doesn’t have a chance.”
Buncombe County Sheriff’s investigators say Dalzell had been conversing over the Internet for the past several months with someone he thought was an 11-year-old girl. On Tuesday, Dalzell left Gastonia to drive to a house in Buncombe County, where he thought he would meet up with the girl for sex.
Instead, Dalzell met a detective. He was booked into Buncombe County Jail in Asheville under a $70,000 bond.
“It upsets me and appalls me,” said his mother. “I’ve been wondering for some time if he has a borderline personality disorder.”
Dalzell also faces Internet sex charges involving a child at the time of his arrest in the Key killing. Those charges also would be dismissed.
“People who do this generally don’t stop until they’re forced to stop,” Lt. Lau said.
At this point, Carrboro police have no plans to interview Dalzell again about the Key slaying.
“The case is still open,” Lau said.
Key was “happy-go-lucky” and a “free spirit” who had many wonderful qualities, Widman said, but she also tended to drink too much.
“She thought everybody was good. She didn’t think anybody would ever hurt her,” Widman said.
Widman also thinks Dalzell has so far gotten away with murder, and while he should have been trying to stay out of trouble he couldn’t help himself.
“This guy is kind of dumb and kind of smart,” Widman said. “Smart enough not to get caught and dumb enough to put himself in situations like this.”