Baylor grieving over basketball player's death

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

WACO, Texas (AP) Baylor University officials said Monday they were grief-stricken and trying to come to terms with the death of basketball player Patrick Dennehy and the murder charge against a former teammate.

Dennehy, a 6-foot-10 center, had been missing about six weeks. His body was found Friday night in a field three miles south of town and was identified Sunday.

''This is especially difficult because the grief is compounded by the unbelievable sense of the occurrence and the unimaginable way he came to die,'' basketball coach Dave Bliss said Monday.

Carlton Dotson, who played basketball at Baylor last season and had been living with Dennehy since spring, was arrested last week in his home state of Maryland on a murder charge from Texas. Dotson, 21, remains jailed without bond, awaiting extradition to Texas.

Investigators recovered a 9mm pistol, shell casings and what appeared to be Dennehy's shoes near his body, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Tuesday editions, citing a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But authorities believe he was killed with another gun that has not yet been found, and that Dennehy died in a clearing in the field and was moved 15 or 20 feet into the tall weeds, the newspaper reported. The McLennan County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the report Monday night, a dispatcher told The Associated Press.

Dennehy's funeral is to be held at Jubilee Christian Center, a Pentecostal church in San Jose, Calif., later this week or early next week, said pastor Dick Bernal.

Dennehy's mother wanted his funeral and burial to be in San Jose because he was at his happiest there and it was his home, Bernal said.

A campus-wide memorial service for Dennehy is being planned for September at Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university with 14,000 students.

In a statement, Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said the school was in a period of ''unspeakable grief.'' He said the university has suffered the ''heart-wrenching loss'' of student deaths in the past ''but never in such a startling and perplexing manner.''

Dotson was arrested July 21 after calling 911, saying he needed help because he was hearing voices, authorities said. He told FBI agents in Maryland that he shot Dennehy after the player tried to shoot him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. But after his arrest, Dotson told The Associated Press that he ''didn't confess to anything.''

Dotson's attorney, Grady Irvin, said Monday that police have not told him details of the investigation. He said he will determine whether there is a valid basis for extradition and whether an arrest warrant for Dotson was obtained properly.

Bliss confirmed Monday that the coaching staff received a letter from the mother of Dotson's estranged wife who was concerned about his mental health. Bliss said the letter arrived in June after Dotson had returned to Maryland and that he gave it to authorities investigating Dennehy's disappearance.

Citing student privacy laws, Bliss said he could not comment on whether coaches arranged for Dotson to see a therapist last spring, a claim recently made by the former player's estranged wife, Melissa Kethley.

Bliss also declined to say if Dotson lost his scholarship last spring after failing a drug test and not showing up to take another one.

''Carlton Dotson and I had a conversation about playing time, and he thought it would be a better opportunity if he went somewhere else,'' Bliss said.

Bliss, who just returned from a recruiting trip, defended his program and assistant coaches. Baylor opened a new inquiry last week into possible NCAA violations, prompted by claims made by some of Dennehy's relatives and friends.

Three Baylor Law School professors will investigate allegations that an assistant coach told Dennehy his education and living expenses would be paid if he gave up his scholarship for a year. Attending Baylor costs more than $17,000 a year in tuition and fees.

The committee also will examine whether Dennehy received $1,200 to $1,800 from an assistant coach toward a car loan for his sport utility vehicle, and if players passed urine tests despite smoking marijuana.

Bliss said Monday that the team does not have a drug problem and that drug tests are given regularly. He said he never suspected drug use by any player but if so, he would have given a random test.

Bliss also said he knew of no wrongdoing on the part of coaches.

''There's a lot of conjecture out there (that) people think that we're violating rules,'' Bliss said. He said there are instances of people misunderstanding the rules.

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