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Nearly seven years after Michelle Mockbee was killed, Dooley retrial ready to go forward in February

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The retrial of David Dooley in the death of Michelle Mockbee is set to begin next month and it appears any obstacles that might cause a delay have been removed.

David Dooley is led into a Boone County Courtroom Thursday, for a pretrial conference (photos by Mark Hansel).

In 2014, Dooley was convicted of the May, 2012 killing of Michelle Mockbee, at the Thermo-Fisher Scientific plant in Boone County where both worked, but that conviction was overturned.

Mockbee was found bludgeoned to death shortly after she arrived at work on May 29, 2012.

At a pretrial conference Thursday in the Boone County Circuit Courtroom of Judge James R. Schrand, attorneys for both sides agreed that they will be ready to begin jury selection on February 18.

The stakes could not be higher.

Dooley is facing a charge of murder. If convicted, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

If he is acquitted, the chances are slim that Mockbee’s family will ever get justice for their slain loved one. Prosecutors have indicated that at this point Dooley is the only suspect and key participants in the original investigation have retired.

Defense attorneys Deanna Dennison and Jeff Lawson and Special Prosecutor Jon Heck spent more than an hour Thursday getting clarification on a few final issues that might come up at trial.

The trial has been delayed several times by everything from schedule conflicts to questions about accessibility to evidence.

At one point there was a lengthy discussion about where a defense expert could inspect a tape gun that was never at the crime scene. 

The tape gun is a replica of one that may have been used during Mockbee’s killing. The defense team wanted it’s expert to examine it and possibly give an opinion as to whether it could have caused wounds consistent with those found on Mockbee. 

From right, David Dooley’s attorneys Deanna Dennison and Jeff Lawson discuss a motion with OAG Special Prosecutor Jon Heck, prior to Thursday’s pretrial conference.

Despite the delays, Schrand has been determined to adhere to the February trial schedule and has taken some aggressive steps to keep it on track.

He adjourned an earlier pretrial conference and called the head of a DNA laboratory to ensure evidence would be made available in a timely manner.

He also had attorneys call an expert witness during a break in another pretrial conference to get contact information for a defense witness, so the prosecution team could verify his credentials. 

Despite those efforts, there is a tight window for the trial, which is expected to take at least three weeks and possibly longer. While there are still some scheduling issues, Schrand has opened his docket as much as possible through March 12.

Dooley was granted a new trial in May 2017, when it was determined evidence that might have aided in his defense was withheld from his attorneys.

Former Boone/Gallatin Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith prosecuted Dooley the first time around, but was called as a witness during the CR 60.02 hearing to determine if Dooley would receive a new trial.

The Kentucky Office of the Attorney General (OAG) took over the case in October, 2016, after it was revealed that Tally Smith engaged in questionable conduct with Bruce McVay, the lead detective in the original investigation.

Michelle Mockbee, a Fort Mitchell mother of two, was killed at the Thermo Fisher Scientific plant where she worked in May, 2012 (provided photo).

Dooley’s conviction was being appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court at that time, but that became a moot point when his conviction was overturned.

McVay has since retired from the Boone County Sheriff’s office and Tally Smith was defeated in the May primary election. Everett Stahl, the other primary investigator involved in the original investigation, has also since retired from the Boone County Sheriff’s office.

In a correspondence with McVay that was made public, Tally Smith stated that Stahl was assigned to the case because supervisors in the Boone County Sheriff’s office had concerns about  the lead investigators conduct.

She wrote that one of the supervisors described McVay as a “high functioning alcoholic” that left the office during the day to drink just to get through his shift.

Heck was assigned by the OAG as a special prosecutor for the retrial. Det. Brian Cochran has taken over the investigation for the Boone County Sheriff’s office.

The retrial was originally scheduled to begin September 17. Difficulty obtaining evidence and schedule conflicts, however, caused the trial to be moved to February.

In August, Dooley was indicted by a Boone County Grand Jury on charges of use of a minor in a sexual performance, a Class B Felony, and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor, a Class D Felony.

Heck will represent the Commonwealth on those charge as well.

Judge James R. Schrand has taken some unusual steps to keep the David Dooley retrial on track for Feb. 18 jury selection.

That case was initially investigated by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, based on allegations from family members, but was closed in 2005 without charges being filed.

The case was also brought to the attention of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in 2014, before Dooley’s original trial. It was reopened in June of 2018.

Dooley’s lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the sex charges alleging vindictive prosecution and lack of prosecutorial jurisdiction.

“This case about the alleged child victim, of course it’s an awful allegation, but it was made in 2014, it was known to the detectives at the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, it was known to Commonwealth Attorney in 2014, and they did not elect to pursue charges at that point,” Lawson said at a September hearing.

In a transcript of testimony before the grand jury, Boone County Det. Tracy Watson, who is investigating the sex charges, said the decision not to prosecute Dooley in 2014 was made because he was already facing substantial jail time.

“Things had changed by the time I got it this past June and he was facing the possibility of not having jail time any more. So the family decided at this point to go forward with sexual abuse investigation and criminal charges.”

Defense attorneys say in their filing that investigators approached the victim and her mother and encouraged them to pursue charges.

David Dooley’s wife, Janet Dooley (left) and Michelle Mockbee’s sister, Jennifer Schneider (far right) regularly attend pretrial conferences and sit on different sides of the courtroom.

The decision to initiate the charges against Mr. Dooley, while he is on the cusp of his retrial, is an obvious decision to intentionally taint the jury pool against him based on allegations that law enforcement and the Cabinet have been well aware of for nearly 14 years.”   

The sex charges will not be adjudicated until after the murder retrial.

The trial and the retrial have taken a toll on the families involved in the case. 

Jennifer Schneider, Michelle Mockbee’s sister, remains convinced of Dooley’s guilt. She has attended every hearing and repeatedly said she just wants “justice for Michelle.”

Janet Dooley, David Dooley’s wife, has also appeared at almost every hearing and is just as steadfast in her husband’s innocence. 

Dooley, now 44, is being held on a $1 million bond and has been incarcerated since his arrest in 2012.

For a detailed history of this case, go to www.nkytribune.com and enter the words David Dooley in the “search” box at the upper right of the home page.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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One Comment

  1. Dean Knolls says:

    Still waiting to hear about LTS investigation too ! Thumb drive contents might surface soon to the public

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