Saturday, July 28, 2012

Warner, AZ: Double death in Warner possible murder-suicide Neighbors say couple had broken up earlier

WARNER — A woman who was killed in a possible murder-suicide Friday was described as a warm, devoted mother who will be greatly missed.

“She was almost like a daughter to me,” said Stella Jackson about her neighbor Melinda Shatto, 37, who was found dead in her home next to the body of Charles Donald Dickson, 48, also of Warner.

“I took care of her little girl while she worked,” Jackson said, shaking her head. “She asked me the other day if she can call me grandma.”

Muskogee County Sheriff’s Deputy Bert Poole said Shatto and Dickson died of gunshot wounds.

“We believe it was a murder-suicide,” he said.

Authorities said 911 dispatchers received a call about 4:35 a.m. from Shatto, who was wounded and asking for help. However, she was unable to keep talking after about a minute on the line, and her daughter, 7, took the phone from her.

The girl, still in the bedroom with Shatto, told dispatchers that her mother was hurt and needed help. She tried to give the name of her street, the apartment number and the phone number of her father.

A second dispatcher instructed the girl to get a neighbor for help, and she went next door to Jackson’s apartment, where she had to knock hard on the door twice.

“She came to me and said, ‘Stella, come help my momma, she’s been shot,” Jackson said. “I walked over there, and I saw them lying there and I knew it was bad.”

She said she was close with the mother and daughter.

“I saw her (Shatto) when she came home last night and we talked,” she said. “She said she was going to spend some special time with her daughter. She was just a wonderful person.”

Jackson also said she had warned Shatto about Dickson.

“I’d tell her, ‘Don’t even talk to him,’” Jackson said. “She’s changed her phone number, changed locks on the door.”

Poole said neighbors and witnesses said Dickson and Shatto had broken up about six months ago.

Shatto was seeing another man, who told investigators that he had been out of town, Poole said.

A key found inside the apartment fit the lock to the doorknob but not that of the deadbolt, and Dickson probably let himself in with that key, Poole said.

Deputies spoke briefly with the girl Friday morning, he said.

“I told her she did a great thing. She’s a sharp little girl,” he said. “She’s strong, I can tell. I think she’s held up real well. I told her she’s my hero.”

The girl is with her father and his family, Poole said. “Thank goodness she’s with a loving family,” he said. “I can tell they love her very much. They were broken up over the whole thing.”

Shatto’s parents were headed to Warner from Bixby after they received the call Friday morning, but they hit a deer on the way, Poole said.

Their Jeep stopped running shortly afterward, stranding them near the home of Muskogee Fire Marshal Ray Bob Daniels, between Haskell and Muskogee.

The couple told Daniels what happened, and he drove them to Warner and put their Jeep in his yard for now, Poole said.

“He’s a true Good Samaritan,” he said.

Shatto was a student at Connors State College, where she also held a part-time job.

Connors officials were notified of her death early Friday.

“I've been around for 22 years, and I can't think of anything like this,” said Dr. Ron Ramming, the college’s vice president of academic affairs. “You know, this stuff isn't supposed to happen around here.”

Ramming said Shatto had worked in a federal work study program in various departments on campus in areas under his administration.

She was a sophomore in general studies, he said.

“The real tragedy in this is her little girl,” Ramming said. “Everything, all indications to me, were that she was a devoted mother. She really loved that little girl.”

Reporter Alex Ewald contributed to this story.

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