Suspect in Douglass Park homicide turns self in, police say

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 8:16 p.m. CST; updated 8:42 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 7, 2010

COLUMBIA — The suspect in Tuesday's homicide in Douglass Park turned himself in to Columbia police at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Ken Hammond said in a news release.

Grady F. Dortch Jr., 28, was then arrested on outstanding warrants for first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of 29-year-old Miles Heard. As of Wednesday night, Dortch was being held at Boone County Jail, the release said. A call to the Boone County Jail indicated that he was still in custody of the Columbia Police Department as of 12:25 a.m. Thursday. Bond had previously been set at $1 million cash only.

During questioning Wednesday night, Dortch, of Columbia, made statements to officers that implicated his involvement in the murder, the release said.

Earlier Wednesday, police released information that they said revealed Dortch’s motive for the shooting. After losing to Heard in a fight on Halloween night, Dortch threatened to kill him, Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said.

Dortch then told Heard, "It ain't over," while reaching into a bag to imply he was armed, according to a probable cause statement filed Tuesday at the 13th Circuit Court.

Heard was shot twice with a small-caliber handgun at close range Tuesday afternoon in Douglass Park. Autopsy results released Wednesday afternoon show that he was shot once in the right side of his chest and once in the left thigh. He died shortly after at University Hospital.

Three independent witnesses identified Dortch as the shooter, one of whom knew him by name and sight, according to the probable cause statement.

Dortch's criminal record, according to Missouri, includes convictions for property crimes, domestic assault and several drug charges.

Initial reports said Dortch and three or four other men got out of a light-blue older-model car, possibly a Toyota, before the shooting. But Nelson said Wednesday that the shots could also have come from inside the vehicle.

"We have conflicting statements on whether he was in the car or outside it," Nelson said.

The Police Department is trying to identify additional witnesses to help clarify the sequence of events, Nelson said. The first responding officers estimated that there were about 50 people in the park at the time of the shooting, but only a few have come forward with information.

Heard's death is the fifth homicide in Columbia in 2008, according to Columbia Police Department statistics. It's also the second Election Day shooting in recent years. In 2000, a 27-year-old Columbia man shot four people, killing two of them; one died later as a result of injuries.

Heard had two children and moved to Columbia from Chicago, Veronica Washington, the sister of Heard's fiancee, said shortly after learning of his death. He had worked for a little more than a year at Derby Ridge Elementary School as a custodian until about a year ago, the school's principal, Tina Windett, said.

"He was a good man," Washington said. "He worked, and everybody loved him."

Police encourage anyone who witnessed the incident to contact the Major Crimes Unit or CrimeStoppers. The CrimeStoppers number is 875-TIPS (8477).

Missourian reporter Tara Cavanaugh contributed to this report.

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Panama Red November 6, 2008 | 5:28 a.m.

It figures, 50 witnesses, only 3 have the cajones to speak up.

Goes to show you why the youth of today are so screwed up, the adults are no role models ....

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 6, 2008 | 6:29 a.m.

What a mess.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 6, 2008 | 9:26 a.m.

Well, three is better than zero. At least they appear to have gotten the shooter.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 6, 2008 | 10:09 a.m.

I agree with you 100% Panama Red.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 6, 2008 | 2:46 p.m.

But what kind of a sentence will he get? And how much of that sentence will he actually have to serve?

(Report Comment)

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