"It was a very cold blooded killing. This sends a message that you can run, but you can’t hide. Sooner or later, justice will be served."
- District Attorney Michael Jackson
It was the 13th of June 2007. A Wednesday. Teresa Mayfield lived with her husband Scott and their three children in Hale County, Alabama, United States.
They had a daughter who was seventeen and two boys, one was eleven years old and the other was eight year olds. Scott and Teresa had married each other twice. After their daughter Kelsey was born, Scott had an affair and Teresa divorced him. But shortly afterwards, they reconciled. Teresa really wanted her family to stay together and they loved each other so they got back together and got married again.
Life was difficult of late for Scott and Teresa. Scott's father had terminal cancer and they spent a lot of time at his home. Teresa was a great help. As there were a lot of visitors coming and going to the house, she would go to the store and buy food and make snacks for people to eat.
Teresa was worried about something else too. She constantly worried about money. They didn't have enough to pay their bills and she was trying to figure out how they would support their children. But even though they didn't have a lot of money, there was one thing their children did not want for. Love. Teresa adored the three children. Everything she did was for those three children. She took an active interest in their lives and some of her friends referred to her as the "soccer mom."
Even though things were not perfect for Teresa, she was happy.
On the morning of the 13th of June, Teresa left her house in her SUV just after 7am. She was meeting her friend, Kimberly "Dawn" Lavender, also known as Kimberly Dawn Binion, to do a bit of shopping. Scott was at work that day and after his day job, he had a shift planned at his second job for that night. Their daughter Kelsey said that she would look after the boys until Teresa got home.
Kelsey called Teresa at lunchtime as it was unusual for Teresa to be out for more than a couple of hours. There was no answer so she tried again. Kelsey asked Scott if he heard from Teresa. He said that she called him earlier that day and he told Kelsey he would call her. But Scott got no answer either. Normally, Teresa would always answer her phone as she always had it on her.
Both Kelsey and Scott tried to reach Teresa multiple times but they received no communication at all from Teresa and that night, Kelsey was extremely worried. Scott left his shift just after midnight and reported Teresa missing. A search began.
The same day that Teresa was reported missing, a car was found. It was Teresa's car.
Teresa's silver GMC Yukon was found parked on a small dirt road off County Road 21, less than a mile from her home. Police found Teresa inside the car. She was dead. Teresa had been shot in the head.
As the car was parked in an isolated area, police had to establish if Teresa had taken her own life. But they quickly concluded that they didn't believe that to be the case as there was no weapon in the car.
While no weapon was found in the car, there was also no evidence found inside or outside the car. Police looked for fingerprints and footprints but found nothing. There was no sign that a struggle had taken place. Police did not believe that Teresa was the victim of a robbery as all of her belongings, with the exception of her cell phone, were still in the car. It looked like somebody wanted Teresa dead and it appeared to be a targeted attack.
Teresa's injuries were so severe that she could not be embalmed. Her family were devastated. Her mother and sister put up fliers and posters in the area appealing for information.
Police questioned Scott in relation to his wife's murder but he told them that he was thirty miles away at the time. Police checked and confirmed his alibi. He had stopped off in Tuscaloosa for breakfast and gave police the receipt.
Police then spoke to Dawn. Teresa was on her way to meet Dawn that day but Dawn told them that she never arrived.
As part of the investigation, police examined Teresa’s phone records. They showed that one of the calls made to Scott bounced off a tower cell in Tuscaloosa. Due to the time of the call it was clear that there was no way Teresa would have made it back from Tuscaloosa to where her body was found in time. The timings just did not match. So the question that had to be answered was "if Teresa didn’t call Scott, then who did?"
When police questioned Scott again, they discovered that he was having an affair with a woman who they identified as K.K.The mistress claimed that she had no idea that Scott was still married and living with his wife. He told her that he was divorced. She gave him $7000 to pay into Court as part of a divorce settlement. But Scott wasn't divorced and he hadn't even made any steps to seek a divorce. He had lied to her too. But despite the affair, Scott still had a strong alibi and the case went cold.
A break in the case came a couple of years later. The Mayfields lived in a small town in Hale County called Moundville. Police became aware of a number of rumors that were being shared in the town. A boy told a man in a bar that he had bumped into someone near the dirt track where Teresa’s body had been found.He was there with a friend and they were looking for something they could use to kill a rattlesnake. A woman asked them if they wanted to use her handgun. She was in a car and showed them the handgun in a ziplock bag, a 22 pistol.
Police spoke to the boy and he told them that while he wasn't sure of the date, he was sure of who the woman was and that woman was Dawn Lavender.
Police discovered that even though Teresa was due to meet Dawn that day as they were friends, Dawn had only met Teresa through Scott. Dawn and Scott knew each other through work. They worked for the same company, Phifer Wire in Tuscaloosa. It was through her friendship with Scott that she befriended Teresa.
Police brought Dawn in to the station for questioning. She denied any involvement in Teresa’s murder but when police checked her cell phone records, they noticed she was in the same location as Teresa was around the time of the murder.
Dawn was arrested. Police asked Dawn's cell mate to cooperate in an investigation. She agreed. A hidden digital recorder was installed in the cell.
Dawn told the cell mate that she was involved in Teresa's murder but she killed her because Scott asked her to. Scott told Dawn that he wanted Teresa dead and he would give her $20,000 if she did it. Dawn agreed. That money would be paid with insurance money collected after her death.
Scott's initial plan involved Dawn causing Teresa to overdose. He gave Dawn money to go to a casino and gamble with Teresa. He gave her Oxycontin pills. Dawn gave Teresa a large quantity of the pills mashed up in a drink to try to overdose her. Teresa drank the drink and became sleepy and passed out. Dawn took Teresa back to her home in Hale County.
Dawn carried her into the house and left her to die. Neither Dawn or Scott tried to help Teresa in any way. But Teresa didn't die. She became sick, vomited and slept for two days.
That incident did not stop Scott. He still wanted Teresa dead. Dawn was more than willing to try again. In June 2007, Scott gave Dawn a pistol. He taught her how to shoot at the Havana Junction in Hale County. They spent time shooting a water bottle. He then took her to a dirt road off of County Road 21 in Hale County and instructed her that was the location where she would kill Teresa.
Scott called Dawn early on the morning of the 13th of June. He told her to get it done.
Scott told Dawn to call Teresa and tell her that they were going to go to Greentrack that day. She did and Teresa agreed. A short while later, Dawn called Teresa again because Scott asked her to. Dawn told Teresa her car had broken down and she needed help. Teresa said that she would leave the house immediately to meet her.
Dawn told Teresa she was near the dirt road and when Teresa arrived, Dawn approached her vehicle and began to talk. When Teresa turned her head away from Dawn, Dawn raised the 22 pistol and shot Teresa in the head.
Scott, Willie and Dawn
Dawn took Teresa's cell phone and used it to call Scott. She told him that Teresa was dead.
Scott and Dawn were charged with attempted murder (for the casino incident) and murder and they both pleaded guilty. They were given two consecutive life sentences.
Police discovered that before Dawn, Scott approached at least three other men and asked them to kill Teresa. He had been planning it for some time. One of the men , Willie Underwood, was allegedly given $15000 but he didn't go ahead with it.
Willie Underwood was indicted in the case on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder and his case is still pending.
Teresa's mother, Reba Whaley, was devastated that Teresa's husband wanted her dead. She was glad that the case was closed after four years:
“I’ve waited for this day for four years. It’s like our lives have been put on hold. Everything in my life, I divide into ‘before Teresa was killed’ and ‘after Teresa was killed.’ "
Scott wanted Teresa dead because he didn't want to go through an expensive divorce and have to pay child maintenance for his children. His motive was greed. He did not care that his three children would be left without a mother. Dawn's motive is not so clear. Even though Scott agreed to give her $20,000, she didn't seem motivated by the money. She seemed perfectly happy to murder an innocent mother of three.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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