LOGAN – At a sentencing hearing in Hocking County Common Pleas Court Thursday, in which friends and family members of a murdered Benton Township man gave emotional accounts of the impact his death has had on their lives, the daughter of the man convicted of the murder was sentenced to nine years in prison for her part in trying to cover up the crime.
Melody Sue Dixon, 19-year-old daughter of convicted murderer Michael T. Dixon, was sentenced to consecutive three-year sentences on three counts of evidence tampering, and concurrent sentences of one year and three years on counts of obstructing justice. She will be credited with 324 days she has already served in jail.
Dixon pled guilty to the charges last month, as part of a plea agreement in which a special prosecutor agreed to drop four counts of evidence tampering, and one count each of gross abuse of a corpse and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
After a week-long jury trial Michael Dixon was found guilty on May 11 of 12 felony counts, including murder, felonious assault; evidence tampering; engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; and gross abuse of a corpse.
The jury found that in July 2020 Michael Dixon had used a gun to deliberately kill 56-year-old James T. Whitaker, at Whitaker’s cabin where the Dixons were living with him rent-free. The jurors also found that Dixon had taken various actions to try to hide the slaying from authorities, which included dismembering and burning Whitaker’s corpse.
The charges Melody Dixon pled to were based on her having assisted in that attempted cover-up – helping to clean up and rearrange the crime scene; stealing, selling or destroying a flat-screen TV of Whitaker’s; tampering with two firearms connected to Whitaker’s death; and lying to police investigators.
Friends and family members of Whitaker who spoke at Thursday’s sentencing hearing included two of his daughters, both of whom asked not to be identified by name in news reporting on the hearing.
One of the women said that Whitaker’s murder, and manner in which the Dixons tried to hide the crime, caused the family anguish and fear as the authorities worked to discover the truth behind his disappearance.
“I was never able to say goodbye (to him),” she recounted. “My children were never able to say goodbye to their grandfather.” The family’s pain and fear could have been partially relieved if Melody Sue Dixon had told investigators what she knew earlier, the woman said. “She could have told the truth, and yet she remained silent,” she said.
Another of Whitaker’s daughters, who fought back tears as she spoke in court, said she believes Melody Dixon is not sorry for her involvement in the gruesome crime.
“My fear is, she has no remorse,” the woman said. “She couldn’t have cared less about what she did to my dad.” She added that she and other family members still live in fear, wondering “whether the Dixon family is going to come after us next.”
Susan Jester, a friend and neighbor of Whitaker’s, said she likewise fears for her and her husband’s life if the Dixons are not in prison. She said that though Whitaker and others tried to help the Dixons, “they took every bit of our kindness, our help… and our personal property, and trashed every bit of it.”
Special prosecutor Anthony Pierson of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office called for maximum and consecutive prison terms, which would have resulted in a 13-year sentence. Defense attorney Timothy Gleeson suggested more leniency was appropriate, noting that none of the crimes Dixon pled to are violent offenses.
Gleeson read from a statement he said was written by Dixon, in which she said, “I did not want any of this to happen… I wish it had never happened, but it did,” and added, “I hope the family of James Whitaker can forgive me.”
Judge John T. Wallace noted that Dixon’s childhood “was far from ideal,” but added that this doesn’t excuse her actions. Dixon “did not kill, but she did hide what happened,” he observed, while also acknowledging that she appears to have been “somewhat under the influence of her father.”
Email at email@example.com