News of our Cousins . . .

From the Evening News, Monroe County, Michigan
August 28, 2009

Dawn Duvall reads a letter expressing her apologies and feelings as her attorney, Jarod Calkins, listens at her sentencing Thursday. Ms. Duvall received 31 to 46 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of William H. (Whitey) Gilbreath in 2005. Her father and uncle were convicted of murder in the savage beating deaths of two deer hunters in northern Michigan. Her stepfather is in prison for murdering her mother. And she was sexually abused as a child for years.

Those familiar with Dawn Duvall say her life has been a tragedy almost since the day she was born. “You wonder how a person could survive the things she went through,” said parole officer Dan Foor. “She had a horrible, tragic life.” On Thursday Ms. Duvall stood before a judge not as a victim, but as a defendant in a murder case. She was sentenced to serve a minimum of 31 years in prison for the brutal stabbing death of 78-year-old William H. (Whitey) Gilbreath, a longtime Monroe cab driver. “I take full responsibility for my actions,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I’d like to apologize to Whitey’s family. I’m sorry for all the embarrassment.”

Ms. Duvall, 30, a mother of four, last month pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in the 2005 killing of Mr. Gilbreath, who was stabbed and slashed 76 times. On Thursday she told Monroe County Circuit Judge Michael W. LaBeau that she has been addicted to drugs for years. On the night of the murder, according to court testimony and records, Ms. Duvall went to Mr. Gilbreath’s home on Winchester Street to seek prescription painkillers such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Monroe police reported that Ms. Duvall admitted to swinging a knife wildly at Mr. Gilbreath because he was making sexual advances toward her in exchange for the drugs. Her attorney, Jarod M. Calkins of Monroe, told the judge that his client claims she doesn’t remember the bloody attack. “She blacked out,” Mr. Calkins said. “When she awoke, she found out she killed him. It was well beyond anything Ms. Duvall is capable of. She’s remorseful, she’s hurt and she’s scared.” But Mr. Foor told the judge the Gilbreaths lost a loving family member. He spoke on the family’s behalf because, he said, they are afraid of the Duvalls and fearful of coming to court. “His murder was senseless,” Mr. Foor said. The judge agreed. He could have sentenced Ms. Duvall to a minimum of 24½ years in prison, which would have been within her guidelines. Instead, he chose 31 to 46½ years with credit for 373 days served. “It appears she had a very tragic life,” Judge LaBeau said. “And the defendant’s tragic life expanded into the lives of another family. She is a threat to the community.”

Some details about her past were revealed in court, including her involvement with a Monroe man who was convicted last year of murdering his wife. A jury last September convicted Gordon Dotson of stabbing his wife, Betty, to death inside the couple’s mobile home. Mr. Dotson tried to pin the murder on Ms. Duvall, but she denied any involvement under oath. She did testify in the 2008 trial that she accepted money from Mr. Dotson, 66, in exchange for sexual favors but said she was not involved with his wife’s murder. It was not the only killing Ms. Duvall has been exposed to over the years. In July, 1994, her mother, Eileen Bolzman, was strangled to death in Alcona County in northern Michigan near Hale. The victim’s husband, Ms. Duvall’s stepfather Nelson Bolzman, now 57, was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and is serving 18 to 30 years in prison.

In 2003 another jury in northern Michigan convicted Ms. Duvall’s father, Raymond (J.R.) Duvall, and his brother, Donald (Coco) Duvall, of the brutal 1985 beating of two Detroit-area deer hunters. That case remained unsolved for almost 20 years until an eyewitness came forward. The Duvall brothers were convicted of savagely beating and kicking the 27-year-old victims and laughing while they pleaded for mercy on a snowy November night in the woods near Mio 24 years ago. The victims were never found because investigators claim their bodies were chopped up and fed to pigs.

“Miss Duvall suffered abuse; her environment shaped her,” Mr. Calkins told Judge LaBeau. “But she had a choice. She chose to turn to drugs. Without drugs she wouldn’t have been in Mr. Gilbreath’s house that evening.”

The Duval Family
of Unity and Marshfield
Note to the reader:
Dawn Duvall, the subject of this news story, descends from Ignace Joachim Thuot dit Duval, who was born in 1751 and moved in the late 1700s to the territory that later became Monroe County, just south of Detroit, in Michigan. Ignace Joachim was a son of Thomas Ignace Thuot dit Duval, born in 1725, from whom we also descend. If you are a great-great grandchild of Charles and Sarah Duval, you are a 7th cousin to Dawn.
Dawn Duvall’s family has experienced problems for a while. Her grandfather died in prison. Her father, Raymond Wilbur (“J.R.”) Duvall, was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence, as described in the “true crime” book, Darker than Night: The True Story of a Brutal Double Homicide and an 18-Year-Long Quest for Justice, by Tom Henderson. At least three of her uncles have also been imprisoned, including Rex Wayne (“Rexy”) Duvall, convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a 15-year-old girl.