Part one of a two-part story detailing the death of Maria Dolores Escobedo and the trial of her killer, Mario Dorame
Editor’s Note: The following story contains graphic language and subject matter.
Mario Dorame killed Maria Dolores Escobedo. The substantive question for the jury in Superior Court case “CR20175322” to determine is whether or not it was premeditated, first-degree homicide or “heat-of-passion manslaughter.”
Pima County Public Defender Thomas A. Knauer argued the latter while Pima County Deputy Attorney Christopher Ward argued the former in closing arguments today. The jury left home for the weekend around 4:20 p.m. indicating they did not reach a verdict and will resume deliberations on Tuesday.
This case is different than most murder trials because Dorame confessed to killing Dolores in both a hand-written letter and in an interview with police.
The following is a recreation of the events leading up to Dolores’ death and is based on the initial interview Dorame had with Tucson Police Department’s lead detective on the case, Patrick Robinson, and Detective Heriberto Orozco on November 15, 2017.
Dorame was picked up that night along East Grant Road after leaving the basement of Tucson Medical Center, where he’d been a fugitive in hiding for the previous six weeks, to go get a burrito. Dorame obtained access to the basement of TMC through his employment with Universal Wallboard, a drywall company contracted by TMC.
In that initial interview with detectives Dorame confessed to stabbing Escobedo in the early hours of September 24, 2017. In the edited interview shown to the jury he did not ask for a lawyer and he did not refuse to speak. He appeared to be a man shackled with a guilty-conscience ready to drop the burden.
Dorame’s defense team filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the interview, calling it an involuntary statement. In the motion, Dorame alleged Detective Orozco said to him, “you better tell us everything we want to fucking know,” when they were in an elevator at the downtown police station.
The Court denied suppression and admitted it into evidence.
September 23, 2017
“We were happy,” Dorame told detectives as he described the start to the evening of September 23, 2017. Dorame said he and Escobedo each drank about six beers and six shots of Jack Daniel’s honey whiskey at his home before heading to Desert Diamond Casino where he subsequently spent approximately a hundred dollars on more drinks for both of them.
“We had a lot more shots and drinks there,” Dorame said.
After some time at the casino’s nightclub and a little gambling, the couple went back to Dorame’s home where he rented a room and lived with two other males — who were not there at the time.
They drank some more, had sex, and were talking about getting back together and her moving in with him, again. The couple had been on-again, off-again since a domestic violence incident in April of 2017.
“In April we got into a fight…it was at the trailer we were in together…she went out with another guy that night…when she got home, I hit her,” Dorame told the detectives. He said that since the April incident he and Dolores were being kept apart by Dolores’ family.
“When we broke up in April, I dated other girls,” Dorame said at one point in the interview. And, allegedly, that became the issue which turned the tide on the night of Dolores’ murder.
“We got up [after having sex] and had some water, did another shot…and then from there we were talking about getting back together and her moving in…we started arguing…she said she was talking to other guys…we went to the kitchen…we were doing a shot and drinking beer and talking…he [the man Dolores had been talking to] was coming down from Ohio to see her…she said, ‘fuck you if you can do it I can do it’…I slept with another girl,” Dorame told the detectives.
Dorame claims things escalated from there and that Dolores grabbed an orange knife and attempted to strike him with it. “It nicked me,” he claimed. He said he caught her hand and eventually turned the knife on her, “You’re gonna’ kill me, I’m gonna’ fucking kill you,” Dorame said he told her.
“If I can’t have you nobody can have you” he said.
Dorame began sobbing in front of the detectives and then told them he had her pinned down, “She was talking crap, sir.”
“I wasn’t trying to hurt her, was trying to calm her down,” he said in the interview.
One of the detectives asked Dorame if he’d been trained in the Marines to use a knife in combat, “Of course,” he responded. He then asked if Dorame used any of those techniques on Dolores, “Yes, oh yes,” he said and then responded he stabbed her, “…in the jugular,” and twisted the knife.
Dorame only admitted to stabbing Dolores twice and claimed she died immediately. However, during the autopsy 25 sharp-force wounds were identified on Dolores’ body.
“I stayed there for a half an hour or hour…just sitting next to the refrigerator.”
He said during that time he was considering killing himself.
The detectives then questioned what was going through his mind when he killed Dolores. “I have never been that angry…it was like I was telling myself don’t do it,” Dorame said but also told himself the opposite, “do it…do it.”
He mentioned hearing “a staticky voice” in his head but did not elaborate. He said she’d initially come at him with the knife saying, “‘you slept with Becky’,” and said she was saying that she wanted to sleep with other men to get back at him.
After killing Dolores and sitting next to her body in the kitchen till approximately 3:30 a.m. Dorame began cleaning up the crime scene.
“Everything was just like spinning, my mind was racing like a thousand miles an hour.
“I picked her up by her feet and took her to my room…I remember going back, got paper towels and started picking up the blood…a foot and a half or two feet of blood…when I started mopping, started flipping blood around.
“Once it’s clean I went to my bedroom…she was laying there…I kept touching her to see if she was alive…she was cold…I was lying there in my bed while looking at her.
“My hands were shaking, my mind was racing, I was hearing voices…some damn static.”
Dorame went on to tell detectives he was fearful of retaliation from Dolores’ brother.
“Her brother’s a big shot…gonna’ kill me…what do I do now,” he said he was thinking. “I wanted to turn myself in a long time ago,” but he was fearful that, “…by the time I get to Pima County I’m gonna’ be dead over there.”
Dorame spent the next week avoiding the outside world by calling in sick to Universal Wallboard and telling a friend that he did landscape side-jobs with he had a bad cold.
In that time, he also answered messages coming in on Dolores’ phone from her work, “Just to make it seem like everything was ok,” he admitted.
Dorame drove Dolores’ car on “Tuesday or Wednesday” to get ice and then put the ice on her body.
One of Dorame’s roommates testified he’d heard fans in Dorame’s room that week but did not pick up on the smell of decomposition until closer to the time of her discovery. Dorame and his roommate didn’t get into each other’s space or talk much according to testimony. The two of them didn’t even have each other’s phone number.
Dr. Jennifer Chen, the forensic pathologist who conducted Dolores’ autopsy testified the body’s decomposition was likely slowed because it was refrigerated or kept cool.
“Post-mortem exchanges occur on a spectrum,” she said and estimated the longest Dolores had been dead was two weeks.
“The only fluid I was able to collect was decomposition fluid.”
Toxicology testing of the fluid collected indicated a blood alcohol level of 0.291 percent. Chen testified bacteria in dead bodies will produce ethanol as a byproduct of decomposition, but, she testified on average only up to 0.1 percent is produced by the bacteria.
The Monday after the murder Dorame wrote a note, a confession of sorts, but in it he never mentioned killing Dolores in self-defense as was argued by Knauer in closing arguments. The letter was apologetic and talked about how they were in love and wanted to get back together but were being kept apart by her family. Dorame claimed Dolores’ children were using her grandchildren as leverage to keep her from being with him.
By the next weekend the pressure began to mount on Dorame. Texts and calls were coming in more frequently on Dolores’ phone and on Saturday he received a voicemail on his phone from a Marana police officer looking for Dolores. Dorame then drove Dolores’ car, that had been sitting in front of his house all week, to a nearby apartment complex and parked it.
On Sunday morning, October 1, he got on the bus, route 25, went to Chase bank downtown and withdrew $360 before catching another bus to TMC, “because I had the keys to the hospital,” Dorame told detectives. What he had was a key card issued to him when he began working there in May of 2017.
Dorame stayed in the basement of the medical center, hiding in a closet located behind rolling stacks used to house medical records.
“It was little, it’s tiny,” he told the detectives. Dorame said he checked Facebook when he could and saw a post from one of his buddies saying that Dorame was wanted by the police.
The detectives asked why’d Dorame’s Facebook account change so dramatically after October 1, he responded, “I knew once I got caught everybody was going to get on there and try and find out who I am.”
Dorame claimed he’d only stabbed Dolores twice. The detectives told him she was stabbed multiple times and he asked, “How many times?” They did not specify an amount.
Dolores’ face, neck, shoulders, hands and forearms had approximately 25 sharp force injuries including incise and stab wounds. Incise wounds are longer than they are deep and stab wounds are deeper than they are long. Her right and left cheeks each had six wounds. Chen stated the wounds on Dolores’ hands and forearms were defensive wounds.
“The deeper wound in the neck likely injured a vessel in the neck,” Chen said but also indicated that due to decomposition this could not be accurately determined. The stab wound in her neck was seven centimeters deep and the likeliest cause of Dolores’ death.
Dorame said the knife he used to kill her, “Should be at the house, I guess.” The alleged orange knife was not at the house nor was it ever recovered during the investigation, according to detectives’ testimony.
Near the end of the interview the detectives told Dorame he was being charged with domestic violence and first-degree homicide. His face appeared to change immediately.
The weight he’d just dropped in the police interview room was quickly replaced by a new one, state prosecution.
TDSN will publish part two after the jury returns a verdict to the court next week. Stay tuned.