William Dillon

Brevard County, Florida
Date of Crime:  August 17, 1981

William Dillon was convicted of the murder of James Dvorak.  Dvorak was found murdered at Canova Beach.  He had been beaten to death and left in a wooded area, an apparent homosexual meeting place near the beach.  A motorist, John Parker, had picked up a hitchhiker near the scene of the crime and drove him to a tavern three miles away.  Along the way, Parker stopped his truck and performed oral sex on the hitchhiker.  After dropping off the hitchhiker, Parker found that his passenger had left behind a bloody yellow T-shirt which he disposed of in a trash can near a grocery store.  After he saw a news story about the murder, he called police, and police recovered the T-shirt.

When Dillon and his brother went to the beach five days later, Dillon raised police suspicions because he was informed about the murder having read or heard details of it from the news media.  He was brought in to the police station for further questioning.  Eight days after the crime, John Preston, a purported dog-tracking expert, used his scent dog, Harass II, to link the yellow T-shirt to the crime scene and also to Dillon.

At trial, Dillon's occasional girlfriend, Donna Parrish, gave confused testimony that suggested she had inadvertently stumbled upon Dvorak's dead body, then after telling no one about it, followed Dillon back to the body.  She stated that Dillon was wearing a yellow T-shirt the night of the murder.  Less than a month after trial, Parrish totally recanted her trial testimony and testified she had been pressured by the authorities and threatened with 25 years in prison.  Florida Today newspaper reported that Parrish and lead investigator Sgt. Charles Slaughter had a sexual liaison during the investigation.  Slaughter was suspended and resigned as a result.

Parker identified Dillon as the hitchhiker he had picked up.  Parker had initially told police that the hitchhiker was 6 feet tall and had a mustache.  Dillon, however, was 6 feet 4 inches tall and was incapable of growing a mustache.  Parker was legally blind in one eye and had only seen the hitchhiker at night.

A prison informant, Roger Dale Chapman, testified that Dillon confessed to the murder and that he had reenacted it in the middle of a jail dining hall.  However, despite the alleged presence of many inmate witnesses in the dining hall, no inmates could be found to corroborate Chapman's story.  Also, Chapman's report of the confession contained many details that were at odds with the facts of the crime.  For example he said the murder occurred on a beach miles away from where it actually occurred.  After Chapman agreed to testify, the state dropped charges against him for the rape of a 16-year-old girl.

Dillon filed several appeals in the years following his conviction, but all were denied.  In 1996, he began to seek access to the biological evidence for DNA testing, but his requests were also denied.  In 2007, he again requested DNA testing.  Most of the biological evidence had been lost or destroyed, but the yellow T-shirt had been saved.  A judge allowed DNA tests on the T-shirt.  Blood on the T-shirt was found to have come from the victim.  Tests on the shirt also revealed that it had been worn by someone other than Dillon.  Because these tests exonerated Dillon, his conviction was overturned and he was released from imprisonment in Nov. 2008.  Charges against him were dropped the following month.  He had spent 27 years imprisoned.  [8/09]

References:  Innocence Project, Innocence Project of Florida

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Central Florida Cases, Homosexuality Related Cases, Miscellaneous Forensics