CITRONELLE, Ala. (WKRG) — A woman in an abusive relationship runs from her former boyfriend. She moves in with her brother and his family. Nobody knew what the ex-boyfriend was capable of until that fateful night in August 2016. This is the story of Derrick Dearman.
WKRG News 5 is looking back at the crimes that shocked the Gulf Coast. Derrick Dearman’s story is the eleventh in the series.
Derrick Dearman and Laneta Lester started dating in January 2016, according to their relationship status on Facebook. During the few months they were together Dearman was abusive toward her.
In an interview with Dearman’s ex-wife, she said Dearman had previously been violent toward her and had been violent with his mother too. Due to his violence, Lester had decided to move out of the home they lived at together and move in with her brother for the time being.
Joseph Turner was Lester’s brother and he was in a relationship with Shannon Randall, who had just had their first child, 3-month-old Darren. The couple was living at a home in Citronelle and, according to an episode of the podcast Anatomy of Murder, the two had a very loving relationship.
Chelsea and Justin Reed were friends of Joseph’s and had been staying with him while they were looking for somewhere to call their own. According to Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, the couple had just found out they were having a baby and were overjoyed.
On the night of Aug. 19, 2016, all five residents decided to have a low-key weekend. One of their friends, Robert Lee Brown, came over and the group had a cookout. After the cookout, the group settled in to watch a movie.
It was at this time that Dearman showed up at the home and was told he had to leave. Three hours later Dearman showed back up at the home and that’s when Turner told Dearman he was no longer welcome on the property.
Shannon decided to call the Citronelle Police Department to tell them Dearman was on the property and she did not want him there. Officers went to the home, however, by the time they got there Dearman had left. They patrolled the area surrounding the home but never found Dearman.
At 3 a.m. on Aug. 20, Dearman returned to the home where he found an axe in a tree. In an interview, DA Ashley Rich said, “[Dearman decided] ‘if I can’t have Laneta, they can’t have her either.” Dearman knocked on Lester’s window and she allegedly let him in.
Dearman entered the home and shot the five before taking an axe to them. The victims included Shannon Randall, Joseph Turner, Robert Brown, Chelsea Reed, Justin Reed and their unborn baby. All six were dead by the time officers arrived.
Dearman kidnapped Lester and 3-month-old Darren and took them to his sister’s house in Greene County, Miss. They then left the sister’s house, dropped Darren off at a friend’s parent’s house and went to the friend’s trailer to sleep. Once awake, they went back to the parent’s house to pick up Darren and then went to Dearman’s dad’s house.
It was at this point that Lester found the opportunity to make her escape. Dearman had gotten out of the car at his dad’s house and, while he wasn’t looking, Lester got in the driver’s seat of the vehicle and drove her and her nephew to the Citronelle Police Department.
Dearman’s dad took him to the Greene County Police Department where Dearman first attempted to turn himself in for not paying child support. When officers told him he did not have a warrant out for his arrest, his father talked him into confessing to what he had done.
Officers arrested Dearman and during his interview, he told officers, “through all this, I truly thought everyone was trying to kidnap and hurt her. After everything, I told my girlfriend to grab the baby and get in the car. She did so out of fear of me.” Dearman claimed he was on methamphetamine at the time and said that’s why he committed the murders.
When it came to the trial, Dearman decided to defend himself. He was found guilty of 12 counts of capital murder and sentenced to murder. As of December 2022, Dearman is being held on death row at the Holman Prison in Atmore, Ala.