Double-murder suspect wants out without bail

The man tells a judge of his "good heart."

Published May 2, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Dorion Dillard is accused of committing a crime so vicious that it terrified the city: the killing of two defenseless homeless men one night in January.

But Dillard, 20, says he isn't a bad guy. In fact, he calls himself "a young man with a good heart."

And until he faces his charges at trial, he wants his freedom.

"All I want to do is get a job so that I can provide for my family, " Dillard wrote in a recent two-page letter to Judge Nancy Moate Ley that recently became public. "I barely even sleep at night because I know my fiancee is working late nights to keep up a house that isn't even a home anymore."

In the letter, Dillard says his fiancee is having financial trouble because she has to work two jobs to take care of her 3-year-old daughter.

Dillard and Cordaro Hardin, 19, both face two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of David Heath and Jeff Shultz, in addition to other charges. It is unclear why Heath, 53, and Shultz, 43, were targeted that night. Two other young men were with Dillard and Hardin at the start of the night, police say, though one ran away and the other later cooperated with authorities and isn't being charged.

Since the February arrests, police have recovered two handguns, which ballistics tests have confirmed were used in the killings. Police say Dillard confessed to the killings and that Hardin confessed to some involvement.

Dillard and Hardin, who have criminal records, are being held in jail without bail. The odds of a judge agreeing to let someone accused of first-degree murder out is essentially zero. Dillard has a pretrial hearing in July.

"It's impossible or virtually impossible to be released on your own recognizance on a double homicide, " said Scott Rosenwasser, who is prosecuting Dillard and Hardin for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

Dillard's mother Candace, 37, declined to comment. His attorney, William Bennett, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

But Dillard's letter offers insights into his life before the murders.

Dillard says that he proposed to his fiancee on Christmas Day, 2006, which was "by far the best day of my life."

"When I last got out of jail from doing county time I made a decision to get my life back in order, " Dillard wrote.

He says he found work as a day laborer and wants to work again if he's released. He suggests being placed on community control so he can work and help his fiancee.

"The whole situation is constant stress for her and she barely gets to spend time with her daughter, " Dillard wrote.

Dillard does not mention the killings in his letter, except in passing at the end.

"I know the charges that have been brought against me are very serious in nature but I myself am not that kind of person, " Dillard wrote. "Please take the time out to consider this your honor."

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.