A Suspect for Two Years, Wife Is Charged With Murder
Two years after the crime, the common-law wife of a Huntington Harbour man was arrested Tuesday night in his death. The arrest came on the eve of a court appearance for settlement of her claim to $135,000 from his life insurance policies, authorities said Wednesday.
Police would not discuss how they linked Dixie Ann Dyson, 42, a data-entry clerk, to the slaying, but they said she has been their prime suspect from the start of their investigation.
“There is a possibility of further arrests” in the case, said Huntington Beach Police Lt. Ed McErlain. He would not elaborate.
Three insurance companies have withheld payment of the claim filed by Dixie Dyson, whose common-law husband, Mel Dulay Dyson, 30, was stabbed to death two years ago in their condominium. Delores Dyson, the slain man’s mother and executor of his estate, has disputed Dixie Dyson’s claim in court papers filed June 24 because Dixie Dyson “has come under suspicion of having been culpably involved in bringing about the death of the insured.”
Dyson was taken into custody at her current home in Carson--a condominium owned and also occupied by Delores Dyson. Dixie Dyson was booked into the Huntington Beach City Jail on a warrant charging her with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in her husband’s slaying, police said.
The criminal complaint, filed against Dyson in West Orange County Municipal Court, states that from Oct. 30, 1984, to Nov. 18, 1984--the day Mel Dyson was slain--Dixie Dyson conspired to kill her common-law husband of nine years “with persons unknown.”
Dixie Dyson “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, and with malice aforethought, killed Mel Dyson,” according to the complaint, filed by Huntington Beach Police Detective Dale Mason.
The complaint further states that a man named Enrico Vasquez called Dixie Dyson at the Grand Central Hair Station the day before her husband was slain but does not elaborate.
Dyson’s attorney, Michael L. Schuur of Bellflower, said Vasquez “was a friend (of Dixie Dyson); he baby-sat for her.” Schuur, who represents Dyson in her insurance claim, said he knew nothing else about Vasquez.
Attorneys for the insurance companies being sued by Dixie Dyson to pay the policy also were seeking to question Vasquez, who they said was living in New York.
In the days after the slaying, Dixie Dyson reportedly told investigators the following story:
She and her husband, an accountant who also worked with computers, went to bed about 10 p.m. on Nov. 17, 1984. Sometime later, she heard her son coughing and went to his room, where she fell asleep. Her son’s young cousin also was sleeping in the room.
About 2 a.m., Dyson said, she awoke and was returning to her bedroom when a man attacked her, wrestled her to the floor and raped her.
She told police the rapist forced her to drive him to a shopping center in Huntington Beach, where he fled. She said she drove home and found her husband’s body.
Dixie Dyson was not injured but was examined at a nearby hospital and released, police have said.
The Dysons’ son, Eric, then 7, slept through the episode and was “not hurt and saw nothing,” Huntington Beach Police Lt. Jim Walker said at the time. Walker is now retired.
But there were puzzling elements to Dixie Dyson’s account of the events that, at the time, detectives said they could not figure out.
Walker said then that investigators were trying to determine how the alleged intruder entered the three-story condominium in the walled and gated community. There had been no sign of a forced entry and nothing was taken, Walker said. Night security guard Bob Lindner, 29, also told detectives that he did not see a man fitting the description of the reported assailant enter or leave the complex while he was on duty late that Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Lindner said he told police that he saw one of the Dysons’ cars leave the complex at 1:30 a.m., half an hour earlier than Dixie Dyson told investigators, and that he saw only one person in the vehicle when it left.
The security guard also said a couple--a man of about 45 who gave his name as Carl and a woman of about 35--drove up to the security gate at 2:40 a.m. and told the guard that they wanted to visit the Dyson residence.
Lindner said he called the Dyson home and a woman answered, giving him permission to admit the couple. Twenty minutes later, Lindner said, police arrived at the guard shack to investigate Mrs. Dyson’s report that her husband had been killed.
A couple who lived next door to the Dysons said that Mel Dyson was “one of the nicest guys you ever could come across” but that they did not know his wife. The neighbors said that the couple had been estranged in the months preceding the slaying and that the wife lived at the home only on weekends.
Delores Dyson said her daughter-in-law had been married twice before she became Mel Dyson’s common-law wife. Eric was their only child.
Dixie Dyson also has a son, Bill, about 21, who stayed with her occasionally, and a daughter, Lisa, 16, who lives at the Carson home. Her daughter said Wednesday that Dyson works part time at data-entry jobs.
At the time of the slaying, the daughter said, she and her mother and Eric were living at Delores Dyson’s former home in Wilmington because of Dixie’s job. She said Mel Dyson came over for dinner frequently.
Dixie Dyson’s daughter said that she believes her mother had nothing to do with Mel Dyson’s murder but that her mother has known all along that she was a suspect.
She said Delores Dyson was influenced by conversations with police detectives and “didn’t know what to think.”
The daughter said that her mother was named on Mel Dyson’s life insurance policies as the sole beneficiary and that Delores Dyson disputed Dixie Dyson’s claim to the insurance money because she thought it belonged to Eric Dyson.
Delores Dyson told her “she was ready to settle,” Lisa said. Dixie Dyson filed a lawsuit on May 23, 1985, in Orange County Superior Court against Allstate Life Insurance Co. and Security Life Insurance Co. The suit also named the City of Huntington Beach and Detective Mason, who was investigating the murder of Mel Dyson. Police have refused comment on the suit.
According to court papers, Dyson claimed that her husband was insured by a $100,000 life insurance policy by Allstate and a $25,000 life insurance policy by Security before his death, policies that listed her as the beneficiary. She demanded payment, which had not been made. She also claimed that Mason maliciously persuaded the two insurance companies to refuse her payment and sought $250,000 in damages from him.
Prudential Life Insurance Co. of America was subsequently added to Dixie Dyson’s suit, but that company admitted to owing only $4,976 to Mel Dyson’s beneficiaries on a policy that lapsed for non-payment of premiums.
Superior Court Judge Judith M. Ryan issued an injunction last Feb. 18, requiring the insurance carriers to place the money into a special account, and enjoined Dixie Dyson from obtaining the money without a court order.
The insurance companies never argued over payment of the policies but disputed who the beneficiary was, court records show.
A mandatory settlement conference in the insurance claim dispute was scheduled in Superior Court in Santa Ana on Wednesday, but the case was removed from the court calendar.
Instead, the short and stocky woman with short-cropped blond hair appeared in a Westminster courtroom Wednesday morning to be arraigned on the murder charge. Wearing a black jacket and white pants into court, Dixie Dyson sat cross-legged with her hands on her knees and stared straight ahead of her as her attorney’s request for a continuance was granted late in the afternoon.
The arraignment was set for Friday because Schuur told the court that he had not had time to review the case. Schuur said Wednesday that his client will plead not guilty at Friday’s arraignment.
On Wednesday, Delores Dyson traveled to the Westminster courtroom but returned to their white stucco, three-level condominium in Carson by mid-afternoon.
Asked if she ever suspected Dixie Dyson of killing her son, she said, “I don’t know,” and then burst into tears in the driveway.
Times staff writers George Stein, John Spano and Andy Rose contributed to this article.