Real Name: Dorothy May Donovan
Nicknames: Dorothy Holden (name from first marriage)
Location: Harrington, Delaware
Date: June 22, 1991
Details: Seventy-year-old Dorothy Donovan was the mother of factory worker Charles Holden. At around midnight on June 22, 1991, he stopped at a fast food restaurant in Harrington, Delaware after his shift ended. After he left, he got into his truck. As he prepared to leave, a stranger approached him, asking for a ride. He said that his sister was having a baby and that he needed to get to the hospital in Georgetown. Charles first said he could not because it was late and he lived just a few blocks away. However, he eventually changed his mind and agreed to take him for a certain distance.
Charles drove the stranger three miles down Highway 14. He stopped at the intersection of Highway 14 and Killen Pond Road where he would normally turn to drive home. He told the stranger that this was as far as he could drive him. The stranger became angry and attacked him, demanding his money as well as his truck. He grabbed his keys and jumped out. He ran to a store to get help, but the stranger, armed with a screwdriver, raced toward him. The stranger threatened to kill him. At that point, he said he would take him where he wanted to go. However, as the stranger went around to enter the passenger side, Charles sped off. The stranger tried to run after him but gave up.
After leaving the scene, Charles began to drive around in the opposite direction of his trailer, trying to shake off his experience. When he finally started to return home, he noticed the stranger was lurking around there. He drove away again to call the police at a pay phone. Police officer Myrna Kinney went with him to his trailer to make sure that the stranger was not there.
Charles and Myrna examined his trailer but found nothing was out of place or unlocked. He then asked her to look at Dorothy's house, which was behind it. When they went there, they found that the back door window was broken and there was blood inside. They then went up the stairs to her bedroom and found her dead. She had been brutally stabbed in the chest, arms, and face.
Nothing had been stolen from Dorothy's house and investigators ruled out robbery as a motive. At first, they suspected that Charles was responsible due to his bizarre story. However, physical evidence was found that did not belong to him and he was ruled out as a suspect. Dorothy's murder devastated him and the rest of their family, as they were all very close. They hope that her killer will be identified some day.
Suspects: At first, the police suspected Charles of Dorothy's murder given the complexity of the crime. They did not believe that it was likely that the stranger would happen upon her house after Charles left him some distance away. They also were suspicious when they learned that Charles was one of the beneficiaries for her life insurance.
However, they soon found witnesses at the restaurant who confirmed that the stranger did exist. A witness also saw the struggle between him and Charles in his truck. More importantly, they also found a bloody palm print on a banister and DNA evidence that did not match Charles. As a result of this evidence, he was cleared.
The stranger is described as being in his late twenties or early thirties (in 1995), 5'8", with a slender build and pock-marked complexion, and he wore plastic framed glasses with oversized lenses. Due to the extremely violent nature of the crime, investigators believe that he may have been on drugs, most likely crack cocaine, at the time of the murder.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 12, 1995 episode. It was also featured on Forensic Files.
Results: Solved. DNA found at the scene was later uploaded to CODIS, the national DNA database. In November 2005, the DNA evidence along with the bloody palm print on the banister were matched to forty-one-year-old Gilbert Cannon of Delmar, Maryland. He lived in Delaware at the time of Dorothy's murder. He had previously served time for a 1997 one; he also had convictions on robbery and drug charges. Prior to his release, his DNA was collected, which was used to connect him to this case. In January 2006, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
When first questioned, Cannon denied any involvement in Dorothy's murder. However, when confronted with the evidence, he confessed to it. He told authorities that he was high on cocaine that night. He said that after Charles left him at the intersection, he walked down the road, looking for a place to sleep. He passed several houses, but they all had lights on. He said he chose Dorothy's because it was the first one he could find that was dark. When he broke the back door, she woke up. He then killed her to keep her from identifying him.
Cannon confirmed that it was just a coincidence that he chose Dorothy's house. He said that he did not know either her or Charles. He also confirmed that he acted alone. In April 2007, he pleaded guilty to her murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sadly, Dorothy's daughter, Diana, passed away in 2020.
- TV looks into Delaware slaying - September 24, 1994
- Delaware's Unsolved Homicides - November 21, 1999
- Killer familiar to victim, FBI profilers insist - January 16, 2001
- Police hope new methods garner leads - January 16, 2001
- Donovan case still under scrutiny; police say progress continues - July 12, 2002
- Police arrest man in Harrington cold case - January 20, 2006
- Hitchhiker charged in 1991 Kent slaying - January 21, 2006
- Delmar man charged in 1991 murder - January 21, 2006
- Police arrest Maryland man in 1991 murder of elderly woman - January 22, 2006
- Maryland man charged in 1991 slaying of Houston woman - July 20, 2006
- Delmar Man Pleads Guilty in 1991 Slaying - April 25, 2007
- Maryland man pleads guilty in brutal 1991 slaying - April 25, 2007
- Harrington cold case featured on forensics programs - December 16, 2008
- Forensic Files - Stranger in the Night on YouTube
- Dorothy Donovan's Obituary
- Dorothy Donovan on Find a Grave