John Dawson was 92 and his wife 89, and they’d been married for 72 years.
Their quiet life on Victoria Drive seemed routine Monday morning as she washed and folded sheets, and he did some chores outside before coming in and settling down to have some coffee.
Their domestic tranquility on that sunny autumn day came to a shocking and abrupt end when seemingly from nowhere a wild-eyed man came through their side door, hit the wife so hard she lost consciousness and stabbed her husband to death, Columbus police said.
The wife initially was in shock and unable to tell police what happened, but in two subsequent interviews this week, she told police Cpl. Stuart Carter what she could recall.
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She told him she did the laundry in a room off the carport, separate from the house, and her husband had sat down in the living room with his coffee while she went out to get some bed sheets she had washed.
When she returned to her kitchen, she encountered a large, strange man with a “crazy look” on his face.
“What are you doing in my house?” she said. “You need to go!”
He hit her, and she fell. When she came to, she went through the house looking for her husband, and couldn’t find him, she told Carter.
Wearing only boxer shorts and shoes, the suspect later identified as 27-year-old Darius Jamar Travick left the Dawsons’ home and walked out to their driveway, trying to to get into their car, police Sgt. Anthony Locey testified Friday in Columbus Recorder’s Court.
Across the street, a 69-year-old neighbor watching a feed from his home security camera saw Travick in his neighbors’ yard, Locey said. Knowing Travick didn’t belong there, the neighbor walked outside and yelled at him, telling him to move on, the sergeant said.
Travick turned on the neighbor, marching across the street, slamming the 69-year-old to the ground, punching him and putting him in a headlock, the officer said.
A bystander saw this and screamed. That drew a second neighbor’s attention, partly because the scream came from a young woman, and the resident knew most of his neighbors were elderly, Locey said.
So the second neighbor came out, and saw Travick attacking the 69-year-old, so he ran over and pulled Travick off, keeping himself between Travick and the injured man as Travick tried to get the man’s wallet, keys and cell phone, Locey said.
Travick punched the second neighbor while trying to get away, but then Travick’s mother pulled up in a Mercedes, and Travick took off his boxer shorts and got in.
Columbus police were called at 10:40 a.m. to reports of a naked man fighting in the 400 block of Victoria Drive. What they found, at first, was a naked man sitting in the driver’s seat of a Mercedes, parked in the street.
He “looked like something was wrong with him,” Locey said: Still wide-eyed, the man clutched a set of keys, and kept flicking his tongue in and out.
Hearing the suspect had come out of the Dawson’s home, police Cpl. Wayne Fairbairn walked over to investigate.
At a side door, he saw a bloody, broken paring knife, and more blood on the door.
Calling out to anyone inside, Fairbairn went in, and found Dawson dead and bloodied on the living room floor, stab wounds to his torso and left ear. He heard a woman call from the rear of the house, and found the wife in a bedroom, apparently in shock, Locey testified.
Fairbairn rushed outside and told officers to call an ambulance.
Emergency medical technicians sedated Travick and took him to the hospital, where Dawson’s wife also was transported. She had a concussion, a black eye and a swollen face where Travick hit her, officers said. She since has been released, they said.
The neighbor Travick’s accused of assaulting also has been released from the hospital.
Police charged Travick with murder and two counts of aggravated assault, arresting him at 6 p.m. Monday, and moving him from the hospital to the Muscogee County Jail at 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, according to jail records.
Recorder’s Court Judge Julius Hunter ordered him held without bond, sending the case to Muscogee Superior Court. The suspect’s attorney, Stacey Jackson, said he will ask a Superior Court judge to order a psychological evaluation for his client, to determine whether Travick knew right from wrong at the time of the assaults.
The courtroom was crowded Friday, with dozens of people attending just for Travick’s hearing. From 15 to 20 people with Dawson’s family came forward when the case was called. One man with them nearly collapsed and had to be escorted to a seat to recover.
The Dawson family did not want to comment afterward. As the hearing ended, a woman supporting Travick called out, “Hang in there, Darius!”
No testimony delved into Travick’s mental condition, despite witnesses’ accounts of his erratic conduct and his apparently random choice of victims.
Detectives said Travick had been at a grandmother’s house, about two blocks away from Victoria Drive on another street, when he walked out a back door wearing only shoes and boxer shorts and wandered off, ending up at the Dawson’s home, where he found the side door unlocked and went in.