MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Meet 9-year-old Ceniyah, 14-year-old Cedrick and 18-year-old Cecil Dotson, Jr. They are the children who survived the Lester Street Massacre.
“How often do you think about that?”
“Not that often,” responded Cecil. “To be honest, don’t think about it like that. I’m trying to move forward, toward my future. I have a big future ahead of me.”
Cecil is the one who told police his uncle, Jesse Dotson, was the one responsible for the killing spree inside his family’s home.
“All I heard was pow, pow, pow and I got up and went in there. I saw my uncle with a gun in his hand shooting my Dad.”
Jesse Dotson show his brother, Cecil Sr., first. He also killed the children’s mother, Marissa, and two other adults visiting the home. He then went after his young nephews and niece with a knife.
“When I walked back in my room that’s when he came in there. And then he got me and he walked off. I remember everything.”
Dotson repeatedly stabbed and beat the children in the home. Their 2-year-old and 4-year-old brothers died. Two-month-old Ceniyah, 5-year-old Cedrick and 9-year-old Cecil survived the brutal attack.
Cecil told WREG he stayed alive by playing dead in a bloody bath tub until police found him 40 hours later.
“I thought I was dreaming for a second but it turned out it was real.”
The scars from the knife attack are a reminder of what happened, but their grandmother said they don’t talk about it much anymore. They live with her now and are seeing counselors to help with emotional support.
“They’re smart kids,” said Ida Anderson. “Ceniyah is on the honor roll. She did ballet. Now she’s gardening with her uncles. All those things. Cedric played basketball while he was in elementary school and they still do that now.”
As for their uncle, he is serving six death sentences for the murders. A judge gave him an extra 120 years in prison for what he did to the young children.
“If you could ask your Uncle Jesse anything what would you ask him?”
“Why did he do what he did,” Cedrick replied. “And what was the cause of what he did that for.”
Today, the children keep a picture of their mother on the wall. It’s something that Cecil said he looks at everyday.
“I look at that picture everyday to think about who, what, why I’m here and what reason God gave me to be here. So I use that to keep myself pushing on toward my future.”
“How do feel about him? Do you hate him, do you dislike him, indifferent about him?”
“He’s still my uncle so I still love him, but I can’t forgive him for what he did,” said Cecil
Cecil is an 11th grader and is focused on life after high school. He said he wants to join the military.
As the oldest, he feels a responsibility to help take care of his younger siblings and on day his grandmother.
“I just keep my head focused on what I need to be focused on and help my grandma out which I already am.”
Their grandmother told WREG the children have overcome many physical and emotional challenges, but appear to be adjusting well.
She added that she really appreciates the community’s support over the years.
Some money has been placed in a trust for the children’s education and for college. Anyone who would like to donate to the fund can do so through the Bank Tennessee Dotson Children Benefit Fund.