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Accused killer's sides seen in letters

Jul. 16, 2011


They’ll tell you black is really white,
The moon is just the sun at night,
And when you walk into golden halls,
You’ll never keep the gold that falls,
It’s heaven and hell.
Oh well.
— Robert Dunn

The man accused of killing his estranged wife at a day care in 2008 is closer to hell than heaven.

The state attorney’s office charged Robert Dunn with first-degree murder, armed burglary and child abuse in the slaying of teacher Christine Lozier-Dunn, 36.

The shooting, which occurred while Lozier-Dunn huddled several students in a bathroom at Bobbie Noonan’s Child Care, shook Cape Coral.

It was a miracle the children escaped unscathed.

Fort Myers defense attorney David Brener will attempt to keep Dunn, 47, off death row and away from lethal injection.

Brener unveiled his mental-illness defense Thursday in court.

Dunn’s picture, almost if on cue, has a crazed look.

“He’s clearly suffering from a major depressive disorder,’’ Brener said Friday. “He’s had a major mental illness for more than 20 years.’’

Does Dunn have longtime looniness, or is this a tactic lawyers use?

“It will be up to the mental-health experts to determine it,’’ Brener said.

It is the same strategy Brener used to spare Cash Feenz double-murderer Kemar Johnston from the needle 17 months ago. He was sentenced to four life terms plus 30 years.

Dunn’s first letter to The News-Press found my mailbox March 23. I sent a postcard to confirm receipt and asked to be placed on his visitor list.

An interview with an accused killer before the trial is unheard of.

When a second letter addressed to me arrived April 5, I was surprised.

I’m the last columnist Dunn wants as a pen pal.

I wrote a column two years ago urging the state attorney’s office to seek a first-degree murder charge and the death penalty.

• • •

The difference between Dunn’s letters was like his poetic moon and sun.

In the first, his printing was uneven and his mood was angry and agitated.

“I have a lot to say,’’ he wrote to The News-Press. “If anyone from the jail reads this and destroys it like the others I’ve sent to news agencies, I have people outside who will contact these entities now.’’

(Page 2 of 2)

Dunn says cover-ups and lies were taking place at Lee County Jail.

“They are denying my 1st Amendment Rights.’’

In the second letter, his printing was neat and his mood was thoughtful.

“As I’ve said, nobody has responded to me in the past and in my experiences, nobody takes a person in a red jumpsuit seriously,’’ he wrote to me. “My main goal in life from here on out is to do things right and honestly.’’

I read parts of both letters to the attorney.

Brener, appointed Dunn’s attorney in April 2010, says disparate personalities displayed in the letters are an example of his client’s mental illness.

“I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I’ve been dealing with mentally ill patients for 20 years,’’ he said. “From what you have told me about the letters, it is consistent with mental illness.’’

Mental-health experts may not agree with Brener, but they’re not trying to save his client’s life.

The state doesn’t comment on cases before trial, but we know how it feels about the defendant.

Dunn comes off as troubled in the first letter and sane in the second one.

“Thank you for writing back,’’ he wrote in the second. “I don’t want to be taken advantage of and I’ve been villified (sic) enough.’’

He’s wrong about that.

Scrutiny of his acts will start anew at his trial, scheduled for November.

Dunn’s jury and judge will determine if his Brener-introduced mental illness will keep him off death row.

— Sam Cook’s column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Call 335-0384 or fax 334-0708.

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