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Mildred Waters | 'He'd Be a Star Today'

Brittany and Damien Farrare and great-grandmother Mildred Waters hold up an oil painted T-shirt of Carlton Dotson.
Brittany and Damien Farrare and great-grandmother Mildred Waters hold up an oil painted T-shirt of Carlton Dotson. (Mike Wise - The Washington Post)
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

HURLOCK, Md. -- Inside the brown, one-story rambler that Carlton Dotson grew up in -- in this dusty hamlet of about 2,000 residents on Maryland's Eastern Shore -- Mildred Waters and her kin miss the boy she raised.

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"If he hadn't gotten into trouble, he'd be a star today," lamented Waters, Dotson's 78-year-old great-grandmother. She lives here along with her husband Gilbert, her niece Patricia Waters, 47, and Patricia's two children, Brittany and Damien Farrare, ages 18 and 13.

Waters receives letters from Dotson twice a week, she says, and routinely sends him $20, which is converted to 80 quarters so that he can use the prison vending machines to buy M&M's and Mountain Dew. "He'll eat that 20 dollars quick," she said as she recalled, with a smile, her visit to see Dotson nearly two years ago.

Mildred showed off the picture of the young man in the pencil-thin mustache at senior prom and grabbed the photo album of Dotson and his former wife, Melissa Kethley, who moved back in with her parents after Dotson's erratic behavior and alleged abuse. The divorce was not final until after Dotson was sentenced for the killing.

Dotson was a homecoming king. His grades were below average, but he was an affable classmate who wrote in his senior scrapbook, "My goal in life is to make the most money possible with the least work, have a successful life and marry a nice, smart and pretty wife."

Mildred chuckled at the words. "You talk to Gail?" she asked, using the name by which family and friends know Gilreatha Stoltzfus, Dotson's mother. In a high-pitched, firm tone, she added, "Tell that girl to call home."

Brittany writes Dotson often and has a "Free Carlton" posting on her MySpace page. An aspiring artist, she used oils to paint his likeness from Dotson's graduation picture on a T-shirt, which she and Mildred held up in the kitchen earlier this month as an homage to the young man who sits in a Texas prison for killing his teammate in 2003.

"Both families lost their boy that day," Mildred said.

-- Mike Wise


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