BASS LAKE — After two weeks of testimony in the murder trial of Ahwahnee resident Craig Anthony Fetty, the jury has reached a verdict.
Fetty, 30, was found guilty on all charges in Bass Lake Superior Court today, for beating and stabbing to death Dennis Dolan, 68, also of Ahwahnee. The jury found him guilty of first degree murder with the special allegation of use of a deadly weapon, first degree burglary, and second degree robbery.
Fetty was arrested on Oct. 22, 2016, along with his girlfriend Tiffany Dambrino, now age 21, after Dolan was found dead in a detached garage at his residence on Road 600. Dolan had suffered severe injuries to his head and face, and was also stabbed in the thigh.
On Feb. 1, Dambrino agreed to plead guilty to residential burglary and robbery – with the special allegation of committing the crimes against an individual over the age of 65 – and testify against Fetty, in exchange for having her murder charge dropped, along with two pending misdemeanors in other cases.
According to Dambrino’s testimony, she and Fetty left his mother’s house on Road 621 at about 9 p.m. on the night of Oct. 21, 2016, and walked to Dolan’s house with the intention of getting methamphetamine. Neither had any money, and Dambrino said she planned to tell Dolan she would pay him later by having sex with him.
Dambrino testified that she went up to the house while Fetty waited on the road, and came back with a pipe and some meth, which the two smoked at the end of the driveway.
She said they then saw Dolan come out of his house and go into the detached garage. At that point, she said, Fetty told her to go up to the garage and signal him “when it was safe,” because she believed Fetty wanted “to beat him up.”
Later testimony from investigators would indicate that Dambrino had told Fetty that she had been raped by Dolan and others, and that Fetty became very emotional as he recounted this information during a subsequent interview, and felt very protective of Dambrino.
Dambrino told the jury that after she signaled him, Fetty came into the garage and started hitting Dolan, and yelled at her to go into the house and grab the drugs, which she did. On her way out, she told Dolan’s housemate Vicki – who was on the couch watching TV and totally unaware of what was transpiring in the garage – that “Dennis will be back inside in a minute.” She then went back into the garage where, she said, Fetty was still hitting Dolan, who was unresponsive.
The two then left, she said, but as they were walking away down the driveway, Fetty turned around and went back to the garage. That, asserted the prosecution, is when Fetty stabbed Dolan in the upper leg, slicing the femoral artery.
Back out on the road, Dambrino says Fetty took off his shirt and burned it, and they then walked back to his mom’s house where they smoked some more meth, had sex, and smoked some more. Fetty then attempted to burn his boots and a sweatshirt with limited success, so he buried them in the back yard.
A little after 1 a.m., Vicki found Dolan in the garage and called 911 in a state of shock. She told responding deputies that Dambrino had been there earlier, and though she didn’t see Fetty on the property that night, she knew who he was, and identified both in a photo line-up “in about two seconds,” said Madera County Sheriff’s Detective Jeff Noland in his testimony.
Later that morning, detectives and deputies arrived at Fetty’s mom’s house, and arrested both suspects.
During separate interviews with each suspect, detectives were able to elicit information that led them to a trash can in the men’s bathroom at the Oakhurst Burger King, where they retrieved the knife used in the murder, wrapped in a pair of men’s underwear.
With the evidence mounting against him, Fetty finally began cooperating with detectives, and led them to the evidence he had tried to destroy, including the boots and what was left of the burned t-shirt.
At trial, defense attorney Jennifer Dana told the jury in closing arguments that Dambrino’s testimony was questionable, since she was an accomplice and had made a deal with prosecutors to save herself from murder charges.
“She is a manipulator, a liar, and a survivor,” said Dana, “and now she is protecting herself. We don’t know what’s truthful or not; we only know what she tells us. Her currency for drugs is sex. This is a sales transaction; they use meth in the driveway, and things go bad.”
Dana argued that any assertion that Fetty planned to kill Dolan was “tenuous at best,” and that Fetty had told investigators during his interview, “I never meant to kill him.”
“These were two addicts, whose only intention was to get drugs, and things went horrible awry. Sometimes drug deals go bad.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brooke Bergman called that assertion “almost laughable.”
“Nothing Tiffany said was different than the evidence showed,” she told the jury. “Fetty lurked in the shadows until she signaled him, then hit Mr. Dolan in the head and disabled him.
“Dennis Dolan was an elderly man, taken by surprise, and Fetty hit him, stomped him, stabbed him and then left him in the cold. He didn’t ask for help for Dennis, he left him to die. All he cared about was getting the drugs. He acted willfully, deliberately, and with malice aforethought. He could have hit him once or twice, then taken the drugs. But he kept hitting him and didn’t stop. Then he heard that Mr. Dolan was still breathing, and went back and stabbed him. He wanted him dead.”
The jury agreed, and after less than three hours of deliberations, found Fetty guilty on all charges.
Fetty will return to court on Mar. 22 for sentencing, when he will face up to life in prison due to a previous strike, according to the prosecution.
Pending a favorable determination by the judge as to her veracity during testimony, Dambrino’s plea agreement sets a punishment of 7 years and 4 months in prison.
Fetty has been behind bars on a $1 million bond since his arrest.