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As trial opens, man's lawyer says he shot victim — but it wasn't murder

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Tyrell Dotson's defense attorney did not dispute he fired a gun into a car and killed the driver, Willmar Santos-Batista, in a York City alley last year. 

But the defense and prosecution disagree about whether the shooting was murder.

Dotson, who faces first- and third-degree murder charges, appeared in court Tuesday as both sides made their opening arguments. His now-former co-defendant, Kimberly Metz, allegedly is on the run after pleading no contest to her role in the case.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is an easy case,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Melanie Wiesman told the jury. “Tyrell Dotson … is responsible for the death of Willmar Santos-Batista. There’s no question about that.”

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Tyrell Jerome Dotson

Dotson’s attorney, Joshua Neiderhiser, didn’t deny the allegations during his arguments, opening with a statement that the 34-year-old Dotson fired a gun, resulting in Santos-Batista’s death.

But he argued the circumstances were complicated, and he told the jury he would show how the evidence won’t lead them to a guilty verdict for murder.

“This isn’t murder. And this certainly isn’t an easy case. Is it a tragedy? Yes. Is it unfortunate? Absolutely. Is it murder? No,” Neiderhiser said.

Wiesman said Santos-Batista turned onto West Mason Avenue from South West Street around 9:45 p.m. on June 20, 2021 — the night of Father’s Day.

He stopped to talk to a woman, identified as Metz. As she approached the passenger-side window of his green Mazda 6, Dotson ran up from behind and fired his gun 16 times, striking Santos-Batista, Wiesman said. 

Kimberly Christine Metz

Dotson and Metz fled, and Santos-Batista's car lurched forward, striking a telephone pole near Lincoln Charter School in the process. He died hours later from multiple gunshot wounds.

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“The entire incident was caught on camera,” Wiesman told the jury. “From the beginning to the end, you’ll see, and you will see, a heinous crime.”

One bullet pierced the window of a nearby house, nearly striking a man inside, Wiesman described. That man testified as a witness shortly after opening arguments, saying the bullet is still embedded in the paneling of a wall in his home.

Wiesman alleged Dotson returned to the scene of the crime to pick up his phone, and then left. He returned a second time, she alleged, and took a hand towel from the scene while police tape blocked off the area. 

“All this happened as police were trying to save Wilmar, trying to figure out what was going on,” Wiesman said.

Tips helped lead investigators to Dotson and Metz at a home in Springettsbury Township a couple of weeks after the shooting. Investigators found Dotson’s clothes from that night in a duffel bag in a closet, Metz’s leggings in a dryer, and a handgun in a room, Wiesman said.

Dotson and Metz’s DNA were found on the gun, she said, and ballistics tests matched the gun to rounds found at the shooting scene.

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Metz, 32, was initially charged as a co-defendant with a felony count of hindering apprehension. The cases were severed last week, and she pleaded no contest to the charge July 14 and was scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 8, court documents show.

But, she allegedly disappeared after making the plea.

Neiderhiser told Judge Maria Musti Cook during pre-trial discussions that he found out Monday that Metz allegedly cut off an ankle monitor and fled.

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A warrant for her was issued, and her $25,000 bail was revoked, court documents show.

Neiderhiser argued he intends to call Metz as a “vital” material witness for the defense. Judge Musti Cook agreed to issue a material witness warrant for her.

York City Police Detective Daniel Craven, who’s working with prosecutors at trial, told the court he has contacted the U.S. Marshal’s Office to help track Metz down.

“Pretty confident they’re going to find her,” Craven said.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.