By MELINDA WILLIAMS
A man accused of murdering his wife in Pulaski in 2005 can be released from custody pending trial if he can qualify for home electronic monitoring (HEM).
It is unclear whether New River Valley Regional Jail will allow Leslie “Les” Michael Dickerson, 35, to be placed on HEM given the serious nature of the charge and the fact it is a bonding issue. Dickerson is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2005 death of Mindy Nicole Dickerson, who was found dead in their Pulaski home.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long Jr. said he is certain HEM isn’t allowed in bond cases in Montgomery County. Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor said he believes HEM is allowed through the local jail only for certain charges, but most likely not for first-degree murder.
Dickerson’s father told the court Friday he is willing to post his property in Montgomery County, assessed at $200,000, as surety for Dickerson’s bond. However, Judge Long said the bond he had in mind would be “far higher than $200,000.”
Dickerson’s father and his sister, who lives in Fairlawn, are willing to give the defendant a place to live upon release. Both said they wouldn’t hesitate to turn Dickerson in if he violates conditions of release.
Dickerson told the court Friday that he has a wife (said to be a flight attendant from outside the United States) and three children (ages five, nine and 10). Although they are still in Texas, Dickerson is willing to stay in Virginia until the case is settled.
He moved to Texas in 2005.
According to other evidence, Dickerson is on “deferred probation” until 2016 on allegations he stole more than $20,000 from his former employer, Home Depot, in Texas. Fleenor said that appears to be the equivalent of taking a case under advisement in Virginia.
Defense attorney Jimmy Turk said that while first-degree murder carries a presumption of no bond in Virginia, his client also has a presumption of innocence. He suggested Dickerson’s close family ties to this area and the fact he has no criminal record overcomes the presumption that not bond should be set.
Fleenor, on the other hand, said the defense hadn’t overcome the presumption. He pointed out the charge against Dickerson is the result of a multi-day investigation by a special grand jury. As for family ties, he told the judge that Dickerson had the same family ties here when he went to Texas in 2005.
Turk said the chances of Dickerson absconding are “zero or close to it.” He said it is a “very old case” and noted that there have been four causes of death listed for Mindy Dickerson: pending, encephalopathy of the brain stem, undetermined and, in July 2013, suffocation.
“They (prosecution) may or may not have a strong case, but we have a lot to argue,” said Turk. He said he needs his client out of jail to help prepare for trial.
Fleenor acknowledged there have been changes in the cause of death over the years. However, he said Dickerson’s body was exhumed and “considerable testing” was done, resulting in the 2013 finding. He pointed out the head medical examiner for the state was involved in the most recent examination.
Judge Long said the case poses a “dilemma” for him. He cited the fact Dickerson has family in Virginia and Texas, that the allegation is a “very serious crime,” that a special grand jury saw fit to indict Dickerson, and that a lot of time has lapsed since the alleged crime.
“Home Electronic Monitoring interests me, but I’m not sure they’ll do it,” said the judge. He decided to set the bond at $500,000, contingent upon approval of electronic monitoring.
Other conditions of bond are that Dickerson live with his parents in Montgomery County, not leave Virginia, surrender his passport, and participate in pretrial services (a program to monitor defendants prior to trial).
Dickerson is alleged to have killed his wife “with premeditation and malice aforethought” between Jan. 26 and Jan. 27. First-degree murder is a Class 2 felony, carrying a sentence of 20 years to life.
Mindy was found dead on her bed in the couple’s 426 First St. home. She had scratches on her face, neck, mouth, nose and knees; and “red stains of an unknown origin in her hair,” according to a search warrant issued at that time.
Police also received search warrants to obtain hair and blood samples from Les Dickerson and Michelle Lynn Smith. A report in The Southwest Times indicated Les Dickerson and Smith married and moved to Texas after Mindy’s death.
The 2006 newspaper report states that Mindy filed several criminal complaints in court in 2004 alleging she was receiving harassing calls and text messages from a woman who claimed to be having a relationship with her husband. One complaint indicated the woman sent her a message saying, “Fear the silence. That’s when I get you.”
The identity of the woman was not reported due to the fact the charges were dismissed after Mindy’s death. Police said Mindy never reported any harassment to them.