A preliminary hearing for a woman who has served 20 years in prison for the murder of her husband was held Thursday.
Jane Dorotik, 73, has maintained her innocence in the death of her husband Robert, whose body was found roughly two decades ago on the side of the road in Valley Center a day after his wife reported him missing.
On Thursday, retired San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Deputy James Blackmon, who was a 31-year veteran of the force, was the first to take the stand. He recalled that he responded to Dorotik’s initial call that Robert was missing and detailed the grisly discovery of Robert's body, which had trauma on the back of his head and a cord around his neck.
A jury convicted Jane in 2001 and she was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. However, her original conviction in the case was overturned last year, paving the way for a new trial.
Detectives in the case almost immediately deemed Robert’s death as suspicious and noted that there was some kind of trauma to his head. Prosecutors in the 2001 trial argued that Dorotik killed her husband in their bedroom and then dumped his body. The original trial judge agreed and said at the time, “given the spatter, given everything we know about the crime scene back at the house, this man definitively was killed in that bedroom."
A medical examiner determined Robert had been hit in the head and strangled. The prosecution believed the killer used a hammer and a rope.
Prosecutors believe Jane was motivated to kill in order to avoid paying Robert 40% of her income after a divorce.
In a hearing to overturn her conviction, Dorotik's attorneys said new DNA testing of Robert's fingernails and clothes, and one of the alleged murder weapons, showed no presence of Jane's DNA -- excluding her from the crime scene.
As for Robert's bloodstains in the bedroom, Jane's attorneys argued that most of that blood was never tested, much less confirmed to be blood at all.
"Your honor, I'd like to say that I'm innocent,” Jane said at her sentencing. “I loved my husband. I love him still. This has not been justice that's been served here. I would like to encourage the prosecution and the detectives to explore their souls and their hearts, and what motivation they had to accuse and try me and leave free a killer in the community."
Jane was released from prison on her own recognizance last April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The preliminary hearing began roughly around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.