September 26, 2022 | by Jarrett Seibel
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Helen Williams was at the doctor’s office when she learned her son’s murderer had finally been found. Suddenly, she felt like the healthiest person in the world.
In October 2017, her son Dorrien Mann was murdered in Orange Park, Florida. The case was originally labeled as a hit-and-run, but an autopsy later revealed the cause of death was murder.
Dorrien grew up in and around the Jacksonville area with his mother. When he was 16, Dorrien moved out and began living on his own.
“He was very independent from an early age,” Helen said.
Living on his own now, Dorrien continued to attend high school. Helen remembers her pride in her son for sticking to his education.
“I give him a lot of credit for being able to finish school. He was very driven,” she said.
After high school, Dorrien worked a few different jobs. He was a cook, a construction worker, and a community safety council member. But Dorrien’s true passion was his love of cars and his work as a mechanic.
“I used to say he had a photographic memory for cars,” Helen recalled.
Dorrien grew up playing with Hot Wheels, igniting his love for cars.
True to his passion, Dorrien collected car parts so he was always prepared to repair other automobiles.
On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, Dorrien was in Orange Park when two people attempted to carjack him. After clinging on to his car to stop the carjackers, he was fatally shot in the head.
He was 26 years old.
Helen received an odd text message from her son the night before. It left her feeling uneasy. Dorrien had texted, “I’m okay, are you okay?”
The next day, Dorrien was murdered.
Helen was in North Carolina at the time of her son’s murder. After returning to Florida, she learned the details of his death.
Dorrien had been changing his tire when the carjackers stole his car. The woman who shot him was a part of a gang, while her associate – a 16-year-old male – was accompanying her.
The target was Dorrien’s car, not Dorrien himself.
Hanging onto the car, Dorrien was dragged down the street while attempting to fight off the carjackers. His body was discovered in the morning lying next to the street, so investigators believed it was a hit and run. The autopsy report showed a gunshot wound to the head, quickly changing the direction of the investigation.
As time passed, Helen worried that her son’s murderer would never be found. A year and a half went by before the accomplice was caught. In interviews with law enforcement, he identified the shooter. It still took a few months before she was arrested. Helen says she was shocked when she received a call, almost 2 years after Dorrien’s murder, informing her that the killer was apprehended.
“I remember being so relieved. I wanted to jump up and down in the middle of the doctor’s office,” she said.
The woman received 24 years in prison for the murder. The 16-year-old accomplice received two years in prison and two years of probation.
But there is more to the story – Dorrien’s death led to a shocking discovery.
DNA from the 16-year-old male that testified against the shooter was uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA database of criminal offenders. His DNA matched evidence from a brutal unsolved assault on an 8-year-old victim that occurred a few years prior to Dorrien’s murder.
Solving Dorrien’s case brought answers to another family.
Almost 5 years later, Helen wants people to remember her son’s kindness. “He was a good, loving person. He always stuck up for the little guy and was so easy to be around,” she said.
Please consider using the buttons below to share this case in hopes that someone, somewhere will come forward and give this victim and family the answers they need and the justice they deserve.
If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide, please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.