Crime

A stray bullet killed her granddaughter. Now she shows what forgiveness looks like

Linda Brown brings a red notebook to court with Kourtney Krista Dawson’s photo glued to the top on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018.
Linda Brown brings a red notebook to court with Kourtney Krista Dawson’s photo glued to the top on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. vbridges@heraldsun.com

Kourtney Krista Dawson was walking home when a stray bullet aimed at a car struck her in her face, killing her.

More than four years later, Dawson’s grandmother stood in a courtroom, clutching a notebook with her photo, telling one of the people responsible about the young woman he helped erase and the emptiness left behind.

It became apparent when Dawson was 3 that she had an intellectual disability, said Linda Brown, 71. She had a low IQ. There was some self-harm. Many thought she wouldn’t graduate from high school.

“But she did,” graduating from Jordan High School in 2007, Brown said. “All the family was so proud of her.”

She was 25, her grandmother said, but she seemed much younger because of her disability.

“There were days that were very difficult, but she was proud of herself, too,” Brown said. “No one knows what she could have accomplished.”

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From left to right., defense attorney Daniel Meier and Dominique Lamberth in a Durham County Superior Court plea hearing on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.

‘She died instantly’

On February 26, 2014 around 9 p.m., Dawson was walking back to her group home.

Investigators tied together what happened near the intersection of North Guthrie Avenue and Holloway Street using witness statements and surveillance footage from a convenience store, said Assistant District Attorney Matt Craven.

Arsenio and Dominique Lamberth, then 21 and 23, walked into the convenience store, Craven said.

Another individual came into the parking lot. The two brothers went outside and had a quick conversation with him.

When the man turned around, the brothers “jumped him from behind,” and there was a fight, Craven said.

The brothers stole $20 and cigarettes from the man, Craven said. They walked off, and the man got off the ground, into his car and drove away.

“As soon as he left the parking lot of the convenience store, shots were fired,” Craven said. “One of the shots either went through the car or missed the car and struck the victim, Ms. Kourtney Dawson. … She died instantly.”

A witness saw Arsenio Lamberth firing the gun, Craven said.

Dominique Lamberth, of Creedmoor, was arrested in March 2014 in Louisburg. His brother was arrested in May 2014 in Kinston.

Both were charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Arsenio Lamberth’s case is ongoing.

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A photo of the notebook that Linda Brown, 71, brings to court hearings for the two men charged with killing her 25-year-old granddaughter Kourtney Krista Dawson in February 2014. Virginia Bridges vbridges@heraldsun.com

8 to 10 years

On Tuesday, Dominique Lamberth pleaded as part of deal to guilty to accessory after the fact in a first-degree murder, a Class C felony, for helping his brother elude police. He’ll spend 7 years and 9 months to 10 years and 2 months in state prison, excluding the 1,599 days he spent in jail. By law, the sentence includes 12 months of post release supervision.

The maximum he could have faced under that charge was 19 years and 3 months.

Dominique Lamberth’s attorney, Daniel Meier, said the case has taken four years, four months and 16 days on a winding path toward resolution. The brothers’ cases were joined by prosecutors, meaning they would be tried at the same time, and then separated at the last trial date. The case has been set for trial at least twice, Meier said. There was a plea offer, but there were some complications.

“He has always regretted what happened,” Meier said. He didn’t go there intending to shoot someone, Meier said, on behalf of Lamberth who didn’t speak other than answering direct questions from the judge.

‘Every horrible thing’

Before Lamberth received his sentence, Brown stepped forward, clutching the red notebook with Dawson’s photo framed by the white of the tattered edges. In the photo, Dawson’s long blonde hair is tucked behind her ears.

First Brown read a letter from Dawson’s mother to Lamberth.

“You are partially responsible for the death of my child, my baby, and my daughter,” it said.

Her nieces will never know her. Her brother, a Marine, came home to carry her casket. Her dad goes to the cemetery, filled with grief and pain.

Her tombstone says “You are my Sunshine,” a song her mother and grandmother used to sing to her as a baby.

“You deserve every horrible thing that comes in your direction,” the mother’s letter said. “Just like you have done to me.”

Brown’s letter told a different story.

In January 2017, Brown said she realized she couldn’t find peace, so she tried forgiveness.

“After I forgave you, I found a peace I had not known for a long time. The pain is no longer there but I can no longer hate you.”

Brown, then asked Lamberth: “Do you ever think of maybe you having a little girl, and maybe you can tell her about Kourtney.”

“I thought that might help you,” she said. “She was wonderful, just like your daughter would be.”

After the hearing, Brown said she is satisfied with the plea deal.

“I hope he has learned something from this,” Brown said. “I hope that when he gets out, somehow this will all change him. I don’t know, but that would by my hope.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges
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