Doris The Deadly Daughter-In-Law

Doris Ann Carlson

WTAF Happened October 25, 1996

Mary “Lynne” Carlson received around $850 monthly from a trust fund valued at several hundred thousand dollars. She also had two annuities with a combined value of about $140,000. Lynne received around $800 monthly from the first annuity and was allowed to draw on the principal of the second. Lynne had one child, David Carlson. He was the sole beneficiary of the trust and both annuities. David and his wife Doris decided to move from Illinois to Peoria, Arizona to live with David’s mother Lynne. Lynne withdrew $70,000 from her second annuity and purchased a home in Peoria, AZ to accommodate the three of them living together.

Lynne had Multiple Sclerosis, confined to a wheelchair, and also had trouble controlling her bodily functions. Doris convinced Lynne it was the right decision for them all to live together. Doris was going to care for Lynne, be her primary caregiver, take care of the home, and Lynne would want and need for nothing. Doris made these promises and David said he would be looking for work. However, David and Doris became solely dependent on Lynne’s trust and annuities for all their living expenses. Doris began laying around the home, not wanting to help Lynne with anything and she became extremely impatient with Lynne. Doris said horrible things to Lynne, claiming she was only pretending to have Multiple Sclerosis, and yelled profanities at Lynne constantly. Several times a week, Doris would make comments to David that Lynne should be killed so they could inherit Lynne’s money.

By July 1996, Lynne had enough of the mistreatment in her own home. The care Lynne required was more than David and Doris were willing to provide. Once Lynne moved into her new residential care facility, she was in love with her neighbors and caregivers. She was finally home. She stopped the trust from paying the utility bills for the home she shared with David and Doris. She directed all billing to go directly to the residents living in the home. Lynne’s monthly checks also stopped being delivered to the home. That really upset Doris, as it left her and David both broke. David and Doris took in boarders to help with expenses: John Daniel McReaken aka Dan, 20 years old, and Scott Smith, 17.

In late September to early October 1996, Doris approached one of the boarders, Dan, asking if he knew anyone who would be willing to kill Lynne for $20K. Dan accepted Doris’ offer for himself. The other boarder, Scott, offered to help Dan, so Dan offered Scott half of the payment. Doris gave Dan money to purchase gloves to use while killing Lynne. Dan and Scott already had the weapons they needed, both owning a butterfly knife. Several days later, Doris drove both boarders to Lynne’s residential care facility. She wanted to be sure they could locate Lynne’s apartment and familiarize themselves with the area, and different ways in and out of the facility. 

On October 23, 1996, David and Doris went to visit Lynne. They asked her to sign annuity documents so they could receive money to pay the mortgage and prevent foreclosure. But Lynne refused to sign anything without speaking with her financial advisor first. All that did was anger Doris even more. The next evening Doris told Dan that Lynne needed to die really soon. Dan then relayed the message to Scott. When Scott arrived at the home after work, he and Dan dressed in black, got their gloves ready, and grabbed their knives. Doris handed them a key to Lynne’s apartment, then offered to give them a ride there.

On October 25, 1996 a little after 1am, Doris drove the boarders to a nearby supermarket near Lynne’s apartment. She told them she would wait there for them. Once Dan and Scott got inside of Lynne’s apartment, Scott stayed in the living room, disconnecting the television, and moving items off the top of the TV to make it look like a burglary. Dan hesitated a moment, telling Scott “I don’t think I can do this!” Dan then got himself together, went into the  bedroom, closed his eyes, and began stabbing Lynne 8-10 times. Dan told Scott he stabbed her in the throat and body, and she should die. When Dan and Scott arrived back at the vehicle where Doris was waiting for them, Doris asked if they had done it. Scott answered her that they had and Doris drove them back to the house. About 5am that same morning, a nursing assistant stopped by Lynne’s apartment to make her daily check. As she was opening the door to the apartment, she heard Lynne yelling her name and screaming for help. Lynne told her she fought them off as hard as she could. Lynne had several operations due to the damage done to her body but unfortunately she never recovered from the attack. Lynne died on April 21, 1997. 

Doris, David, Dan, and Scott were all arrested on November 21, 1996. After Lynne’s death, they were charged with her murder. On July 27, 1999 a jury found Doris Ann Carlson guilty of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, and first degree burglary. Doris was sentenced to death on the murder charge, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty five years on the conspiracy count, and an aggravated term of twenty one years for the burglary. All sentences being concurrent. But because the trial judge sentenced Doris Carlson to death for the murder, a direct appeal to this court is automatic. On June 27, 2002 the Arizona Supreme Court reduced the death sentence to natural life without the possibility of parole.