LINKWOOD — More details have emerged from police in the murder of a 77-year-old man by allegedly his son and another man in Dorchester County Sunday. Police said the case involves a potential robbery for hire scheme that turned into murder and thediscovery of a bloody machete that might have been used in the killing.
Douglas Lamont McKnight, 50, and Octavius Ralphfawn Thomas, 43, are both facing charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, robbery and the use of a firearm in a violent crime in connection with the death of Douglas Washington McKnight, 77, of Linkwood, according to the Maryland State Police.
Shortly after 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17, deputies from the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office responded in reference to a death investigation in the 3700 block of Ocean Gateway in Linkwood. Upon arrival, officers spoke to the 911 caller, who told officers that the victim was inside of the house in a bedroom.
The 77-year-old victim was declared deceased at the scene, police said. The 911 caller was identified as the victim’s son, Douglas Lamont McKnight.
Initial police investigation revealed that the victim had an apparent gunshot wound to the head and lacerations to the neck, head and hands, according to the police report. The lacerations to his hands were consistent with defensive wounds, investigators said.
They also noted that the victim’s pants pocket was turned inside out — a key observation, as family members told investigators that the victim “routinely” carried large sums of money in upwards of $3,000 on his person at all times, police said.
That day, McKnight consented to an interview at the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and provided officers with written permission to search his car, a 2007 Ford Explorer that was in the driveway of the residence at the time of the 911 call. At the time, he also denied any involvement in the murder of his father, according to the police report.
Detectives from the Homicide Unit from the Maryland State Police also responded to the scene to conduct their own investigation.
Investigators checked the surrounding area and observed two neighboring residences with video surveillance. After reviewing the footage, investigators noted that the McKnight’s Ford Explorer arrived in the driveway within five minutes of the 911 call, police said. The report also stated that McKnight stayed inside of the residence for approximately four minutes and then drove toward Route 50, which was when he called 911, he told police.
The investigators later executed a search and seizure warrant on the victim’s residence and found “multiple red and green 12-gauge shotgun shells” near the victim, along with several pieces of forensic evidence, police said. After learning from the victim’s family that the victim had surveillance cameras set up to watch the perimeter of his property, police also noted two missing surveillance systems in the residence.
One of the first deputies to arrive at the scene told investigators that they noticed McKnight removing a gray sweatshirt and leaving it on the front porch. A later search of the sweatshirt revealed one red 12-gauge shotgun shell and keys to the Ford Explorer.
A search of the Ford Explorer revealed an 18-inch machete with suspected blood on it, which was later confirmed to be positive for the presence of blood, along with two surveillance systems matching descriptions of what the victim had installed and used on his property. The cameras used a live feed, so officers were not able to recover footage, according to the police report.
McKnight’s body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy. His death was ruled a homicide due to his injuries, which were officially identified as a gunshot wound to the head and large lacerations “consistent with a machete-style bladed weapon” to his head and neck area.
According to preliminary investigation reports, robbery appears to have been the motive, police said.
During later interviews with the victim’s family, investigators learned that the victim had stopped financially supporting McKnight within the last two weeks, which led to an argument, police said. An alleged witness to the argument told police that the victim told the younger McKnight to “get off the property and not to return,” according to a statement in the police report. Family members also reportedly told police that the victim “became annoyed” with giving support to his son.
On Monday, Oct. 18, police were able to interview McKnight, who admitted to taking $160 from his deceased father’s wallet and stealing the surveillance cameras in an effort to cover up his crimes. According to the police report, McKnight later confessed to investigators that he and his friend “Oct” — identified by police as Octavius Ralphfawn Thomas — had planned to rob McKnight’s father.
According to the police report, McKnight told officers that on Friday, Oct. 15, he drove Thomas to the general area of his father’s residence in Linkwood and dropped him off in the nearby woods with instructions to rob his father. McKnight also told police that Thomas left the car carrying a machete-style weapon.
McKnight said that Thomas later returned to the vehicle with a large amount of money, blood-soaked clothes and the machete, according to police. Thomas reportedly told McKnight that there was a struggle inside of the home and he used a gun while fighting the victim. The two returned to Thomas’s home in Cambridge, where Thomas pulled a shotgun out of his pants and told McKnight that he’d stolen it from his father, according to the police report.
Officers later executed a search warrant on Thomas’s home in Cambridge and found a 12-gauge shotgun with blood matter on the barrel and bloodstained clothing consistent with surveillance footage and witness testimony. Police also spoke with a woman who told them McKnight had contacted Thomas on Thursday, saying he had a job for Thomas. Investigators later learned that the job was to assault and rob McKnight’s father, according to the police report.
McKnight and Thomas were arrested and taken into custody on Monday, Oct. 18. Both are being held without bail at the Dorchester County Detention Center.
Both men were scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 15, but both elected to waive the hearing, according to online court records.
The Dorchester County State’s Attorney now has until Nov. 22 — the case’s felony dismissal date — to file charges in the circuit court. Once those documents are filed, the criminal proceedings will move forward. No appearance in the circuit court has been scheduled yet.
Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at email@example.com.