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Killer of Decatur man gets 16-year sentence in homicide with mysterious circumstances

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DECATUR — Quonterace M. Dozier was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the shooting death 2½ years ago of Decatur man Ashton T. Gray, but the exact circumstances of the homicide are still shrouded in mystery.

And it was questions about the killing that prompted prosecutors to agree to a plea deal negotiated by defense attorney Caleb Brown that saw three alternate murder charges dropped.

Dozier, 27, appeared Tuesday in Macon County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to aggravated battery involving the discharge of a firearm. A trial on the murder charges had been scheduled to start Monday.

The aggravated battery offense is a Class X felony and Dozier will have to serve 85% of the sentence before he is eligible for release.

Family members discovered the body of 24-year-old Gray lying in a yard in the 2000 block of East William Street on Sept. 29, 2018, as Decatur police responded to reports of shots fired.

The family members had been alarmed by the sound of gunshots and Gray was found to have been fatally wounded twice in the torso.

He had been living at a halfway house in Springfield after recently being released from federal prison. Det. Bryan Kaylor, who investigated the case, testified during an inquest that Gray had been “granted leave so he could visit Decatur to visit family.”

The mystery surrounds exactly how Dozier and Gray came into conflict with each other. Speaking Wednesday, Macon County State’s Attorney Scott Rueter said diligent police work over the best part of a year produced a witness and led to Dozier’s arrest in August 2019.

But Rueter said there were lingering issues about the exact circumstances of the killing, although his office had developed a “theory” about how the crime went down. “We have a theory based on all the evidence we have but, since it’s just a guess, I don’t feel comfortable making a public record of it,” the state’s attorney added.

“And, given we had no other physical evidence, we made a determination it was better to take this (plea) deal rather than risk going to trial on first degree murder.”

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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