DONNIE MAYS...Victim of the State

Short Version

Mobile County, Alabama
Date of Alleged Crime:  April 12, 2001

Donnie Mays was convicted of the murder of his wife Kaye.  On the day of Kaye's death, Donnie, who worked for American General Auto Finance, received a phone call from corporate headquarters telling him that someone had forged his signature on expense reports.  Kaye subsequently admitted she had forged Donnie's signature.  Not knowing the severity of the wrongdoing or that Kaye had actually stolen money from his employer, Donnie suggested they call his boss, Jim Martin, whom both Donnie and Kaye were close to.  However, Kaye decided it would be best to wait until the following morning.

After putting their 4 1/2 year-old daughter, Madeline, to bed, Donnie and Kaye went to bed at 9:15 p.m.  At 10:35 p.m., Donnie got up to take Madeline to the potty.  While Madeline was using the potty, Donnie heard a loud explosion across the hall.  Donnie subsequently placed Madeline back in her bed and told her to go to sleep.  He then ran across the hall, turned on a light, and saw Kaye lying motionless on her side of the bed.  He saw blood everywhere and a shotgun twisted up in the sheets near her breast. He shook Kaye to try to awaken her and after pulling the bed covers back noticed more blood.  He immediately called Kaye's parents, his parents, and 911.

After arriving,  Donnie's father went into the bedroom and tried to awaken Kaye much as did Donnie, moving the gun some by pulling back the bed covers. Police eventually came and inspected the bedroom many times with multiple people going in and out.  EMT personnel went into Madeline's bedroom and brought her to her grandmothers who were standing outside.  Madeline told them that her daddy had her on the potty when they heard a loud bang.  Kaye's mother, June Strickler, subsequently said that Kaye had “finally done it,” and “she snapped.”  She went on to say that Kaye had mentioned suicide in the past.  Kaye's father, Stan Strickler, stated he shouldered some blame for Kaye's suicide for being overly stern and unloving.  Kaye was bulimic, anorexic, and suffered from a condition known as Munchausen's by proxy syndrome.

The coroner, Dr. Leroy Reddick, assumed that no evidence was moved at the crime scene and concluded that Donnie had shot Kaye with the shotgun at a distance of between 2 and 5 feet from a standing position.  The bullet that killed Kaye entered under her chin and exited the top rear of her skull.  With Kaye's head on a pillow, this trajectory was consistent with her shooting herself horizontally with the gun under the covers.  Since oil spray from the gun was found on the underside of the sheets, the gun must have been fired from under the covers.

Donnie's hands were never checked for powder burns or gunshot residue.  Police allegedly felt that Donnie had washed his hands and thereby removed the gunpowder.  However, it is common knowledge that gunpowder residue will stay on the skin for many hours and perhaps days afterward even after washing.  Presumably police did not wish to perform tests which might generate exculpatory results.  Police did remove four light switch plates to check for gunshot residue.  Apparently there was none, but test results were never entered into evidence at trial.

At trial the coroner testified that Kaye's arms were too short to have fired the murder weapon.  However, he admitted that he never measured her arms, but merely judged their length from photos.  The defense countered that Kaye could have pulled (or pushed) the trigger with her socked toe.  The prosecutor mocked this theory during his closing argument, but the theory is far from implausible.  If the trigger was below the reach of Kaye's fingers, she easily could have pushed the trigger with her toe.   At any rate the failure to measure Kaye's arms left open the presumption that they were long enough, just as the failure to perform gunpowder tests left open the presumption that Donnie's hands were free of gunpowder.

In the weeks following Kaye's death, Donnie's in-laws suddenly turned against him, apparently after being convinced by the DA that he had to have murdered Kaye.  The prospect of gaining all the assets from Donnie and Kaye's marriage might have influenced their decision.  Kaye's father entered Donnie's home and removed a filing cabinet that contained financial records and Kaye's personal records.  He probably should have been charged with burglary, but Donnie's lawyer never pursued it.  Kaye's father persuaded a court to lock up Donnie's savings account, preventing him from accessing funds he needed for his defense.

Kaye's family also took custody of Madeline away from Donnie and his family.  Donnie's lawyer did not fight for custody.  The police obtained a court order that prohibited Donnie or his attorney from discussing the events of the evening with Madeline.  Donnie's attorney also did not file a request to have his only alibi witness questioned.  Madeline was not permitted to testify at trial, nor was
her grandmother allowed to testify to what Madeline told her.  Following Donnie's conviction, Madeline did make a taped statement reiterating what she said on the night of her mother's death, but it was deemed insufficient to overturn Donnie's conviction.


At trial the prosecution portrayed Donnie as an embezzler who killed Kaye to cover up his tracks.  The defense was not given a delay to prepare for these allegations, being notified of them only days before trial.  Even though there was less than $34,000 in disputed funds, Donnie was portrayed as a multi-million dollar type of embezzler.  At the very least, evidence indicated that Kaye was a willing accomplice, not a victim.  During trial, Donnie's attorney raised 70 objections, but not a single one of them was upheld.  Of the objections raised by the prosecution, not a single one was overruled. 

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