‘Lavender Doe’ killer sentenced to 50 years, pleads guilty to multiple East Texas murders

Local News

LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) – A man known as the “Lavender Doe” killer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to committing two murders.

Joseph Wayne Burnette received three sentences for 50 years each, but they will be served concurrently.

Dana Lynn Dodd

Joseph Wayne Burnette, 43, had confessed to the slaying of Dana Lynn Dodd back on August 27, 2018. Dodd’s body had been found badly burned laying in a bush in a Kilgore oil-lease back on October 29, 2006.

She remained unidentified for more than a decade, despite vigorous efforts by multiple agencies. Dodd became known as “Lavender Doe.”

Eventually, the DNA Doe Project, an organization that looks to find family DNA matches to unidentified bodies. The co-founders of the organization, Margaret Press and Colleen Fitzpatrick, spoke to KETK News back in 2018.

“That database allows us to look for other people that share some DNA with our unidentified person, if they share enough DNA that they could be a third cousin or a fourth cousin, then we have all of our volunteers work on creating family trees for those people to figure out how they relate to each other, how those lines may intersect in ways that would point us to the family of the Doe.”

Margaret Press

Their organization helped bring the Golden State Killer to justice the same year, a famous California serial killer who murdered at least 13 people and confessed to 50 rapes between 1973 and 1986.

It was the technology that gave Dana Lynn Dodd her name back. She was 21 years old when she got into Burnette’s car at a Longview Walmart. When he confessed, he was unable to provide police any information on her identity.

Through the work between the DNA Doe Project and the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, Dodd’s identity was released back in February 2019.

She had left home in Florida back in 2003, more than three years before her murder. While her family lost touch with her, they didn’t give up hope of being reunited.

“From all the years of looking for her, we didn’t know she was in this part of the country, we thought she was up north, so that’s where we were mainly focused on. So you know, for every six months to call, to look and everything, it was like opening the old wound back up every time.”

Amanda Gadd, Dodd’s sister

The family chose to leave Dodd buried in Longview, where she has been laid to rest for the last several years. A group of people had tended to her gravesite and helped keep it maintained for the last several years.

Gadd said that since “somebody took the time out of their day to come and care for her, put flowers on her grave, to say ‘hey, we don’t know who you are, but we care for you,’ that was our definitive decision of why Dana needed to be here because she is part of Longview’s family.”

Felisha Pearson

Felisha Pearson was reported by her mother on July 20, 2018. She had been seen less than one week ago, but her family believed she was in danger.

Pearson’s body was found in the woods off West Birdsong Street in Longview.

On that same day, the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office announced it was looking for Burnette, 41, who had failed to register as a sex offender.

Burnette had been convicted of indecent exposure.

A warrant for his arrest was issued out of Gregg County July 25. He was arrested that same day in Upshur County and transferred Thursday to the Gregg County Jail.

Pearson had been living with him at a local hotel as well as a home nearby. According to records, Burnette was convicted of vehicle burglary in 1994 and sexual assault in 1996.

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