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Crime News A Lie to Die For

Why Did A College Dropout Kill His Step-Father And Attempt To Murder His Mother?

Donald Dunn told police that framing a murder-suicide was easier than losing his comfortable lifestyle.

By Brittany Du Bois
A Lie To Die For: A Terrifying 911 Call On 'A Happy Day'

Donald Dunn murdered his stepfather, Mark McDermott, in their West Virginia home on May 25, 2013. Then, when he sat his unknowing mother down and surprised her with a gun to her head, the gun misfired and Johanna Dunn was spared. Donald’s original plan? To kill both of his parents and frame his mother in a murder-suicide.

On “A Lie To Die For,” airing on Oxygen Sunday, July 21, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, investigators were baffled as to why Donald would want to murder his parents who, according to friends and family, supported him financially and emotionally as he attended college.

According to Donald, it was because he was not actually going to college. According to Donald’s Court of Appeals record, he attended community college for two years before transferring to Marshall University in 2010. He did not tell his parents that he had dropped out due to poor grades, leading them to believe he was still enrolled and would graduate on May 25 — the same day he eventually planned to kill them.

“First semester there, the classes went from, if you show up, you get an A, to actually having to put forth the effort and do the work,” Donald Dunn told police, as presented in “A Lie To Die For.” “It was just beyond me. I just didn’t have the faculties to do it.”

His parents were not the only people he was lying to — The Register-Herald reported that his former girlfriend, who he had been with since she was 15, was under the impression that Donald was taking classes. He was living with them while away from his parents during the school year. Rachel Rousch, his ex’s sister, told “A Lie To Die For” that Donald followed a “very realistic schedule” of pretending to leave for a class and coming back, as well as locking himself in his bedroom when he had to supposedly finish homework.

As Donald’s fake graduation date neared, he decided to get rid of his parents, instead of telling them the truth: “It wasn’t really the thought of upsetting them, I guess it was the thought of losing a vehicle, losing a place to live, losing fancy custom shoes and junk like that,” Dunn said.

So, rather than having everything unfold on his fabricated graduation date, the appeal record states that Donald took his parents’ handgun weeks in advance, loaded it with three bullets and wrote a suicide note for his mother that depicted her as the murderer of Mark McDermott. On May 25, he successfully shot his stepfather in the head, but the gun jammed when he tried to kill Johanna.

Despite his mother initially telling police — at Donald’s behest — that she killed McDermott, she later confessed, while in custody, that it was her son, and Donald would end up confessing five hours after the murder took place. In 2014, Donald Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder and attempt to murder and was sentenced to life without parole. He appealed in 2016, but the original conviction was affirmed.

Want to know more about why Johanna McDermott initially lied to the police about who the killer was? Watch “A Lie To Die For,” which premiered Sunday, June 23 on Oxygen.