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Crime News Dateline

Kindergarten Teacher Plots With Parents to Kill Ex, Then Tries To Take Out His Mother

The brutal crime left all three once respected members of the Dorsett family behind bars.

By Jill Sederstrom

Former champion speed skater Stephen Moore’s life was finally coming together when he met kindergarten teacher Kathleen Dorsett. 

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Stephen — who was known to friends for having a carefree, laidback lifestyle — got a steady job at a New Jersey car dealership and asked for Kathleen’s hand in marriage. Just a year and a half after the couple tied the knot, they welcomed their young daughter, Elizabeth.

“All of a sudden, it all came together for him, and his daughter made a man out of him,” his mother Evlyn Moore recalled to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.

But in August of 2010, Stephen suddenly vanished. The car he had been driving was found burning days later on a quiet Long Branch street. Stephen’s body was found in the burned out trunk of the vehicle. 

As investigators looked into the shocking homicide, they found it was Stephen himself who left telling clues that pointed to his killers. 

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Who was Stephen Moore? 

Before moving to the East Coast, Stephen grew up in Southern California.

“He never really held a job, but he always was working,” friend Cam Graham remembered. “He always could find something to do.” 

The one thing he was passionate about was speed skating and once took home the bronze at a national speed skating competition. 

When his mother Evlyn decided to retire on the Jersey Shore, her loyal son decided to follow her there. It was there he met Kathleen, a responsible kindergarten teacher who lived across the street from her doting parents, known in the neighborhood for throwing pool parties and neighborhood barbeques. 

“He was in love with her and it seemed like he found the one,” Graham recalled. 

But shortly after welcoming their daughter Elizabeth, the marriage began to crumble. “Super mom” Kathleen was overly critical of Stephen and often lobbed pointed criticisms at him.

“He wasn’t holding the baby right, he wasn’t changing the diapers right, he wasn’t putting her down for naps at the right time,” his friend Missy Queen said.

Stephen also confided to his friends that he felt Kathleen’s parents, Thomas and Lesley Dorsett, were smothering the couple. They often showed up at the house unannounced “at any time,” Graham recalled. 

By the time Elizabeth was 10 months old, Stephen had moved back in with his mother and filed for divorce. 

Stephen Moore Goes Missing

The couple was in the midst of a heated custody battle when Stephen disappeared the morning of Aug. 16, 2010, just after dropping his daughter off at Kathleen’s home.

When he didn’t show up to work later that day, his coworkers at the car dealership called police.

Kathleen told police she saw him at 7:45 a.m. that morning when he arrived for the custody swap, but that she hadn’t seen him since. 

Kathleen Dorsett during her guilty plea in court

Who killed Stephen Moore? 

et, what Kathleen didn’t know was that Stephen had been keeping an audio diary chronicling the trouble between them for weeks before his death.

“This whole thing is…just getting absurd,” he said in one message. 

Stephen’s divorce attorney Veronica Davis told investigators that during Stephen’s visits with their young daughter, Kathleen would give him a “written schedule” and call multiple times during his scheduled time. 

“It was very disconcerting,” Davis said. “It was dysfunctional.” 

The usually laid-back Stephen had decided to push back and fight for more time with his daughter. 

“It’s always BS. And it’s her way or no way,” Stephen lamented on one recording. “I just want to be able to spend time with my daughter with no bull.”

Stephen also saved voicemail messages from Kathleen herself. 

“And I don’t give a sh-t what you think,” she angrily told him in one message shortly before his death. “You’re right: My way or the highway a—---.” 

For investigators, the recordings played a valuable role in identifying possible suspects. 

“It’s one of those few homicide cases that when you really want to get into that victim’s head and know exactly what’s going on, Stephen left it for us,” Detective Jeff Wilbert with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered

Investigators returned to Kathleen’s home and found human blood in some mulch on the side of the house. Two neighbors also reported hearing screams the morning that Stephen disappeared. 

“One of the neighbors actually looked out her window, her bedroom window, and she saw Kathleen towards the back of the house and the neighbor, she inquired, ‘are you ok? What’s going on?’ And Kathleen said ‘Close the window,’” Wilbert said. 

Kathleen was arrested, but investigators weren’t convinced she’d acted alone. Just one day after her arrest, her father Thomas was found unconscious in the parking lot outside his attorney’s office. He had hooked a tube up to a 30 lb refrigerant canister in an attempt to take his own life. Thomas was rushed to the hospital, where he remained in a coma. 

The morning of the disappearance, Thomas was also spotted in a restaurant’s surveillance footage driving the car Stephen had been driving, while Kathleen followed behind in her own vehicle. Thomas later returned to the parking lot dumpster in his own work truck and threw away a garbage can filled with a tarp, rope, and wood. 

When Thomas woke up from his coma, he was arrested. 

According to Prosecutor Marc Lemieux, authorities believed Kathleen lured Stephen to walk down the driveway to get some tools from the basement. Thomas was hiding in the bushes and struck Stephen in the face, before using a rope to strangle him to death. 

The Plot to Take Evlyn Moore’s Life

A police handout of Thomas Dorsett

With two members of the Dorsett family behind bars, a judge gave custody of 20-month Elizabeth to Stephen’s mother Evlyn. 

The move didn’t sit well with Kathleen, who, four months after Stephen’s death, instructed her mother to take $1,000 in cash to meet a supposed hitman at the local Target. 

“You need to do your part,” she instructed Lesley, once a respected school board member, in a chilling recording of one phone call.

What the Dorsetts didn’t know was that the prosecutor’s office had been tipped off about the plans by Kathleen’s cellmate and arranged for Lesley to meet an undercover detective. 

“How do you want this done?” the investigator asked during the meetup. “Looking like an accident?” 

“Natural,” Lesley confirmed before adding that Evlyn was diabetic. 

Lesley was arrested a short time later and joined her family in jail. 

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Was Kathleen Dorsett convicted? 

Three years after Stephen was killed, Kathleen pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder and received 58 years behind bars. Her father Thomas pleaded guilty to murder and arson for hire and was sentenced to 45 years. Lesley pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to commit murder charges and received a 7 year sentence. She was paroled after serving about half of her sentence. 

"Supermom" Kathleen Dorsett Had Issues with Stephen Moore

In a letter to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered, Thomas insisted the murder had not been planned and that his daughter played no part in the plot. He said the pair agreed to plead guilty to “save my wife’s life.” 

Where is Elizabeth today?

Evlyn died in 2021 at the age of 86. Elizabeth is being raised by family.