California woman’s conviction for murdering her husband overturned after two decades in

Jane Dorotik has spent two decades fighting for her freedom. The California mother and wife was convicted of murdering her husband Bob in 2001, but always maintained her innocence.

From prison, where she was serving a sentence of 25 years to life, Jane spent years filing motions pushing for a new examination of the evidence.

Working with Loyola Project for the Innocent, new testing of evidence was done, including of blood found in the couple’s bedroom. They said it revealed some of the spots were never tested and others were not blood at all.

“If you just look at all of the pieces of evidence that Loyola was able to absolutely take apart, and yet we know what was told to the jury in the original conviction,” Jane Dorotik tells “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty, who has has covered the case for 24 years.

“Jane, how would you describe what the last 22 years have been like for you?” Moriarty asked.

It’s been torturous in many ways,” explained Jane. “I suppose many moments when I thought, “How do I keep going?’


When “48 Hours” first met Jane Dorotik in 2000, the life she had once found so serene in the foothills outside of San Diego — a life she had shared with her husband Bob — had taken an unimaginable turn.

Jane Dorotik: How can this be? How can this happen? Surely I’ll wake up and it’s a dream.

Jane had been become the prime suspect in Bob’s murder. Authorities believed that she viciously attacked him in their home.

Jane Dorotik:  I certainly didn’t do this. I loved my husband.

Jane and Bob Dorotik

Family photo

Jane, 53 years old at the time, and Bob, 55, shared more than half their lives together.

Jane Dorotik: I was 23 when we were married … Bob was a wonderful, loving, creative person.

Bob spent most of his career as an engineer. Jane worked as a nurse, and later, as an executive in the health care industry. The couple raised three children, Alex, Claire and Nick.

Jane Dorotik: The family has always been incredibly important to both of us.

Also important to Jane, were their horses. While Jane’s passion was breeding and riding, Bob was an avid jogger. And that, says Jane, is the last image she has of her husband.

Jane Dorotik: Bob was sitting, actually, in this chair, facing the TV.

Although Jane was under suspicion, she allowed “48 Hours” into her home.

Jane Dorotik: He said he was going out for a jog, and he was actually — had his jogging suit on, was tying his shoes. … That was the last I talked to him.

It was around 1 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2000, when Jane says Bob left to go for that run. As hours passed without any word from him, Jane says she grew concerned.

Jane Dorotik: It was beginning to get dark … I — decided to go out and look.

Jane says she searched for Bob, driving up and down the hill where he sometimes ran. By 7:45 p.m., Jane’s concern turned to fear.

Jane Dorotik: I said, “Enough. This is enough. Something is wrong.” … And that’s when I made the call to the Sheriff’s Department.

Deputy James Blackmon: My first … thought that night was maybe this man had a heart attack and … fell down the embankment along  Lake Wohlford Road .

As Deputy James Blackmon, and others from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, searched for Bob, concerned friends and family gathered at the Dorotik house.

Claire Dorotik: The minute I saw my mom’s face, I knew right away something terrible had happened.

The Dorotik’s daughter, Claire, 24 at the time, had spent the weekend visiting her aunt and returned home to a distraught Jane.

Claire Dorotik: She was freaked out, she was scared, she was nervous, she was crying.

Jane Dorotik: It was a horrifying feeling that got more and more horrifying when he wasn’t found.

And then, in the predawn hours of Feb. 14, Deputy Blackmon turned into a driveway, several miles from the Dorotik home, and noticed a body off the road.

The T-shirt Bob Dorotik was wearing when his body was found on the side of the road several miles from their Valley Center, California, home. He had been bludgeoned in the head and strangled.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy Blackmon (2001): At this point, I could see the shirt, the … pants … And he was laying on his back.

From Jane’s description, he immediately knew it was Bob Dorotik.

Det. Rick Empson: I got there a little after seven in the morning.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Detective Rick Empson was called to the scene.

Det. Rick Empson: There was no evidence of any type of vehicle accident.

The evidence Empson did find suggested something else.

Det. Rick Empson: I could see that he had blood on his face … there was blood near the back of his head, and I could see that there was a rope around his neck.

Bob Dorotik had been bludgeoned and strangled. The one-time missing person case had turned into a homicide investigation.

Erin Moriarty: Is there anybody you could think who would want to see your husband dead?

Jane Dorotik: Nobody. Nobody.

As law enforcement asked Jane questions about Bob, she let them into her home.

Jane Dorotik: “Come in. Search. Look for anything.”

Detective Empson noticed a piece of rope hanging from the porch that caught his attention — thinking he had just seen something similar on Bob Dorotik.

Det. Rick Empson: It appeared to be the exact same type of rope that was found around his neck.

And when investigators got to Bob and Jane’s bedroom, they found something more troubling. They believed they were looking at blood spatter.

Det. Rick Empson: There was no question in our mind that this assault occurred in the master bedroom.

They documented their findings in a diagram, taking photos along the way of what they believed to be blood on various items in the bedroom, and of what appeared to be a large blood stain on the underside of the mattress.

Jane Dorotik: I do know when Bob had a nosebleed he made a comment about getting  some blood on the mattress.

Jane says there was a logical explanation for some of the other blood, too — they had dogs who were injured and had bled.

Jane Dorotik: This little dog had an abscess on her cheek that was openly draining at the time and little drops of blood we’d find when she sat on the couch. … The carpet pieces are what the detectives removed, feeling that there was blood on the carpet.

Investigators quickly determined Bob Dorotik wasn’t killed where his body was found, because there wasn’t enough blood there. When they searched the Dorotiks’ home, they found spots of blood all over the bedroom.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

The spots of blood investigators said they found  all over the bedroom surprised Jane.

Erin Moriarty: Do you have any other explanation of how that blood spatter could have gotten there?

Jane Dorotik: Not really.

Erin Moriarty: On the ceiling, on the window, on the walls?

Jane Dorotik: No.

Adding to authorities’ suspicions was the bloody syringe found in the bathroom garbage. Jane told “48 Hours” she used it to medicate her horses.

Jane Dorotik: I know that I give the horses shots all the time … if you go look in my fridge right now, you’ll find horse syringes.

Investigators theorized that Jane hit her husband with an object in the bedroom and strangled him. She then dressed him in his jogging suit, put him in their truck, and dumped him along the side of the road where his body was found.

Erin Moriarty: Why do they believe you killed your husband?

Jane Dorotik: You know, I guess I’ve been through that one a billion times. I don’t know.

But investigators thought they knew, believing the motive was money, and escaping a troubled marriage. Jane was the main breadwinner, and they learned the couple had split up for a year in 1997.

Jane Dorotik:  I don’t make any apologies for the fact that we had rough times. But that doesn’t change the fact that we loved each other.

And that love, says Jane, is why they reconciled. They had been back living together as a couple for a year-and-a-half before Bob was killed.

Jane Dorotik: I really think the separation caused us to really regroup and think about what was important.

Claire Dorotik: They were getting along better than they ever had in the past. I was living there. I can tell you that.

But law enforcement was unmoved, and three days after Bob Dorotik’s body was found, Jane was arrested, and charged with first-degree murder.

Jane Dorotik: I know I didn’t do this. I know there is a killer out there … but how am I going to clear myself?

Kerry Steigerwalt: She’s baffled ’cause I don’t think she knows what happened.

Released on bail, Jane started preparing her defense, hiring attorney Kerry Steigerwalt.

Kerry Steigerwalt: She knows she’s placed as the killer and she’s not the killer.

And at trial, Jane’s attorney would present a surprise suspect, who he felt was responsible for Bob Dorotik’s murder.


Jane Dorotik: I know that I am innocent, but I don’t have any more faith in the legal system. I believe I could be convicted for something that I didn’t do. And that’s very scary.

While Jane worried about her outcome at trial, Claire Dorotik was much more confident about her mother’s chances.

Claire Dorotik: My mom could not have done this crime. She didn’t have the motive, and she didn’t have the opportunity.

But when the case went to trial in 2001, a year after the murder, prosecutor Bonnie Howard–Regan described the Dorotik’s marriage as seriously troubled and told jurors that Jane didn’t want to pay Bob alimony in a divorce.

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): Bob Dorotik never went jogging. And he never left that residence alive.

According to the state, Bob had actually been killed Saturday night, nearly a day before Jane reported him missing. The autopsy performed, by Dr. Christopher Swalwell, showed undigested food consistent with what Jane said they had for dinner that night.

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): Are you able to give us an estimate of how long after Mr. Dorotik ate, how long after that, he — he was killed?

Dr. Christopher Swalwell: Yes. It was very shortly after he ate. …I would say it was probably within a couple of hours.

And he wasn’t killed on the side of the road, the…

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