2009-08-26 / News

Family still seeks justice for McLean

By PAUL BRYANT Special to the Banner News

DEX McLEAN DEX McLEAN It's been more than a year since Chanda and Charles McLean found their son shot to death on his bedroom floor of their Harbor Way home.

They've identified their own suspects, all of whom were interviewed by law enforcement officials. DNA evidence has been collected and moved from one crime lab to another for forensic analysis. Hundreds of leads have turned up hearsay testimony. And the family feels they're no closer to a resolution.

"They're keeping it pretty secret," Charles said of officials' investigation. "It's aggravating to know they have this blood and are not doing anything about it. The blood is the key, and they're holding it."

While neighbors were celebrating Independence Day and shooting fireworks late into the evening, one or more intruders entered the house through a bedroom window, where blood not belonging to anyone who lived there was found on nearby furniture. The McLeans said that evidence was sent to Dallas for processing and, earlier this year, taken to Washington by federal agents.

Along with the Smith County Sheriff's Office, the FBI is involved in the case, the family said. But media spokesman Mark White, a special agent in Dallas, said he could not provide any information on the investigation.

"The FBI doesn't normally advise on whether we have an investigation open on someone or not. There are any number of ways the FBI becomes involved in an investigation. I'm sorry I can't say anymore about it." The McLeans believe members of the white supremacist group Aryan Brotherhood killed Dex McLean, 20, on July 4, 2008, following a confrontation he had with another man three weeks earlier.

"A guy came into our yard and was in his Mom's face, shoving his finger in her chest," Charles said. "Dex grabbed a PVC pipe from his truck and hit the guy. We think Dex was killed in retaliation."

The possible link to Aryan Brotherhood could be a reason federal officials are investigating the case. However, the McLeans said they've never been told why the FBI is involved. Gerald Caldwell of the Smith County Sheriff's Office declined to comment Monday.

"I can't say anything about that," he said.

On the night Dex was murdered, Charles and Chanda were at Teasers, the club they own in Tyler. They said Dex was home alone, and six of their vehicles were in the driveway. Initially, sheriff's officials said they believed it was a botched burglary. But only two items with little value were taken and the house was mostly undisturbed when Dex's parents returned around 3:30 the next morning.

But two things stood out to them before they went inside. The light in Dex's bedroom in a front corner of the house was still on, and the front door was locked. The McLeans never locked their doors.

"We thought that was strange but didn't think much about it," Chanda said. "When we walked into the living room, everything was normal. I passed by his bedroom because he didn't make an appearance down the hall like normal. That's when I saw him on the floor."

According to witness and other reports, the McLeans believe Dex's killers came onto the property between 10 and 11 p.m. After trying to enter every window on the front side of the house, they jumped a fence to the backyard. There, the family's 5-year-old chocolate Labrador, Zeta, may have attacked the suspects. She was shot in the head and died a few feet away near the pool. A neighbor heard the popping sound of gunfire but passed it off as fireworks.

Moments later, the suspects climbed into the couple's bedroom window, and one of them reportedly left blood on an armoire. Just seconds earlier, Dex realized something was wrong and may have tried to call 911. His parents found his cell phone on their bed. Police told the McLeans a .22- caliber pistol was used in the murder. The first round grazed Dex's head and came to rest in his bedroom floor. The other was fired into the back of his head as he lay face down on the floor with his arms out to his sides.

Inside the home remains powder residue where investigators dusted for fingerprints, as does the small hole in Dex's bedroom floor where a bullet was fired. Across the room, the jeans he was wearing earlier that day are strewn across a television. Photos of Dex, newspaper clippings about his death, and other items inside and outside the house are a constant reminder of his life that ended suddenly that night.

"We never will quit looking," Charles said. "Justice needs to be served. He was a good kid."

Multiple suspects have been questioned, many of them already in state, local, or federal detention centers on other charges, the McLeans said.

The Dex McLean Tip Center is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Dex's death. The Web site is dexmclean.com, or call the Smith County Sheriff's Office at 903-590-2600.

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