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N.C. Toddler’s Shooting a Mystery

July 16, 2002

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WELCOME, N.C. (AP) _ The driveway where 2-year-old Dillion Wilson was shot to death sits like the stage of a suburban amphitheater, with at least a dozen houses rising from the ridge around it.

That means the bullet that struck the toddler in the head as he played on an April evening could have come from just about anywhere, deepening the mystery in a neighborhood where nearly everyone owns a gun and shots fired by hunters and target shooters are often heard in the woods nearby.

After three months, investigators still don’t know where the shot came from, let alone who fired it, or why.

``There are about 50 guns in this block. This is the South. We like guns here,″ Sheriff Gerald Hege said after the shooting.

Dillion _ pronounced DILL-un _ was playing in his driveway shortly before 5 p.m. on April 2. His mother, Stacy Hodges, was outside around the corner of the house, on the phone. Dillion’s 7-year-old brother was playing nearby.

Sue Seymour, who lives across the street, was standing in her driveway and heard a loud pop. ``We looked around and said, `Where did that come from?‴ Seymour said. ``As I was running down the hill, I saw Dillion lying there, laying in a pool of blood.″

Dillion’s mother heard her son cry out and rushed to his side. She called 911. Dillion died at the hospital hours later.

Oakwood Drive consists of well-kept suburban homes clustered along the cul-de-sac and a little spur street, but the surrounding land is country. Welcome, about 15 miles south of Winston-Salem, has a population of about 14,200.

Investigators spent days on Oakwood Drive, firing shots into the ground, trying to recreate the sound of the one that struck Dillion. They surveyed the landscape and used a plastic mannequin to try to re-create the circumstances of his shooting.

But no one who heard the shot had actually seen Dillion struck, and it was impossible to determine exactly where the boy was standing when he was hit.

``We have no conclusions, and no one’s been ruled out,″ District Attorney Garry Frank said last month.

The investigation and an autopsy produced just four tiny lead fragments, each smaller than a millimeter. What happened to the rest of the bullet is a mystery.

Medical examiner D.C. Winston said Dillion’s wound gave no indication of how far the bullet traveled. The district attorney said investigators told him the fragments are too small to determine even what type of bullet killed Dillion.

After the shooting, Hege said, deputies collected more than 50 guns from nearby homes. One gun was taken from Dillion’s home, though his mother said the weapon was safely put away at the time of the shooting and she is confident it is not the weapon used to kill her son.

Most neighbors say they believe the boy was not killed deliberately but was instead cut down by a stray bullet. Some say it could have been fired from a nearby home, rather than from the woods a half-mile away.

``These people around here, we know each other pretty well,″ said Oakwood Drive resident Clarence Zigler. ``We don’t really question each other about this.″

Three families whose children were questioned by investigators have hired lawyers.

``I think people realize this was a freak accident,″ Seymour said. ``I think eventually the truth will come out. If not, that’s a lot for someone to live with.″

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