INVESTIGATES: Arrest warrant withheld in Hailey Dunn case

Shawn Adkins charged for 11-year-old cold case murder
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 10:37 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The accused killer of Hailey Dunn, Shawn Adkins, is in custody nearly 11 years after her murder, but the Mitchell County Attorney’s office has largely kept quiet since his arrest, writing in a statement: “Our office believes the integrity of the case should be preserved until a time that it can be properly presented in a court of law.”

Adkins, the live-in boyfriend of the victim’s mother Billie Jean Dunn, is the only person of interest that authorities have identified in that time.

MORE: Person of interest arrested, charged with Hailey Dunn’s murder in 2010

Why is he in custody now, after all these years?

To get some answers, the KCBD Investigates team sought out the 35-year-old’s arrest warrant, a routine procedure.

After filing a public information request and making several phone calls, representatives for Mitchell County informed our team that it would take 10 business days before the document would be available.

But our investigation finds, a criminal warrant “once executed must immediately be available for public inspection during normal business hours.”

That’s according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: Chapter 15, Section 26.

It reads in full:

Art. 15.26. AUTHORITY TO ARREST MUST BE MADE KNOWN. In executing a warrant of arrest, it shall always be made known to the accused under what authority the arrest is made. The warrant shall be executed by the arrest of the defendant. The officer need not have the warrant in his possession at the time of the arrest, provided the warrant was issued under the provisions of this Code, but upon request he shall show the warrant to the defendant as soon as possible. If the officer does not have the warrant in his possession at the time of arrest he shall then inform the defendant of the offense charged and of the fact that a warrant has been issued. The arrest warrant, and any affidavit presented to the magistrate in support of the issuance of the warrant, is public information, and beginning immediately when the warrant is executed the magistrate’s clerk shall make a copy of the warrant and the affidavit available for public inspection in the clerk’s office during normal business hours. A person may request the clerk to provide copies of the warrant and affidavit on payment of the cost of providing the copies.

Armed with this knowledge the team made another trip to Colorado City, our third one in-person in pursuit of the warrant, to make our case.

During that trip, Mitchell County attorney Sterling Burleson cited the Public Information Act for the delay.

“So, typically any time an arrest warrant contains information involving a victim that was a minor, that’s where we have to take a deeper look at it,” he said.

When asked for clarification about where one could specifically find that statute, here’s what he had to say: “You’ll get your response in accordance to the law, but what I’ve been looking at recently is 552 the family code. I want to make sure we’re in compliance with that.”

When we pushed further, even asking for a redacted document, Burleson passed the responsibility to a higher authority.

“Anything we don’t release, we have to inform the Attorney General’s office,” he said.

So, we left Mitchell County once again empty-handed. But two days later, we did receive a copy of the letter written to the AG’s office.

The letter includes a more detailed explanation than provided during the in-person visit, citing both Section 552.101 of the Texas Government Code and Family Code 261. 201.

The letter claims the “Responsive Information” contains reports “of alleged or suspected abuse or neglect” and “extreme physical harm and murder committed to a child” and therefore “must be withheld.”

Being denied a warrant after an arrest outright is an unprecedented situation for the KCBD news team.

We searched previous AG opinions and have found none that back withholding a warrant. In fact, there are a couple that appear to support its immediate release.

Opinion No. KP-0035 (October 20, 2020)

Opinion No. KP-0275 (October 21, 2019)

We have reached out to an attorney for their expert legal opinions and interpretations of these documents.

Clint Dunn’s private investigator, Erica Morse, released this statement to KCBD in regards to our investigation on his behalf:

“Hailey’s case has been highly publicized from the start and continued to receive attention over the last decade as efforts to arrest her killer(s) intensified. Her father wants Shawn Adkins to receive a fair trial by a jury of his peers, and for any other persons involved before, during or after to also be held accountable. As a fellow journalist, I commend KCBD for pursuing the arrest warrant and affidavits to ensure transparency and the public’s right to know. We must, however, trust that the individuals presenting this case are protecting the rights of all involved or affected. It is our understanding this is an ongoing investigation; we have received - and turned over - new information to officials since Adkins’ arrest that may or may not have merit, and still want every stone unturned. Hailey’s father has relied upon the media for many years to help him get to the bottom of the truth yet understands officials cannot compromise the case by divulging too much at this time.

Learning the AG’s office has been asked to weigh in on the matter should indicate the gravity of this case and reassure the public that all efforts are being made to uncover the entire truth about who killed Hailey Dunn and who knew what over the last decade.”

KCBD is awaiting word from the Texas Attorney General’s office in response to Mitchell County’s requests to withhold the arrest warrant.

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