KCBD Investigates: Man charged with Hailey Dunn’s murder released from jail

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 6:43 PM CDT
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MITCHELL COUNTY, Texas (KCBD) - A man charged with murdering a teenage girl and hiding her body is once again a free man.

Shawn Casey Adkins was released from the Mitchell County Jail on Tuesday after spending two years behind bars. Court documents stated “further investigation” is needed before the State can proceed to a jury trial.

“During the investigation, hundred of tips, leads, and potential alternate suspects were provided to law enforcement,” the documents stated. “However, many of the tips and leads were not properly vetted, investigated, or cleared.”

Hailey Dunn, 13, disappeared from her Colorado City home on Dec. 27, 2010.

Law enforcement said Dunn’s mother’s boyfriend, Adkins, was the last person to see her alive. Adkins told law enforcement Dunn had left the home to go to a friend’s house.

On Jan. 4, 2011, the Texas Rangers and the FBI joined the investigation into Dunn’s disappearance. Authorities said they spoke with the friend Dunn was supposedly going to visit and learned she was not expecting her.

Adkins soon became a person of interest in the case. Court documents stated Adkins had threatened both Hailey and her mother’s lives months before Dunn’s disappearance. While searching the home, investigators found documents about serial killers and a memory stick containing child pornography. Authorities discovered similar images on a computer in Adkins’ mother’s home.

Over two years later, on March 16, 2013, Dunn’s body was found near Lake J.B. Thomas in Scurry County.

In June 2021, over 10 years after her disappearance, officers arrested Adkins and charged him with Dunn’s murder.

Later that year, Adkins was indicted on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence by intentionally and knowingly concealing a human corpse, according to court records.

On Monday, June 26, 2023, the State filed a motion to dismiss prosecution without prejudice.

Erica Morse, Dunn’s father’s private investigator, said prosecutors contacted them at 3 p.m. that day to let them know the FBI recommended Adkins be released.

“Let a jury of West Texans decide this case,” Morse said.

The KCBD Investigates team obtained the court documents which state prosecutors still view Adkins as the primary suspect in the Hailey Dunn murder, however, additional work must be done before the case can proceed to trial.

“This is a complex circumstantial case. The State of Texas has spent the last year collecting, organizing, and reviewing the voluminous amount of discovery in this case,” prosecutors said.

In the court documents, the prosecutors said they had interviewed nearly 50 witnesses and needed more time to fully investigate all of the issues that have arisen.

Prosecutors said one of the critical pieces of evidence involve a soil analysis conducted by a soil expert for the State of Texas.

The prosecutors said the expert used a method known as Near Infrared Spectroscopy, or “NIRS,” to analyze and compare the soil found on Adkins’ work boots to the soil found near Dunn’s remains in Scurry County.

The State’s expert found a match, but the same soil samples were also sent to the FBI Crime Lab in Quantico, Virginia, according to court records.

The FBI forensic scientists determined the soil sample from Adkins’ boots did not match the soil samples collected near Dunn’s remains.

Prosecutors said they learned NIRS is not a testing methodology sanctioned by the forensic science community for soil analysis.

“The FBI stands by their original testing and does not believe that the testing done by the soil expert should be relied on in a criminal trial,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also argued they needed more time to test forensic evidence.

Dunn’s remains were found in March 2013 and sent to the University of North Texas, where they were analyzed by a forensic anthropologist.

According to court records, the anthropologist discovered blunt force injuries to Dunn’s skull and determined the injuries were inflicted at or near the time of death.

The prosecutors argue an injury of this magnitude would cause substantial bleeding.

“While multiple searches of the house were conducted by law enforcement, the State of Texas is not aware of any forensic testing that was done in the house in the immediate aftermath of Hailey’s disappearance on December 27, 2010,” prosecutors said.

Law enforcement also searched a vehicle and the location where Dunn’s remains were found and gathered some evidence which, according to court records, was never forensically tested.

“Before this case proceeds to trial, that evidence should be thoroughly tested to determine if it has any probative value,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they are also struggling to piece together the timeline of the crime.

The State gathered cell phone records, which were analyzed by the FBI’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team or “CAST” Team.

Based on recovered text messages and location data from Dunn’s phone and Adkins’ phone, the prosecutors said Adkins would have had to kill Dunn, clean up any blood and other incriminating evidence in the home and hide her body in a relatively short amount of time.

“While this is not impossible, it presents additional challenges,” prosecutors said.

Court documents stated the case is relying solely on circumstantial evidence.

“This is a complex circumstantial evidence case. There is no known direct eye witness to Hailey Dunn’s murder. Nor is there any known current forensic science evidence directly linking Shawn Adkins to her murder.”

The prosecution recommended the Court dismiss the case, subject to re-file pending further investigation.

“We solved this case once; we are going to solve it again,” Dunn’s father, Clint, said.

Although the charges have been dropped and Adkins has been released from custody, he remains a focal point of the investigation.

“To be clear, the prosecution views Shawn Casey Adkins as the primary suspect in the Hailey Dunn murder.”

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