Stepdaughter pleads guilty in stepfather body concealment case

·3 min read

A woman accused in assisting her brother conceal the body of their stepfather in May 2021, pleaded guilty this week in state Supreme Court.

Dawn Mitchel, now 47, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to second-degree obstruction of governmental administration, a misdemeanor, for her role in homicide of William Charles Mason, 69, of Parma.

Mason's remains were found in a fire pit on his property. He was married to the Mitchel siblings' mother Maryellen, who died in November 2020.

Dawn Mitchel was initially charged with tampering with physical evidence and concealment of a human corpse, both felonies, in connection with the homicide. She and her brother Lance Mitchel were arrested in August 2021.

Lance Mitchel last month pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, a felony, and said that as he and his stepfather argued at Mason's West Ridge Road home one day in May 2021, he snapped and broke Mason's neck from behind. Lance Mitchel previously served in the Air Force, according to his lawyer.

Dawn Mitchel, who was at the Monroe County Jail since her August 2021 arrest, was released Tuesday after she was sentenced to time served, according to Mason's family.

"It's hard to imagine her freedom and my brother's dreams and plans destroyed," said Mason's sister Sue Mason Hickey. "Our family will never forget."

Who was William 'Bill' Mason?

William Mason
William Mason

William Charles Mason, the second-oldest of seven children, was raised in Spencerport, where he often said that he had the “greatest childhood of all time,” according to his family. He later moved to the Parma, where lived with his family.

Named after his father, he went by Bill.

Mason was planning to move out of state, closer to his son, daughter-in-law and the pair's two young children. He was excited for the new adventure and was looking forward to spending his retirement helping raise his grandsons, according to his family.

Mason's relatives described him as a man which a huge heart who was always willing to help others.

A 1971 Spencerport High School graduate, Mason was once a standout three-sport athlete. He was recruited to play soccer at SUNY Delhi in Delaware County and graduated from the college in 1973. He worked for Eastman Kodak and later co-owned a siding business with his brother.

What happened to William Mason?

Mason was reported missing on May 26, 2021.

In June, chief deputy Michael Fowler of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office announced that the missing person case was being investigated as a homicide, and revealed that authorities had recovered human remains from a fire pit behind Mason's home at 5465 West Ridge Road. At that time, Fowler said that deputies were not able to immediately identify whose remains were found in the fire pit.

The sheriff’s office, with the assistance of a forensic anthropologist, recovered numerous small bone fragments, many between 2 and 3 inches long, and surgical implants from the fire pit, said investigator Sgt. David Bolton of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. And, he noted, Mason had "a number of surgical implants."

Video evidence confirmed that there was a fire in the fire pit between late afternoon on May 25 into May 26, he said. Bolton in mid-summer 2021 also said that deputies believed that Mason was targeted but declined to reveal a motive.

During his plea in court, Lance Mitchel explained that while arguing with his stepfather at Mason's home, he snapped and broke Mason's neck from behind, causing him to drop to the ground. Mitchel stated that he was upset because after his mother's death, Mason was moving on and getting rid of the contents of the home, including childhood toys and other sentimental items. However, he did not discuss in court how Mason's body was burned in the fire pit.

What's next?

Lance Mitchel is set to be sentenced in state Supreme Court by Justice Judith Sinclair on May 23.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Dawn Mitchel pleads guilty to role in death of William Charles Mason