‘I Tried to Help You,' Nancy Dailey Said to Pair Before Killing Her, Royal Oak Detective Testifies
Cousin and neighbor testify about finding 80-year-old woman dead in her home during hearing Friday.
Update, 4:30 p.m. Friday: Broke, homeless and struggling with drug addiction, Alan Wood and Tonia Watson broke into Nancy Dailey’s Royal Oak home where they robbed and Wood brutally beat and then killed the 80-year-old woman, a Royal Oak Police detective testified Friday.
Alan Craig Wood, 48, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and felony murder while Tonia Michelle Watson, 40, is charged with felony murder, both of which carry a mandatory life imprisonment penalty. In addition, Watson and Wood are charged with larceny in a building and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device.
During the pair’s preliminary exam in 44th District Court in Royal Oak on Friday afternoon, Detective Perry Edgell testified about interviewing Watson on Nov. 23, the day after the couple was taken into custody at a Meijer in Canton for being parole absconders and suspects in Dailey’s slaying in her Woodwardside subdivision home three days earlier.
The detective said Watson told him that a couple of weeks before Dailey was slain, the elderly woman paid her and Wood $40 to rake leaves for 30 minutes.
"She told me they were broke and had problems with drug addiction,” Edgell said.
Watson told him they discussed robbing someone and Dailey’s name came up. After spending a few hours at a nearby McDonald’s on Nov. 20, Wood and Watson walked to Dailey’s house, where she could be seen sitting on a chair in her living room, Edgell said. They waited until it got dark to try to enter Dailey’s home.
“Tonia went to the front door,” Edgell said. “And Alan went to the side door.” Wood broke into the home and took Dailey into the kitchen where they proceeded to steal Dailey’s credit cards, cell phone, purse and jewelry.
At some point Watson said Dailey asked to use the bathroom, Edgell said. Watson told him Dailey tried to lock herself in the bathroom.
Watson told Edgell, “Nancy said, ‘I tried to help you. You dirty birds. You dirty birds.’ ”
Watson cried for Wood to help her and said he reacted violently, the detective said. Wood grabbed Dailey by the hair, threw her to the floor and tried to break her neck, Watson told the detective.
Edgell said Watson told him how she watched and listened as Dailey moaned in pain. She told the detective she walked away when Wood opened a 7 inch pocketknife.
According to the detective’s testimony, Watson and Wood left immediately after killing Dailey, used her ATM card to withdraw $200 and went to Pontiac to purchase drugs. Watson told the detective that night the couple stayed at the De Lido Motel in Detroit and watched media coverage of the crime.
Earlier in the afternoon, the victim’s family and neighbors choked back tears as Dr. Bernardino Pacris, a deputy forensic pathologist in the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, described what he found when he performed the autopsy on Dailey’s body.
He determined the cause of the elderly woman’s death was a stab wound 1 ½-inches deep on the right side of Dailey’s neck, which dissected her cerotic artery and nicked her jugular vein. A blue cloth material bound Dailey’s arms and the autopsy showed a bone in her neck was fractured, as were her clavicle and multiple ribs. Bruises on Dailey’s face, ear, eyelids and head were consistent with being punched or being smacked against a floor or wall, Pacris said.
noon Friday: Leah Storto was visibly shaken as she testified about the last time she talked to her cousin, whom she described as more like a sister. Storto said she and Dailey, who lived about a mile from each other, talked by phone four or five times a day.
“I would pick her up every Friday and take her to dinner,” Storto said.
Storto said that on Nov. 20 she talked to Dailey on the phone sometime between 4-4:45 p.m. and had no concerns for Dailey’s well-being. She tried calling her again sometime between 6-7 p.m. to tell her about a television program and Dailey did not answer.
“I called her over and over and over until 10 minutes to 8,” Storto said in tears. “I said, ‘Nancy if you don’t call me in five minutes I am coming over.’ ” Dailey never called back.
Storto testified she went to Dailey’s house and could not get in using her spare key. She said she banged on windows to get her cousin’s attention to no avail.
She finally sought the help of Steven Schram, a neighbor of Dailey’s and a Detroit police officer, who was able to use the key to get into the house. Schram testified that while he called out to Dailey, “Is everything all right?” he heard Storto in the hallway shout “Oh my God, call 911. She is on the floor!”
Dailey’s body was lying in the hall, face down and her legs partially in her bedroom.
“I rolled her over and saw her throat had been slit,” Schram said.
Schram, who said he had served in the military, testified that when he saw no fresh blood coming from the wound he knew there was no chance Dailey was alive and immediately contacted Royal Oak police.
In Judge Terrence Brennan’s courtroom Friday morning, Wood and Watson were a contrast in demeanor. Wood, handcuffed with feet shackled, sat at a table with his attorney Elias Escobedo with his chin up paying very close attention. Watson, wearing a white sweater beneath her orange jail jumpsuit, sat behind her attorney, Jack Holmes. She mainly held her head in her hands and didn’t often look at witnesses when they spoke.
Oakland County Prosecutor Tricia Dare called several witnesses to establish the pair were seen in Dailey’s neighborhood the day she was killed.
Dailey’s neighbor Lois Hillebrand testified that Watson and Wood asked her the previous weekend if they could help the elderly woman with yard work. When they approached her on Nov. 12, she said she had no concerns about them. When they returned a day later, Hillebrand said, Wood raked leaves for Dailey while Dailey was inside her home. As the couple left Dailey’s home walking west toward Woodward, Hillebrand said Watson walked fast while Wood appeared to stroll.
“I was afraid of him,” she said.
Hearing to continue March 16
Brennan adjourned the hearing until March 16 so a primary witness who is on medical leave can be heard.