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Police: Woman killed man over drug theft

| Saturday, Oct. 1, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

When Dwayne Rankin stole $900 worth of cocaine from Karena Dorsey, the 18-year-old got a gun, drove around Homewood until she found him, then killed him with two shots to the head and chest in front of a house along Tioga Street, a city homicide detective testified Friday.

At a hearing yesterday, Detective George Trosky said Dorsey admitted to killing Rankin, 42, a man described as a street person. Dorsey told detectives she was selling cocaine near her row house Monday morning when Rankin approached her, took the cocaine and fled. Dorsey went back to her Forest Way house and told a neighbor what happened, Trosky said.

The neighbor agreed to drive Dorsey around the neighborhood to look for Rankin, he said. The women took the neighbor's young daughter to school, and then cruised the streets of Homewood until they spotted Rankin, who police say had an East Liberty address.

Dorsey told police she got out of the car and demanded that Rankin give back her drugs.

Rankin refused, saying, "What are you going to do, shoot me?" Trosky testified.

She then pulled out the .38-caliber revolver and fired four times, hitting Rankin twice, Trosky said at the Municipal Court hearing.

District Judge Dennis Joyce ordered Dorsey to stand trial on charges of criminal homicide, robbery and carrying an unlicensed firearm. After the hearing, sheriff's deputies escorted Dorsey back to the Allegheny County Jail, where she has been held since her arrest a few hours after the shooting.

Dorsey's attorney, Lisa Middleman, said her client is pregnant and ill-suited to life as a drug dealer. Middleman portrayed the killing as self-defense, and asked Joyce to throw out the robbery charge on the basis that Dorsey was simply trying to retrieve what was her property -- the cocaine. The judge denied the request.

Dorsey, wearing handcuffs, shackles and a red jail jumpsuit, smiled and waved to family members in the courtroom. She scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad, showing little emotion.

Her demeanor, police said, fits that of a hardened teenager.

"She wanted to appear tougher than she was. For the situation she is in, charged with homicide, you would think she would be crying and hysterical," said police Cmdr. Maurita Bryant. "But she's playing some type of role, an act. And a pathetic act, at that."

Neighbors on the debris-strewn street where Dorsey lived with her mother described an intensely unhappy girl who often stood on street corners with other teens, or sat on her front porch: a stained concrete slab adorned with a small barbecue grill, two metal chairs and a can of bug spray that had been converted into an ashtray.

"She didn't look like she was a happy camper," said neighbor Thelma Chance. "It must have been hard for her, and I feel for her and the mother."

A man who identified himself as Dorsey's father but refused to give his name arrived at court wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Dorsey and another woman.

"She's a nice kid. I'm just sorry that this happened," he said.

Bryant called the case unusual.

"It's not common that you have a run-of-the-mill 18-year-old girl going out and killing somebody," Bryant said. "Something, or someone, had a negative influence on her."

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