Woman killed wasn’t intended target. She, others had planned ambush, prosecutors say

Stanislaus County prosecutors say McKayla Dollard was shot to death a few months ago in a downtown alley, but she wasn’t the intended target that day.

Investigators believe Dollard and two others planned to ambush another woman, who fired a gun in self-defense, fatally wounding Dollard. The suspected shooter has not been found. Dollard’s alleged accomplices have been convicted for their involvement in the crime.

On Aug. 30, Caroline Clayton, 25, and Dallas Rampley, 34, both of Modesto, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon not a gun, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office announced in a news release Thursday.

The assault charge is considered a strike under the state’s “Three Strikes” law, which can be used to lengthen a prison sentence if either defendant is convicted of another felony.

Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen sentenced Clayton to five years in prison and Rampley to three years in prison. Prosecutors said Clayton and Rampley could not be convicted of murder because of a change in state law a year ago.

In September 2018, then Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1437, which limits prosecutors’ ability to use the “felony murder rule” to charge accomplices to a homicide.

Previously, prosecutors could charge suspects with murder if their crime resulted in the death of one of their accomplices. The change in the law became effective in January.

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne prosecuted Clayton and Rampley. Modesto police Detective Joshua Lawrence was the lead investigator in the homicide case.

The shooting occurred about 6:30 a.m. June 11 in an alley off of D Street, between Sixth and Seventh streets. A dispatcher said someone was screaming and yelling for help. Officers arrived at the scene and found Dollard. The 30-year-old Modesto woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

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A woman was shot Tuesday morning, June 11, 2019, in an alley off D Street between Sixth and Seventh streets in downtown Modesto. She was conscious as she was loaded into an ambulance, but there’s been no report of her condition. Deke Farrow

Prosecutors said detectives later learned that Rampley, Clayton and Dollard on that day had all planned to beat up Tabitha Leslie.

Rampley drove Leslie to the location near Sixth Street. Prosecutors said Rampley knew that Clayton and Dollard were waiting there to beat up Leslie, and they had a bat handle. Leslie, who had previous confrontations with Clayton, had a handgun with her.

Mayne said that at some point Clayton and Dollard became aware that Leslie had a gun, and they were upset that Rampley hadn’t told them that.

But Clayton and Dollard decided to continue with their plan to beat up Leslie, according to prosecutors. Leslie then fired the gun and shot Dollard.

Leslie left the area and has not been seen since. Detectives have not been able to question her. Prosecutors said the detectives believe Leslie was defending herself against an attack when she fired the handgun, but they would still like to speak to her about what led to the shooting.

On Friday afternoon, Clayton was serving her prison sentence at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla and Rampley was serving his sentence at North Kern State Prison in Delano.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.