Where is Camille Dardanes Dotson? You may not recognize Camille’s name but you may be familiar with her husband, Gary Dotson. Gary Dotson became famous in the 80s because of a celebrated rape case, where he became the very first person ever exonerated by DNA.
Missing Persons of America talks with Camille and Gary’s daughter about the case, as she asks for help in finding her mother.
I received a request from MaryBeth Bergman regarding the disappearance of Camille Dardanes Dotson. MaryBeth said, “We are searching for anybody that may have ever met or known this woman, Camille Dotson. She’s been missing from Vegas for 25 years and she’s my friend’s mom. The case is cold, and the Police Dept. have been avoiding our pleas for help since 1994 when it happened. We’re desperate for any info from anyone that could’ve known or seen her so we can hopefully find some leads and reconstruct a timeline of her last few years. “
I had not heard of Camille missing before but I was sent a long write up of the case from MaryBeth Bergman and Ashley Dotson, who is Camille’s daughter that pretty much covered everything.
When I learned about Camille, I also learned about the high profile case of Gary Dotson who spent years in prison after a young woman stated he raped her in 1977. The story made the news when the young woman (Died of cancer in 2008) came forward in 1985 and stated she had lied. The courts didn’t take her recant seriously and it was the DNA that proved he had not done it. He was exonerated in 1989. Gary Dotson became famous as the first person ever released from prison after DNA exonerated him.
So, what is the connection between Gary and Camille? Camille, who was 21 at the time, became infatuated with Gary after seeing him on television and she was there with a white carnation in her hand to give to Gary when he walked out of the courtroom a free man.
That gesture not only was reported in the newspapers but lead to Gary and Camille getting married and having Ashley.
Gary’s false accuser went on to write a book called “Forgive me” about their story and signed the royalties of approximately $17,500 over to him as an apology in 1986. Camille and Gary used that money to relocate to Las Vegas. Gary also received $5000 for a movie deal and in 2003, Gary received $120,300 from the courts for compensation for his wrong conviction.
According to MaryBeth, “Gary quickly blew through all of their funds and forced the small family to return to Chicago penniless.
He began drinking too much and too often. The more he drank, the more violent he became. She involved police once, after he hit her and threatened to harm her young daughter.”
He admitted it too. “I said I’d kill the kid before I let Camille take her away”, Gary told the Illinois parole board after confessing to drinking a lot on the night in question. But like many abused wives, Camille couldn’t bring herself to proceed with charges and instead continued to stand by him.
“Gary’s far from a criminal,” Camille stressed to the Chicago Sun, “I was tired, Gary was tired, the baby was screaming. It had just been a real long day.”
But more turmoil followed and Gary went on to rack up several arrests for DUI’s and drunken bar brawls. Once Camille tried to kick him out and end things, but he broke into her home and refused to leave – eventually being arrested for trespassing.
Shortly after, Camille finally filed for a legal separation and decided to move back to Las Vegas so she and Ashley could be as far as possible from Gary.
As a single mom with no higher education and very little job experience, she struggled to support herself. After a string of low-paying diner and bar jobs, she began dancing at the Crazy Horse and various other local strip clubs. It was at one of these clubs that she met and fell in love with a man named Cruz Diaz Jr. It was a whirlwind romance. They married in 1993 and Camille even got a tattoo on her hip of his name inside of a heart outline. Ashley remembers Cruz having an “overwhelming presence” that made her “uncomfortable and afraid”. It wasn’t long before he introduced Camille to hard drugs and began physically abusing her. Around this time, Camille’s mother, Barbara decided to move home to Chicago and she brought Ashley with her.
It would be 7 months before a missing person’s report would finally be filed. With Ashley in tow, Camille’s mother Barbara moved back to Las Vegas in 1995 to find her daughter was long gone. She told the Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. but they were uninterested. “We have no reason to believe the MP met with foul play or suspicious circumstances,” the original police report read, “So we have reclassified the case from unfounded to zero”. With no help from law enforcement, Camille’s mother had to be a one-woman search team. She hung posters, checked out all of Camille’s former places of work, questioned countless locals, and did all she could to try to find her daughter. All to no avail. The police never followed up, no more information came in, and the trail had seemingly gone cold.
At the time of her disappearance, there was very little left of the woman Camille once was. Her lengthy list of drug charges resulted in several warrants for her arrest. Her teeth were discolored due to years of substance abuse and chain smoking. Her nose had been recently broken during one of Cruz’s violent episodes.
In 2003, Camille’s childhood friend, Sheri was missing her especially badly one day so she decided to call LVMPD and ask if there were any updates in the investigation. But she learned that there was, in fact, no such investigation existed. Camille’s missing person’s report had been mysteriously deleted by someone in the police department just weeks after it was filed. Nobody understood why, as she was still missing. Even the LVMPD had to admit that 9 years without contact was serious, so they finally classified her as “endangered” on the new missing person’s report that they re-filed.
Currently, Ashley has not been contacted by the Las Vegas Police in over half a decade. She does not know the whereabouts of Cruz Diaz, Camille’s husband at the time. She hasn’t been in touch with her father, Gary Dotson, in over 15 years. Her grandmother, Barbara, has severe dementia and no longer even remembers her missing daughter. Sometimes Ashley feels like she is the only person in the world who still thinks about and misses her mother.
Then Ashley joined forced with Gabrielle. They became investigators, talking with former Crazy Horse employees and neighbors and going over old paperwork, including Camille’s arrest reports, court files, marriage records, and every newspaper article that ever mentioned her.
Finally, a document was found that showed Camille had been arrested for drug trafficking on Sept. 2, 1994. The police report stated that Camille had vanished in May, but she was in their custody in September. She was actually in court on the 26th. Then that was it, Camille never showed back up at court.
Gabrielle and Ashely have several theories. Did Camille’s husband Cruz Diaz who was violent in the past and had an extensive rap sheet. Could it have been him that had her take the fall for the drugs in their home just to kill her before she could testify about any details? The club she worked in (the Crazy Horse) was mafia owned and had a well-documented history of crime and violence inside. A 1%er biker gang was known to frequent the club, and rumors once swirled that they were the ones who harmed her to keep her silent. Some have even wondered if maybe a dirty cop could be involved. Ashley recalls her mom knowing lots of officers personally and even getting rides around town from them. It would also explain why someone at the LVMPD deleted the initial report.
If you think you may have known Camille in the past, I am going to give you some information that may help jar your memory:
At some point Camille lived near the Treasure Island Casino, with Cruz, possibly in the Villa De Flores apartments on S. Vegas Plaza Dr. She spent some time at the Rainbow Highlands Apts. on Rainbow Ave. We know she worked at the Crazy Horse on the corner of Paradise & Flamingo. She was seen walking in the 300 block of S Casino Center Blvd in the time shortly before her disappearance.
Camille had brown hair and hazel eyes. She stood 5’7 and weighed between 125-145 lbs. Her teeth were slightly discolored and her nose was recently broken. She had a tattoo on her hip of the name “Cruz” inside of a heart. She smoked Marlboro cigarettes. May have used the first named “Nicole” or “Renee”, and the last names “Clark” or “Diaz”. She was 30 when she disappeared and would be 55 now.
If you knew her or have any information, even something you may consider insignificant, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any information on this case, please contact email@example.com and I will gladly get you in touch with MaryBeth and Ashley.
You can also reach them at the Camille Dardanes Dotson Missing Person
Thank you to MaryBeth Bergman and Ashley Dotson for allowing me to us their research, write-up and family photos for this story.