Statesboro Man Sentenced for 2022 Murder of Sylvania’s Dolan Blanchard

The man accused of murdering a 22-year-old Screven County man in July 2022 pleaded guilty in Bulloch County on Wednesday.

Case Background

Investigators with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office arrested John Warnell Morris in August 2022 on murder charges, among other things, in the shooting death of Dolan Ryan Blanchard. Blanchard was found lying in the roadway on Maria Sorrell Road on July 17, 2022. He was suffering from apparent gunshot wounds and succumbed to his injuries before being transported to a hospital.

Following an investigation, investigators arrested Morris and charged him with Malice Murder, two counts of Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery, Arson (2nd degree), and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.

In a preliminary hearing in August 2022, Investigator Reid Odom testified that a call came into the 911 center at 1:39 a.m. on July 17. The caller reported an individual laying in the roadway with gunshot wounds. As Odom arrived on scene a short time later, 911 received another call about a vehicle fire approximately one mile away. Processing of both scenes continued well into the morning. 

Odom said he was interviewing family in Screven County later on when he received a call. Morris and his father were at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office after learning of the incident on Facebook. Investigators knew Morris and Blanchard had spoken by phone on the night of the shooting. What type of relationship the pair had remained unknown.

Captain Todd Hutchens met with Morris and his father, at which time Morris said he spoke with Blanchard that night about Blanchard borrowing a shotgun to go hunting. He said the two met up and Dolan Blanchard’s brother, Marcus, was in the vehicle. He said he passed off the shotgun and he later received a text from Marcus indicating that his brother had been shot and killed and the vehicle was set on fire. 

According to investigators, they asked Morris to return to the Sheriff’s Office on July 21 for additional questioning. He did so, offering the same details along with some new ones. Odom said BCSO was able to refute many of Morris’ claims while also solidifying Marcus Blanchard’s alibi. 

A Confession & A Motive

On July 29, Odom and Hutchens transported Morris to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office. There, Morris signed a Miranda waiver. He was asked if he desired to continue speaking with investigators, to which he agreed. Odom testified Friday that Morris then admitted to the murder of Blanchard.

He also said Morris stated he convinced Dolan Blanchard to travel to Statesboro that evening. “It was pre-planned, they were going to go shoot stop signs.” Upon meeting up, Odom says Morris told Blanchard where to drive. They got out at the location of the crime, Morris fired a shot at a sign, and then turned around and shot Blanchard.

Odom testified that Blanchard was shot three times with a 12-gauge pump action shotgun – once in the forearm, once in the stomach, and once in the chest. 

The vehicle that was burned was registered to Blanchard’s father, but Dolan was the primary driver. In it, investigators recovered remnants of a burned pump action shotgun, a steel ammo can, a gas can nozzle, and evidence of both diesel and gasoline used as an accelerant. 

According to Odom, Morris was asked if he would take investigators to the scene on July 31, to which Morris once again agreed. He showed Hutchens and Odom where he shot the victim, among other things.

Investigators also obtained considerable video footage from homeowners and businesses in the community, which helped them verify and refute various testimonies over the course of the early investigation. In addition, investigators recovered shotgun shells from the scene and all of the interviews with Morris were audio and video recorded.

Stuart Patray, Morris’ public defender at the time who now works for the district attorney’s office, asked Odom what the nature of the relationship between the two was. 

“They were acquaintances, if not friends. But I’d definitely say acquaintances. They became friends through an online video game.”

Patray also asked whether or not Morris ‘gave a reason’ for the murder.

“He did,” Odom said. “It was related to an incident with a mutual female friend. An ex-girlfriend of Dolan Blanchard. This was a retaliatory plan for Morris.”

Guilty Plea

On March 13, 2024, Morris entered a guilty plea on all counts before Superior Court Judge Lovett Bennett. The plea was ‘open ended,’ meaning the sentence was not negotiated by the state and defense ahead of time.

Judge Bennett sentenced Morris to serve Life in Prison, with the possibility of parole, on the condition that he pay $18,570.15 in restitution. He also received an additional 10 years in prison for the Arson charge and 5 years in prison for the Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.

Morris was awarded credit for time served dating back to July 29, 2022 as he has been in the Bulloch County Jail without bond since his arrest.

The case was prosecuted by ADA Casey Blount. After Public Defender Stuart Patray left the PD’s office to work for the district attorney’s office, Morris was represented by Ginny Purdee.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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