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Homeless man killed near camp in October had called 911 just hours before, investigator testifies
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Dexter Pulliam enters the Magistrate Court courtroom Monday, Nov. 22, to appear for a committal hearing. Pulliam was charged with murder in the death of Leon Hines. - photo by Nick Watson

Hours before being found dead on the railroad tracks, a Gainesville homeless man called 911 saying there was someone “that’s trying to cut him,” an investigator testified Monday, Nov. 22.

Gainesville Police investigator Erin Escalante testified about how Leon Hines’ body was found just before 7 p.m. Oct. 18 between the railroad tracks near Georgia Avenue and Industrial Boulevard.

Dexter Barnard Pulliam, 51, was charged with malice murder and appeared in Magistrate Court Monday, Nov. 22, for a probable cause hearing regarding the death of Leon Hines, 66.

Escalante testified about the 911 call made by Hines at 3:09 p.m. the same day, in which another man can be heard making threats. Patrol officers, however, did not find anyone when they arrived on scene that afternoon.

Less than four hours later, Hines was found dead. 

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Leon Hines speaks with Gainesville Police Investigator Stephen Johnson under the Queen City Bridge in Gainesville in this Times file photo. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The investigator said when Hines was found he had an “extremely large” laceration to the right side of his skull and another laceration to the top of his skull. The medical examiner also found cuts to Hines’ fingers, which were believed to be possible defensive wounds, Escalante testified.

The medical examiner told law enforcement it was possibly “a hatchet or a machete” that caused the injuries, Escalante said.

Officers investigating Hines’ death have been told varying versions of the events leading up to Hines’ death. One story was that Pulliam wanted a woman he had previously been living with out of the camp. 

Escalante said Hines, who was known as the “Mayor of Queen City” and a leader of the homeless camp, intervened and told Pulliam that he couldn’t kick the woman out of the camp.

Pulliam was later interviewed by law enforcement.

“Mr. Pulliam had stated that it was him on the 911 call that we had heard and that they had been arguing over a phone charger and that the argument got very heated,” Escalante said.

Pulliam told police he left the argument and went to a local store to purchase duct tape.

“Mr. Pulliam stated that his plan was to bound Mr. Hines up and assault him but he said he just never got the chance to do so,” Escalante said.

One woman told investigators Pulliam was cleaning the hatchet with antiseptic alcohol wipes.

Pulliam told police the reason why he was cleaning the hatchet was because he was going to cut coconuts that another person had brought to the camp.

“We never found any coconuts,” Escalante said.

Defense attorney Larry Duttweiler asked about surveillance footage from surrounding businesses near the scene, which Escalante said did capture some of the movement around the area.

Duttweiler also asked about the hatchet.

“And I am guessing you have sprayed it with something to see if there is even a lingering bit of blood?” the defense attorney asked.

“They have, and there’s not,” Escalante said. “There’s no presence of blood.”

The investigator told the court that officers found multiple machetes and a hatchet among Pulliam’s belongings, and no other hatchets were found in the camp.

Escalante added that the cutting tools were being sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

After listening to the testimony, Magistrate Court Judge Elizabeth Reisman said there was probable cause to move the case on to Superior Court.

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Assistant District Attorney Laura Lukert shows Gainesville Police investigator Erin Escalante autopsy photos of Leon Hines. Escalante testified during a committal hearing for Dexter Pulliam, who has been charged with murder. - photo by Nick Watson