Westley Allan Dodd (July 3,
1961 – January 5, 1993) was a convicted serial killer and child molester
from Richland, Washington. His execution on January 5, 1993, was the
first legal hanging (at his own request) in the United States since
His childhood years
Dodd grew up in what has been
described as a loveless home and was often neglected by his parents in
favor of his two younger brothers. He has stated that he was also
ostracized in his school environment and deprived of or denied any
Dodd began sexually abusing
children when he was 13 years old; his first victims were his own
cousins. All his victims (over 50 in all) were children below the age of
12, some of them as young as two. Dodd's fantasies became increasingly
violent over the years (he wrote about wanting to eat the genitals of
He eventually progressed from
molesting his victims to murdering them, when he killed brothers Cole
and William Neer, and eventually into torturing them before raping and
murdering them, as he did to Lee Iseli. After he was arrested for trying
to abduct a boy from a movie theater, the police found a homemade
torture rack in his home, as yet unused. He was arrested by local police
in Camas, Washington and interviewed by task force detectives. Portland
Police Bureau Detective C. W. Jensen and Clark County Detective Sergeant
Dave Trimble obtained Dodd's confession and served the search warrant on
Several books have been written
about the case, including Driven to Kill by true crime author Gary C.
King and Dr. Ron Turco's book about his experience during the initial
investigation to assist in developing a profile of the killer.
Arrest and trials
Dodd was sentenced to death for
molesting and then stabbing to death Cole Neer (age 11) and his brother
William (10) near a Vancouver, Washington, park in 1989, as well as for
the separate rape and murder of Lee Iseli.
Less than four years elapsed
between the murders and Dodd's execution. He refused to appeal his case
or the capital sentence, stating "I must be executed before I have an
opportunity to escape or kill someone within the prison. If I do escape,
I promise you I will kill prison guards if I have to and rape and enjoy
every minute of it." While in court he said that, if he escaped from
jail, he would immediately go back to "killing kids."
Dodd was executed by hanging in the
first few minutes of January 5, 1993 at Washington State Penitentiary in
Walla Walla. By Washington state law, Dodd had to choose the method of
his execution, and state law gave Dodd two options: lethal injection or
hanging. Dodd chose hanging, later stating in interviews that he chose
that method "because that's the way Lee Iseli died." He also requested
that his hanging be televised, but that request was denied.
His execution was witnessed by 12
members of local and regional media, prison officials, and
representatives of the families of the three victims. His last words,
spoken from the second floor of the indoor gallows, were recorded by the
media witnesses as: "I was once asked by somebody, I don't remember who,
if there was any way sex offenders could be stopped. I said, `No.' I was
wrong. I was wrong when I said there was no hope, no peace. There is
hope. There is peace. I found both in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Look to
the Lord, and you will find peace."
Dodd was pronounced dead by the
prison doctor and his body transported to Seattle for autopsy. The King
County Medical Examiner, Dr. Donald Reay, found that Dodd had died
quickly and probably with little pain. He was cremated following the
autopsy, and his ashes turned over to his family.
Allan Dodd: Diary of a Child Predator
Prowling at the Movies
was a loner. When he wasn't busy building his ill conceived "torture
rack" out of boards and ropes, he sat hunched over at his desk, writing
deeply disturbing fantasies in his diary. He sketched out the following
plans for his next victim:
will die maybe this way: He'll be tied down as Lee was in Incident 2.
Instead of placing a bag over his head as had previously planned, I'll
tape his mouth shut with duct tape. Then, when ready, I'll use a
clothespin or something to plug his nose. That way I can sit back, take
pictures and watch him die instead of concentrating on my hands or the
rope tight around his neck -- that would also eliminate the rope burns
on the neck . . . I can clearly see his face and eyes now...Electrocution
also a good means for quick death.
A few nights
later Dodd went to the movies, and sat in the back row at the New
Liberty Theater in Camas, Washington, near Vancouver. Honey I Shrunk the
Kids was playing, but Dodd wasn't there for the film. Instead, he
systematically scanned the audience for his next victim. He watched a
young boy who walked up the aisle toward the lobby, alone. Dodd casually
got out of his seat and followed the child into the restroom. Another
boy, six years old, also walked through the lobby to use the bathroom.
Dodd, smiling, motioned to the 6 year-old to go first.
was going to hurt me"
employees relaxed in the quiet of the lobby after the film started. But
a child's frantic screams pierced the calm. The cries were coming from
the men's bathroom. Dodd pushed the door open, carrying the shrieking
boy over his shoulder. "The little boy was hysterical," said one of
owners to The Oregonian newspaper. "He was screaming so loud you could
hear him for three blocks." They watched as a small, youthful-looking
man, with dark hair and a thick mustache, walked to the exit, carrying
the boy who twisted and writhed, desperately trying to break free. "Calm
down, son," he said, patting the boy on the back. "Calm down."
It was not the
first time that a child had thrown a temper tantrum in their theater.
But the child's persistent cries of "Help me! Help me!" distressed them.
They ran after Dodd, who hurried down the dark street, tightening his
grip on the tearfully frightened boy. Approaching the car, he fumbled
for his keys, breathing hard, looking over his shoulder. But six-year-old
James broke free and scrambled away as fast as he could. He ran straight
into one of theater owners who was pursuing Dodd, grabbing onto her legs
and holding tight. "That man was going to hurt me," James told her. The
two went back to the theater to find his mom.
William "Ray" Graves, the boyfriend of James' mother, heard a commotion
after the boy left to use the restroom. In the lobby he heard what
almost happened, and became furious. "There was fire in my eyes," he
later said. "It burned me up. That little guy is pretty close to me. I
love him and I love his family." Someone had seen the abductor in a
mustard-yellow Pinto station wagon. Graves ran outside into the dark
streets, looking for the car -- he was determined to chase him down,
even if by foot. Astonishingly, the Pinto station wagon was stopped on
the street, apparently stalled. This guy was stuck, and Graves
cautiously made his move. He approached the Pinto, acting as casually as
his racing heart would permit, and asked the driver if he needed help.
Dodd nervously glanced at Graves and accepted his offer.
When he had
his chance, Graves grabbed Dodd by the neck and dragged him back to the
theater. "You have just been detained. We're going to get the cops," he
said, resisting the urge to hurt the man who tried to take James. In the
theater lobby, Graves tied the young man's hands behind his back with a
belt, and sat him down until the police arrived. Dodd stared at the
floor and said nothing.
James knew to
make a commotion if anyone tried to abduct him. His mother had been
worried since the murder of little Lee Iseli and the Neer brothers, and
taught her children to scream, kick and bite if anyone tried to take
them. "That boy is a real hero," said a lieutenant with the Camas Police
Department. The Northwest's most notorious and vicious child killer,
Westley Allan Dodd, had terrorized the community -- and it was fitting
that community action, led by a child, brought Dodd to justice.
28-year-old Dodd denied any involvement in the murder of other boys who
had been found in the last 10 weeks. 10-year-old Cole Neer, and his
brother, 11-year-old William, were found stabbed to death in a Vancouver
park. 4-year-old Lee Iseli had been discovered at Vancouver Lake, less
than ten miles away from the park. When Dodd told the police he worked
at a paper plant, only a mile away from where Lee was found, authorities
pressed him further.
That night in
November of 1989, in less than an hour of custody, Dodd confessed. But
Dodd's confession was just the beginning of his ruthlessly brutal
outpourings. He made the interrogators sick -- the more Dodd talked
about hurting children, the more he seemed to enjoy himself, as if his
confessions were an opportunity to relive the experience. When the
police searched his home, they found his torture rack, articles about
the crimes, and other solid evidence. The most disturbing evidence was
discovered in a briefcase under the bed. Inside this briefcase Dodd kept
photos of children, including heartbreaking Polaroids of one of his
victims, Lee Iseli. He also kept a diary that would shock and sadden the
community. It was bewildering and terrifying -- how could someone do
this to helpless kids, and enjoy it? Not only had he meticulously
recorded all of his crimes against children, he choreographed sadistic
torture fantasies for future victims. He had every intention of living
out these fantasies, and would not stop until he was caught.
Dodd is perhaps one of the most calculating predators to prowl the
playgrounds. Small in stature, and sometimes assuming a baby-voice
himself, he did not fit the profile of the dangerous trench-coated "stranger"
that children are taught to avoid. (Organizations like the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children are working hard to dispel
myths of child-molesters as repugnant trolls luring kids with candy --
they are usually someone kids trust.) Like many child molesters, Dodd
knew how to gain access to his victims -- he befriended children with
gifts and games, and knew how to coax them into dangerous situations
without using force. He was described as being good with kids. Few knew
that he was also deadly with them. In the following chapters we will
look at Dodd's childhood, and how his deviant behavior escalated from
molestation to murder. Along the way there will be many moments when
Dodd's rampage could have been abruptly halted by the criminal justice
system. But we must also remember that the system did not rape and
murder little boys -- Westley Dodd did.
sexually abusing children when he was only 13 years old. As grade
schoolers passed by his house, he stood in the upstairs bedroom window,
naked, hiding his face behind the curtain. Eventually a child reported
the flasher's address to the police, who notified Dodd's parents that "someone"
was exposing himself to children from their residence. The authorities
showed little interest in who it was, or prosecuting him. The Dodds
thought it might have been a friend of Westley's.
realizing that exposing himself from his own house would get him in
trouble, Dodd took his "show on the road," as he called it, and pedaled
his bike around the neighborhood, looking for children, 10 or younger.
He would ride by, yell at them, and expose himself when he got their
attention. He looked for boys, he said, because "boys didn't report me
as often as girls." Dodd said that he began exposing himself because he
had hit puberty, and wasn't educated about sex. He never claimed to have
been sexually abused himself, and later blamed his unhappiness as a
child on his parents' constant fighting and their lack of emotional
father Jim Dodd told The Oregonian that he acknowledged his son's sexual
deviancy with "father-son chats," but mostly avoided talking about it,
despite Westley's increasing arrests and warnings. The eldest of three
kids, Westley was otherwise well behaved. "He never did drugs, he never
drank, he never smoke," said the elder Dodd. When his parents divorced,
the exposing escalated to molesting.
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, IIIR, which classifies and
describes mental disorders, pedophilia is one of the behaviors
associated with loners who have low self-esteem. They feel sexually
inadequate, afraid to risk rejection by their peers. In avoiding mature
relationships, they fail to mature themselves. Dodd has described
himself as socially isolated, intimidated by girls. When others began
dating and going to high school dances, Dodd stayed at home, thinking of
ways to instigate sexual activity with children.
child molesters, Dodd betrayed the trust of children who were close to
him. Stranger abductions are usually a last resort. If a sexual predator
has access to kids that know and trust him, he will take advantage of
their trust. Dodd's first victims were his own cousins. At 14 he
molested his own 8-year-old cousin in a closet, her 6-year-old brother
later that day, and another male cousin weeks later. Dodd later molested
the kids of a woman his father was dating.
cousins weren't available to him, Dodd placed himself in situations
where he would be around children. He befriended the neighborhood boys
and offered to baby-sit. At 16, Dodd was asked to fill in for a
neighbor's usual babysitter, and molested the children as they slept.
Later, Dodd sought jobs where he'd encounter kids, including being a
until later that he used force with his victims. Usually, Dodd tricked
children into inappropriate contact through "fun and games." He dared
kids to run around naked, and suggested party games like spin-the-bottle,
strip poker, skinny-dipping, or truth-or-dare. He exploited the innocent
curiosity of children, and made the molestation seem like normal fun. "I've
done this to other kids," he'd say, "and they liked it." He manipulated
their uncertainty and nervousness, and perhaps their guilt that they had
done something "wrong." Dodd attempted to naturalize the situation to
little kids who didn't know better. He tried to convince a confused
child that he was teaching him something fun that adults do, and that it
was perfectly normal.
didn't stop him. At the age of 15 Dodd had already been arrested for
exposing himself, but he was not prosecuted. Instead, the authorities
recommended counseling. (Over the years, Dodd would fall in and out of
court-ordered counseling sessions, but attended sporadically, if at all.)
The arrests accumulated, but Dodd was rarely punished with the
appropriate jail time.
he had been molesting on a regular basis moved away, Dodd, now 18, and
desperate for new victims, pursued kids he didn't know. He realized that
with children he didn't know he could be more forceful. In one typical
incident, he encountered a young boy, fishing alone in a wooded area. He
asked the boy if he wanted to see something "really neat." Once they
were isolated, Dodd ordered the boy to undress, but fortunately for the
child, they were interrupted by another group of kids. If he couldn't
find a child alone, he would approach a group of children and demand
that one of them pull his pants down. Sometimes Dodd went out on bizarre
"nude excursions," rollicking at a children's playground, naked, in the
middle of the night.
In the Navy
"If I hadn't
joined the Navy then, I may have been killing within a year," said Dodd.
Weeks before enlisting in September of 1981, Dodd attempted to abduct a
couple of little girls. Although they reported him to the police, Dodd
stationed at a submarine base in Bangor, Washington, and preyed on the
children who lived on the base. He also made excursions to Seattle,
where he accosted kids in movie theater bathrooms. Dodd began to use
money as a lure, coaxing children into secluded areas to help him
supposedly get something, then ordering the child to pull down his pants.
He discovered that the arcade was a good place to find kids who wished
they had more money, and gave them quarters for each of his demands. At
one point he was arrested offering to pay some boys $50 each to go to a
motel and play strip poker with him. But after he admitted to the police
that he planned on molesting the boys, the charges were mysteriously
dropped. Did the authorities think that admitting to something as
depraved as this was punishment enough?
Dodd was arrested, and received a general discharge from the Navy. He
was apprehended after approaching a young boy, and found guilty of "attempted
indecent liberties." For this he served 19 days in jail, and was ordered
(again) to get counseling.
But Dodd was
relentless. No amount of counseling would keep him from pursuing
children. In May 1984 police arrested Dodd for molesting a 10-year-old
boy. Although his initial sentence would have kept him off the streets,
the judge, for reasons unknown, allowed Dodd to stay out of jail by
giving him a suspended one-year sentence, provided that he attend
counseling and "conduct himself as a good citizen for the balance" of
the sentence. During this period he was arrested twice for driving with
a suspended license, but he was not brought back to jail.
Dodd was free
to seek out more "targets," as he called kids. He would not let
probation or warrants stop him. Every decision he made involved his
access to children -- he chose an apartment building with lots of kids,
and took jobs at fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and charity
truck routes, where he would pick up donations from houses.
predator/child molester is always alert and ready for any situation or
possibility that may arise," he said. "I started staying alert and
watching for opportunities like that to occur again." While on his truck
route, he was invited into houses with children. Changing a baby's
diapers was enough to arouse Dodd to molestation. If he saw a kid he
liked, he wrote down the address, with plans to return in his own car,
hoping to catch the child alone. On his routes, he would make note of
any isolated areas he encountered, and marked them on a map.
volunteered to baby-sit. He took a co-worker's son on a fishing trip, as
a birthday present, where he sexually abused him. He repeatedly molested
a neighbor's 2 and 4-year-old kids, but the mother didn't want to
traumatize the boys by pressing charges.
In 1986, at
the age of 25, Dodd moved to Seattle. He felt "invincible," having
sexually assaulted at least 30 kids at this point. "Now, when I got to
Seattle, I had learned I was less likely to be reported for a
molestation than for an attempt. I decided that from now on I would be a
little more forceful. I would no longer accept no as an answer to my
requests," he later wrote. He chose the most vulnerable children,
including a roommate's 2-year-old son who was partially deaf and could
not yet talk. The boy resisted, and Dodd tied his hands with a bathrobe
strap. "The idea of force was exciting," he said.
ongoing counseling sessions, Dodd had no intention of controlling his
pedophilic urges. In fact, Dodd began to fantasize about killing his
victims. "The more I thought about it, the more exciting the idea of
murder sounded. I planned many ways to kill a boy. Then I started
thinking of torture, castration, and even cannibalism." Although he
claimed that he decided to murder to keep from going to jail, this is
difficult to believe when we consider that he was hardly prosecuted for
any of his crimes. Dodd would later rant about how easy it was to
manipulate the justice system and stay on out of jail. The reason Dodd
wanted to kill children was because he was a sexual sadist, stimulated
by his control over their sufferings and death.
In 1987, Dodd
chose the first child he would murder -- it would be an 8-year-old boy
he met while working as a security guard for a construction site. On his
day off he drove to where the boy lived, hoping to lure him into one of
the vacant buildings nearby. Then he planned to take the child into an
isolated wooded area where he would kill him.
But the kid
sensed that his new "friend" was dangerous. After Dodd asked him to help
find a "lost little boy," the 8-year-old said that he was going home to
get some toys for the lost boy, and promised that he would be right
back. Instead, he stayed inside, and his mother called the police.
"By his own
admissions he is predatory and uncontrollable"
another light sentence. "We prosecuted the case to the full extent that
we were able," said one district attorney. "Essentially, he tried to get
the boy to go with him, but he refused. Nothing more serious happened
that we could use." Prosecutors tried to invoke Dodd's history as a
sexual predator to convict him of a longer sentence, 5 to 6 years in
jail. But the judge reduced the charge to a "gross misdemeanor," and
Dodd spent only 118 days in jail (with one year probation.) A
disturbingly light sentence, especially in consideration of Dodd's
intentions for the boy.
Kenneth Von Cleve saw that he was a serious danger: "Mr. Dodd's history
of deviant assaults on minors is the most extensive I have ever
encountered in an offender his age," he wrote, and concluded that Dodd
was an "extremely high risk for future re-offense." Dr. Von Cleve
attempted to get Dodd's conviction upgraded to a felony, which would
have meant more aggressive treatment. Yet he didn't believe that Dodd
was capable of violence. "He was like a child," said Dr. Von Cleve. When
he talked about the offenses, he did it in baby talk, like a kid. He fit
right in with them," he said. "He didn't want to hurt them."
year, just months before the murders began, Dodd briefly got together
with an old girlfriend, who had brought with her a baby she claimed was
his. But after only five days together in a motel, she left. Dodd then
moved to Vancouver.
1989, at Pac Paper, where Dodd worked as a shipping clerk, co-workers
thought there was something odd about Dodd, who told co-workers that he
was employed by the Clark County sheriff's office to "stand on the
corner and watch children." He also claimed that he was divorced, and
was upset because his infant child had just died of "crib death." Other
than his weird remarks, no one suspected the clean-shaven, well-heeled
Dodd of anything deadly. He was bright, meticulous, and could have
easily advanced his position at the company. But Dodd didn't care. His
secret vocation, preying on children, was about to escalate to violence.
He found a
popular place for kids, David Douglas Park in Vancouver, and decided
this would be his new "hunting grounds."
In the fall of
1989, Dodd, who had just moved to Vancouver, was desperate to find
children. "On Labor Day, I was tired from moving and didn't have a TV or
anything, so I started thinking about molesting like I done in the past,"
he later said. He found David Douglas Park, located about a mile from
his new apartment. As he walked down the dirt paths of the wooded park,
he looked for isolated areas behind the shrubs where kids might wander.
In his diary he wrote that David Douglas Park would be a "good place for
rape and murder, or kidnap, rape and murder...a good hunting ground."
September 2nd, on Labor Day weekend, Dodd positioned himself near a
trail entrance at the park, like a greedy little troll, waiting to exact
an extreme toll from his victim. He saw three boys, but didn't make a
move. The incident, however, sparked his violent fantasies.
morning, Dodd wrote in his diary his plans for the day. Like most
sociopaths, he depersonalized his targeted victims: "If I can get it
home, I'll have more time for various types of rape, rather than just
one quickie before murder." In the afternoon he returned home for lunch,
discouraged that he hadn't found a child. Tomorrow he would pack a lunch,
so that he would not miss any opportunities. He considered attacking a
group of children, fantasizing how he could attack them. With groups of
three he would kill the oldest quickly, and take his time with the
By Monday he
was desperate. He would have to be prepared to overtake two or more at
once. He gathered his "hunting gear," which included a fish fillet knife
bandaged to his ankle, and shoestrings to tie up his victims. As in the
previous two days, something always seemed to thwart him -- a parent
following in the wake of his child, a kid's sudden, spontaneous turn
down another path away from Dodd, or potential witnesses.
increasingly frustrated. As his sick fantasies inflamed with the passing
of each child who was under someone's watch, he became agitated, willing
to take bigger risks. He went home and wrote in his diary. At 6:15 in
the evening he returned to the park, and paced restlessly up the path.
In the early
evening, William Neer, 10, and his brother, Cole, 11, raced their bikes
through David Douglas Park on their way home. They were already late for
dinner, so they took the shortcut through the park. Billy and Cole had
spent the warm afternoon at the golf course, scooping up and returning
lost balls for reward money. As they rode down the dirt path, they were
stopped by a young man blocking the way. No one else was around.
Billy and Cole to get off of their bikes. "I want you to come with me."
When Billy asked why, Dodd responded, "Because I told you to." Somehow,
Dodd exerted control over the two boys, and they did what he said. Two
teenagers passed Dodd with the boys, and Dodd told the brothers to be
quiet. He led them off the trail and told them to lay down their bikes,
where they were no longer visible from the path. They continued through
the bramble to an isolated spot.
Billy and Cole to stand with their backs to each other, and tied their
wrists together with shoelaces. "Why?" asked Cole, over and over. Dodd
said that one of them was going to have to pull down his pants. The boys
were terrified and confused. Cole asked, "Will it hurt?" Dodd said no.
Cole agreed to do it, perhaps out of both fear and the desire to protect
his younger brother. So far this strange man didn't say that he was
going to hurt them. Perhaps it would be over soon and they could go home.
"Why are you
doing this to us?" asked Cole. The boys grew increasingly panicked as
Dodd began molesting them, but he promised to let them go. Billy began
to cry when Dodd turned his attentions to him. Dodd wanted to molest the
younger Billy, but he was crying too hard.
forced the boys onto their knees, took out his knife, and cut apart the
shoestrings that connected the brothers. Billy asked if he could go home
and tell their father that they would be late. Dodd said no, he was
almost done. He ordered Billy to sit while he molested Cole.
one more thing," said Dodd, with his knife in hand. The boys sobbed and
pleaded, but their cries meant nothing to the predator. Dodd stabbed
Billy in the stomach, and then attacked Cole as he jumped up, catching
him in the side with his knife. But Billy was able to run off toward a
busy street. Panicked, Dodd looked down to see Cole on the ground,
struggling. As Cole tried to defend himself, Dodd stabbed him two more
times until he stopped moving. He then ran after Billy.
Billy before he made it to the road, and wrapped his hand around the
little boy's arm, furious. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" sobbed Billy. (This
would later haunt Dodd -- he was about to kill the boy, yet Billy was
tearfully apologizing to him.) The killer stabbed the 10-year-old in the
side and shoulder, and ran back into the woods. He left both Cole and
Billy bleeding to death among the shrubs. Dodd returned to make sure
Cole was dead, and to retrieve any potential evidence. He already had
pocketed the shoelaces. He then calmly walked away, hiding his bloody
hand in his pocket.
alive, was quickly discovered. At first authorities thought it was a
hit-and-run accident. But the boy didn't live to tell them what had
happened. It would soon be evident that the boy had been viciously
attacked. The homicide investigators arrived at the hospital where Billy,
then "Junior Doe," had died.
meantime, Billy and Cole's father, Clair Neer, was worried. He searched
the neighborhoods, and then called the police to report that his two
sons hadn't come home. It then occurred to the investigators that they
had better search the park for another victim, the brother of Junior Doe,
now identified as Billy Neer. By now, night had fallen. They explored
the dusty paths and shrubs with their flashlights. It wasn't until 2:00
a.m. that they found Cole Neer, where Dodd had left him.
The parents of
Vancouver were horrified. They banded together, organizing sentries,
watching over parks and paths that kids used for school. Children were
instructed to avoid isolated areas. Although a few witnesses came
forward, describing a suspicious man lurking in David Douglas Park the
day that the Neer brothers were killed, the police had few leads.
Sketches of possible suspects circulated the community, but to no avail.
The pointless murders were frightening because of their randomness.
the violent fantasies escalate
Dodd had been
frustrated by the attack. He didn't get to do the things he fantasized
doing with his victims. He went to work, but kept to himself, afraid
that someone might make a connection between the police artist's
rendering of the suspect and him. At home, alone in his room, he clipped
articles and wrote his sadistic fantasies in his diary. He was excited
by thoughts of how Cole Neer looked as he lay dying, covered with blood.
"Right up until the moment I did it, I wasn't absolutely sure I could do
it or not," Dodd later said, on killing Cole and Billy. "That might have
been part of what made the first incident so exciting."
that he "got more of a high out of killing than molesting." Dodd listed
ways to kill children, including "fast" ways, such as stabbing, and
slower, more painful deaths, including starvation and bleeding to death.
The twenty minutes he had with the Neer boys was not enough -- the next
victim he wanted to keep indefinitely. Rape and murder now bored him.
Dodd now fantasized about the "experimental surgeries" he wanted to
perform on his victims.
(In one of his
many letters written after capture, Dodd questioned his cannibal
fantasies at the time: "Why? I don't know. I wanted to eat the genitals.
Dead children would be a cheap way to feed my 'slaves" if I ever had any."
He planned to cut a boy's genitals off and let him slowly bleed to death,
or keep him alive and make him watch as he cooked the boy's genitals to
eat, forcing him to eat some of it. He would serve a "mystery vegetable"
-- the testicles from other boys -- and after revealing what the "vegetable"
was, he would tell the kid that his were next. "And, hey, you eat beef
liver, how about boy's liver? I was mainly interested in eating the
genitals while kids watched...I was going to do this as a form of
torture more than anything else." Dodd's plans were now beyond
psychopathic, rivaling the most deranged escapades of the notorious
murderers thrive on fantasies to foment their sadistic impulses. The
more they fantasize, the more they lose touch with reality, and the more
they distance themselves from others who might be able to help pull them
back. As sexual sociopaths continue to nurture these fantasies of
killing and torturing people who are little more than objects to them,
they diminish any innate sympathy for other human beings. Their victims
become puppets of their cruel imaginations. In order to enact their
fantasies they must dehumanize their victims, and torturing is the
ultimate dehumanization. For some reason, the children's very
helplessness and innocence is something Dodd wanted to destroy.
Toward the end
of October, Dodd plotted his next attack. He was frightened that he
would be arrested for the murders of Billy and Cole Neer at David
Douglas Park, but when he realized that the police didn't have any solid
clues, he began to think about killing again. He decided that Saturday
afternoons after work was best to find a boy -- now he needed to
He drove to
Portland, Oregon, just over the bridge from Vancouver, and stopped at
Oaks Park, a crowded popular place filled with kids. He approached a
little boy who was waiting for a ride called "The Spider," and asked if
he wanted to see something interesting. But the child's father showed up
and Dodd scurried away.
He left Oaks
Park and drove through Southeast Portland, searching for playgrounds. He
passed by Richmond School, and decided to try back later -- it was
getting too dark, and kids weren't around. Some kids he had spotted
Dodd went to
the movies, with the intent of abducting a child in the restroom. He
chose The Bear, a family movie, and sat in the back row, but missed his
opportunities. With his frustration growing out of control, Dodd was
determined to kidnap a child the next day.
at the playground
October 29th, Justin and his little brother Lee told their father that
they were going to the school ground park, along with another friend. It
was a sunny day, and their father, Robert Iseli, thought it would be
okay -- the boys had been there a couple of times before. He told his
sons to stay together and to watch out for strangers. The neighborhood
was safe, but he warned his children to be careful.
morning Dodd drove to the Richmond School playground and waited. Some
older kids were playing football while another watched. Dodd spotted
four-year-old Lee, by himself, playing atop a concrete structure with a
slide that the kids called "the volcano." After a bit the little boy
slid down to the base. Dodd approached him and smiled. "Hi! How you
back and said, "hi."
like to have some fun and make some money?" he asked Lee.
The boy seemed
frightened and hesitated, looking around, and then shook his head "no."
But Dodd insisted, and offered his hand. Lee, perhaps in an automatic
response, took his hand. Dodd led the blonde, blue-eyed child to his car,
then Lee started to resist. "I don't want any money," Lee said. Sensing
his fear, Dodd tried to assure Lee that it would be okay. His dad had
sent him to get the boy, he said. When Dodd placed Lee in his car and
drove off, the boy said, "I live the other way."
to my house and play some games," said Dodd. "Just do what I tell you
and I promise I won't hurt you. But you'll have to be quiet when we get
there. My landlady doesn't like little kids."
that his brother was going to miss him, but Dodd soothed him, saying
that they would have fun, and his brother was having fun too. (Through
years of experience as a predator Dodd knew what to say to kids to gain
their trust, and what would keep a child calm and quiet.)
At the same
time that Dodd and Lee arrived at his apartment in Vancouver, a
distraught Robert Iseli was calling the police to report that his son
was missing. His older boy had returned home, frantic. He couldn't find
Lee anywhere. One minute Lee was playing on "the volcano," and the next
he disappeared. Robert told the police that "Lee's the kind of kid who
doesn't take off, but he can get sidetracked easily."
"What could a
four-year-old do to make someone kill him?"
landlord wasn't home, and it seemed that no one saw him arrive with Lee.
Inside, Dodd took some pictures of Lee with his Polaroid camera, then
told Lee to get undressed, and tied him to the bed with ropes. He took
more pictures, untied the boy, and then molested him. Afterwards, Lee
watched cartoons on the television while Dodd recorded the events in his
He asked Lee
if he wanted to spend the night with him. "No," the boy said, "My
brother might miss me." But Dodd answered, "Nah, your brother is
probably having fun too." He then took Lee to K-Mart to buy him a toy,
where the boy began to cry. A store employee approached them, concerned.
But Dodd explained that it was okay, he was babysitting his nephew who
wanted to go home. Afterward, they went to a McDonalds in Vancouver,
only blocks away from where Dodd killed Cole and Billy Neer.
Once back at
the apartment, Dodd wrote as Lee played with his new toy. "He suspects
nothing now. Will probably wait until morning to kill him. That way his
body will be fairly fresh for experiments after work. I'll suffocate him
in his sleep when I wake up for work (if I sleep)."
to molest the little boy through the night, taking breaks to record more
notes in his diary. He fantasized about how he would kill the child, and
how he would hide him while he was at work.
At one point
Dodd woke Lee up. "I'm going to kill you in the morning," he whispered
not!" cried Lee, scared.
calmed the four-year-old down and told him that he wouldn't kill him.
Eventually the child fell back to sleep. But in the early morning, Dodd
strangled the sleeping boy, who struggled as hard as he could against
the attack. After cruelly reviving the child, Dodd strangled Lee with a
rope, and hung him in his crowded little closet so he could take
pictures, shoving aside hangers and jackets to make room. Those who saw
the Polaroids of Lee Iseli's sufferings and debasement will never forget
the depth of Dodd's cruel and cold-blooded depravity.
Dodd then hid
Lee's little body in the closet, behind some blankets and pillows, in
case his landlady came in. It was time to go to work, and Dodd didn't
want to be late.
After he was
in custody, Dodd told investigator David Trimble that he wasn't sure
whether he should kill Lee. He had considered dropping the boy off at
the playground where he had found him, but then decided it would be too
risky -- either Lee would be able to identify him later, or someone else
might see him.
returned home, he poured more into his obsessive diary. He would now
have to get some bags to hide Lee. "Then," he wrote, "I'll figure out a
place to dump the 'garbage.'" He drove to a dock near the Pac Paper
plant, and discarded Lee in the brush near Vancouver Lake, in plain
sight, without the slightest bit of remorse.
He burned the
child's clothing in a barrel in his backyard, except for Lee's little
Ghostbusters underwear, which he stashed away in his briefcase under the
It had been a
few days since Lee was missing. Robert Iseli hoped that an adult who was
lonely and wanted the company of a little boy had abducted Lee. "There
are a lot of people out there who are lonely," he said in a public
statement. "Maybe someone who never had a child or who never got to
dress up on Halloween or never got presents at Christmas...If it's
someone like that, he could just drop him off at a store or street
On the morning
of November 1, 1989, a pheasant hunter discovered Lee at Vancouver Lake.
The investigators were shocked and dismayed to see the little boy dumped
alongside some garbage, so ruthlessly discarded. One sheriff later said,
"What could a four-year-old do to make someone kill him?"
Turco prepared a psychological profile of the killer -- he would be 25
to 35 years old, and "kicked out of the military if he served." He would
be a loner, and probably kept photos of his victims, a diary of his
offenses, including clipped articles, and child pornography. The killer
probably chose boys because he saw girls as "defective." Although this
profile accurately described Dodd, it wasn't enough to conjure up a
definitive suspect. Composite sketches were released, and hundreds of
calls came in from people who thought they had seen Lee with someone,
but there were no solid leads. Investigators attended at Lee's funeral,
hoping to spot the killer, but Dodd stayed away. He sat in his room,
alone with the diary, and built a "torture rack" out of boards and ropes,
intended for his next victim.
He decided his
best chance now to find a child would be at the movies. He checked the
listings for family features. After a few attempts, there was success --
but this time Dodd would be the "capture."
Thanks to a
brave six-year-old boy and the courageous William "Ray" Graves, Westley
Dodd was apprehended after trying to abduct the child from a theater
bathroom. The police brought him to the station for questioning.
visibly nervous as detectives from both Washington and Oregon
interrogated him. His record revealed a litany of crimes against
children, the most serious an attempted abduction in Seattle in 1987.
More importantly, they realized that their suspect lived a short
distance from where Cole and Billy Neer were killed, and worked close to
where Lee Iseli's body was found.
questioned about the incident at the New Liberty Theater, Dodd tried to
convince the detectives that he intended "only" to molest the boy in the
restroom. He admitted to his history of molestations but left out the
murders. Eventually, Dodd confessed that he had killed Billy and Cole
Neer, and Lee Iseli, and went into graphic detail.
that he had to kill the Neers so that they wouldn't identify him. "When
Cole pulled his pants down, I knew I wouldn't be able to let them go,"
he said, as if Cole had precipitated his own murder. Dodd recounted how
he coaxed Lee into his car, and brought him home, where he molested and
killed him. The detectives were disgusted by Dodd's admissions, but were
even more disturbed by the fact that Dodd seemed to enjoy reliving the
events. He then told them about the briefcase under the bed, where he
hid his diaries, his photo albums, and Lee's underwear.
investigators searched Dodd's small but orderly apartment, they found
ropes and belts (for restraining his victims); X-Acto knives (Dodd
planned to use these for his "experimental surgeries"); and ropes around
the single bed's headboard and footboard. They found four volumes of
Parent/Child books, and a copy of the New Testament, with the words "Satan
Lives" scrawled inside. They also found Dodd's homemade torture rack,
which had not yet been used.
But the most
incriminating discovery was Dodd's briefcase, hidden under the bed.
thing investigators noticed when they unlatched the briefcase was Lee's
folded "Ghostbusters" underwear. They found his diaries, which
painstakingly recounted his assaults and plans for future murders. Dodd
had neatly organized the articles pertaining to the Neer and Iseli
cases, and had systematically arranged his notes on the crimes, divided
into separate envelopes titled "Incident 1," "Incident 2," and "Incident
3." A photo album, with the words "Family Memories" on the cover,
functioned as Dodd's pornographic collection, which included images of
Christ as a baby from iconographic paintings. It also contained
advertising images of children in underwear. There were Polaroids of
Dodd naked, Dodd assaulting Lee, and pictures taken of Lee after he had
died, including one of the little boy hanging in the closet.
nothing more precious than them little guys"
charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Billy and Cole Neer,
and Lee Iseli, as well as attempted kidnapping at the New Liberty
Theater. Initially Dodd pleaded "not guilty," but in January 1990,
against his attorney's wishes, he changed his pleas to guilty on all
counts. Later that year, he stood before a Clark County judge and read a
statement, indicting himself on all charges. He admitted that his crimes,
including murder, were premeditated. There would be no trial to
determine his guilt, but a jury would have to decide whether to give him
the death penalty.
"Look what Mr.
Dodd likes to do in his free time," said Prosecutor Roger Bennett to the
jury. "Plan child murders. Commit child murders. Relive fantasies about
child murders and write about them. With life without parole, two of
those things are still available to him."
The jury of
six men and six women listened with disbelief, disgust, and grief as
they were read sections from Dodd's diary, and saw the photos
implicating Dodd's brutalities against Lee Iseli. One of the jurors
nearly passed out as he listened to parts of the diary read aloud. They
also heard Dodd's detailed plans for his future victims, which included
mutilation, dismemberment, and death.
did not call any witnesses, nor did they present any evidence during the
trial. Defense attorney Lee Dane did try to suggest that only an insane
person would write the diaries that Dodd kept. During the trial Dodd sat
quietly, stone faced. He later told The Oregonian that he was bored by
the testimony. "I've heard it so many times now, it's kind of old,
asked for the death penalty, and on Saturday, July 15, 1990, the jury
agreed that Dodd should die for his crimes. William "Ray" Graves, who
apprehended Dodd outside of the New Liberty Theater, said, "The man
don't deserve to live -- not someone who does that to babies. There's
nothing more precious than them little guys."
Dodd was in
the odd position of having to defend his decision to die: "I didn't
offer any mitigating evidence during the penalty phase because, in my
mind, that's just an excuse. And I don't want to make any excuses," he
told the court. "I do not blame the criminal justice system for anything...but
the system does not work and I can tell them why," he said. "It doesn't
really matter why the crimes happened. I should be punished to the full
extent of the law, as should all sex offenders and murderers." Dodd
stated that if his death would bring relief to victims' families, then
he should die as soon as possible.
sentence, Dodd insisted that hanging was the appropriate means of
execution, and that he did not want his death delayed by appeals. "I
must be executed before I have an opportunity to escape or kill someone
within the prison. If I do escape, I promise you I will kill and rape
and enjoy every minute of it," he told the court.
He wanted to
hang, he said, "because that's the way Lee Iseli died." The judge set
Dodd's execution date for January 5, 1993, in Walla Walla, Washington.
The ACLU fought to keep Dodd off the gallows, arguing that death,
especially hanging, was cruel and unusual punishment. But Washington's
justice system prevailed, and Dodd's execution date moved closer. By
choosing a particularly cruel form of capital punishment, hanging, Dodd
fiercely polarized the capital punishment debate, and many rallied to
stop the execution. Although Dodd indicated he wanted to die, it seemed
that he wanted to die a martyr, not as a criminal.
Dodd made use
of his time by courting the news, claiming he could help by telling his
story. After his capture, he wrote a pamphlet on how to keep kids safe.
But the Northwest communities where he molested children did not need
Dodd as their spokesman against pedophilia.
pornographic diary, numerous letters, and the cautionary pamphlet
express Dodd's need to talk, and talk, and talk about his sick fetish.
Dodd enticed the media, and the media trustingly took him by the hand as
an "expert." He marketed himself as a monster -- look at me! Watch out
for my kind! There are others out there like me! He appeared on TV shows
(including Sally Jesse Raphael and a CNN special,) called radio programs
from his cellblock, and gave countless interviews to reporters and to
anyone else who wanted to listen to him recount his molestations. During
the trial, Judge Robert Harris got so fed up with Dodd's incessant
interviews that he threatened Dodd with lockdown conditions, including
revoking telephone and mail privileges. He also chastised reporters for
printing interviews with Dodd that could sway the jury.
In the end,
Dodd used children for his own physical gratification by molesting them,
and then used them for ego gratification by becoming an expert on the
subject of child molestation.
execution date approached, Dodd professed remorse for what he had done.
"I have confessed all my sins," he told a reporter in his interview. "I
believe what the Bible teaches: I'll go to Heaven. I have doubts, but
I'd really like to believe that I would be able to go up to the three
little boys and give them a hug and tell them how sorry I was and be
able to love them with a real true love and have no desire to hurt them
in any way." We can only hope that Dodd's final destination provided
some permanent distance between himself and the boys he hurt.
At 12:05 am on
January 5th, Westley Dodd was executed by hanging. He was the first
inmate to die at the gallows since 1965.
The Tennis Shoe Brigade
At the time
that Dodd was incarcerated, another man, Earl Kenneth Shriner, was being
tried for molesting, choking, and mutilating an 8-year-old boy in
Washington State. The boy was lucky to survive the attack, which had
occurred only months before Dodd's first murders. Like Dodd, 40-year-old
Shriner had an extensive criminal record of sexual assaults.
Shriner wasn't incarcerated prior to this latest, and most deadly
assault, a group of concerned citizens called the Tennis Shoe Brigade
took action. (The group earned its name after members gathered a
symbolic pile of tennis shoes and dumped them at the governor's office,
outraged because he had refused to listen to their pleas for system
reform.) The Tennis Shoe Brigade demanded longer sentences for sexual
predators, a stop to early releases, mandatory treatment, and more
medical compensation for the victims. They also called for mandatory
registration of all sex offenders.
became a symbol of what was wrong, and an impetus to make it right. He
is "an example of what we are trying to stop," said a leader of the
Tennis Shoe Brigade. Although Shriner was the impetus for organization,
Dodd became the poster child in their crusade. It is disturbing that the
authorities did not know that Dodd, a known sexual predator, lived only
blocks away from where the Neer boys were found murdered. Although Dodd
had a lengthy criminal history, his name wasn't on the roster of known
sex offenders in the Vancouver area.
Thanks to the
persistent lobbying of the Tennis Shoe Brigade, and other concerned
parties, the state of Washington passed a number of new laws to keep
convicted sex offenders off the streets. Known offenders must register
with the local police, the public is notified when an offender is
released from jail or prison, and victims are notified in advance if
their attacker is due for release. Other reforms include longer
sentences, fewer early releases, and more funds for victim services and
offender rehabilitation. If a predator is still considered a risk to the
community, there is a provision that can keep him behind bars.
Communities across the nation are demanding to know if a repeat offender
is living next door. One of the many reforms includes California's 1996
"Megan's Law," which provides the public information on the location of
known child molesters.
Keeping children safe
is a cautionary tale for communities, law enforcement, and families.
Although he killed three children, he plotted to murder and torture many
more. (He claimed to have committed 250 crimes against children.) He
insisted that he killed his victims to keep from going to jail for
molestation, yet it's hard to believe that Dodd would fear a justice
system that played "catch and release" with him despite the severity of
his crimes. Because of Dodd's example, tougher laws have been set up to
trap and incarcerate child molesters.
more likely to be sexually abused or hurt by someone they know,
including a relative, than by a stranger. While Dodd became known as a
stranger abductor, he began by molesting kids in his own family, and
later, children of acquaintances. The vast majority of his victims were
children that knew him and, and in some cases, whose parents knew him.
Dodd preferred to molest a child that knew and trusted him, and only
began abducting unknown children when the ones he knew were no longer
available. "I don't think I could have done it if I'd have known them,"
he said of his murder victims.
psychologist Kevin McGovern, pedophiles are "very good at hiding their
problems. They mask their identity well. They're very friendly. A
percentage is drawn toward youth organizations, church organizations,
places where they have access to kids." They rarely fit the image of the
"dirty old man." Clean cut, youthful looking, and small in size, Dodd
did not appear like the big bad stranger that kids instinctively fear.
the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, someone the
child knows and trusts usually perpetrates child molestations. The US
Department of Justice has estimated that each year 354,600 children are
abducted by a family member, and up to 5,000 children are abducted by
someone they know. Children are routinely told to stay away from
strangers. But they need to understand what inappropriate behavior is
from someone they know and trust. As NCMEC says, it is "Situations, not
Strangers," that children need to watch.
website lists some safety rules for children and parents, including:
* If someone
asks a child to share a "special secret," they must say "NO" and tell a
parent or schoolteacher.
should tell a parent or teacher if someone wants to take a photo of them.
should not allow anyone to touch a part of their body that a bathing
suit would cover, and children should never touch anyone else in the "bathing
* Parents need
to inform their kids never to accept a present from anyone without first
* If daycare
is necessary, ask if criminal checks are routinely run on employees. In
finding a babysitter, personal references are best, but if not available,
ask the sitter for references, and check them.
* Watch for an
adult or teenager who is paying extra attention to your child, or giving
importantly, children need to trust their feelings, and speak up if
something doesn't feel right. Children need to feel confident that
parents or a teacher will listen to them if something seems wrong, even
if they feel "guilty" about something (molesters will use shame to
silence a child.) Children should not be afraid to say "NO" to someone
-- too often children are scared of being "impolite" to adults. Parents
also need to watch for sudden changes in their children's behavior,
including an abrupt fear of a person or place, and inappropriate
interest in sexual activity.
relatively rare in the United States, estimated at 200 a year, according
to the U.S. Department of Justice. But as we have seen, these
kidnappings can be deadly. Here are some safety tips from NCMEC:
should escort their children in public restrooms.
should not go to arcades unattended.
children are home alone, they should learn to lock the doors and never
tell anyone that they are home alone. They also need to know that they
can call a neighbor if they are scared.
* If a child
gets lost in a public place, he or she should be taught to go to a
checkout counter or office instead of wandering around looking for the
should be taught to say "NO" to an adult who asks for "help." If adults
truly need help, they should ask another adult.
* Under no
circumstances should a child get into a car with someone they don't
know, or accept money, even if it's for a "job" from a stranger.
* The child
should be prepared to kick and scream if a stranger grabs him or her,
and yell "THIS IS NOT MY PARENT" loud and clear. Make a scene to get
attention, even if it seems that no one else is around.
must be paid
children and parents must also depend on their communities for
protection. Legislation needs to be continually supported so that sexual
offenders serve their full sentences, and are monitored after release.
Individual efforts do make a difference. Robert Iseli, the father of
Lee, became active in promoting children's safety, including work on an
amendment to Oregon's constitution that would not allow child
pornography to fall under the protection of free speech. Employers need
to commit to doing background checks on potential hires if employees
have extended contact with children. Perhaps most importantly, we must
be vigilant to sudden situations. In her November 17, 1989 column in The
Oregonian, Jann Mitchell reminded the community to react when we see a
child in an uncomfortable situation. So many times we worry about
overreaction or potential embarrassment. But at what cost?
When in doubt,
Mitchell said, check it out. "Some people might argue over whether we
are, indeed, our brother's keepers," she wrote. "But surely we must be
their child's keepers."
Timothy W., Joseph T. Costello. Abnormal Psychology. New York:
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1992.
Driven to Kill. New York: Pinnacle Books, 1993.
Robert K., Ann W. Burgess, John E. Douglas. Sexual Homicide: Patterns
and Motives. New York: Lexington Books, 1988.
Lori. When the Monster Comes Out of the Closet. Salem, Oregon: Rose
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: T MOTIVE: