Westley Allan DODD
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape - Child molester
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: September 4/October 29,1989
Date of arrest: November 13, 1989
Date of birth: July 3, 1961
Victims profile: William Neer, 10, and his brother, Cole, 11 / Lee Iseli, 4
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Clark County, Washington, USA
Status: Executed by hanging in Washington on January 5, 1993
On 1989, Dodd kidnapped, molested and fatally stabbed 11-year- old Cole Neer and your brother William, 10, whom he'd encountered in a Vancouver, Wash., public park. A short time later, Dodd abducted and murdered 4-year-old Lee Iseli of Portland, Ore. En 1992, the state of Washington hanged Dodd for those murders.
According to his handwritten "Sexual History," Dodd began preying on children at age 13. In all, he abused as many as 175 children of both sexes, mostly boys, over a 15- year period. Dodd said he moved from exposing himself to fondling victims to sexually assaulting them and, finally, to sexually sadistic murder.
As he progressed through ever-more violent and degenerate acts, Dodd also became less circumspect, acting more impulsively and increasingly risking detection. It was during an attempt at a fourth abduction-killing, in Camas, Wash., that Dodd was finally taken into custody for good. He tried to grab a 6-year-old boy in the men's room of a movie theater, but the boy struggled and screamed for help until a passer-by rescued him.
"The thoughts of killing children are exciting to me," Dodd said in the chronology that he wrote in 1991.
"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."
— Westley Dodd, executed in Washington on Jan. 5, 1993
Westley Allen Dodd
Westley Dodd was a predator who fell through the cracks of an inefficient, overburdened legal system, graduating from relatively harmless acts of exhibitionism to the depths of sadistic child molestation and murder before he was finally caged and condemned.
Apparently repentant in captivity, he granted countless interviews and published articles on self-defense for children in the months before he kept his final date with Washingtons hangman. His legacy, for all of the belated efforts to do right, consists of ugly memories and pain.
A native of Washington State, born July 3, 1961, Dodd was conscious of his sexual attraction to neighborhood boys by age nine, a full six years before his parents divorced and cast the family into disarray. By age fourteen, he had begun to dabble in exhibitionism, flashing other children from his bedroom window until one reported him and the police were called. Dodd got off easy that time, since the witness had not seen his face, and the experience taught him to seek his pleasure further afield. In short order, he graduated from exposing himself to more aggressive actions, fondling and fellating any children who were willing to submit.
Dodd graduated from high school in 1979 and joined the U.S. Navy two years later, in part to avoid pending charges of child molestation. Boot camp failed to mend his ways, however, and Dodd was AWOL at the time of his June 6, 1982 arrest for asking a nine- year-old boy to disrobe in Richland, Washington. That charge earned him a general discharge from the service on disciplinary ground, but the case was apparently never pursued.
On December 29, 1982, Dodd was jailed again, this time in Benton City, Washington, for undressing a youngster he lured away from a playground. He pled guilty on that charge in January 1983, and served a total of thirty days before he was released to seek court-ordered counseling. By all accounts, the treatment was a failure. With the courts permission, Dodd went to live with his father in Lewiston, Idaho, where he signed up for another out-patient program and was said to be making some progress.
His June 1984 arrest for molesting a nine-year-old boy would suggest that counselors were mistaken in their assessment of Dodd. Sentenced to ten years in prison for lewd conduct with a minor, he served less than four months before his term was commuted to one year in county jail, that sentence suspended on condition that he seek further treatment.
By 1986, Dodd was back in the Vancouver area, pursuing his interest in children full-time. On June 13, 1987, he was arrested after trying to lure a young boy into a vacant building. Convicted on a misdemeanor count of attempted unlawful imprisonment, he was released in October with yet another order for psychiatric treatment. Dodd went through the motions until his probation expired, in the fall of 1988, at which time he promptly abandoned his therapy and went back on the hunt. By that time, he had started to collect his morbid daydreams in a diary, complete with discussion of planned rapes and murders, sketches of a torture rack he planned to build, and details of a private pact with Satan to assist him in obtaining victims.
Dodd would later tell authorities he wasnt serious about his bargain with the Devil, but his writings suggest otherwise. In one entry, Dodd wrote: Ive now asked Satan to provide me a 6-10 year old boy to make love to, suck and fuck, play with, photograph, kill, and do my exploratory surgery on. Yet another page detailed his search for compliant children who could be taught Lucifers ways and be an assistant to Lucifer, through me.
Whatever his religious bent, by the late summer of 1989, Dodd clearly had murder on his mind. He was armed with a six-inch knife on Labor Day, September 4, when he went prowling in Vancouvers David Douglas Park. The night before that hunting trip, he wrote: If I can get it home, Ill have more time for various types of rape, rather than just one quickie before murder. As luck would have it, though, he set his sights on brothers, 11-year-old Cole Neer and 10-year-old William. Taking the two of them home was clearly out of the question, but Dodd bullied them into following him off the beaten track, deeper into some woods, where both boys were bound with shoelaces, sexually abused, and then stabbed to death. Escaping in the nick of time, Dodd fled the scene less than fifteen minutes before a teenage hiker found the mutilated bodies and ran off to call police.
Dodd spent the next few weeks watching Vancouvers manhunt from a distance, filling a scrapbook with press clippings, killing time with masturbation and his diary until the blood lust drove him out to hunt again.
On October 29, he drove across the river into nearby Portland, Oregon, and there abducted four-year-old Lee Isely from the playground of the Richmond Elementary School. Back a Dodds apartment, the child was molested and photographed in the nude, his ordeal interrupted briefly by a trip to McDonalds and K-Mart, where Dodd shelled out the money for a toy. The sexual abuse resumed once they were back at Westleys flat, climaxed at 5:30 the next morning, when Dodd choked his young victim unconscious and finished the job with a rope, suspending Lees body from a rod in the closet. After work that night, he dumped the body near Vancouver Lake, at the Washington State Game Preserve, where a hunter discovered it early on November 1.
Police still had no clues to the elusive killers identity, beyond a rough sketch compiled from eyewitness descriptions in Portland, but Dodd had reached the point of no return by now, his homicidal urges pushing him beyond all rational control. On November 11, he tried to abduct a young boy from a Vancouver theater, giving up when the child resisted his advances. Two days later, after scribbling another plea to Satan for assistance, he drove to Camas, Washington, to try his luck at another theater. He got the screaming child outside, this time, but bolted for his car when witnesses collected in the lobby. Less than two blocks from the theater, his car broke down, and Dodd was captured by the boyfriend of his latest victims mother, held until police arrived and took him into custody.
Five minutes with the FBIs computer network told authorities they had a live one on their hands. Immediately suspect in the recent murders, Dodd at first denied involvement, objecting that he loved children, but his mood changed as the night wore on, and confessed the crimes in detail, directing police to his stash of manuscripts and photographs.
The rest was easy, with Dodds guilty plea to all charges in January 1990 clearing the way for a death sentence six months later. Dodd resisted all appeals and mounted the gallows at Walla Walla state prison shortly after midnight on January 5, 1993. He was the first American inmate hanged in nearly three decades.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers
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 1965.
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 emotional growth.
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 his victims).
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 his home.
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.
Westley Allan Dodd: Diary of a Child Predator
by Shirley Lynn Scott
Prowling at the Movies
Westley Dodd 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:
Incident 3 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.
"That man was going to hurt me"
The theater 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Stopped in his tracks
In custody, 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.
Westley Allan 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.
Molesting by Thirteen
Dodd began 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.
After 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 support.
Westley's 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.
Easy access to children
According to 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.
Like most 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.
When his 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 camp counselor.
It wasn't 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.
The arrests 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.
When children 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 wasn't incarcerated.
Dodd was 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?
Eventually, 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.
"A sexual 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.
Dodd 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.
Despite the 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"
Dodd received 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.
Psychologist 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."
The following 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.
In September 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."
Lying in wait
On Saturday, 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.
On Sunday 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 younger victim.
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.
Dodd grew 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.
Dodd told 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.
Dodd ordered 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.
Dodd then 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.
"There's just 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.
Dodd caught 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.
Billy, barely 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.
In the 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.
Isolated, 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."
He decided 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 Albert Fish.)
Many sexual 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 determine where.
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 quickly disappeared.
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.
Abduction at the playground
On Sunday, 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.
That same 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 doing?"
Lee smiled back and said, "hi."
"Would you 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."
"We're going 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."
Lee worried 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?"
Westley Dodd's 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 diary.
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)."
Dodd continued 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 to him.
"No, you're not!" cried Lee, scared.
Dodd then 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.
When Dodd 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 bed.
A terrible discovery
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 corner."
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?"
Dr. Ronald 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.
Dodd was 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.
When 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.
He claimed 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.
As 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.
The first 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.
"There's nothing more precious than them little guys"
Dodd was 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.
Dodd's defense 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, really."
Prosecutors 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."
Death by hanging
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.
After the 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 lures the media
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.
Both the 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.
As his 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.
Outraged that 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.
Westley Dodd 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
Dodd's story 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.
Children are 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.
According to 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.
According to 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.
NCMEC's 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.
* Children should tell a parent or teacher if someone wants to take a photo of them.
* Children 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 suit" areas.
* Parents need to inform their kids never to accept a present from anyone without first telling them.
* 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 inappropriate gifts.
Most 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.
These are 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:
* Parents should escort their children in public restrooms.
* Children should not go to arcades unattended.
* When 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 parent.
* Children 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.
Attention must be paid
Ultimately, 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."
Costello, Timothy W., Joseph T. Costello. Abnormal Psychology. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1992.
King, Gary. Driven to Kill. New York: Pinnacle Books, 1993.
Ressler, Robert K., Ann W. Burgess, John E. Douglas. Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives. New York: Lexington Books, 1988.
Steinhorst, Lori. When the Monster Comes Out of the Closet. Salem, Oregon: Rose Publishing, 1994.