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Volunteering to Die: Westley Allan Dodd

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Written By: Naomi

Trigger Warning: Pedophilia, Sexual Assault of a Minor, Molestation of a Minor.


On July 3rd, 1961 in Richland, Washington John and Carol Dodd welcomed their first son into the world, Westley Allan Dodd. He would be the oldest of three children but they were far from a caring family unit and were considered loveless at times. Growing up Dodd never made claims of being abused or neglected in the home but as an adult he revealed in a diary that he was being abused emotionally and physically by his father. He explained in his diary that the children would witness violent fights between their parents, Dodd also felt he was neglected and more attention was given to his younger siblings, he even claimed that he did not remember being told, “I love you” by his family or having ever said it to them.

Dodd did not have any friends in school and had difficulty joining social groups in school, which was made more difficult when at the age of 9 Dodd realized he was gay. His crimes began with sexual offences at the age of 13 when he would expose himself to children on his street from his bedroom window. He was reported to the police by one of the children but there was no repercussions for this action and later his father would tell the news that he had not taken this incident seriously as Dodd was a good and well behaved child who did not have any drug, smoking, or alcohol problems, he had been aware of his sons actions for some time but decided to ignore them.

As Dodd entered high school his crimes escalated into molestation of his younger cousins, younger brothers, the neighborhood children he would baby sit and the children of the woman his father was dating. He would ride his bike around and search out boys as he noticed that they would, “report him less often than the girls would.” The fighting in the home also continued to escalate and on Dodd’s 15th birthday his father attempted suicide following an argument with their mother. Later that year he would be arrested for indecent exposure but would be released by police with the recommendation that he receive juvenile counseling. His parents divorced the following year casting the family into further disarray. At this time Dodd began to search out jobs that would put him in closer proximity with children and worked for a time as a camp counselor.

In 1981 At the age of 20 he was reported to the police by two young girls he attempted to abduct but they managed to get away. The police did not do anything with this incident and he was allowed to join the US Navy a month later, he was assigned to the submarine base in Bangor, Washington and continue to abuse and prey on the children that lived on base. He offered one group of boys money to come with him to a hotel to play strip poker but was arrested and told police that he had indeed planned to molest the boys. The police let him go and shortly after arrested him again when he exposed himself to another boy, he was finally discharged from the Navy and spent 19 days in jail as well as attended court ordered counseling. A few years later he again would be arrested for molesting a 10 year old boy but was given a suspended sentence and only 30 days in jail because he pled guilty of doing so. He then went to live with his father in Idaho and signed up for an out patient treatment program to help him with his pedophilic urges and claimed to be making progress

But unsurprisingly Dodd was arrested again in 1984 for molesting a nine-year-old boy and was sentenced to ten years in prison for lewd conduct with a minor, he only served a little under four months before being changed to one year in county jail that ended up suspended on condition that he seek further treatment once more.

In 1985 Dodd was back in Vancouver, he planned his whole life around having easy access to his victims by moving into an apartment complex that was targeted to families with children, he worked in fast food, and he drove a charity truck. In the apartments he repeatedly molested the children of his neighbor who were of preschool age but the mother did not press charges as she feared the experience would be too traumatic for her children.

In 1987 Dodd tried to lure a boy into a vacant building but the boy got away and notified police who arrested him, they were aware of his history of sexual crimes and recommended 5 years in jail but since he had not actually exposed himself to the boy or touched him he was only placed on probation and told to seek psychiatric treatment. He of course stopped going to treatment once his probation was up and moved away to Vancouver, Washington where the David Douglas park was located that would be the site of his crimes for the following years since it was heavily wooded and had multiple secluded trails. In these years he would be arrested multiple times for molesting children, would spend short stints in jail, and received court mandated therapy. He had a victim count of over 50 children between the ages of 12 and 2, most being young boys. At his work he was seen as an odd guy who kept to himself but would stand out on the corner and watch children which he explained away to his coworkers as something he did because he was divorced and that his infant child had died of “crib death”.

As time continued his sexual fantasies became more violent and the idea of murder intrigued him, at one point he even wrote in his journal that he wanted to eat the genitals of one of his victims. A psychologist who examined him after one of his arrests felt he met the criteria for a sexual psychopath, which was more concerning when he began planning on how to kill a child. On September 4th, 1989, Dodd went to his usual park and waited for his victims, finding brothers 10 year old William and 11 year old Cole Neer. He sexually assaulted them after tying them to a tree then stabbing both of them multiple times. Dodd fled the scene and only 15 minutes later a teenage hiker found the bodies and called the police. Cole was found dead on site while William died on the way to the hospital. To immortalize his killings, Dodd scrapbooked newspapers about the boys and the murder. However this murder wasn't enough to satiate Dodd as he had actually been looking for a boy to bring back to his home to torture and spend more time with. He wanted to have slaves that he could keep and torture and preform experimental surgeries on. So, on October 29th he drove to Portland, Oregon to find his next victims.

He found another pair of brothers, 4 year old Lee and 9 year old Justin Iseli. Lee was playing away from his brother and so Dodd convinced him to follow him away from the playground of the elementary school they were at and offered Lee a ride back to his house when trying to bribe the boy with money didn't work, instead telling him the boys father had sent him. Dodd was able to leave Oregon and return to his Washington apartment were he held Lee captive, assaulted him, and took pictures of the abuse he inflicted on the boy. He then took the boy to McDonald's and K-Mart where he bought him a toy before returning to his home to continue the abuse. Dodd kept Lee overnight and recapped all of it in detail in a diary. Dodd intended to release Lee but realized the boy was more of a risk alive and so he strangled him to death with rope then strung him up in his closet to take even more pictures. Dodd went to work as usual that day and later that evening put the boy’s body in a trash bag and dumped him by Vancouver Lake. He then took all of Lee’s clothing and burned them in a trash barrel except for his underwear which he kept as a souvenir. Lee’s body was found one day later, this along with the murder of the two boys a month earlier caused the start of a manhunt for the killer but there were no leads other than some composite sketches provided by witnesses in Oregon. 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."

Dodd laid low in his apartment while making plans for his next child abduction as this profile was spot on and he began to construct a torture rack to use on his next victim that was never used thanks to vigilant bystanders and one man who would not stand idly by.

Dodd's Torture Rack
Dodd's Torture Rack

The following month Dodd made two attempts to kidnap young boys, the first boy denied his advances so Dodd fled but just a few days later he visited the New Liberty Theater and attempted to abduct 6 year old James Kirk from the bathroom. The boy put up a fight, screaming and crying as Dodd carried him through the lobby of the theater which drew the attention of staff who found the situation odd even though Dodd was trying to calm the boy down, they had seen their fair share of tantrums but the boys screams were different and so they pursued. Once outside the theater Dodd was scrambling to get the boy in the car but he broke away and ran to two of the people pursuing him, clinging to them and crying, “that man was going to hurt me.” Dodd fled the scene as the two staff brought the boy back into the theater where a man named William Ray Graves who was the boyfriend of the boy’s mother was searching for James. Staff told him how the boy had nearly been abducted and now, full of rage, William got the direction Dodd was seen going in and stormed out of the theater after him. Luckily, Dodd's car broke down just a few blocks from the theater. To give the police more time to arrive, William offered to help the man start his car, but when he saw an opportunity he caught him by surprise and put him in a headlock before dragging his ass back to the theater to be arrested. James Kirk had known to make a scene since his mother had heard of the three murders and taught her sons to scream, bite, and kick to get away from someone which is what saved him when Dodd followed him out of the movie theater and into the bathroom.

Local police contacted the Portland, Oregon police team that were investigating the death of Lee Iseli so they too could question Dodd. Detectives questioned him for three days since he continued to deny all involvement in the murders and claimed that he loved children, he swore that he could not possibly bring them any harm until Dodd was worn down enough and confessed to the murders of Lee Iseli, Cole Neer, and William Neer as well as directing police to where they could find his manuscripts of the crimes and photographs. With this police were able to secure a search warrant for his home and found the evidence of his crimes and the disgusting man he was. Along with the torture rack they found his scrapbook of newspaper clippings about his crimes, a briefcase with Lee’s underwear, a photo album with the pictures taken of Lee’s torture and Lee post mortem. This photo album also had cut outs of children from store and newspaper advertisements for underwear as well as images of baby Jesus. Finally they found Dodd's diary that detailed every crime he had committed, he wrote that he had started his crimes at the age of 13 and had actually abused up to 175 children of both sexes over a period of 15 years.

During his trial the prosecution read excerpts of Dodd's diary to the courtroom and displayed the photos of Lee Iseli. The defense did not bring any witnesses, or present any evidence to prove Dodd's innocence and instead only suggested that Dodd must be legally insane. Prosecutors responded by asking for the death sentence, a request that was mirrored by the jury. Dodd was charged with aggravated first degree murder of each of the boys in addition to intention to kidnap. He originally pleaded not guilty but later changed his plea to guilty to all charges after saying that it would be pointless to try an defend himself as the system had failed repeatedly to stop him in the past with his earlier crimes. He in fact also agreed with the prosecutor and jury that he would like to die, explaining that, "(he) didn't offer any mitigating evidence during the penalty phase because, in (his) mind, that's just an excuse. And (he didn't) want to make any excuses." Dodd 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 - even suggesting that it be by hanging.

He was ruled guilty in 1990 but the means that Dodd requested he be executed by created a large controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit that hanging violated the 8th amendment and US Constitution, seeing it as a cruel and unusual punishment. This lawsuit made it to the supreme court but was ultimately blocked as it had been Dodd's own decision to be executed by hanging. He was executed just four years after he was found guilty and he did not make any attempts to appeal as he felt he was uncontrollable and would kill again if he was released.

“I must be executed before I have an opportunity to escape or kill someone else. If I do escape, I promise you I will kill and rape again, and I will enjoy every minute of it.”

He also felt that death would relieve him of his guilt for the murders. It would seem that he regretted or was pretending to regret his actions and earlier during his trial he even created a pamphlet for parents on how to protect their children from child molesters like him. Many felt that this was a cry for attention when compared to how Dodd wrote in his diaries how easy it was for him to manipulate the law not get caught. It was likely he was using this all as a means to speak to the media and get attention so he could present himself as an expert on molesting children as it turned him on to speak about it and even when he was admitting his crimes to investigators he had made them uncomfortable with the level of detail he was sharing and how excited he was getting about retelling his crimes. It reached a point where police and the judge put a gag order on him to prevent him from receiving airtime and interviews.

The date of his execution there were protestors outside the prison and the state gave him the choice of legal injection or hanging, he chose hanging as he felt it would be most suiting since that is how he had killed Lee and would make this Americas most recent hanging execution since 1965 in Kansas. Witnesses said later that he died quickly but his neck had not broken as it usually does in this form of execution, instead he suffocated for 3 minutes until he was pronounced dead at 12:05 AM on January 5th, 1993.

There was good that came from all of this thankfully, around the same time as Dodd’s crimes there was another man who was preying on children that was being tried for attacking a boy; a group referred to as the Tennis Shoe Brigade made up of concerned citizens pushed for systematic reform for how pedophiles and sexual predators were processed since, like Dodd, there had been little attempt to detain and more severely punish the man prior to his most brutal attack. They demanded that there were 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. They became known as the Tennis Shoe Brigade when they dumped piles of 15,000 tennis shoes on capital steps, the shoes representing the, "children who (are) abused, molested or raped while their offenders get minimal jail time." When Dodd's case came to light he became their symbol for how the system had failed and why reform was needed: though the police had known he had a history of molestation they did not know he lived close to where the Neer brothers were found murdered and his name was on no roster of sexual offenders. Due to this group's persistence their was reform in Washington state that required sexual offenders to register with the local police, that the public must be notified when an offender is released from prison or jail, victims are notified in advance if their attacker is due for release, fewer early releases and longer sentences, as well as more funds for victim services and offender rehabilitation. This pushed other states to reform and caused California’s “Megan's law” that allows the public to know if there is a child molester in their community

In 2016 there was an odd update to this case when Dodd's younger brother Gregory who had been assaulted by Dodd when they were children was arrested for attempting to sexually abuse a 13 year old girl. He was charged with 4 years and 3 months in prison for attempting to contact the girl online for sexual favors who was actually an undercover agent , he describes that he has to, “repress urges” he had for his grandchildren and that he had sexual interactions with teenagers when he was in the military.

Sources: Murderpedia, ThoughtCo., Time Magazine, Sunherald , Kitsap Sun

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