The true story of sex killer Westley Allan Dodd–his victims were too small to fight…and too young to die! Includes eyewitness execution report.
By all appearances, twenty-nine-year-old Westley Allan Dodd was the perfect all-American boy—model high school student, camp counselor and U.S. Navy enlistee. But behind his mask of normalcy lurked a predatory sex fiend with a seventeen-year history of appalling acts of molestation and violence. Children were his victims and the parks of the Pacific Northwest his personal hunting grounds.
On September 4, 1989, his unnatural desires had driven him past simple satisfaction to abduct, torture, and kill two young boys in Vancouver, Washington. Undetected despite his record, Dodd killed a third innocent victim only weeks later near Portland, Oregon. But only when he was caught trying to kidnap a child from a local movie theater was he finally taken into custody by police. Confessing to this heinous murders, he was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to death.
Based on exclusive access to police files and riveting trial testimony, personal interviews with Dodd himself and excerpts from his chilling “diary of death,” Driven to Kill dramatically recounts a hideous spree of death and horror that brought every parent’s worst nightmare frighteningly to life!
The ugliest of trades have their moments of pleasure. Now, if I were a gravedigger, or even a hangman, there are some people I could work for with a great deal of enjoyment.
-Douglas Jerrold, 1803-1857, Ugly Trades
Life for life,
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Burning for burning, wound for wound,
stripe for stripe.
-Exodus, XXI, 23
It was in the late summer of 1989 that a young man named Westley Allan Dodd trespassed into thousands of lives, and before it was over his rampage of unleashed savagery would make it perhaps the most hideously unforgettable summer on record in the Pacific Northwest. The horror he created that summer would, albeit unintentionally on Dodd’s part, forever change the way that citizens and lawmakers alike in the states of Washington and Oregon viewed virtually all classes of sex offenders, especially child molesters and child killers.
Dodd, at the time of his arrest, had not yet developed into a full-blown “bona fide” serial killer as set forth in FBI standards, which states in part that for a killer to be classified a serial murderer he must claim three or more victims in at least three separate “incidents.” But for all intents and purposes he was a serial killer all right. Dodd fit the mold in that he had claimed two victims in one incident, another in a second incident, and would have committed his fourth murder in a third episode if he hadn’t been stopped by a screaming child and alert bystanders while he was attempting to carry out the crime.
Although Dodd had not murdered anyone until late that summer, at least not as far as the authorities knew, it would later become crystal clear that this seemingly near-perfect ail-American “boy” turned adult had been, in reality, inextricably enmeshed in an extended fantasy state during that period and had been trolling for victims for at least several months before the first murders. He had been gradually working up his nerve to begin the atrocities that would first unbalance the Pacific Northwest, and then ultimately shock the rest of the nation.
Powerless, as most serial killers are, in the day-to-day relationships with those whom he closely associated, Dodd had begun searching for someone, not just anyone, but someone special to play out his ultimate power trips on, lurking in the shadows of Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, and waiting until the moment to strike was just right. Many people, including psychiatric professionals and police officials, knew about this sex fiend’s long history of indecent exposure, child molestation, and violence, but because of the constraints of the system in which they worked they were powerless to stop him from commencing his killing spree.
In many ways, upon retrospect, he was like the monsters that had come before him, killers like Ted Bundy, Jerome Brudos, Dayton Leroy Rogers, the Green River killer, and a seemingly endless slew of other cold-blooded serial murderers who had learned how to manipulate the system. Like his murderous predecessors he sought out complete strangers as his victims. Instead of women, however, the victims of choice of most such murderers, Dodd always preyed upon helpless little children, young boys whose trust he managed to gain with promises of friendship, money, candy, and toys. When it was all over, few could argue that his malignant deeds, perhaps because children were involved, proved more feral and emotionally painful in the eyes of law officers and the disconcerted public than those of his notorious predecessors.
Dodd knew early on that he liked molesting young children, and in his mind the dictum was “the younger the better.” He also did what he had to do to avoid jail time, and would play the “game” of the system so that he could continue to molest kids and expose himself. He learned early in his life how to effectively manipulate the system so that he could slip quietly, almost unnoticed, through its cracks. Despite his extensive criminal record as a sex offender in cities and towns throughout the Pacific Northwest, the authorities always seemed to forget about him when he dropped out of a treatment program and moved on to another locale. Because he had been successful at avoiding prosecution for so many of his earlier crimes, Dodd, even at the time of his final arrest, had not significantly changed his modus operandi. Under a more sophisticated and more communicative law enforcement system, Dodd’s continued criminal activities could have caught the attention of authorities early on and saved the lives of his innocent victims. But the system, even when functioning at its best, had its pitfalls. Thankfully, in response to citizen outrage over his crimes, a superior although controversial system requiring convicted sex offenders to register for the rest of their lives with police agencies is now in place in the states of Washington and Oregon.
If it can be said that anything good came out of this case besides instituting a more efficient system for reporting and keeping track of sex offenders, it is only that this sexual sociopath, clearly a livid monster hiding inside a human shell with an insatiable appetite for violent and bloody death, was stopped before he could put his nightmarish fantasies into full play and snuff out even more young lives. Despite the efforts of four police agencies and numerous detectives to thwart his perverted activities, however, he had committed murder with calculated cold-bloodedness, terrorized entire communities, and virtually turned the populace of two states upside down before being stopped.
There have been few crimes that have instilled such a high degree of fear in a populace as those committed by this killer, mainly because he struck out at pure innocence and left everyone wondering who and where he would strike next. In part by his own design and in part by the laws governing sex offenders that were in place at the time, Dodd ultimately was driven to kill.
A hushed silence fell over the long, rectangular courtroom when Westley Allan Dodd, flanked by armed sheriff’s deputies, appeared through a side door, hands cuffed securely behind his back. After a deputy removed the restraints that held his thin wrists together, the convicted child sex killer took a seat at the defense table next to his attorney. Clad in a light blue, short-sleeved pullover shirt, pre-washed faded blue denim jeans, and a pair of sneakers, Dodd uneasily faced the judge, his back to the families of the victims he’d kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. Their eyes were upon the dark-haired young man, just as they had been throughout the month-long guilt or innocence phase of the trial. They had heard startling, shocking testimony about child molestations, violent depraved sex, torture, and necrophilia.
The courtroom was packed to capacity, and many of the spectators who had sat through portions of the trial had to be turned away at the door. Those who managed to get in were required to pass through a metal detector, just as they had been required to do on all previous days. Everyone present that day, Thursday, July 26, 1990, was there to hear Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Harris pass sentence on the “normal-looking” pedophile turned child murderer. First, however, Harris had decided to allow members of the victims’ families to make public statements.
Karen Osborne, an aunt of four-year-old victim Lee Joseph Iseli, nervously shuffled a sheet of paper as she faced the judge. She was going to read a handwritten statement by Jewel Cornell, the boy’s grief-stricken mother. She swallowed hard, looked directly at Dodd for a moment, and then began to read from the paper she held with trembling hands in front of her.
“You have taken my whole world apart —my family’s world apart,” read Osborne from Cornell’s emotionally charged statement. “You are the scum of the Earth. You get on the news and the radio and tell everyone how you felt when you did these unspeakable crimes . . . and you get a high just by talking and going over what you did. You make me sick. I hate your guts . . . you are a sick, cruel and ugly person … I will never rest until the day your life is taken … I hope you rot in hell.” If Dodd felt anything as a result of Cornell’s statement, he didn’t let it show.
Robert Iseli, Lee’s father, next stood in front of the courtroom. Brushing back an occasional tear he turned toward Dodd, angrily facing the man who had confessed to brutally raping and murdering his little boy.
“How did we allow this,” he said, gesturing toward Dodd, “to end up where he is today? It is sad to take a life. . . . Taking a life, any life, even this man’s, is never right. It is a grave decision that the state has to make…So do we blame ourselves for this death? No. We are left with no choice.”
Relatives of the other murder victims—Cole Neer, eleven, and his brother, Billy Neer, ten—declined to make a public statement.
“Do you have a statement to make before this court, Mr. Dodd?” asked Judge Harris.
“Yes, your honor,” said Dodd as he stood up at the defense table. “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.”
Dodd occasionally looked up at the judge and stoically reiterated how he had been arrested numerous times over the course of his life for sex crimes against children, and stated matter-of- factly how the criminal justice system had failed him and his victims.
“I do not blame the criminal justice system for anything…but the system does not work and I can tell them why….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…I can accept a death sentence, and I don’t want to see any delays in carrying it out….If my death will bring peace to the people I’ve hurt so bad, then it’s time for me to die.”
“Amen,” said someone from the gallery of spectators.
When Dodd finished, Roger Bennett, deputy prosecuting attorney, stepped forward and submitted a legal document to the court that would, if signed by Dodd, allow Dodd to waive his rights to appeal. Bennett fervently recommended that the judge allow Dodd to sign the document.
“I like what Mr. Bennett is saying,” Dodd offered. “I don’t want this thing tied up in the courts for years.” He added that he didn’t want the mandatory review of his case by the Washington Supreme Court, and insisted that he did not want anyone filing any appeals on his behalf. He said he would instruct his lawyer to sue anyone who tried to intervene.
“You have an ongoing, depraved, sadistic desire to hurt, injure, and maim others,” Harris told Dodd as he looked him square in the eye. “To you, it is clear that murder is the ultimate goal —the ultimate satisfaction…I am able to sign your death decree without looking back….”