Westley Allan Dodd

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Westley Allan Dodd
Dodd testifying in court
Born (1961-07-03)July 3, 1961
Toppenish, Washington
Died January 5, 1993(1993-01-05) (aged 31)
Walla Walla, Washington
Cause of death Hanging
Other names The Vancouver Child Killer
Criminal penalty Death
Victims 3
Span of killings
September 4, 1989–October 30, 1989
Country United States
State(s) Washington
Date apprehended
November 13, 1989
Imprisoned at Washington State Penitentiary

Westley Allan Dodd (July 3, 1961 – January 5, 1993) was an American serial killer and child molester. He has been called "one of the most evil killers in history".[1] His execution on January 5, 1993, was the first legal hanging (at his own request) in the United States since 1965.

Early life[edit]

Westley Allan Dodd was born in Toppenish, Washington, on July 3, 1961, the oldest of Jim and Carol Dodd's three children.[2] Dodd claimed he was never abused or neglected as a child.[3] He also reported that he grew up in a wealthy, happy family.[4] However, The Seattle Times reported that Dodd described in a diary written during his imprisonment that his father was physically and emotionally abusive, that he was often neglected in favour of his younger siblings and that he witnessed violent fights between his parents. On July 3, 1976 — Dodd's 15th birthday — his father attempted suicide following an argument with his wife.[5]

Criminal history[edit]

Dodd began sexually abusing children at 13. His initial efforts merely involved standing in a bedroom window and exposing himself to passersby. A child reported the flasher to the police, but no action was taken. Fearing he would get in trouble, Dodd began riding his bicycle around the neighborhood, then flagging children down and exposing himself. After a while, he discovered that "boys were less likely to report me than girls". He claimed he did this because of the stress of puberty and because he had never been told about sex. Dodd also insisted that he had never been directly abused himself as a child, but suffered from his parents' squabbles and lack of emotional support. His father eventually told an Oregon newspaper that he was aware of the boy's behavior, but largely chose to look the other way, especially since he was otherwise "a well behaved child who never had problems with drugs, drinking, or smoking". In high school, Dodd found himself socially awkward and unable to talk to girls or date. After his parents divorced, he progressed from simply exposing himself to outright molestation, beginning with his younger cousins and then neighborhood kids he offered to babysit and the children of a woman his father was dating. At the age of 15, Dodd was arrested for indecent exposure, but police let him go with a recommendation of juvenile counseling.

As the years passed, he would be arrested several more times, again with no serious action taken. After some neighborhood kids moved out of town, he began molesting children he didn't know. By 18, he had come to realize that kids were easier to coerce than he previously thought. Dodd would sometimes attempt to molest lone boys or else encounter them in a group and demand they undress. Sometimes, he said, he would sneak out to playgrounds in the middle of the night and run around naked. In August 1981, Dodd tried to abduct two little girls, but they reported him to the police. No action was taken. The following month, he enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to a submarine base in Bangor, Washington where he started abusing the children who lived on the base. During this time, Dodd also became skilled in accosting boys in local movie theaters. He also started bribing children with money to lure them into a secluded area where he could molest them. In addition, he would hang out in video arcades and dispense quarters in exchange for complying with his demands. Once, Dodd offered some boys $50 to come with him to a motel room for a game of strip poker. This time, he was arrested. Despite confessing to police that he planned to molest the boys, he was released with no charges filed. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested again for exposing himself to a boy and discharged from the Navy. Dodd spent 19 days in jail and had to take court-ordered counseling. In May 1984, he was arrested for molesting a 10-year-old boy, but received only a suspended sentence.

Dodd planned his entire life around easy access to "targets" as he referred to children. He moved into an apartment block with a large kid population and worked at fast food restaurants, as a charity truck driver, and other such jobs. While on his truck route, Dodd was frequently invited into houses with children and would often make notes of it. He molested the preschool-aged children of a neighbor repeatedly, but the woman feared that pressing charges would be too traumatic for the boys.

Repeated counseling and therapy sessions proved useless, and by this point, Dodd's fantasies started progressing to outright homicide. In 1987, he chose his first victim, an 8-year-old boy he met while working a job on a construction site. Dodd tried to lure the child into a vacant building, but he refused to go with him and instead told police. Once again, Dodd received minimal punishment because he had not actually touched the boy or exposed himself. Prosecutors were aware of his history of sexual offenses and recommended 5 years in prison, but he only spent 118 days in jail and probation. After getting out of jail, he moved to Vancouver, Washington and got a job as a shipping clerk.

In the early autumn of 1989, Dodd decided that David Douglas Park in Vancouver was a good place to find potential victims.[5] He was arrested several times over the next few years for child molestation, each time serving short jail sentences and being given court-mandated therapy.[5] All his victims (over 50 in all) were below the age of 12, some of them as young as two. Most of them were boys. Dodd's sexual fantasies became increasingly violent over the years; as a young man, he wrote about wanting to eat the genitals of his victims. A psychiatrist who evaluated him following one of his convictions said that he fit the legal criteria for a "sexual psychopath".[5]

After a couple of failed attempts at the park, Dodd finally succeeded in luring two brothers, 11 and 10-year old Cole and William Neer, to a secluded area, where he forced them to undress, tied them to a tree and performed sex acts on them both. When he was done, he stabbed them repeatedly with a knife and fled the scene. The boys were soon discovered in the park. Cole was dead, and William barely alive. He was rushed to the hospital, but died on the way. The murders stunned and frightened the local community, but there was little hard evidence to connect them to Dodd except for a few witnesses who reported seeing a suspicious man sneaking around the park. Dodd was frustrated that he had not been able to carry out all of his plans for the boys, and afterwards spent all his free time collecting newspaper clippings about the murders and writing down his fantasies and future plans for abductions.

He wrote in his diary various ways that he could kill and molest children, including performing "experimental surgeries" to turn them into an obedient zombie and even cannibalism. After a while, Dodd became confident that the police had no real way of connecting him with the Neer murders and soon went back to work finding new victims. He headed down to Portland, where he made several unsuccessful attempts at luring children. On October 29, Dodd encountered 6-year old Justin and 4-year old Lee Iseli at a local park. The latter was playing alone on a slide, and Dodd succeeded in convincing the boy to come with him. Lee's older brother had run home and left him alone, so Dodd told him that "he would drive him back to his house". He managed to bring Lee to his apartment in Vancouver apparently unnoticed, where he ordered the boy to undress. Dodd then tied the 4-year old to his bed and molested him, along with taking photographs of the incident. Dodd kept Lee overnight while he continued to molest him, all the while jotting down every detail in his diary. The next morning, he strangled Iseli to death with a rope and hung his body in the closet, photographing it as a macabre "trophy". He would later confess to police that he had not originally intended to kill the boy, but eventually decided that the risk of Iseli telling what happened was too great. Dodd stuffed Iseli's nude body in trash bags and threw it in some bushes near Vancouver Lake. He burned his clothing in a trash barrel except for the boy's underwear, which he kept as a souvenir of the crime. Three days later, Iseli's body was discovered, which sparked a manhunt for the killer. After Iseli's body was recovered in Vancouver, Washington (just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon where Iseli was abducted), Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Portland, Oregon, Field Office and Seattle, Washington, Field Office (Vancouver, Washington, Resident Agency) officially joined the manhunt. An FBI Special Agent from the Portland Field Office was already assigned full-time to the Portland Police Bureau a short time following Iseli's initial disappearance under the assumption that Iseli was taken interstate. While this was going on, Dodd kept a low profile and mostly stayed in his apartment, writing down future plans for child abduction and also constructing a homemade torture rack for the next victim.[6]

On November 6, Dodd decided to abduct a child from the local movie theaters and at the New Liberty Theater in Camas, Washington, he snatched a 6-year-old boy from the bathroom, but the child began fighting and crying as Dodd was leaving the theater through the lobby carrying the boy in his arms. Despite Dodd's attempts to calm the boy, theater employees became suspicious. Once outside, Dodd released his victim before getting into his car and drove away. His mother's boyfriend came out to the theater lobby and was told that the boy was almost abducted. The boyfriend went outside the theater in the direction where Dodd was last seen. Dodd's car broke down only a short distance away from the theater. In order not to raise Dodd's suspicion and to stall for time, the boyfriend offered to help Dodd. The boyfriend immediately got Dodd into a headlock and brought him back to the theater where the Camas police were called.


After being arrested by the Camas police and their knowledge of the ongoing Iseli case, Camas police contacted the task force investigating Iseli's kidnapping and murder. Dodd was brought to the Camas PD Headquarters. Once there task force lead detectives CW Jensen and Dave Trimble interviewed him for about two hours. After confronting Dodd with his conflicting statements he began to cry, then confessed to all three murders. Following a decision that the possibility of charging Dodd in the State of Washington offered more advantages than Federal prosecution, Portland Police Bureau Detective C. W. Jensen and Clark County Detective Dave Trimble obtained Dodd's confession and served the search warrant at a home in Vancouver where Dodd rented a room.


When initially questioned, Dodd admitted his history of child molestation, but denied any responsibility for the three boys who had been murdered in the past month. But when he admitted that he worked at a paper plant not far from where Lee Iseli's body was found, police became suspicious and started pressing him further. After task force detectives told Dodd that they intended to obtain a warrant to search his room and the possibility of what they would find there, Dodd finally broke down and admitted his entire criminal history. His confession proved to be more than even trained lawmen could stomach. At the request of the FBI's Portland Field Office, personnel from the FBI's Laboratory quickly traveled from Washington, D.C., to conduct the search and identified critical pieces of evidence that directly connected Iseli to Dodd's rented room. During the search of Dodd's room, a homemade torture rack along with newspaper clippings about his crimes, a briefcase containing Iseli's underwear, a photo album containing pictures of Lee Iseli, and assorted photographs of children in underwear advertisements, and his diary were located.


Dodd was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of the Neer brothers and Lee Iseli, plus attempted kidnapping of another child. He initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, but later changed his mind.


During his trial in Clark County Superior Court, the prosecution read aloud excerpts of Dodd's diary and displayed the photographs of Lee Iseli. The defense did not call any witnesses or present any evidence, suggesting only that Dodd must be legally insane. Prosecutors requested the death penalty, and the jury agreed. Dodd would claim that speaking in his own defense was pointless, and ultimately "the system had failed repeatedly". He stated that he would like to die by hanging, and although he did not want to die, he was ok with it if "it brought peace to the victims' families".


Dodd was sentenced to death in 1990 for stabbing to death Cole Neer and his brother William near a Vancouver, Washington park in 1989, as well as for the separate rape and murder of Lee Iseli, aged four. The sentence of execution was for the murder and not the molestation which carried a lesser penalty.


Less than four years elapsed between the murders and Dodd's execution. He refused to appeal his case or the capital sentence. Dodd stated that hanging was the ideal method of death. During his trial, he attempted to make himself into a celebrity, writing a pamphlet on how parents could protect children from monsters such as himself, and enjoyed giving interviews and reliving his crimes any opportunity he could get. Eventually, the judge ordered the incessant media coverage to cease. Dodd was executed by hanging at 12:05 a.m. on 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 [his final victim] died." He also requested that his hanging be televised, but that request was denied. His hanging was the first use of hanging for an execution in the United States since George York and James Latham were hanged by Kansas in 1965. His execution was witnessed by 12 members of local and regional media (Kerry Brock, KOMO TV; Mary Clayton, KNSN Radio; Marcia Coffey, KOIN-TV; Carl Dombek, KING Radio; Joe Hart, KNDU-TV; Julie Havel, Columbia Cable Television; Terry McCahn, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin; Michael Rollins, the Oregonian; Eric Sorensen, the Spokane Spokesman-Review; Bruce Westfal, The Columbian; John Wiley, The associated Press; Laurie Williams, Tri-City Herald),[7] prison officials, and representatives of the families of the three victims. He ate salmon and potatoes for his last meal. His last words, spoken from the second floor of the indoor gallows, were recorded by the media witnesses as:

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.[9] He was cremated following the autopsy, and his ashes turned over to his family.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

Dodd was the basis for an unseen character, a child-killer named "Dobbs", in the 2002 film Insomnia, starring Al Pacino. He was fictionalized as a man who murdered a young boy in a way similar to Dodd's murder of Lee Iseli. Dodd was also mentioned in Michael Connelly's novel The Concrete Blonde. Several books have been written about the case, including: When The Monster Comes Out Of The Closet by Lori Steinhorst, who communicated with Dodd in writing and by phone almost daily for 18 months prior to his execution; Driven to Kill by true crime author Gary C. King;[11] and Dr. Ron Turco's book about his experience during the initial investigation to assist in developing a profile of the killer.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Westley Allen Dodd - Child Serial Killer and Child Molester; One of the Most Evil Killers In History
  2. ^ Egan, Timothy (29 December 1992). "Illusions Are Also Left Dead As Child-Killer Awaits Noose". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Griffiths, Richard (producer and director). "Murder by Number" (video). Atlanta, Georgia: CNN
  4. ^ Tithecott, R. (1997). pp. 43. Of men and monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the construction of the serial killer. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press
  5. ^ a b c d Ostrom, Cindy. "Westley Dodd: A Long, Steady Slide Into Dark Desperation". Seattle Times. 
  6. ^ Scott, Shirley Lynn. "Westley Allan Dodd". TruTV Crime Library. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Associated Press Bulletin, Jan 4 1993, 23:26
  8. ^ Westley Allen Dodd - Child Serial Killer and Child Molester
  9. ^ "Dodd strangled, autopsy finds". The Bulletin. The (Bend, Oregon) Bulletin. 7 January 1993. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Dodd Died Quickly, Autopsy Finds; Body Returned For Cremation[dead link]
  11. ^ "Driven to Kill". The True Crime Website of Author Gary C. King. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Ronald Turco Archived February 6, 2008 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]