Westley Allan Dodd Case
Recently, an old friend asked if my knowledge of all the murders and other unspeakable criminals (being a sexual predator, serial killer, etc.) had turned me into a cynic about human nature. I can honestly say that more than twenty years of exposure to capital crimes has not made me cynical. Why? Because decent, ordinary folks vastly outnumber the people who commit crimes.
When I started the Crime Library in January 1998, I made a list of every major criminal case I could think of and came up with eighty-six names, most historical. None involved characters I thought could generate a lot of emotion, mine or the readers. For example, while writing the online biography of Al Capone, I began to appreciate the enormous complexity of his personality. Most people don’t realize that Capone was a capable, reliable bookkeeper for a Baltimore construction firm. That was before his organized crime ties from New York City wooed him away to Chicago, the new Mob frontier.
Early Crime Library
Most of the early Crime Library stories were historical in nature: John Dillinger, Al Capone, Jack the Ripper, and Ted Bundy. Hardened criminals to be sure, but not ones that were in the daily news. They had become words and photos on the pages of many books. When a reader suggested a criminal case, I automatically incorporated it into the website as a subject that we might address in the future. Most of the new names were criminals of whom I had no knowledge whatsoever, like Westley Allen Dodd.
Shortly after posting Dodd’s name on the website, I received a message from a man who wanted to see the Dodd story before I published it. My visceral reaction was anger. Why should I let anyone see our stories before I publish them? Upon reflection, I assumed that this man was Dodd’s attorney hoping to sanitize information on his client before he filed an appeal. I asked him what role he played in Dodd’s alleged crimes?
Response from Victim’s Father
His next message explained that Dodd had stalked, raped, tortured, and murdered his three-year-old son and had photographed the child’s body. I was devastated thinking about the suffering the little boy endured and the pain his family had experienced. This murderer had documented every detail of his ghastly crimes in his diary and had built a torture rack for his next victim.
Dodd became a sex offender in his early teens. Every time he was caught, judges reduced his sentences because he agreed to psychiatric therapy. He conned therapists into believing their treatments were successful so that he could remain free to continue raping children. But molesting little boys was just one step on his way to killing his victims. Murder is one way to avoid having a witness identify you. However, after three killings, Dodd wrote in his diary that he enjoyed murder more than merely molesting a child.
The State of Washington realized from the Dodd case that its programs for violent sexual predators were a tragic failure. Dodd insisted that men like himself were incurable. “I must be executed before I have the opportunity to escape or kill someone else,” he said. “If I do escape, I promise you I will kill again, and I will enjoy every minute of it.” After much handwringing among officials and the public, Washington passed a state law to continue imprisonment of some violent sexual predators after their sentences were served.
What I Learned
This case was the wake-up call for Marilyn J. Bardsley, the recovering Nancy Drew, budding armchair crime historian. Yes, telling John Dillinger’s story can be interesting, and the circumstances of Al Capone’s marriage are entertaining, but the horror of a Westley Allan Dodd shakes you to your core. Immediately, I asked a very sensitive, experienced writer to tell the story of this criminal and his victims and to send it to the father as he had requested. The savagery of Westley Allan Dodd’s crimes will stay with me until I die. Washington State executed Dodd in 1993. An interviewer asked Dodd why he refused all appeals. “World War III is going on inside me…I just want to make the pain go away,” he answered.
In my decade of managing The Crime Library, some cases permanently stained my consciousness. Those cases are probably ones about which most people have little or no knowledge, but I will tell you about them in future blogs and books.
Buckle up, my friends.