Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Westley Allan Dodd

Billy & Cole Neer

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.

***

William Neer, age 10 (AP)
William Neer, age 10
(AP)

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.

Cole Neer, age 11 (AP)
Cole Neer, age 11
(AP)

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.

"Junior Doe"

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.

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