Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Westley Allan Dodd

Molesting by Thirteen

Puberty hits

Dodd began sexually abusing children when he was only 13 years old. As grade schoolers passed by his house, he stood in the upstairs bedroom window, naked, hiding his face behind the curtain. Eventually a child reported the flasher's address to the police, who notified Dodd's parents that "someone" was exposing himself to children from their residence. The authorities showed little interest in who it was, or prosecuting him. The Dodds thought it might have been a friend of Westley's.

After realizing that exposing himself from his own house would get him in trouble, Dodd took his "show on the road," as he called it, and pedaled his bike around the neighborhood, looking for children, 10 or younger. He would ride by, yell at them, and expose himself when he got their attention. He looked for boys, he said, because "boys didn't report me as often as girls." Dodd said that he began exposing himself because he had hit puberty, and wasn't educated about sex. He never claimed to have been sexually abused himself, and later blamed his unhappiness as a child on his parents' constant fighting and their lack of emotional support.

Westley's father Jim Dodd told The Oregonian that he acknowledged his son's sexual deviancy with "father-son chats," but mostly avoided talking about it, despite Westley's increasing arrests and warnings. The eldest of three kids, Westley was otherwise well behaved. "He never did drugs, he never drank, he never smoke," said the elder Dodd. When his parents divorced, the exposing escalated to molesting.

Easy access to children

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, IIIR, which classifies and describes mental disorders, pedophilia is one of the behaviors associated with loners who have low self-esteem. They feel sexually inadequate, afraid to risk rejection by their peers. In avoiding mature relationships, they fail to mature themselves. Dodd has described himself as socially isolated, intimidated by girls. When others began dating and going to high school dances, Dodd stayed at home, thinking of ways to instigate sexual activity with children.

Like most child molesters, Dodd betrayed the trust of children who were close to him. Stranger abductions are usually a last resort. If a sexual predator has access to kids that know and trust him, he will take advantage of their trust. Dodd's first victims were his own cousins. At 14 he molested his own 8-year-old cousin in a closet, her 6-year-old brother later that day, and another male cousin weeks later. Dodd later molested the kids of a woman his father was dating.

When his cousins weren't available to him, Dodd placed himself in situations where he would be around children. He befriended the neighborhood boys and offered to baby-sit. At 16, Dodd was asked to fill in for a neighbor's usual babysitter, and molested the children as they slept. Later, Dodd sought jobs where he'd encounter kids, including being a camp counselor.

It wasn't until later that he used force with his victims. Usually, Dodd tricked children into inappropriate contact through "fun and games." He dared kids to run around naked, and suggested party games like spin-the-bottle, strip poker, skinny-dipping, or truth-or-dare. He exploited the innocent curiosity of children, and made the molestation seem like normal fun. "I've done this to other kids," he'd say, "and they liked it." He manipulated their uncertainty and nervousness, and perhaps their guilt that they had done something "wrong." Dodd attempted to naturalize the situation to little kids who didn't know better. He tried to convince a confused child that he was teaching him something fun that adults do, and that it was perfectly normal.

The arrests didn't stop him. At the age of 15 Dodd had already been arrested for exposing himself, but he was not prosecuted. Instead, the authorities recommended counseling. (Over the years, Dodd would fall in and out of court-ordered counseling sessions, but attended sporadically, if at all.) The arrests accumulated, but Dodd was rarely punished with the appropriate jail time.

When children he had been molesting on a regular basis moved away, Dodd, now 18, and desperate for new victims, pursued kids he didn't know. He realized that with children he didn't know he could be more forceful. In one typical incident, he encountered a young boy, fishing alone in a wooded area. He asked the boy if he wanted to see something "really neat." Once they were isolated, Dodd ordered the boy to undress, but fortunately for the child, they were interrupted by another group of kids. If he couldn't find a child alone, he would approach a group of children and demand that one of them pull his pants down. Sometimes Dodd went out on bizarre "nude excursions," rollicking at a children's playground, naked, in the middle of the night.

In the Navy

"If I hadn't joined the Navy then, I may have been killing within a year," said Dodd. Weeks before enlisting in September of 1981, Dodd attempted to abduct a couple of little girls. Although they reported him to the police, Dodd wasn't incarcerated.

Dodd was stationed at a submarine base in Bangor, Washington, and preyed on the children who lived on the base. He also made excursions to Seattle, where he accosted kids in movie theater bathrooms. Dodd began to use money as a lure, coaxing children into secluded areas to help him supposedly get something, then ordering the child to pull down his pants. He discovered that the arcade was a good place to find kids who wished they had more money, and gave them quarters for each of his demands. At one point he was arrested offering to pay some boys $50 each to go to a motel and play strip poker with him. But after he admitted to the police that he planned on molesting the boys, the charges were mysteriously dropped. Did the authorities think that admitting to something as depraved as this was punishment enough?

Eventually, Dodd was arrested, and received a general discharge from the Navy. He was apprehended after approaching a young boy, and found guilty of "attempted indecent liberties." For this he served 19 days in jail, and was ordered (again) to get counseling.

A mugshot of Westley Dodd (Gary King)
A mugshot of Westley Dodd (Gary
King)

But Dodd was relentless. No amount of counseling would keep him from pursuing children. In May 1984 police arrested Dodd for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Although his initial sentence would have kept him off the streets, the judge, for reasons unknown, allowed Dodd to stay out of jail by giving him a suspended one-year sentence, provided that he attend counseling and "conduct himself as a good citizen for the balance" of the sentence. During this period he was arrested twice for driving with a suspended license, but he was not brought back to jail.

Dodd was free to seek out more "targets," as he called kids. He would not let probation or warrants stop him. Every decision he made involved his access to children — he chose an apartment building with lots of kids, and took jobs at fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and charity truck routes, where he would pick up donations from houses.

"A sexual predator/child molester is always alert and ready for any situation or possibility that may arise," he said. "I started staying alert and watching for opportunities like that to occur again." While on his truck route, he was invited into houses with children. Changing a baby's diapers was enough to arouse Dodd to molestation. If he saw a kid he liked, he wrote down the address, with plans to return in his own car, hoping to catch the child alone. On his routes, he would make note of any isolated areas he encountered, and marked them on a map.

Dodd volunteered to baby-sit. He took a co-worker's son on a fishing trip, as a birthday present, where he sexually abused him. He repeatedly molested a neighbor's 2 and 4-year-old kids, but the mother didn't want to traumatize the boys by pressing charges.

Escalating violence

The Seattle, Washington skyline (AP)
The Seattle, Washington skyline
(AP)

In 1986, at the age of 25, Dodd moved to Seattle. He felt "invincible," having sexually assaulted at least 30 kids at this point. "Now, when I got to Seattle, I had learned I was less likely to be reported for a molestation than for an attempt. I decided that from now on I would be a little more forceful. I would no longer accept no as an answer to my requests," he later wrote. He chose the most vulnerable children, including a roommate's 2-year-old son who was partially deaf and could not yet talk. The boy resisted, and Dodd tied his hands with a bathrobe strap. "The idea of force was exciting," he said.

Despite the ongoing counseling sessions, Dodd had no intention of controlling his pedophilic urges. In fact, Dodd began to fantasize about killing his victims. "The more I thought about it, the more exciting the idea of murder sounded. I planned many ways to kill a boy. Then I started thinking of torture, castration, and even cannibalism." Although he claimed that he decided to murder to keep from going to jail, this is difficult to believe when we consider that he was hardly prosecuted for any of his crimes. Dodd would later rant about how easy it was to manipulate the justice system and stay on out of jail. The reason Dodd wanted to kill children was because he was a sexual sadist, stimulated by his control over their sufferings and death.

In 1987, Dodd chose the first child he would murder — it would be an 8-year-old boy he met while working as a security guard for a construction site. On his day off he drove to where the boy lived, hoping to lure him into one of the vacant buildings nearby. Then he planned to take the child into an isolated wooded area where he would kill him.

But the kid sensed that his new "friend" was dangerous. After Dodd asked him to help find a "lost little boy," the 8-year-old said that he was going home to get some toys for the lost boy, and promised that he would be right back. Instead, he stayed inside, and his mother called the police.

"By his own admissions he is predatory and uncontrollable"

Dodd received another light sentence. "We prosecuted the case to the full extent that we were able," said one district attorney. "Essentially, he tried to get the boy to go with him, but he refused. Nothing more serious happened that we could use." Prosecutors tried to invoke Dodd's history as a sexual predator to convict him of a longer sentence, 5 to 6 years in jail. But the judge reduced the charge to a "gross misdemeanor," and Dodd spent only 118 days in jail (with one year probation.) A disturbingly light sentence, especially in consideration of Dodd's intentions for the boy.

Psychologist Kenneth Von Cleve saw that he was a serious danger: "Mr. Dodd's history of deviant assaults on minors is the most extensive I have ever encountered in an offender his age," he wrote, and concluded that Dodd was an "extremely high risk for future re-offense." Dr. Von Cleve attempted to get Dodd's conviction upgraded to a felony, which would have meant more aggressive treatment. Yet he didn't believe that Dodd was capable of violence. "He was like a child," said Dr. Von Cleve. When he talked about the offenses, he did it in baby talk, like a kid. He fit right in with them," he said. "He didn't want to hurt them."

The following year, just months before the murders began, Dodd briefly got together with an old girlfriend, who had brought with her a baby she claimed was his. But after only five days together in a motel, she left. Dodd then moved to Vancouver.

In September 1989, at Pac Paper, where Dodd worked as a shipping clerk, co-workers thought there was something odd about Dodd, who told co-workers that he was employed by the Clark County sheriff's office to "stand on the corner and watch children." He also claimed that he was divorced, and was upset because his infant child had just died of "crib death." Other than his weird remarks, no one suspected the clean-shaven, well-heeled Dodd of anything deadly. He was bright, meticulous, and could have easily advanced his position at the company. But Dodd didn't care. His secret vocation, preying on children, was about to escalate to violence.

He found a popular place for kids, David Douglas Park in Vancouver, and decided this would be his new "hunting grounds."

sign for David Douglas Park
sign for David Douglas Park

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