WALLA WALLA, WA — Just after midnight on January 5, 1993, condemned prisoner Westley Allan Dodd made history as the first person to be legally hanged in the United States since 1965.
Before that, Dodd had primarily made his mark as a brazen and unrepentant child-rapist and serial killer who, upon being convicted of three murders, campaigned for the state of Washington to give him the death penalty. The state of Washington, in turn, complied.
Just before the noose did its work, Dodd made a dramatic final statement:
“I was once asked by somebody if there was any way sex offenders could be stopped. I said no. I was wrong. I was wrong when I said there was no hope, no peace. There is hope. There is peace. I found both in the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
As Westley Allan Dodd quotes go, it comes off a little more calculated than his simple 1991 written declaration:
“The thoughts of killing children are exciting to me.”
Born in 1961, Westley Allan Dodd grew up in Washington. He felt abused and neglected and, early on, took to sexually deviant acting out. By age 13, he routinely exposed himself to other children.At 15, Dodd commenced molesting his younger relatives, along with children for whom he babysat, and essentially any smaller, weaker kid he could get alone. That same year, cops picked up Dodd for indecent exposure but just suggested his parents get him counseling. They didn’t.
That catch-and-release policy with Dodd also set a dangerous pattern in motion. Over the next few years, he’d get repeatedly arrested for sex crimes against and around children, only to somehow keep getting cut loose.
In August 1981, Dodd attempted to lure a pair of young girls into his car, but they reported him to the police. Instead of going to jail, though, Dodd joined the Navy a few weeks later.
Once stationed on a submarine base in Bangor, Washington, Dodd relentlessly abused the children who lived there. Cops arrested him once for bribing a group of boys to play strip poker in a motel room, but then they simply let him go.
Dodd’s longest stint behind bars at that point was 19 days, which he got in June 1982 for asking a nine-year-old on the base to get naked. Following that incident, the Navy gave him a general (as opposed to dishonorable) discharge and suggested he go into therapy
The cycle just kept repeating itself. Police arrested Dodd in December 1982 for taking a kid from a playground and stripping him nude. He did 30 days.
Cops again nabbed Dodd in June 1984 for molesting a nine-year-old boy. This time, the court initially sentenced him to ten years, then reduced it to one, then suspended the penalty altogether. He served four months in total.
Understandably emboldened by the system’s repeated failures, Dodd bounced between Idaho and Washington’s Vancouver area, taking jobs that would place him near children and severely harming youngsters everywhere he went.
More arrests followed throughout 1987 and ’88, followed by still more turnstile sentences. In all, Dodd would be busted more than 50 times (!) for sexual transgressions against victims that ranged in age from two to 12.Related: Hate, Rape & Homicidal Rage — Serial Killer Carl Panzram, Who Stole The President’s Gun
By 1989, Dodd took to writing down his fantasies and, worse, his activities on what he described as “the hunt” for children or, as he deemed them, “targets.”
Dodd recorded abuse incidents and mapped out specific crimes he was planning to undertake. He even sketched a child-sized torture rack he eventually started to build in his apartment.
Dodd’s diaries track his inner escalation from violent sexual desires to full-blown homicidal fury and would later come up when he faced severe legal consequences — tragically, only after he committed murder.
The pages also dedicate Dodd’s increasing devotion to “Satan” and “Lucifer.” He even wrote down pacts and prayers, asking the Dark Lord to supply him with fresh children to abuse with sex, pain, and “exploratory surgery.”
On September 4, 1989, Dodd stalked Vancouver’s David Douglas Park for victims. He convinced a pair of brothers — Cole Neer, 11, and David Neer, 10 — to follow him deep into a wooded area.
Once there, Dodd tied the boys up, raped them, and stabbed them to death maniacally. He fled the carnage a mere 15 minutes before a hiker spotted the Neer boys’ mangled remains.
After killing the brothers, Dodd relocated to Portland. On October 29, he grabbed four-year-old Lee Iseli from a local park and brought him home.
Throughout the night, Dodd perpetrated a multitude of violations against the toddler before strangling him and hanging his body in a closet, photographing every moment of his suffering.
A few hours later, Dodd stuffed Lee’s body in a trash bag and tossed it into a group of bushes. Once the dead child was discovered, a massive manhunt commenced to find the killer. Still, only a stroke of fate seemed to finally undo Dodd’s reign of horror.
On November 14, Dodd attempted to forcibly abduct a six-year-old boy from the New Liberty movie theater in Camas, Washington. The child kicked and screamed in Dodd’s arms on the way through the lobby, alerting employees that something was amiss.
Once outside, the boy managed to break free and run wailing back to his mother’s boyfriend, with whom he’d gone to the movie.
In the meantime, Dodd attempted to drive away, but his car broke down nearby. The boy’s guardian then casually approached Dodd and offered to give him a hand getting the engine going.
Once the men got the vehicle’s hood up, the guardian threw a headlock on Dodd and dragged him back to the theater. Police showed up quick.
After three days of interrogation, Dodd confessed to the child murders. A search his apartment turned up Lee Iseli’s underpants (along with the hideous photos Dodd had taken of him), scrapbooks of newspaper clippings related to Dodd’s crimes, the diary in which Dodd detailed the killings, and even the beginnings of a homemade torture rack.
Initially Dodd pleaded not guilty to all charges, then switched his plea to guilty. Upon being convicted, Dodd insisted he receive capital punishment, once even telling the court:
“I must be executed before I have an opportunity to escape or kill someone else. If I do escape, I promise you I will kill and rape again, and I will enjoy every minute of it.”
In 1990, the state ordered Dodd to die. He asked to be hanged if “it brought peace to the victims’ families.” Whether or not it did is unknown — either way, Westley Allan Dodd went to the gallows three years later.
To learn more about this case, watch the “Deadly Desires” episode of Investigation Discovery’s “Most Evil” on ID GO now!
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Main photos: Westley Allan Dodd [Washington State Department of Corrections]