Westley Allan Dodd was born in Toppenish, Washington on July 3, 1961, the oldest of Jim and Carol Dodd's three children. Dodd claimed he was never abused or neglected as a child. He claimed, however, that the words "I love you" were never said to him as he grew up, nor could he ever remember saying them. 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.
At the age of 13, Dodd began exposing himself to children in his neighborhood. 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". By the time he entered high school, Dodd had progressed to 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. 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 children who lived on the base. 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 underwent 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 that housed families with children, and worked at fast food restaurants, as a charity truck driver, and other such jobs. He repeatedly molested the preschool-aged children of a neighbor, but the woman feared that pressing charges would be too traumatic for the boys.
In 1987, Dodd tried to lure a young boy into a vacant building, but the boy 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 five 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. 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. 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 and perform "experimental surgeries" to turn them into obedient zombies. A psychiatrist who evaluated Dodd following one of his convictions said that he fit the legal criteria for a "sexual psychopath".
On September 4, 1989, Dodd lured 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 at the scene, while William died en route to the hospital.
Soon afterward, Dodd moved to Portland, Oregon, where he made several unsuccessful attempts at luring children. On October 29, Dodd encountered four-year-old Lee Iseli and his nine-year-old brother Justin at a local park. The former was playing alone on a slide, and Dodd succeeded in convincing the boy to come with him. Justin had gone home, so Dodd told Lee that "he would drive him back to his house". He managed to bring Lee to his apartment in Vancouver apparently unnoticed, and he ordered the boy to undress. Dodd then tied Lee to his bed and molested him, taking photographs of the abuse. 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 it was necessary to keep him from telling anyone. Dodd stuffed Iseli's nude body in trash bags and threw it in some bushes near Vancouver Lake. He burned Lee's clothing in a trash barrel except for the boy's underwear, which he kept as a souvenir of the crime. Three days later, Lee's body was discovered, which sparked a manhunt for the killer. 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.
On November 13, Dodd snatched a 6-year-old boy from the bathroom of the New Liberty Theater in Camas, Washington, 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 driving away. The boy's 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 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 him. The boyfriend immediately got Dodd into a headlock and brought him back to the theater where the Camas police were called. Camas police contacted the task force investigating the kidnapping and murder of Lee Iseli. Dodd was brought to the Camas PD Headquarters, where task force lead detectives CW Jensen and Dave Trimble interviewed him over the course of 3 days. Eventually, Dodd confessed to all three murders. Jensen and Trimble then served the search warrant at a home in Vancouver where Dodd rented a room.
During the search of Dodd's room, police discovered a homemade torture rack, along with newspaper clippings about his crimes, a briefcase containing Lee Iseli's underwear, a photo album containing pictures of Lee Iseli, and assorted photographs of children in underwear advertisements. They also discovered Dodd's diary, in which he detailed the murders.
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 plea to guilty.
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 that he was willing to die 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.
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), 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. He was cremated following the autopsy, and his ashes turned over to his family.
Dodd was the basis for an unseen character, a child killer named "Wayne 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; and Dr. Ron Turco's book about his experience during the initial investigation to assist in developing a profile of the killer.