Families of Dodd's Victim's Plan to File Lawsuit


The parents of three young boys slain by Westley Allan Dodd were to file a wrongful-death lawsuit today against the killer, the state and Asotin County, claiming he would have been in prison if it had not been for bureaucratic negligence.

Yesterday, the parents of victims William and Cole Neer and Lee Iseli filed a $ 30 million claim in Clark County, the site of the 1989 murders. A claim is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit when the state is the defendant.

The suit also names court-appointed psychologist Kenneth Von Cleve of Bellevue for allegedly failing to give Dodd proper supervision and treatment in the years immediately before the deaths.

The Neer boys, ages 10 and 11, were murdered Sept. 4, 1989. Iseli, 4, was slain that Oct. 30.

Dodd, now in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, had a lengthy history of sexual-abuse crimes, but the suit focuses on one that apparently fell through the cracks in Asotin County.

Dodd was charged there in 1983 with lewd conduct in connection with the molesting of a young boy. But before he could come to trial he was arrested and convicted on a similar crime across the Snake River in Lewiston, Idaho.

He was sentenced to one year of a potential 10-year sentence and wound up serving only four months before he was released and told to attend counseling.

But the Asotin County prosecutor's office never brought Dodd to trial on his outstanding charge. Seattle attorney William Marler, who represents the Neer family, said a conviction, along with proper sentencing based on Dodd's criminal background, could have kept him in prison through the time of the murders.

The state, Marler said, was legally required to audit felony arrests to ensure they were properly disposed of. No one from the state followed through on Dodd's 1983 charge, which was never officially dismissed, Marler said.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Tardif said he could not comment until he had seen the suit. The Asotin prosecutor was unavailable for comment.

However, the U.S. and state supreme courts have held that prosecutors have total immunity when acting inside their functions or exercising so-called "prosecutorial discretion."

Marler claims Asotin County prosecutors were not exercising discretion but were simply negligent in failing to uphold their duties and state statutes.

"Nothing in their failure to follow through on the arrest, confession and case against Dodd was wrapped up in the judicial process," said Marler.

Dodd, 31, is sentenced to die for the 1989 murders.

Interviewed last year in prison, Dodd criticized police and the courts for not taking him seriously sooner. He said the three boys might still be alive if he had been given proper punishment earlier.

Unlike Washington's 10 other inmates condemned to death, Dodd has said he wants to forfeit his appeal rights and be hanged as soon as possible. His case is under review by the state Supreme Court.

He admitted the murders after he was captured while trying to kidnap another boy at a movie theater in Camas.

Von Cleve was sued, said Marler, because he allegedly knew Dodd was living with a young boy in Renton but did not inform his corrections officer or the court.

Von Cleve examined Dodd in November 1987, after he was convicted in King County of attempted unlawful detainment, a misdemeanor. Dodd tried to lure a 6-year-old boy inside a vacant building, but the child ran and told his mother, who called police. Dodd was given a suspended one-year sentence and ordered to get treatment.

Von Cleve said he could not talk about the case without Dodd's permission, but said the accusations were far off base, "and the Department of Corrections records will bear that out."

In his report, after examining Dodd, Van Cleve wrote that Dodd was a predator of young boys with an extensive history and a strong likelihood of re-offending.

About a year after he finished counseling, Dodd moved to Clark County and killed the three boys.