Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Westley Allan Dodd

Lee Iseli

Toward the end of October, Dodd plotted his next attack. He was frightened that he would be arrested for the murders of Billy and Cole Neer at David Douglas Park, but when he realized that the police didn't have any solid clues, he began to think about killing again. He decided that Saturday afternoons after work was best to find a boy — now he needed to determine where.

He drove to Portland, Oregon, just over the bridge from Vancouver, and stopped at Oaks Park, a crowded popular place filled with kids. He approached a little boy who was waiting for a ride called "The Spider," and asked if he wanted to see something interesting. But the child's father showed up and Dodd scurried away.

He left Oaks Park and drove through Southeast Portland, searching for playgrounds. He passed by Richmond School, and decided to try back later — it was getting too dark, and kids weren't around. Some kids he had spotted quickly disappeared.

Dodd went to the movies, with the intent of abducting a child in the restroom. He chose The Bear, a family movie, and sat in the back row, but missed his opportunities. With his frustration growing out of control, Dodd was determined to kidnap a child the next day.

Abduction at the playground

Lee Iseli, age 4, victim
Lee Iseli, age 4,

On Sunday, October 29th, Justin and his little brother Lee told their father that they were going to the school ground park, along with another friend. It was a sunny day, and their father, Robert Iseli, thought it would be okay — the boys had been there a couple of times before. He told his sons to stay together and to watch out for strangers. The neighborhood was safe, but he warned his children to be careful. 

That same morning Dodd drove to the Richmond School playground and waited. Some older kids were playing football while another watched. Dodd spotted four-year-old Lee, by himself, playing atop a concrete structure with a slide that the kids called "the volcano." After a bit the little boy slid down to the base. Dodd approached him and smiled. "Hi! How you doing?"

Lee smiled back and said, "hi."

"Would you like to have some fun and make some money?" he asked Lee.

The boy seemed frightened and hesitated, looking around, and then shook his head "no." But Dodd insisted, and offered his hand. Lee, perhaps in an automatic response, took his hand. Dodd led the blonde, blue-eyed child to his car, then Lee started to resist. "I don't want any money," Lee said. Sensing his fear, Dodd tried to assure Lee that it would be okay. His dad had sent him to get the boy, he said. When Dodd placed Lee in his car and drove off, the boy said, "I live the other way."

"We're going to my house and play some games," said Dodd. "Just do what I tell you and I promise I won't hurt you. But you'll have to be quiet when we get there. My landlady doesn't like little kids."

Lee worried that his brother was going to miss him, but Dodd soothed him, saying that they would have fun, and his brother was having fun too. (Through years of experience as a predator Dodd knew what to say to kids to gain their trust, and what would keep a child calm and quiet.)

At the same time that Dodd and Lee arrived at his apartment in Vancouver, a distraught Robert Iseli was calling the police to report that his son was missing. His older boy had returned home, frantic. He couldn't find Lee anywhere. One minute Lee was playing on "the volcano," and the next he disappeared. Robert told the police that "Lee's the kind of kid who doesn't take off, but he can get sidetracked easily."

"What could a four-year-old do to make someone kill him?"

Westley Dodd's landlord wasn't home, and it seemed that no one saw him arrive with Lee. Inside, Dodd took some pictures of Lee with his Polaroid camera, then told Lee to get undressed, and tied him to the bed with ropes. He took more pictures, untied the boy, and then molested him. Afterwards, Lee watched cartoons on the television while Dodd recorded the events in his diary.

He asked Lee if he wanted to spend the night with him. "No," the boy said, "My brother might miss me." But Dodd answered, "Nah, your brother is probably having fun too." He then took Lee to K-Mart to buy him a toy, where the boy began to cry. A store employee approached them, concerned. But Dodd explained that it was okay, he was babysitting his nephew who wanted to go home. Afterward, they went to a McDonalds in Vancouver, only blocks away from where Dodd killed Cole and Billy Neer.

Once back at the apartment, Dodd wrote as Lee played with his new toy. "He suspects nothing now. Will probably wait until morning to kill him. That way his body will be fairly fresh for experiments after work. I'll suffocate him in his sleep when I wake up for work (if I sleep)."

Dodd continued to molest the little boy through the night, taking breaks to record more notes in his diary. He fantasized about how he would kill the child, and how he would hide him while he was at work.

At one point Dodd woke Lee up. "I'm going to kill you in the morning," he whispered to him.

"No, you're not!" cried Lee, scared.

Dodd's closet (POLICE)
Dodd's closet (POLICE)

Dodd then calmed the four-year-old down and told him that he wouldn't kill him. Eventually the child fell back to sleep. But in the early morning, Dodd strangled the sleeping boy, who struggled as hard as he could against the attack. After cruelly reviving the child, Dodd strangled Lee with a rope, and hung him in his crowded little closet so he could take pictures, shoving aside hangers and jackets to make room. Those who saw the Polaroids of Lee Iseli's sufferings and debasement will never forget the depth of Dodd's cruel and cold-blooded depravity.


Dodd hid Lee's body here (POLICE)
Dodd hid Lee's body here (POLICE)

Dodd then hid Lee's little body in the closet, behind some blankets and pillows, in case his landlady came in. It was time to go to work, and Dodd didn't want to be late.

After he was in custody, Dodd told investigator David Trimble that he wasn't sure whether he should kill Lee. He had considered dropping the boy off at the playground where he had found him, but then decided it would be too risky — either Lee would be able to identify him later, or someone else might see him.

When Dodd returned home, he poured more into his obsessive diary. He would now have to get some bags to hide Lee. "Then," he wrote, "I'll figure out a place to dump the 'garbage.'" He drove to a dock near the Pac Paper plant, and discarded Lee in the brush near Vancouver Lake, in plain sight, without the slightest bit of remorse.

He burned the child's clothing in a barrel in his backyard, except for Lee's little Ghostbusters underwear, which he stashed away in his briefcase under the bed.

A terrible discovery

It had been a few days since Lee was missing. Robert Iseli hoped that an adult who was lonely and wanted the company of a little boy had abducted Lee. "There are a lot of people out there who are lonely," he said in a public statement. "Maybe someone who never had a child or who never got to dress up on Halloween or never got presents at Christmas...If it's someone like that, he could just drop him off at a store or street corner."

On the morning of November 1, 1989, a pheasant hunter discovered Lee at Vancouver Lake. The investigators were shocked and dismayed to see the little boy dumped alongside some garbage, so ruthlessly discarded. One sheriff later said, "What could a four-year-old do to make someone kill him?"

Dr. Ronald Turco prepared a psychological profile of the killer — he would be 25 to 35 years old, and "kicked out of the military if he served." He would be a loner, and probably kept photos of his victims, a diary of his offenses, including clipped articles, and child pornography. The killer probably chose boys because he saw girls as "defective." Although this profile accurately described Dodd, it wasn't enough to conjure up a definitive suspect. Composite sketches were released, and hundreds of calls came in from people who thought they had seen Lee with someone, but there were no solid leads. Investigators attended at Lee's funeral, hoping to spot the killer, but Dodd stayed away. He sat in his room, alone with the diary, and built a "torture rack" out of boards and ropes, intended for his next victim.

He decided his best chance now to find a child would be at the movies. He checked the listings for family features. After a few attempts, there was success — but this time Dodd would be the "capture."

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