Jeff “Mac” McEllrath has never regretted his decision to help send Westley Allan Dodd to the gallows.
Twenty-five years ago on Labor Day, Dodd stabbed to death two brothers, William, 10, and Cole Neer, 11, in David Douglas Park in Vancouver. Later, the killer abducted 4-year-old Lee Iseli in Portland, murdered him and left his body near Vancouver Lake.
The murders haunted the community and gripped the nation. Memories from the grisly cases linger. McEllrath, a juror in Dodd’s trial, remembers Dodd’s detailed diary, the gruesome photos the child killer snapped of his victims, and the plans Dodd outlined for future targets.
“Like it was yesterday,” McEllrath said.
Without trying, McEllrath can conjure “the pure evil” in the killer’s eyes, the lack of remorse Dodd displayed during the trial and Jan. 5, 1993, the day the trap door opened and the 31-year-old Vancouver man was executed by hanging. It was the state’s first execution since 1963. Since then, four other men have followed Dodd to Washington’s death chamber.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty, thrusting Washington into a position to reconsider how it punishes those responsible for the most unthinkable crimes. Inslee’s move comes at a time when the nation is experiencing the lowest public support for capital punishment in 40 years. But lawmakers on both sides of the death penalty issue are bracing for an emotional fight in Olympia this legislative session.