Convicted rapist Michael A. Dodele had been free just 35 days when sheriff’s deputies found him dead last month in his aging, tan mobile home, his chest and left side punctured with stab wounds.
Officers quickly arrested Dodele’s neighbor, 29-year-old construction worker Ivan Garcia Oliver, who made “incriminating comments, essentially admitting to his attacking Dodele,” the Lake County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Prosecutors said they have investigated the possibility that the slaying of Dodele, 67, stemmed from his having been listed on the state’s Megan’s Law database of sex offenders. If so, his death may be the first in the state to result from such a listing, experts said.
Oliver pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, burglary and elder abuse when he was arraigned Nov. 30.
In a jailhouse interview Wednesday night, Oliver said he has a son who was molested in the past, and he took action to protect the child.
“Society may see the action I took as unacceptable in the eyes of ‘normal’ people,” Oliver said. “I felt that by not taking evasive action as a father in the right direction, I might as well have taken my child to some swamp filled with alligators and had them tear him to pieces. It’s no different.”
Although Oliver did not say he killed Dodele, he said that “any father in my position, with moral, home, family values, wouldn’t have done any different. At the end of the day, what are we as parents? Protectors, caregivers, nurturers.”
In fact, Dodele was not a child molester. But a listing on the Megan’s Law website could have left Oliver with the impression that he had abused children because of the way it was written.
Although Dodele’s listing has been taken down since his death, a spokesman for the state attorney general said the site described the man’s offenses as “rape by force” and “oral copulation with a person under 14 or by force.”
“He was convicted of other bad things, but nothing involving a minor,” said Richard F. Hinchcliff, chief deputy district attorney for Lake County. But “it would be easy to understand why someone might think so looking at the website.”
Dodele’s crimes involved sexual assaults on adult women, records show.
A neighbor at the Western Hills Resort & Trailer Park, a tattered collection of mobile homes and bungalows, said that two days before the killing, Oliver “told every house” in the park that he’d found Dodele listed on the website of convicted sexual offenders and was uncomfortable living near him.
“He looked it up on the computer . . . ,” the neighbor said. “He said [Dodele] can’t be around here.”
The park resident requested anonymity because of a fear of reprisal, but reported Oliver’s visit and statements to sheriff’s deputies after the slaying. “A lot of people told them” about Oliver’s claims, the person said.
Officials in Lake County -- a patchwork of wealth and poverty, vineyards and mobile home parks just north of Napa Valley -- would not offer a motive for the killing.
Hinchcliff acknowledged, however, that one possible motive investigated by the district attorney’s office was that Oliver knew Dodele was on the Megan’s Law list and did not want him as a neighbor.
According to court documents, Dodele committed his first offenses at age 15 and spent the last two decades either in prison or at Atascadero State Hospital receiving treatment.
His last attack was the 1987 knife-point rape of a 37-year-old woman on a Sonoma County beach.
Those were the charges that were listed on the Megan’s Law website.
“I think [Oliver and Dodele] are both victims of the Internet,” said Charlene Steen, a psychologist who examined Dodele on behalf of the defense in two 2007 trials about whether he should be recommitted to Atascadero.
Both ended in hung juries. Dodele was freed Oct. 16 and was hoping to start over in the crowded little mobile home park, where neighbors described him as open and friendly.
“The family is just sick,” Steen said. “They finally got him back. They all thought he had made such great progress, and then this happened. It’s pretty bad.”
At 10:14 a.m. Nov. 20, an anonymous woman called 911 to report that a man was bleeding from his hands and directed medical personnel to Dodele’s space at the mobile home park, according to a written statement from the Sheriff’s Department.
When deputies arrived, they found Dodele’s body.
The dead man’s “immediate neighbors and other residents” sent the deputies to Oliver’s home, the statement said, because “he had been seen recently leaving Dodele’s residence with what appeared to be blood on his hands and clothing.”
There was blood on a car in front of Oliver’s house and at the front door of the concrete-block duplex. Inside, deputies reportedly found Oliver with blood on his hands and clothing and “injuries to his hands, consistent with having been in a physical altercation.”
Authorities will not divulge exactly what Oliver said when he was arrested.
Steen wrote a letter to a local paper decrying Dodele’s death “simply because he was a sex offender whose name and picture were on the registry.”
Shortly after the letter was published, Steen said, a woman describing herself as Oliver’s wife called to complain.
“She said, ‘We have a child who was molested, and my husband is very upset to have a child molester living nearby’,” Steen recounted, noting the irony that Dodele’s crimes all involved adult women.
Steen said she had not talked to police about the phone call. Oliver said that the woman with whom he lived in the trailer park was his girlfriend, and the two were not married.
Attempts to reach the woman failed. One neighbor said she had moved away after the slaying.
Oliver is being held without bail, a police statement said, because he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in San Diego and was on parole when Dodele was killed.
Speaking from behind a thick glass divider in the visiting area of the Lake County Correctional Facility, Oliver said his son had been molested, but he declined to give the details of his son’s assault or to give the child’s name.
Although he spoke of “the action I took,” he would not describe what happened in the aging mobile home the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving.
Oliver would not comment on whether Dodele had ever approached his son.
But Oliver said he saw the older man looking at the boy.
“It was more than watching,” Oliver said. “You could see his eyes. He was fantasizing, plotting. Later on down the line, who knows how many other children he could have hurt.”
Research indicates that, in general, the older rapists get, the lower their risk of re-offending, said L.C. Miccio-Fonseca, chairwoman of the California Coalition on Sex Offenders, a group of treatment providers, probation and parole officers.
In addition, she said, sex offenders who target grown women over the course of many years are unlikely to victimize children.
But when told that Dodele’s victims were women and not children, Oliver seemed unfazed. “There is no curing the people that do it,” he said.
Oliver’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Asked about what he thinks will happen to him, he said, “It’s hard to tell at this point. There’s no doubt I’m looking at a numerous amount of years. I’m not a lawyer. We haven’t gone over the evidence.”
But he also said that he “would never change who I am or what I do because of what society thinks is right or not right. I have always been who I am and always will be.”