ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
Our next story reads like a script from a TV police drama. A young father is accused of killing an elderly neighbor. The neighbor had a criminal history. He was a sex offender. Here's the twist. A district attorney suspects that California's Megan's Law sex offender data base may have had something to do with the crime.
NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.
RICHARD GONZALES: The murder happened here in the rundown trailer park in Lakeport, California. The parking lot doubles as a playground for more than a dozen children. Lacey Kuh(ph) manages this park just north of Napa Valley. She recalls that just about a month ago, one resident, a 29-year-old construction worker, Ivan Garcia Oliver, began complaining about the lack of security for all the young kids playing here.
Ms. LACEY KUH (Park Manager): And it made him think about, well, anybody could come in here and hurt a child or take a child, and no one would ever know it. It could just happen like that. And he was just concerned for the safety of his child as well as the other children around. And I said, yeah, you're right.
GONZALES: Lacey, who's also a preschool teacher, says she told Oliver that they could check the Internet to see whether there were any sex offenders living nearby. Lo and behold, up pops the name of Michael Dodele, 67-year-old ex-con who had recently moved into the trailer park. Kuh claims that information agitated Oliver.
Ms. KUH: He kept saying, something has to be done. Something has to be done. And this guy can't live here. And I was, like, okay, okay, you know?
GONZALES: A few days later, just before Thanksgiving, Michael Dodele was found in his trailer home stabbed to death. Minutes later, police discovered Ivan Garcia Oliver nearby with what appeared to be blood on his hands. According to the police statement, he was arrested after making several self-incriminating comments. However, at his arraignment, Oliver pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder. But then Oliver did an extraordinary thing, he granted the Los Angeles Times a jailhouse interview. According to local reports, he did this without the knowledge of his attorney.
In the L.A. Times interview, he did not say he killed Dodele. But he did say that his son had been molested in the past. And he added, quote, "any father in my position with moral, home, family values, wouldn't have done any different," end quote. But if Oliver believed Dodele was convicted child molester, he was wrong. The chief deputy district attorney for Lake County, Richard Hinchcliff, says Dodele was not.
Mr. RICHARD HINCHCLIFF (Chief Deputy District Attorney, Lake County): We obtained all his prior records, the law enforcement investigation reports and we have no reason to believe and we have no information that he was ever arrested for, charged with or convicted of any crime involving child molestation or child sexual assault.
GONZALES: Dodele was, in fact, a convicted rapist who spent the past 20 years in prison or at a state hospital for sex offenders. A Megan's Law listing described Dodele's offences as rape by force and oral copulation with a person under 14 or by force. Deputy District Attorney Hinchcliff says the word or is important because Dodele's crime was committed against a 37-year-old woman.
Mr. HINCHCLIFF: But somebody looking at that Web site and seeing the person under the age of 14 are not paying attention to the words, to the word or, I can see why they would make a mistake and assume that the person was a child molester when in fact they weren't.
Dr. CHARLENE STEEN (Psychologist): It's insane.
GONZALES: Psychologist Charlene Steen evaluated Michael Dodele and recommended to state authorities that he was unlikely to reoffend and was ready for release. She opposes the Internet listings of sex offenders.
Dr. STEEN: To me, everybody was a victim of the Internet. Not just Mr. Dodele, but the whole family and the man who committed the murder. These Internet listings are very dangerous for the people. They don't, you know, prevent crime. All they do is promote vigilantism.
GONZALES: But supporters of the Megan's Law Web site say the point isn't to incite vigilantism. Suzanne Brown-McBride is a chair of the California Sex Offender Management Board.
Ms. SUZANNE BROWN-MCBRIDE (Chairwoman, California Sex Offender Management Board): The Megan's Law isn't meant to stand completely on its own. It's meant to be a tool, sort of, in a context of things that help inform the community about the risk of potential offenders. It certainly isn't the full source of information.
GONZALES: It's too soon to say whether Dodele's murder will have any impact on the way information about sex offenders is shared on California's Megan's Law website. A spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Brown says his office is watching the case. In the meantime, Ivan Garcia Oliver is scheduled to appear in court for the murder charge in early January. He is currently being held without bail because he has a prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.
Richard Gonzales, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.