DUCHESNE — An elderly Duchesne man has been ordered to serve at least 15 years in prison for the 2011 murder of his wife.
Charles Edward Dodd, 78, pleaded guilty but mentally ill Monday in 8th District Court to one count of murder, a first-degree felony. Dodd admitted that he stabbed his 10th wife, Mary W. Ratliffe, three times in the heart on Aug. 13, 2011.
"She was awake when it happened. I got a copy of the autopsy report," said Ratliffe's daughter, Connie Pearson. "I really know too much about this."
After Dodd killed Ratliffe, he took a large amount of prescription drugs and drank a tumbler of vodka before stabbing himself in the chest and losing consciousness, Duchesne County sheriff's detectives said in court records.
Investigators learned of Ratliffe's death and Dodd's suicide attempt after an acquaintance notified them that Dodd had left two envelopes at her office containing $7,000 in cash and two notes indicating that he intended to kill his wife and himself.
"In the note he wrote he said he didn't want Mary taken from him," Pearson said, describing Dodd as "anxious and worried about every little thing" in the months before the murder.
A retired police officer with 30 years experience, Pearson said the killing happened two weeks before her mother and Dodd planned to move to Houston, Texas, where she lives.
"I had the nicest little place set up for them," Pearson said.
Dodd and Ratliffe began their relationship as business partners, owning and operating Well's Club in Duchesne. They were a couple for 20 years and had been married for 10.
Both had health problems, according to Pearson. He suffered from a condition that left his lips blue from a lack of oxygen. She had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Despite her medical condition, Pearson said her mother was healthy and active. She dismissed Dodd's claims to detectives that her mother was an invalid who wanted to die.
"This wasn't a mercy killing. This was murder," said Pearson, who is critical of the way the case was handled by the Duchesne County Attorney's Office. Her primary complaints center on the length of time it took to reach a resolution in the case and a lack of communication from prosecutors.
"I've spent 2 ½ years wondering what's next," Pearson said, noting that she once spent more than $1,000 to travel from Texas to Utah for a court hearing that never happened.
"I never asked for any (financial) help. I just asked to be notified about what was happening in the case," she said. "It seemed to me like they've been avoiding me."
The most recent example, Pearson said, was the fact that Dodd wasn't due to appear in court again until April 14. When Pearson called the prosecutor's office Friday to confirm that date, she was told the hearing had been rescheduled for Monday and that Dodd would plead guilty and be sentenced.
"I got in my car and started driving because it takes me three days to get from Houston to Duchesne," Pearson said.
The Deseret News tried Wednesday to reach Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote, seeking his response to Pearson's complaints. Foote did not return two phone messages or a text message.
Questions about Dodd's competency to stand trial led to several delays in the case. Dodd underwent three separate psychological examinations and was committed to the Utah State Hospital for at least a year.
In one interview with a court-appointed psychologist following his arrest, Dodd said he wanted to "plead guilty to the charge straight up, be sent to the (state prison) and have them put a bullet in his head," defense attorney Bill Morrison said during a 2012 court hearing.
As a result of that statement, and what Morrison called Dodd's "resistance" in providing answers to the psychologist's questions, the examiner found Dodd incompetent to stand trial. That contradicted the findings of the first competency evaluation performed on Dodd, which led a judge to order a third exam that finally settled the issue.
Pearson said she wishes Dodd had been eligible for the death penalty. Given his age though — and the 15-to-life sentence he received — she said she's satisfied with the knowledge that he will most likely die behind bars.
"I'm still going through the various levels of grief," Pearson said. "Right now, I can't forgive him. (My mother) was an inspiration to me."
Dodd will begin serving his sentence at the state hospital. Once his "medicines are figured out" he will be moved to the state prison, according to court records.
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