Artwork by Sarah Imran

Mindy’s Story
Mindy Dodd is a survivor of child sexual abuse from Hendersonville, TN who has served 19 years of a life sentence in prison for the death of Henry Dodd, her stepfather and husband who started sexually abusing her when she was six years old.

At the time of Henry Dodd’s death, Mindy had been abused by him for most of her life. Henry Dodd was killed by his nephew James Smallwood who was also a victim of his abuse. Mindy was prosecuted for conspiracy and first degree murder alongside James and sentenced to life in prison, even though she was not present when he was killed and despite the years of abuse she experienced.

On January 30, 2020, the Tennessee Parole Board voted unanimously to recommend that her sentence be commuted to immediate parole eligibility and their recommendation is currently before Governor Bill Lee.

Mindy should not spend one more day in prison for surviving domestic and sexual violence. Governor Lee has the constitutional authority to not only commute her sentence to immediate parole eligibility but to go further and commute her sentence to time served, ordering her immediate release.

Mindy Dodd has high blood pressure and other pre-existing health conditions that put her at increased risk due to COVID-19. The coronavirus remains a concern for all Tennesseans, but especially those in jails, prisons, and detention centers, including the Women’s Therapeutic Rehabilitation Center (WTRC) where Mindy is currently incarcerated and where cases are currently increasing. Incarcerated people are at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19, including survivors of domestic and sexual violence who often live with medical conditions exacerbated by and immune systems weakened by trauma. 

Mindy Dodd survived and continues to be punished for it. Like a majority of incarcerated women, Mindy is a survivor of domestic and sexual violence. When Mindy was six years old, her mother married Henry Dodd. An abusive husband, Henry Dodd was also an abusive parent who began to sexually abuse Mindy. He told her that the abuse was something “all little girls did with their daddies.” When she became old enough to say no, Henry Dodd threatened her life as well as the lives of her family members. Mindy cried herself to sleep at night and prayed to God to make it stop. For years, she endured her stepfather’s sexual abuse and coercive and controlling behavior. At 18 years old she became pregnant by him and had a daughter. Her child’s paternity remained hidden from the rest of her family until Henry Dodd told her then five-year-old daughter that “papa wasn’t her papa anymore, he was her daddy.”

Mindy was coerced into marrying her stepfather after she became pregnant a second time. Henry Dodd exerted power and control over Mindy through emotional abuse, physical violence and threats of violence. He also forced her to engage in sexual activities with others, including his own nephew James Smallwood who he had also sexually abused as a child. Henry Dodd threatened to kill Mindy if she did not comply with his sexual fantasies.

Contrary to what prosecutors argued, Mindy did not plan the death of Henry Dodd. As she explained to the Board of Parole: “when James Smallwood made the threats to carry out his plan to kill Henry Dodd, I did not believe he was serious. Even on the day in question when James Smallwood retrieved the gun used to kill Henry Dodd, I still didn’t believe it would happen. I can honestly say that I should have told someone of authority what James was planning to do, instead I stood by and let a man’s life be taken.”

While Mindy takes responsibility for not reporting James’s threats to kill Henry Dodd, it is not uncommon for child abuse survivors like Mindy and James to learn at a young age to distrust the authorities and their ability to help them. This is especially true when they have been failed and left unprotected for so long by those same people and institutions.

Additionally, women survivors are too often held overly responsible for the actions of another, most often their abusers. While Mindy has not been held criminally responsible for the direct actions of her abuser, she has been punished for not ensuring his safety and wellbeing. As her stepfather, Henry Dodd should have been the one to help ensure hers.

Mindy survived the abuse and punishment of Henry Dodd. Governor Lee can help make sure she survives the abuse and punishment of incarceration by commuting her sentence to time served and ordering her immediate release.

Take Action

Contact Governor Bill Lee:

Call the Governor’s Office and demand clemency and her immediate release: 615-741-2001.

Tweet at @GovBillLee

Sign & share the online petition: bit.ly/freemindypetition

Send Mindy a note of support: write a noteWrite Mindy-Instagram to Mindy using this form and we will make sure to pass it along to her or you can mail your own note to the address below.

Mindy Dodd 339164
PO Box 1150
Henning, TN 38041