(Content Warning: Child sexual abuse and domestic and sexual violence)
Mindy Dodd is a survivor of child sexual abuse from Hendersonville, TN who has served 20 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 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.”
Groomed at an early age by Henry Dodd, Mindy married him 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.
Mindy explained to the Board of Parole that “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, 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, her sentence amounts to punishment for not ensuring–even to her own detriment–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.
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 note 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
Mindy in the Media
April 15, 2021, WKRN News 2, “Child Rape Survivor Awaits Governor’s Parole Decision for Murder of Stepfather-Husband”
March 10, 2021, The Murfreesboro Holler