LAKEPORT -- Michael Dodele served nearly 20 years in prison for the sexual assault of a Santa Rosa woman before he won his freedom two months ago and quietly moved to a mobile home park on the shores of Clear Lake to begin a new life.
Only 35 days later, Dodele was stabbed to death, allegedly by a neighbor who believed the 68-year-old convicted rapist was a child molester because of a confusing posting on an official Web registry for state sex offenders.
Dodele's killing could be the first to result from the state's three-year-old Megan's Law online listing of registered sex offenders.
Dodele's accused killer, a 29-year-old neighbor named Ivan Garcia Oliver, was quoted Monday in the Los Angeles Times as saying he acted to protect a son who had been molested by another person in the past.
The jailhouse interview came last week and followed the Nov. 20 slaying. Oliver pleaded not guilty to murder charges Nov. 30 in Lake County Superior Court.
In addition, a Napa psychologist who testified on Dodele's behalf in earlier court proceedings said Monday she had been told the same by Oliver's wife.
"She told me they believed he (Dodele) had been convicted of having sex with a minor," psychologist Charlotte Steen said.
Steen blamed a state Justice Department Web site for confusing Dodele's criminal record, and creating the possibility that it may have led to his death. Now removed, the listing described Dodele's offenses as "rape by force" and "oral copulation with a person under 14 or by force." State criminal codes blend the two, but in fact Dodele's crimes were against adult women and not children.
To Steen, that's a major distinction.
"Sexual offenders in general are scorned, but especially those who target children," Steen said.
Dodele had received extensive treatment at a state hospital for his behavior. Steen said she believed the treatment, together with his age, meant he would not rape again.
"Mr. Dodele served his time, and he was ready to get on with his life," Steen said.
Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins confirmed that state records show Dodele had never been convicted of having sex with minors. Hopkins declined, however, to speculate on what role if any the confusing state listing might have played in his death.
"We're going to try this case in a courtroom, and not in the media," Hopkins said.
Bruce Laning, Oliver's court-appointed attorney, said Monday he was aghast that his client had granted a jailhouse interview with a newspaper without his knowledge, and had made potentially incriminating statements.
"In my 30 years of law, I've never heard of such a thing," said Laning, a contract public defender for Lake County. Laning declined Monday to discuss specifics of the pending murder case, or Oliver's own criminal background.
Oliver did not admit to the crime, according to the Los Angeles Times article, but said he took the action to protect a son.
"Society may see the action I took as unacceptable in the eyes of 'normal' people.
"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," Oliver told the Times. "It's no different."