LAKEPORT, Calif. – On Wednesday the trial began for a Lakeport man who allegedly stabbed to death his elderly neighbor in November 2007 because he believed – wrongly – that the man had just gotten out of prison for child molestation.
Ivan Garcia Oliver, 34, is charged with the murder of 67-year-old Michael Dodele on Nov. 20, 2007, at Western Hills Mobile Home Park on Lakeshore Boulevard outside the Lakeport city limits.
The charges against Oliver include murder, burglary, elder abuse and several special allegations relating to committing a crime against an elder, causing great bodily injury, personally using a deadly weapon and using information from the Megan’s Law sex offender registration Web site to commit a felony. Oliver has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Oliver is alleged to have confronted Dodele a few days after he and the park’s manager, Lacey Kou, found Dodele listed on the Megan’s Law Web site.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff explained to the jury that Dodele’s entry on the Web site, which was worded similarly to the legal statute, can be confusing; the conviction was for a charge that of “oral copulation on a child under 14 or by force.”
He said Oliver took that to mean Dodele was a child molester; however, Dodele had committed the crime by force on an adult female.
Hinchcliff presented evidence of Oliver telling a witness that sex offenders needed to be “done away with” and taking a printout of the Megan’s Law sex offender registration that showed Dodele around to his neighbors, warning them he was a child molester.
In the days before Dodele’s killing, Oliver would confront another man at the mobile home park about being a child molester – that man wasn’t, either – and in the hours before Dodele was killed, Oliver also allegedly attacked a young man because of his sexuality.
Oliver – who has a previous conviction for a stabbing in Southern California – allegedly stabbed Dodele 60 times in the trailer where Dodele had been living a short time after being released from Atascadero State Prison.
Defense attorney Stephen Carter argued that Oliver and Dodele had been in a fight, that Oliver came out on top and was wrongly charged with murder. Carter suggested that Oliver was acting out of concern for his young son.
Hinchcliff told the jury during opening arguments on Wednesday that Dodele had been convicted in the late 1970s of three counts of rape and counts of attempted rape of adult women. In 1987, he was convicted of one count of rape and forced oral copulation, and spent 20 years in state prison.
He suggested that Oliver had cut himself while stabbing Dodele and tried later to claim those cuts as defensive wounds, despite never mentioning them in four interviews with sheriff’s detectives. Oliver tried to clean up his own blood from inside the trailer, and took a blanket belonging to Dodele and a bottle of bleach from the home.
It was Oliver’s girlfriend, who had a 4-year-old son with Oliver and was living with him at the mobile home park, who called 911 after Oliver came home, acting bizarrely and bleeding, Hinchcliff said.
Detectives found Oliver in possession of Dodele’s cell phone, and when they went to Oliver’s home, found the screen over a bathroom window pushed out and two knives out in the yard, according to Hinchcliff.
He said jurors also would hear tapes played of interviews with Oliver, who told investigators he went to Dodele’s home “with murder on his mind.”
During his brief opening arguments, Carter said Oliver was in a “great state of anxiety,” and was under the impression that Dodele was trying to hurt his child.
Carter said Oliver went to talk to Dodele and Dodele pulled a knife. A fight ensued and Oliver was charged with murder.
“Please withhold judgment until the end, as I’m sure you can,” Carter said.
Witnesses recount events leading to Dodele’s death
The witnesses presented to the jury on Wednesday explained how Dodele came to Lake County after being released from prison, having had the help of his sister and son in getting set up in a new home.
Several neighbors who had witnessed Oliver allegedly going in and out of Dodele’s trailer on the morning of his death also were presented.
One of the witnesses on Wednesday was Monica Bojorquez, who in November 2007 was living as a male and going by the name, Israel, but who has since transitioned to a transgender female.
She said that she was living with her mother and aunt at the trailer next door to Dodele. Bojorquez said she didn’t know either Dodele or Oliver well.
A few days before Dodele’s death, she said Oliver came to her home to tell her family that Dodele was a child molester.
Then, a few hours before Dodele was stabbed to death, Oliver asked Bojorquez’s mother, Silvia, to send her over to see him. When Bojorquez went into Oliver’s home, Oliver locked the door, took off his shirt and began punching and kicking Bojorquez. Oliver’s girlfriend helped Bojorquez get out of the trailer.
Bojorquez said she did not remember telling an investigator that Oliver had used anti-gay epithets during the attack.
She said she saw Oliver later that morning as he was going in and out of Dodele’s trailer, as did her aunt and mother, who also testified on Wednesday.
Brenda Bojorquez, Monica Bojorquez’s aunt, confronted Oliver at his home about his attack on her niece. A short time later, Oliver came to their home and told them he was going to burn down their trailer.
Another witness, Henry Smith, said Oliver – who he didn’t know – confronted him a few days before Dodele’s death, asking if Smith was a child molester. Smith said Oliver was acting crazy and seemed like he was on drugs, with Carter moving to have the drug comment stricken. Judge Arthur Mann agreed.
Smith said Oliver acted nervous and violent, like he wanted to fight, and Smith was trying to get him to calm down. “If I was 25 years younger, I wouldn’t give a damn, I would have knocked him on his butt,” said Smith.
Lacey Kou, the mobile home park’s manager, said she worked at a preschool where Oliver’s son attended. She had gotten to know Oliver, and suggested him as a tenant for a space next door to hers.
Kou estimated that two to three days before Dodele’s death Oliver reported to her that he had seen a car park near the park’s grassy area where children were playing; the car suddenly sped off when he tried to approach it.
“He was concerned about the possibility of anyone coming to the park and taking a child or harming a child because there were so many children,” she said.
She mentioned the Megan’s Law Web site to Oliver, and they looked it up at her home. They found there were many registered sex offenders living along Lakeshore Boulevard in Lakeport, but one name popped out – that of Dodele.
Kou was surprised by the find, as was Oliver, who she additionally described as being “disturbed” by the information. “That made him feel unsafe.”
She contacted the park owner, and she also printed out Dodele’s Web site entry for Oliver. Hinchcliff presented that same printout in court, asking if Kou had read the Web site disclaimer warning about the potential for mistaken identities, which she acknowledged she had.
The park’s owners set up a meeting to speak with Dodele; that meeting was scheduled for the same day that he died, Kou said.
Kou and Oliver had decided to talk to people in the park, but she decided to hold off until the park’s owners made a decision. She said she wasn’t aware that Oliver was going around the park telling people Dodele was a child molester.
Carter questioned Kou about Dodele initially putting in a rental application under the name Michael Salta. She said Dodele never showed her an identification card, claiming he recently had lost it, and that he had lived in Southern California and his home burned. His sister confirmed the story to the park’s owners.
She said Oliver never told her that Dodele tried to touch, or had touched, his son.
He also hadn’t made that statement to Lena Wilson, Kou’s mother, who was the day’s last witness.
She said Oliver told her that he didn’t believe sex offenders could be rehabilitated, and he wanted Dodele gone. She recalled telling an investigator that Oliver wanted sex offenders “need to be done away with.”
Wilson said Oliver became increasingly agitated in the days after he looked at the Megan’s Law Web site. She said she called the sheriff’s office to tell them about the situation.
In the meantime, she said Oliver was trying to round up a posse at the park in response to Dodele. “He was on a rampage,” she said, leading her to call the sheriff’s office again.
“He was telling the other tenants there, ‘We’ve got to get this guy out of here,” and other tenants were going to Kou asking for something to be done, Wilson said.
Testimony will resume at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Email Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com .