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Hi, friends. I'm excited to share that we are hard at work on a new season of True or Crime. To hold you over, enjoy this early season two episode, A taste of what's to come. If you want an ad-free listening experience, subscribe to Tenderfoot+ at tenderfootplus. Com or on Apple Podcasts. Please be aware that today's episode references sexual assault and domestic violence. Please take care while listening. For me, today's episode started with a text. A text that I truthfully almost missed entirely. You know how text threads get between the photos, the screenshots, the links, the stories. I can't be the only one with an anxiety-producing quantity of unread messages. Honestly, the fact that I not only saw the text, a link to a Twitter thread, but decided to click it and read it, it was all a miracle. But once I read the tweet, my interest piqued. The thread, written by investigative reporter, Melissa Jeltson, discussed her recently published article. I clicked through and read the piece. The topic that had drawn me in was the TV show, Snap. Maybe you've seen it? You've more than likely seen something like it. When I think of the origins of true crime TV, I think of shows like Snap.


To me, nothing demonstrates that better than the intro sequence. Suspenseful music plays as various fast paced images flash across the screen. Old looking photographs, shadowy figures, a hand clutching pearls. Words appear alongside the photos. Lies, deceit, greed, murder, snapped. Their niche is women who kill, women who, Yep, you guessed it, snapped. It's a massively successful show with 537 episodes and counting. But, Melissa Jeltin's article for The Cut narrows in on a few previously featured stories. One in particular, jumped out at me. It was the story of a gruesome murder. As the show put it, a 32-year-old mother of two, Mindy Dodd, organized the murder of her husband, Henry. Then, when the job was done, she'd feigned ignorance, calling 911 and reporting him missing. It wouldn't be long until detectives uncovered the truth. Mindy, fed up with her husband's bad behavior and wanting Henry out of the way, had masterminded a plan to have him killed. Refusing a plea deal, she went to trial, where a jury unanimously convicted her of her crimes. She was sentenced to life in prison. It was also unimaginably horrifying. A perfect fit for the show. Mindy Dodd snapped. Except the article I was reading wasn't just some flat retelling of a snapped episode.


In fact, it was just the opposite. In bold letters at the top of the piece is its title. She didn't just snap. According to Jelsen, Mindy knew about the snapped episode. When a company named Jupiter Entertainment reached out to her saying they were doing a TV show on her story, she was actually excited. At that time, she was unaware that the company represented Snap specifically. But regardless, Mindy told Jelsen that she was eager to tell her side of the story. She'd even asked her daughter to participate. According to The Cut, when the episode aired, Mindy found out from a guard who'd seen it on TV the night before. The show had not been the well-rounded story that Mindy had hoped for. It was snapped, after all. They aren't exactly known for their generous portrayals of perpetrators. But what if Jelsen's telling was right? What if Mindy didn't just snap? I thought, what would the real story have sounded like? The article must have been reading my mind. Jelsen ends the piece with a question she'd asked Mindy directly. What would a TV docus drama on her life have included if she had been in charge of it.


It would have started in Mindy's childhood, the piece said. It would have described her feelings of horror and defeat, of guilt. It would have been nuanced, asked critical questions. Wasn't that a story worth telling? The article asked in its final line. I thought so. If that was the story Mindy wanted to tell, I wanted to help her tell it. But I'm no investigative reporter and I didn't think I could tell this story without Mindy. Could I even get a hold of her? And even if I could, would she even be interested in talking to me?


This is Mindy Dodd. I was just touching base with you, hon. You can give me a call at your convenience. Talk to you later. Bye-bye.


Turns out she was. This is the story of Mindy Dodd. I'm Silesia Stanton, and you're listening to True a Crime. When I first heard Mindy speak, it was her honey-sweet Southern accent that stood out most. Her voice is a testament to her roots. Born in Henderson, Ville, Tennessee, Mindy's earliest years appear honestly really normal, but of course, not without their fair share of life stuff. Mindy's parents divorced when she was small. Today, she has no memories of her biological father. After the divorce, her mom, Betty, sprung into action, finding work at a restaurant in Nashville to provide for her family. It was there that Betty met the man that Mindy would come to know as her father, Sherman Henry Dodd. But pretty much everyone just called him Henry. Betty was smitten and Henry was a smooth talker. Betty later told Snaff in an interview that Henry was the guy who could make you believe he was the President of the United States. Not long after the two married, they had another child, a son. Mindy, now big sister, took her new role seriously. She loved her little brother and felt instantly protective over him. The family of four seemed to blend together seamlessly.


While Mindy might not have been Henry's biological daughter, Betty told Snap that he was a loving and devoted stepfather. I asked Mindy what someone who knew Henry at the time would have thought of him.


They would have thought he was the sweetest thing in the world because he portrayed that. He portrayed the happy family. Everything was great.


But everything wasn't great. There was the fighting behind closed doors, Mindy told me. He argued constantly with her mom, Betty. But it was even more than that. Betty started sensing that something was wrong with her daughter. She'd asked Henry about it, but he always seemed to respond with these terrifying fits of anger, denying that there were any problems at all. But Betty, it turns out, had been right. Something was wrong. Not long after Henry entered the picture, he'd begun sexually assaulting Mindy. She'd been only eight years old. According to the Love and Justice Project, he'd kept her quiet with assurances that all little girls did things like that with their daddies. When that no longer worked, the threats started. If she cared about her life, if she cared about her family members lives, he told her she'd keep her mouth shut. Mindy told the Love and Justice Project that at the time, she felt hopeless that she spent many nights crying herself to sleep and begging God to make it stop.


I don't really remember a lot about my childhood that was happy. I just remember loving my little brother when he was a baby and being very overprotective of him. I had a few friends, but then I quit having my friends come over because of certain things. It was just traumatic trying to grow up and try to be a child and couldn't be a child because you've got this going on with you and you didn't know what to do. You couldn't tell nobody because you were scared. It was just horrible.


According to the cut, by the time Mindy was 14, Henry's assaults came every time he could get her alone. Then at 18, Mindy became pregnant. Her stepfather, the only dad she'd ever known, was now the biological father of her baby. Mindy didn't share the truth of the baby's fraternity with anyone. Instead, she just insisted that the father wasn't in the picture. In the summer of 1986, just after finishing high school, Mindy gave birth to a daughter she named Angel. She picked up a job working at Kroger. At home, her mom helped her with the baby. Years passed just like this and not much changed. The assaults continued and Mindy got pregnant again. Henry often struggled to find work and spent most of his days at home drinking and yelling and getting into arguments with Betty. Then during one of these arguments, he tells Betty that six-year-old angel is his baby, that he and Mindy were in love and that they wanted to get married.


He had told my mother that we loved each other. He brainwashed her thinking that we loved each other. He made it look like that's what we wanted.


What was going on from your side of things at that time?


I was frightened. I didn't know what to think. I was confused because now my child, I've got to look after my child. My mother believes that I'm truly in love with this man. But I didn't know until years later that he had threatened her if she didn't go along with it that he was going to kill her. I didn't dare tell no one because I had already grown up in fear.


What led you to the decision to go along with getting married to Henry? Is that something that you felt like you had any choice in it at all, or was it.


Just like- I felt no, because I had gotten pregnant with my second child, my son, and his mom wanted us to get married, and his mom really thought we loved each other, and it was all him pushing for it. But I married him because I was scared.


She married him because she was scared. Her truth was terrifyingly simple. With a child to care for and a lifetime's worth of trauma and abuse, marrying Henry seemed the safest option, so she did it. She married him and they moved out on their own. The following month, Mindy gave birth to her second child, this time a son. Mindy and Henry spent several years moving around, trying to find stable and reliable work. Then finally, the family of four ended up in a small conservative Tennessee town called Smyrna. According to reporting from the cut, despite the family's troubled history, in Smyrna the Dodds had no trouble blending in. Mindy got a job working nights at Walmart. According to the Tennesseean, Henry owned his own business, Mustang, Drywall and Painting. His company was doing well and things were looking up for the family financially. But the truth was behind closed doors, the abuse hadn't stopped. Even though Henry had divorced Mindy's mom, in an interview, Betty told Snap that he continued to sexually assault her as well. Horrifyingly, he'd even forced Mindy and Betty to engage in sexual acts together, threatening them with violence if they didn't comply.


According to the cut, he'd even tried to coerce Mindy's younger brother, his own son, into participating. Henry thankfully abandoned the plan after his son begged him not to. Mindy felt trapped in Henry's cycle of abuse. She told the Love and Justice Project that she was sure Henry would kill her if she didn't continue fulfilling his depraved sexual fantasies. For Mindy, it didn't feel like there was much choice at all.


He was always screwling me. You didn't tell nobody, did you? You didn't tell nobody. No, I haven't told anybody. You better not. It was very stressful.


Hearing the horrifying details of Mindy's day to day reality, I imagine how easy it is to judge her for staying. In some ways, it might be easier to empathize with the younger version of Mindy, a vulnerable kid with no control over her situation. But now, Mindy was an adult. She had a job, and presumably, she could have found family or friends willing to help her. But the truth is that Mindy's experience, it follows this well worn pattern that so many domestic violence victims experience: abuse, apology, forgiveness. It's a cycle so common it even has a name. Battered-person syndrome, previously known as battered women syndrome, and NPS is a subcategory of PTSD. According to FIND Law, this cycle of abuse and reconciliation often leaves victims feeling responsible for what's happening. It all creates the perfect conditions for psychological paralysis, for learned helplessness, a state where victims are so mentally and emotionally defeated that they become convinced that any actions to stop the abuse would be futile. But then one day in 1999, Mindy was able to garner the courage to confront Henry with her true feelings about their marriage.


I told him he had been drinking and everything. This was right before everything happened that I didn't want to be with him. I had married him out of fear, and he started getting all wild and irate and started hollering at me. Then I told him, I said, I'm afraid that you're going to do what you did to me, to Angel or Kevin, which was my children. He told me how sick I was that I was the one that did that to him. I was the one that made him do that, and he blamed it all on me. Then I said, Well, I don't want to be with you no more. He got all mad. He says, All right, we'll separate. He said, But we're going to stay in the same bed. If I catch you with anybody, I'm going to kill you and kill him. I said, What do you mean? I said, Are you going to watch my every movie? He's like, Damn right I am. I was scared to death because he had done drug me out in the yard and with the gun. He told me he wanted my face to be the last face he's seen before he died.


And of course, that scared the heck out of me because I didn't know what he was going to do, and I was terrified. I imagine.


Mindy out in that yard, Henry towering over her, a gun shoved in her face. It was a terrifying image to think about how much worse it must have been to actually experience it. And yet something about this time was different. Henry dragged Mindy into the yard and threatened her as he'd done so many times before. But for the first time, there was a witness. Henry's 23 year old nephew, James Smallwood, had been around to hear it. He'd been living with the Dodds while he worked to get on this feat. He had a part time job at Hardies, and Henry employed him to help out with odd jobs for his company. But for James, living with the Dodds was challenging. According to court records, James and Henry had their own traumatic history. In fact, James was under 10 years old when his uncle assaulted him for the first time. And now that they lived together, it was the perfect opportunity for Henry to loop James into the household abuse. Nightly, he forced Mindy and James to have sex while he watched. The night that Henry dragged Mindy to the yard and threatened her with his gun, James was there.


James had checked on me that morning. He said, Are you okay? He said, I overheard him hollering at you last night and heard you all arguing and everything. He says, I don't think that's cool. He said, He don't hurt people that I love because he had been having James and I do things that I didn't want to do or he didn't want to do either.


Mindy told me that James alluded to harming Henry, that if he had access to a gun, maybe he could take care of it. But Mindy wasn't so sure about that.


I didn't believe him, but at the same time, I told him, don't because you'll get in trouble.


As it turned out, nothing came of James's threats, and eventually, he moved out. His absence was short-lived, though. Just a few months later, he was back.


In December of 1999, James needed a place to go because he and his mother had gotten into it or something, and I didn't want him coming back there, but he went and got him anyway.


According to court records, just a day after James returned, he'd commented to Mindy that he'd take care of Henry that day if he could get a hold of a gun. But still, Mindy said she just didn't buy it. No way he could be serious. It's why she'd say later she didn't tell anyone about what James had been planning. And when I think about it, it's not so hard to believe. Mindy's life to this point was filled with trauma. She'd become an expert at keeping it all inside, at hiding the bottom.


Line is I should have told someone a long time ago what was going on. I should have told someone what James had threatened, what Henry was threatening. I should have told someone, but I didn't.


Regret is this really tricky feeling. All bells on this sense that one shift, one alternate decision, one strong gust of wind even might have changed everything for the better. For me, it's this inherent, unfalsifiable ability that makes this feeling so uniquely tortuous. It just seems like no matter how long regret lives with us, we never know for sure whether that shift, that alternate decision, that strong gust of wind might have actually changed anything at all. And so when Mindy woke up on December 30th, 1999, maybe there just was no stopping what would happen next. That day, Mindy and James knew something that had Henry didn't, that his 38 caliber revolver, which normally remained tucked in a bedroom closet, was missing. According to court records, everyone in the house knew where Henry kept his gun. Everyone, including James, who on that day took the gun with him when he left the house for work. Mindy knew James had done this, though. She claimed to be under the impression that he'd intended to bring the revolver to a local pawn shop. After finishing a shift at Hardies Fast Food Chain at around 11:00 PM, James caught a ride home with Henry.


They made it to the driveway before things took a sharp turn. There they were, sitting in Henry's red Chevrolet pickup when the conversation soured. Henry had threatened to sexually assault James's son, his one-year-old son. This, for James, was the last straw. The Daily News Journal reported that James would say later, He did it to my mom and me. And with these threats against his son, that's three generations. James wouldn't, maybe couldn't, allow it. He pulled out the 38 caliber revolver, pointed it at Henry's right temple. How strange this moment must have been. Henry, who repeatedly used this same gun to terrorize and threaten his family had now somehow found himself on the other end of the barrel. But if Henry had started it, James would finish it. He did the one thing Henry had never done. He pulled the trigger. I can't imagine how this must have felt, and I certainly can't imagine what I'd do next. But I can tell you, based on witness statements, what James did. Maneuvering Henry over, he got in the driver's seat and drove back towards work. Pulling into the Smyrna shopping center, he decided to grab Henry's jacket, wallet, and keys.


Perhaps he'd hoped he could make it all seem like a robbery gone wrong. He tossed the items into the Hardies dumpster. He knew they emptied it daily, blocking the doors. He abandoned the pickup outside a Blockbuster video store. Then he called Mindy.


I was actually taken off guard when he called me that night to come pick him up. That was when I knew he had followed through with what he did.


How he said he was going to do it that day?


He had just said that he was going to do it, but he went like two or three days and hadn't done anything. I just didn't think nothing else about it. I thought it was just done and over with.


Then you were at work.


I was at work. I was on break when I got the call for me to come pick him up. Then when I got there, he told me that it was done. He did it.


Mindy told me that despite her fears in that moment, she'd held at hope that maybe James wasn't telling her the truth. But the next morning, when Henry still wasn't home, reality started sinking in.


When he wasn't home by seven o'clock that morning and no one had heard from him, when my brother called and asked me where he was, had I heard from him? That was when I realized that something must have happened.


Mindy called 911. She told them her husband was missing and that she hadn't seen him since the evening prior. You might hear that Mindy did this and passed judgment. When she called 911 that day, she knew exactly what had happened to Henry. She knew he was dead and she knew who'd killed him. So why lie?


I started freaking out and it freaked Tim out. Then I was like, I don't know if he still had the gun or not. I was afraid he was going to kill me too. So once again, I'm living in double fear.


Then what did you do next at that point? Why did you decide not to turn him in? Were you just.


Scared that? I was scared once again. I had lived in fear for all my whole entire life, so I was afraid. I was scared. I filed a missing persons report because I was afraid. I didn't know what to do. I was just in shock. I was in total shock, really.


She was scared, and it's so human, I think, tacked out of our fears. And yet in some cruel irony, it often seems to be the things we never feared that turn into our most horrifying moments. Maybe it's just this fundamental theme of humanity. Things will never go quite as expected. And Mendie was about to live out that lesson in real time. Because later that same day, just hours after Henry's body was found in the Smyrna Shopping Center's parking lot, she was called in for police questioning. At first, Mindy told me their questions seemed routine, but it didn't take long before they started digging deeper, asking questions about the abuse she'd experienced, the abuse Henry had put her through for years. The complicated web of events that had made Henry, Mindy's stepfather and her husband. But Mindy wasn't the only one forced to recall painful memories. James faced questioning as well. His interrogation had started similarly to Mindy's. According to Snap, at first he spoke highly of Henry, telling detectives about his hardworking uncle who'd taken him in when he needed a place to stay. But as they dug deeper, James started revealing more information. How Mindy and Henry's marriage had gone downhill.


How Henry's idea of spicing things up involved forcing James and Mindy to have sex. Sometimes Henry watched and sometimes he participated. But ultimately, what Henry wanted was what Henry got. His uncle, James had finally admitted, was outright abusive, towards him, towards Mindy. If they refused to do what Henry wanted, there'd be consequences. For James, who needed a place to stay, there really wasn't a choice at all. But then came the most shocking revelation, the confession. James told police he'd done it. He'd killed his uncle to stop the abuse to be free. But Mindy, he explained, had been the mastermind. With a confession from James, investigators narrowed in on Mindy. Her interrogation intensified. For Mindy, it felt like their questions were endless.


They went through the abuse. They went through two or three tapes of the abuse that I endured, the things that he had me do and this, this, and this. I kept asking to leave, and they wouldn't let me. Just a few more questions, just a few more questions.


Hours passed just like this. These questions about the specifics of what she'd endured over the years were painful to recall, but they kept going. The officers, it seemed, were hoping for another confession, but Mindy wasn't willing to admit that she played a role in Henry's murder, even when they started accusing her more directly.


They were very manipulative. They were saying things that I supposedly said that I don't recall saying. But at that time and point, the way they were screaming and beating on the desk and honkering at me, I didn't know what was going on. I had already been in a traumatic situation for all my life. Then now I'm being screamed at and accused of this and supposedly done and said this. So yeah, it was traumatic.


And then finally it was over. But instead of saying she was free to go, investigators began reading Mindy her rights. Less than 24 hours after James had shot Henry with his own 38 caliber revolver, Mindy and James faced murder charges. Mindy faced trial in a courthouse 20 minutes from Smyrna in Murfrees Row, Tennessee. It was September 25th, 2001, and the prosecution's case was about to get underway. Mindy, like James, faced a slew of charges, the worst of which? First-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. James's trial had been held first, and when all was said and done, he'd been sentenced to life in prison. But it was Mindy's trial that'd be the real show. It was the type of story the media loved, salacious and dramatic. Searching through old newspaper databases, I discovered tons of coverage from outlets all over the state. Everyone seemed interested in what would become of the 33-year-old wife and mother who'd masterminded a plot to kill her husband. To Mindy, the prosecution's case against her was pretty straightforward.


They labeled me as a very bad person.


While there was more to it than that, this idea that Mindy was unequivocally bad, it did seem to lay at the root of their argument. The nuances that led to Henry's murder didn't matter as much as black and white facts. As the Daily News Journal reported, prosecutor John Price opened with a bang. Mindy Dodd and James Smallwood hatched a plan, and that plan was to eliminate Sherman Dodd. It was James himself who served as the prosecution star witness. According to court records, James testified that when he came to stay with the Dodd again in December of 1999, Mindy, clearly distraught, had immediately come to speak with him. She'd expressed anger, he'd said, at what Henry had put her through in the months he'd been gone. She insisted that it wouldn't be long until Henry started assaulting them together again. The bottom line was clear. She wanted Henry gone and she wanted James to be the one who take care of it, just like they had first discussed a few months prior. James testified that it was Mindy who'd supplied Henry's gun and a pair of rubber gloves to wear. The gloves, James said, were to avoid getting gun powder residue on his hands.


The next day, when he got scared and didn't go through with it, he set the gun back where Henry usually kept it. Later, he testified, Mindy had confronted him. She was upset he hadn't gone through with it. The next time, he did. Mindy kept her composure through much of the trial, but her calm exterior cracked when a detective described Henry's gunshot wounds on the stand. She sat crying silently, taking in the brutal reality of what had occurred. I asked Mindy how she felt in those moments. A man had been killed, but that man had also been her abuser for so many years. I wondered how she reconciled those emotions at trial.


Even though what he done was wrong, I felt sad because he was someone's father. He was someone's son. He was someone's uncle. I really felt sad about that and that my children had lost their daddy and they didn't know nothing that was going on.


The best defense for Mindy relied on building a case around her character and drawing a clear picture of the horrific abuse Henry had subjected her to for decades. Battered person syndrome, it turns out, is a legitimate legal defense in court. For Mindy, it looked like her best bet for a not guilty verdict. Her lawyer, a public defender named Gerald Melton, had conducted pretrial interviews with Mindy's family. Her mom, her brother, her daughter, and even James Smallwood could speak to Mindy's character and the truth about what Henry had put her and all of them through. The defense also secured an expert witness named Dr. Carusso, a forensic psychiatrist who could speak to the realities of battered person syndrome and provide context for the deep psychological trauma a victim has experienced and relationships like the one Mindy had with Henry. All of this preparation made Mindy's chances seem good, but there was a catch. None of these people would be able to testify to Mindy's character and the reality of her psychological and physical abuse unless Mindy herself testified. According to court records, Dr. Carusso had advised Mindy's lawyer that he'd only felt comfortable testifying in combination with Mindy's testimony.


Without Mindy's own accounts of the abuse in the trial record, Mindy's attorney felt that testimony from her family would be inadmissible. Testifying on your own behalf also means sitting through cross-examination. The thing is, sometimes the performance of it all can outweigh the truth. It's also high stakes because getting on the stand may mean sabotaging your own defense. As Mindy remembers, her lawyer had made that possibility extremely clear. She didn't know if testifying was worth the risk, and she didn't understand that choosing not to testify meant throwing out her entire defense.


I was originally going to testify, but he said that the DA would really run me through it. So once again, I was scared. But yeah, he didn't tell me that if I didn't testify that no one could. That I didn't know. No witnesses, no nobody. He didn't tell me that.


I want to note here that that last bit about not being told this crucial information, the consequences of not testifying, it's something Mindy's defense attorney denies outright. He'd say to the court that he had, in fact, informed Mindy on several occasions. It had me wondering, what if they're both right. Perhaps it's possible that even with the explanation from her public defender, Mindy didn't fully comprehend the consequence of this choice. Hear me out. The criminal legal system is confusing and opaque. Mindy had never been in trouble with the law before, and she was under what I'd imagine was an inordinate amount of stress. She was also profoundly traumatized. When you think about it that way, it's not so hard to see how things might get lost in translation. Mindy made her choice. She waived her right to testify. I asked Mindy if she hadn't understood the consequences of this decision when she made it, when exactly had it dawned on her? Her answer was like a gut punch. Only after her lawyer stood up and informed the court that the defense wouldn't be calling any witnesses. Did you imagine that it would come out with a guilty verdict?


No, I never did, until my lawyer stood up and said the defense rest. When that happened, I just felt like all was lost in.


The jury, made up of five men and seven women, deliberated for four and a half hours before returning with their verdict. Dict. On both the charge of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, they found her guilty. According to the Daily News Journal, Mindy's head dropped when the verdict was read. She stole a look at her family before covering her face with her hands. As Mindy was placed in handcuffs, her 13-year-old daughter, Angel, choked out, and I love you, between tears. When Mindy was sentenced a few months later, her stoicism had been replaced with horror. In front of family and friends, she was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 51 years. If she ever got out, she'd be in her late '80s. Mindy sobbed. Let out of the courtroom in handcuffs, she offered a quiet, I love you, in the direction of her family. Mendie's next chapter unfolded behind bars, and going in, she was terrified.


When I first went, I was scared to death because all I had seen was those prison movies on TV. That's what I thought it was going to be like. But once I got there, I realized it wasn't. The guards were respectful. The inmates were respectful, depending on who they were. But it was not nothing like I had expected it to be. They're labeled as bad people. I've met a lot of good people in prison. I've met a lot of misunderstood people in prison.


I think so often when we think of prison, we think of violence, of anger, of fear, of danger. In prison, of course, can be those things. According to the National Institute of Health, more than a third of men and a quarter of women will experience physical or sexual assault while in prison. But for some people, like Mindy, the trauma of prison is less sensational.


Every day is the same. You do the same thing every day. You get up, you go eat, you go to work, you come in, you lock down, you go out, you eat, phone, shower, microwave, kiosk, get ice, go back in your room. It was just the same thing every day.


I couldn't help but wonder if it's not the danger, but the monotony of prison that poses the biggest day-to-day psychological hurdle for so many on the inside. I think some of us got the slightest taste of this reality during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, when each day blended so seamlessly into the next that life started feeling less meaningful. And just like the pandemic taught me the importance of human connection, Mindy learned a similar lesson on the inside. She missed her family deeply. I'd guess that being without her children had to have weighed heavy on her heart. Turns out, it definitely did.


It was very difficult. It was very traumatic to me. I cried most every day. Some days, some weeks, I was good. But then, yes, I missed my family. I wanted to just come home. I mean, I missed out on so much. I really did. I missed out on my children growing up. I missed out on everything. I should have been there for them and been their mother. Even though I was on the phone, I should have been there for them.


Even now, her words are hard to hear. You see, Mindy has this calm and soothing demeanor about her. Even when she talks about some of the most challenging and traumatic things a person can experience, her voice remains smooth and sweet, but talking about her kids, about what she'd missed out on, it was the first time her voice cracked on the phone. It's the deep pain I can't imagine ever going away, mainly because Mindy will never have those years back, and neither will her kids. But Mindy met someone in prison who gave her hope.


If it wasn't for my little roommate that I had for almost 13 years, we kept each other sane.


She kept, we kept each other sane. For Mindy meeting Francine was a lifeline. This small miracle in a dark time, they just clicked immediately. She told me on the phone they were best friends from then on. How interesting, I thought. The very thing prison is designed to deprive you of. It's the same thing so many of us find healing, connection. But it wasn't like nothing was expected of Mindy in prison. She worked on the yard crew.


I did landscaping. We did road those zero turns, picked up trash, worked in between the fences. We done all kinds of things. Shoveled snow, salted the sidewalks, dug in the flower beds.


She was also lucky enough to receive group therapy sessions. I say lucky because according to the National Alliance on Mental illness, three in five people with a history of mental health concerns don't receive treatment while incarcerated. More than half of those taking mental health medications prior to incarceration don't continue to receive meds while in prison. According to Melissa Jeltson writing for The Cut, this therapy was a place where group members could process childhood trauma and domestic violence. They could also learn how to manage their grief. For Mindy, grief was nuanced. She felt sadness about what Henry had done to her about her current situation and about the hole she'd left in her kid's lives. But that sadness took root next to guilt. Just like I can still hear that deep pain when she talks about her children, her guilt felt just as present.


He was a father. He was a brother. He was a son. He was an uncle. He was all that. If I had had told someone, he might not have died. I've had to live with that every day.


Mindy does this a lot on our call, emphasizing her regret at not speaking up, the consequences this decision had for Henry and for the rest of her family.


But had I told someone, he might have been alive. But because I chose to turn my head, it allowed him to die. For that, I have to live every day.


But it's not just Henry's death that haunts Mindy.


I guess my guilt is because I don't know what my children went through because my daughter totally blocks out anything and my son doesn't remember anything. I don't know if my children went through anything that I went through, and that bothers me.


Mindy's truth is layered. Next to the sadness and the guilt is also a healthy dose of self-compassion. Mindy knows that the things she experienced were wrong, and she hasn't lost sight of the fact that Henry didn't just hurt her. Even for James, Mindy has compassion. I really don't know, she told me when I asked if she harbored negative feelings for him. He was abused too, she concluded. Because she knows she didn't deserve what Henry put her through, she resented the way she was represented in the media before her conviction. As her years in prison continued to tick by, she felt increasingly eager for the world to know her side of the story. When Jupyter Entertainment Group approached her a decade into her sentence, it seemed like the chance she'd been hoping for. It wasn't. The company represented Snap. The TV show I talked about at the start of today's episode. The story Snap told didn't represent her experience. I watched it in preparation for telling this story. It was definitely salacious. They didn't ignore the abuse Mindy endured. Still, it all felt a bit more sex triangle gone wrong than, father sexually and physically abuses daughter from the ages of six to 30, forces her to marry him and threatens to kill her if she doesn't comply.


Which is to say, it's not terribly empathetic towards Mindy. But that, as it turns out, is by design. According to Melissa Jeltson, when Snap first started airing, it faced critique from the activists who felt the show's format would exploit domestic violence victims. A producer pushed back, telling the Baltimore Sun, quote, These are not the old stereotypes of battered women who are trying to defend themselves. This is the dark side of female empowerment. This is not syrupy and these women are not sympathetic. It's hard to hear from Mindy and agree, but it wasn't just snapped. Mindy's version of events wasn't catching much wind in the legal realm either. Though she tried to appeal her case, citing ineffective assistance of counsel, her appeals were denied and her conviction was upheld. Mindy was out of options. With her appeals exhausted, she filed for clemency. According to channel 5, Nashville News, clemency, when granted, comes in three forms: exoneration, meaning the individual did not commit the crime they were convicted of; pardon, which essentially forgives someone of a crime, and commutation, which reduces an individual sentence. Granted directly by state's governor, clemency, unfortunately for Mindy, is exceedingly rare. According to the Tennessee Bar Association, 98% of clemency applications are denied further review.


But while Mindy's prospects seemed grim, by the fall of 2021, things were looking for Francine, Mindy's roommate and closest friend. She was due for parole in February, and it was an exciting but also scary thing for the both of them.


I mean, I would wanted her to go home, but at the same time, it would have been like a hurt to my heart as well as hers.


Then on December second, something unexpected happened.


Our officer came to the door and opened it up, and she's like, Ms. Dodd, you need to come to the core. I got up, went out. I said, Do I have mail? Because that's usually where we went when we got signed mail. She said, No. She said, The warden wants to speak to you. I didn't know what was going on. When I got in there, she said, Have a seat. You need to call the warden on the phone. I called and our warden and the other used to be our warden, this mentor was there, and they told me that I had gotten my clemency that the governor had signed off on it.


Mindy was ecstatic, beyond ecstatic. She cried, and then she got to tell her best friend the news. We jumped and hollered and squealed, Mindy told the cut. Now it was time for the best part of all. She called her family. Was your family completely surprised?


Oh, they were so ecstatic. My mom, she cried because they don't really watch the news a lot, but she cried. When I called her back the next day, she cried. She said, I seen you on the news. She said, I'm so happy because they had all pretty much given up hope on me coming home.


But if Mindy felt her family had given up hope, she never had. I'd asked her who was responsible for the clemency.


My clemency was filed solely by Mindy Dodd. Nobody helped me but Mindy Dodd and God. That was it.


Her faith paid off. On March 15th, 2022, just two months shy of 21 years on the inside, Mindy walked out of prison, a free woman. Her best friend, Francine, followed two days later. Mindy told me the two still talk every day. Mindy's daughter, Angel, who was only 13 when her mom went to prison, has a daughter of her own now. It was the two of them, Mindy's daughter and granddaughter, who'd greeted her outside the Tennessee Prison. Their first order of business, a good meal. The food in prison was rarely good, Mindy had told me. She happily ordered a chicken sandwich and fries from Zaxby's. I think it's easy to take for granted how much folks miss out on in prison. Something as simple as ordering food is suddenly novel. And after two decades, the world Mindy left in 2001 is undeniably different.


Technology has changed a whole lot. Everything has changed a whole lot. But I'm learning how to use a phone. I'm learning all the little different things, text messaging and all the other little things that I didn't know existed when I went away 21 years ago almost.


A lot of changes and a lot to adjust to, but Mindy seems eager for the challenge.


I'm focused on getting a job and then my license and a car and then my own place. Just taking one day at a time. One day at a time. I'm not rushing. Of course, I have to get work, but I'm not rushing anything. I'm just taking it day by day.


Not long after we spoke for the first time, she sent me an excited email. I just left my orientation for my job at Arbes. I think I'll like it. Finally, for Mindy, a fresh start, one where for the first time, she was free to be whoever she wanted. I asked what she hoped for people to understand about the person she is now, what she wanted folks to take away from her story.


I want to be the voice for others that I never had. I want them to know that any abuse is wrong. Whether it's physical, mental, verbal, or whatever, it's wrong. Don't ever feel like you're alone. There's always someone out there that's willing to help. There's always help. You just have to be willing and be strong enough to find it. Just always be truthful. If something doesn't feel right to always tell it no matter what. I don't care if it's your mama, your daddy, your granny, your aunt, your uncle, your grandpa, a friend, a neighbor. If it don't feel right, tell it. I don't care if you're two or if you're 92.


What will Mindy's newest chapter look like?


I've learned, by the grace of God, to turn all my disadvantages that I've faced and had in my life into an advantage to help someone else. And that's what I plan on doing now that I'm home. My daughter is a wonderful mother, and my son, he's a grown man that I'm very proud of. I have one granddaughter. She's 11 and she loves me dearly. She spent the weekend with me. I'm excited to just spend time with them and let them know I love them, that I never forgot them. And I'm just ready to put the past behind me and move on with my life. Life. I'm ready to start a new chapter in my life. I've went from life to living, from having a life sentence to being out and living again.


As I've worked on this story, Mindy has continued to jump to the front of my mind. There was the time her name showed up on my suggested TikTok followers, and then one day on Facebook, there she was again. Every time I can't help but feel happy to stumble across these small reminders of Mindy, evidence of her new life, less second chance and more, what's next? That's it, Mindy's story, finally, from her point of view. But before you go, I want to pause and recognize that the people in these true crime stories, they're real people. The challenges they face are ones faced by folks all over the world. That's why I like to leave each episode with action items to help bring our engagement with these issues into our daily lives. First, if you want to keep up with True a crime and support our work, make sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @trueacrimepod. You can also follow me on Instagram and TikTok @salleciastanton. If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence and is looking for anonymous, confidential help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-72-33. Another great organization is the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which has a number of amazing resources, including a personalized safety plan, financial education resources, and a guide to getting help from law enforcement and the legal system.


You can access all of those resources and more at ncadv. Org. If you're looking for a more creative way to support survivors of domestic violence, I strongly suggest you check out Gifted by Free From. Free From's vision is a world-long process in which all survivors are able to build the wealth and financial security necessary to support their individual, intergenerational, and community healing, enabling them to thrive. Gifted is actually Free From shop, and it's built and operated by survivors. It actually provides them with stable employment and resources to support their own healing. Through Gifted, you can actually purchase a range of really cool apparel, body oils, candles, soaps, and lots more. You can check them out and support their work at Gifted by Free From,. Work. As always, you'll find all of these resources and lots more, including the full source list for this episode on the show notes page on our website, truercrimepodcast. Com. Thanks for listening to this early season two episode of True Crime. If you want an ad-free version of this show and other great shows from Tenderfoot TV, you can subscribe to Tenderfoot+ at tenderfootplus. Com or on Apple Podcasts.


True Crime is created, hosted, and written by me, Silesia Stanton, and is a production of Tenderfoot TV. Additional writing and research by Olivia Husingfield. Executive producers are myself, Donald Albright, and Payne Lindsay. Additional production by Olivia Husingfield and Jamie Albright. Editing by Sidney Evans. Our supervising producer is Tracey Kaplan. Artwork by Station 16. Original Music by Jay Ragsdale. Mix by Dayton Cole. Thank you to Aaron Rosenbaum and the team at UTA, Beck Media and Marketing and the Nord Group. For more podcasts like True A Crime, search, Tenderfoot TV on your favorite podcast app or visit us at tenderfoot. Tv. Thanks for listening.