A Duchesne man has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for stabbing his wife to death in a 2011 murder-suicide attempt.
Charles Dodd, 78, pleaded guilty Monday in 8th District Court to first-degree felony murder of his wife, Mary Ratliff.
Ratliff’s body was found in the couple’s home Aug. 13, 2011, after a family friend received from Dodd a package containing a suicide note and $7,000 for burial expenses. Ratliff was lying on a hospital-style bed, with multiple stab wounds in her chest, according to court documents. Dodd was unconscious in a chair nearby, with a puncture wound to his chest and a cut on his head. A bloody hunting knife was on a table near Ratliff’s bed.
Dodd had been found competent to stand trial, but his guilty plea came with a notation indicating mental illness. In court proceedings following Ratliff’s death, prosecutors and Dodd’s defenders disputed the extent to which Ratliff’s health problems influenced Dodd’s actions. Dodd’s attorney claimed that Ratliff had emphysema and asthma and often was bed-ridden. Dodd had an ulcer on his leg and a cancerous tumor that was removed surgically. Those health problems put a strain on the couple, his attorney argued. A friend had told investigators that before the murder-suicide attempt Dodd had been depressed and speaking about “the end.” His suicide note claimed someone was “going to take Mary away.”
Prosecutors argued that Dodd was well enough to deal with the family’s finances, and Ratliff’s murder could not be considered a mercy killing.
Judge Samuel P. Chiara on Wednesday sentenced Dodd to no fewer than 15 years in prison.