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Hearing delayed for man charged with killing wife

Published October 13, 2011 9:43 pm

Courts • Attorney requests mental health evaluation for defendant.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Duchesne • A husband accused of murdering his ailing wife then trying to kill himself will likely undergo an evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Charles Edward Dodd, 75, appeared Thursday in 8th District Court for a hearing to decide whether he will stand trial for the August stabbing death of 82-year-old Mary Ratliff.

Instead, Dodd's attorney, Bill Morrison, requested the competency evaluation. Prosecutors did not object.

After the hearing, Morrison declined to say whether Dodd killed his wife. But Morrison said Dodd and Ratliff suffered from a variety of health issues.

Dodd has an ulcer on his leg and has had an operation to remove a cancerous tumor, Morrison said. Dodd died on the operating table during the surgery and was resuscitated, Morrison said.

Morrison said Ratliff had emphysema and asthma and was often in bed.

"They were under an enormous amount of stress from medical and financial issues," Morrison said.

But Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote said Ratliff was not bedridden and was still competent enough to care for the couple's finances. Foote suggested Dodd's condition may have been the driving factor in the murder and attempted suicide.

"This case here we don't believe was based upon her health," Foote said.

Judge Lyle Anderson indicated he would grant the request for an evaluation once a formal motion had been filed. He scheduled a Nov. 10 hearing to review the status of the case.

Speaking loudly into the microphone on his bench, Anderson told Dodd: "This is a very serious case, and your attorney told me he wants to file [the motion for a competency evaluation]."

Dodd is charged with first-degree felony murder. He has been in the Duchesne County Jail since his release from the hospital.

Court documents state that Ratliff's body was found in the couple's home Aug. 13 after a family friend received a package containing a suicide note and $7,000 for burial expenses from Dodd.

Previously, the friend said, Dodd had been depressed and told her that "the end will come," according to other court documents. The package the friend received included two notes. One note explained the money was for the couple's burial — "and it wasn't drug money," Dodd wrote. The other note claimed that "it's a little too late" and someone was "going to take Mary away" because of something that happened to Dodd's head, he wrote.

Officers went to the couple's home, near 60 West and 300 South, and found Ratliff lying on a hospital-type bed, with multiple puncture wounds in her chest, deputies wrote. Dodd was found unconscious in a chair in the same room. He also had a puncture wound in his chest and a cut on the back of his head, investigators wrote. A bloody hunting knife was on the table next to Ratliff's bed.

Dodd was taken by ambulance to the Uintah Basin Medical Center and was later flown to a Salt Lake City hospital.

After he regained consciousness, Dodd told investigators that his wife was in constant pain, and the couple several times had discussed "ending it," the charge states. Ratliff's ailment is not described, but Dodd allegedly told police that by Saturday, "enough was enough." Dodd said he left the notes and money at their friend's office and returned to his home, investigators wrote.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle