Drifter Dennis Dodson — accused of attacking and raping an elderly Orland Park woman who was only trying to show the homeless man some kindness — has run afoul of the law more than 60 times in 15 states since leaving his native Iowa more than 15 years ago.
What brought the vagrant to Orland Park? A bicycle.
What would compel him to attack an 83-year-old woman so violently?
Not even his mother knows.
Teresa Dodson, who hasn't seen her 34-year-old son in years, assumed her son had been jailed for drugs. His drug-addled life took a turn for the worse after he and friends were arrested in Iowa years ago for stealing hog tranquilizers from a veterinarian.
“None of them were quite right after that,” Teresa Dodson told Sun-Times Media reporter Lauren FitzPatrick, who tracked down the homeless man's mother and delved into his lengthy prison record following the Sept. 23 attack on an elderly Good Samaritan, who saw Dodson sleeping behind Home Depot and tried to help him.
Occasionally seen bicycling around Orland Park before the attack, Dennis Dodson's troubled travels have taken him to California, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Florida, Iowa, Utah, Missouri, Washington, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada ... with a few stops in Illinois. On his last journey through the south suburbs, Dodson scored a state ID using the address of Together We Cope in Tinley Park, according to FitzPatrick's reporting.
His mother said she couldn't keep him in school and couldn't control him.
"Denny just sort of did what he wanted to do. I had no control,” she said. “I did what I could do.”
Arrested soon after the attack by , this is the first rape charge to land on Dodson's lengthy rap sheet, which includes charges for auto theft, drugs, public drunkenness, thievery, trespassing and fighting with police.
The 83-year-old woman who tried to help Dodson did what she could do, too. Getting close enough to smell the booze on his breath, she brought Dodson food and a few dollars, and she tried to get her church to help the wanderer.
And he repaid her kindness with violence.
You'll find more details in FitzPatrick's report, "Homeless Man Accused in Rape Had History of Drifting, Arrests," on SunTimes.com.
Also read FitzPatrick's court story, "83-year-old details sex assault by homeless man in Orland Park."