Man prefers returning to prison over living with relatives

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A 71-year-old man who spent more than five decades in and out of trouble with the law knew if he robbed another bank he would wind up in prison again.

But at least there, his lawyer said Thursday, he would have structure, no surprises and not have to deal with family relationships.

''It had been a long time since he had been out of prison,'' defense attorney Beth Ford told U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan during Dwayne Leroy Bodell's sentencing. ''He was apprehensive. He was scared.''

So two weeks before he was to be released from a halfway house in Phoenix, Bodell left Sept. 21, 1999, to report for work and never came back, court papers show.

Jordan sentenced Bodell to three years and six months in prison for escaping from that facility, where Bodell was completing a sentence for a 1980 bank robbery in South Dakota.

The judge also imposed three years and six months' imprisonment on Bodell for the Feb. 28 robbery of the First Tennessee Bank in the 500 block of North Broadway. He ran the terms concurrently, or at the same time.

But Jordan ordered Bodell to serve the new prison term consecutive to, or following, the rest of the sentence from the South Dakota offense.

Bodell told Jordan it wasn't that he wasn't prepared to join society again that motivated him to escape from the halfway house. He explained he had recently attended a family reunion and had plans to live with a relative when released.

''I could tell I wouldn't fit in,'' he said.

Jordan, who had the option of sentencing Bodell to more prison time, wanted Bodell to tell him he had finally decided crime doesn't pay.

''It just doesn't pay, that's true,'' Bodell agreed. ''It hit me four or five months ago. ... It took me a long time.''

Bodell insisted the judge impose a $1,000 fine as well, which he did.

''If you've got a fine, they (prison officials) put you in a factory right away,'' Bodell explained. ''Otherwise, it might be a year before you can get into a factory.''

Jordan also ordered Bodell to serve three years of supervised release and pay $236 in restitution to the bank.

According to his plea papers, Bodell robbed the First Tennessee Bank of $7,204 after walking into the bank, saying he had a gun and demanding a teller's money.

He ran out of the bank and got into a van, but nearby workers saw a dye pack explode, assumed Bodell had robbed the bank and slashed one of the van's tires before he was able to drive away, the papers and earlier police reports state. He abandoned the vehicle a short distance away but left an address inside where law enforcement officers later found him.

When authorities showed up at the Knoxville apartment to arrest him, they found dye-stained money on a windowsill and in the bag of a vacuum cleaner, other court papers state.

Bodell told the authorities he had washed the money in a washing machine.

The FBI investigated the case with the Knoxville Police Department.

(Contact Laura Ayo of The Knoxville News-Sentinel in Tennessee at


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