November 2, 2012

Self-defense determined in China death; no charges filed

James Dodge, 38, died July 13 following an altercation at his girlfriend's home

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

CHINA -- The stabbing death of a man inside his girlfriend's home this summer will not lead to charges, authorities have confirmed.

click image to enlarge

James Dodge

Contributed photo

James Dodge, 38, died July 13 as a result of a single stab wound to his chest. Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes said that the investigation into the incident is now complete.

"No charges will be brought because the evidence very clearly shows that self-defense would clearly be applicable in this case," Stokes said. "There would be no way for us to disprove self-defense."

Dodge was stabbed inside the home at 324 Hanson Road that he shared with his girlfriend, Rebecca Bragg, for the past several years. Dodge later died at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

Dodge's cousin, Danielle Dodge, who has spoken on behalf of the family, said the authorities who notified the family of the decision this week claimed James Dodge was holding a baseball bat when he was stabbed. She believes her cousin grabbed a bat to try and defend himself against three other people inside the home, whom police have never identified.

All three cooperated with the investigation, according to authorities.

"We're just devastated," Danielle Dodge said. "They're not giving us information. If they're going to sit there and say it was justifiable, why can't we know what happened?"

Stokes said investigators would not offer specific information about events that occurred inside the house in an effort to protect the investigative process and the others who were there. He said state law gives people the right to use deadly force if they reasonably believe their lives, or the life of another person, is in imminent danger of the unlawful use of deadly force.

"In this particular case that standard would have clearly been generated," Stokes said.

He said the evidence supports claims of self-defense, as well as defense of others and defense of premises. A conviction would require the state to disprove the self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

"I don't think the family has all the evidence," Stokes said. "They don't have all the information we have. I understand the family's grief, but their understanding of what transpired in that house that night is not entirely accurate. It's not limited to him simply having a baseball bat. It's more than that."

Danielle Dodge has created a Facebook page -- Justice for James Martin Dodge -- that includes a letter she has sent to Gov. Paul LePage seeking his help in re-opening the case. Family members also say they have contacted an attorney about filing a wrongful death civil suit.

"Maybe we'll find out what happened; maybe we'll find out the truth," Danielle Dodge said. "I just can't wrap my head around them closing the case and not telling us what happened."

But Stokes said investigators tried to provide Dodge's father with details of their investigation when informing him of the state's decision this week.

"They tried to tell the father and he basically turned his back on them and didn't want to hear it," Stokes said. "We're more than happy to tell the family the details."

James Dodge had a criminal history that included burglary, theft and drug possession. The weekend before he was stabbed, James Dodge was tied up and beaten before being thrown into China Lake as retaliation for a previous altercation, Danielle Dodge said. Police said shortly after the stabbing that they were unfamiliar with such an incident.

"We do know for a fact he was thrown into China Lake," Danielle Dodge said.

She said her family believes that criminal background weighed in authorities' deliberations on bringing charges in his death.

(Continued on page 2)

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