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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Katrina looter gets 4 years

Neighbor's home was raided day after storm


GULFPORT -- A former Gulfport resident will serve four years in prison for burglarizing and looting a neighbor's home after Hurricane Katrina.

Charles David Dodwell, 40, who later moved to Birmingham, Ala., pleaded guilty to both charges on Friday. Circuit Judge Steve Simpson sentenced him to four years in prison. Simpson also ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine and to serve three years' probation after his release.

Dodwell was living on Windridge Drive when Katrina struck. The next day, the neighbor returned home to discover a break-in and noticed a trail of his belongings leading to Dodwell's back yard, said George Huffman, an assistant district attorney.

"We're not talking about food or anything, " Huffman said. "It was computers, electronics, DVDs and personal items. We're assuming he had to make more than one trip and was carrying so much that he dropped some along the way, leaving a trail."

Windridge is in Orange Grove near Three Rivers and O'Neal roads. Huffman said the stolen items were recovered from locations including Dodwell's residence and a mobile home in Hattiesburg.

Dodwell faced three to 25 years for the burglary conviction. State law sets no minimum penalty for looting, but the maximum is 25 years.

Defense attorney Joe Gautier offered mitigating circumstances, telling the judge that Dodwell was bipolar and under stress, according to Huffman.

"The judge told him a lot of people on the Coast were under stress at the time and not all of them were breaking into people's homes," Huffman said.

Originally published in Sun Herald on July 29, 2007.

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