Police: New London man kills wife, lights fire at home with baby inside
New London — A woman is dead, an infant injured and a man charged with murder in connection with a late night fire on Wednesday that police said quickly turned into a homicide investigation.
George Dodson, 23, of 50 Sherman St. in New London is charged with killing his 23-year-old wife with a hammer and knife and in the attempted murder of his child, a 13-month-old who was left in a crib when police said Dodson lit his home on fire.
It is the third homicide of the year in New London and appears to be the second domestic-related killing. In January, police said 18-year-old Arisleidy Batista-Bido was shot and killed by her boyfriend before he set fire to the home they shared and shot himself. And 25-year-old Abdiel Rodriguez, 25, of New London was killed July 6 in a shooting in the area of Colman and West Pleasant streets, police said.
New London police have charged Dodson with murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, criminal attempt to commit arson, first-degree arson, risk of injury to a minor, tampering with evidence, reckless endangerment and cruelty to animals. Police have not yet released the name of the 23-year-old victim, pending notification to her family.
Dodson is an active-duty service member with the U.S. Navy assigned to the USS Newport News (SSN 750), which is homeported at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Navy Public Affairs Officer Lt. Seth Koenig confirmed Thursday.
New London Judge Kevin Shay on Thursday ordered Dodson held on $3 million bond, calling the crimes “absolutely horrendous.” Dodson appeared for arraignment in New London Superior Court in a blue hospital gown and appeared to have two cut marks, one on each side of his neck. He is being held under a suicide watch and will undergo a mental health evaluation. A protective order was issued, which bars Dodson from any contact with his child.
Dodson, who is from Knoxville, Tenn., has no criminal record and has been in the Navy for five years, according to his public defender. Dodson has been assigned to USS Newport News since June 3, 2019; prior to his arrival aboard the submarine, he was stationed in Norfolk, Va. He has been in the Navy since 2017 and has lived in New London for two years.
At 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, New London firefighters responded to the single-family home at 50 Sherman St. to find heavy smoke billowing from the windows and fire on both of the two floors. During a search of the building, fire Chief Thomas Curcio said, firefighters discovered the body of a woman on the first floor. After she was pulled from the building, medical personnel pronounced her dead. She had suffered from what police described as “significant trauma to her head and upper torso,” along with burns.
In the backyard, firefighters encountered Dodson with what appeared to be self-inflicted injuries. He was kneeling in the grass with heavy soot and blood on his neck and chest. When a paramedic asked if there were more victims, Dodson replied, “my wife, my kid and my dog,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit in the case.
Firefighters were already searching inside the home and found the infant in a crib in a second-floor bedroom. The child, who was “conscious but lethargic,“ was rushed out of the home and initially taken by ambulance to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and later transferred to Yale New Haven Hospital for treatment. The child’s current condition was not available.
Police said Dodson, while at the scene of the crime, admitted to killing his wife saying, “I did this. I killed her.” When asked why he allegedly committed the crime, police said Dodson said it was out of jealousy.
“We opened up our relationship and she found another man she loved more and I could not stand the thought of it so I killed her,” Dodson told police, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Police said Dodson also admitted using a knife and hammer to kill his wife and starting fires in “a couple of places” at the home. He was taken to L+M Hospital for treatment where police said Dodson, in a signed statement, admitted starting the fire in an attempt to kill his child and other details of killing his wife.
Fire Marshal Vernon Skau determined fires had been set on a couch on the first floor of the home and on a chair in an upstairs bedroom. A third fire was set on a bed in another second-floor bedroom, the arrest warrant affidavit states.
Streets in the neighborhood where the fire occurred were cordoned off by police during the investigation, which went on through the night and into Thursday morning. A tarp covered a portion of the front entrance to the home.
New London police Chief Brian Wright said the identities of those discovered at the fire scene would not be released until next of kin were notified. Wright said police along with the State Major Crime Unit, the New London State’s Attorney Office, state and local fire marshals are investigating the incident.
Public records show the home was purchased in 2020 by George B. Dodson II and Shelby L. Dodson.
Firefighters said there were two dogs that ran outside when firefighters entered the home. Both were later located by neighbors and are being held by animal control.
A neighbor who asked not to be identified but who helped locate one of the dogs said she was shaken by news of the incident. She said the occupants of the home kept mostly to themselves.
Mark Battista of New London said he was stunned at the news of the woman’s death. He recalls the woman that lived at 50 Sherman St. and helped de-ice and shovel for her last winter. The woman, whose last name was Dodson, had reached out to the community through the Neighbors of New London County Facebook group, saying she was new to the area, was pregnant, her husband was deployed and she needed some help.
Battista had responded by helping her out, buying supplies and shoveling for her at no charge. He remembers an excited expectant mother.
“She seemed happy,” Battista said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s terrible. This was someone in our backyard. Never once did it seem like she was crying out for help.”
On his personal Facebook page, Battista on Thursday shared resources for anyone experiencing domestic violence, including the nonprofit agency Safe Futures. The confidential hotline for Safe Futures is (860) 701-6001.
“The entire event is heartbreaking,” Battista wrote. “I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet the person that I helped last year and if we learn anything from this terrible event, it should be that life is simply too short and to try and be nice, for we have no idea what one deals with behind closed doors.”
George Dodson’s case was transferred to New London’s Part A court, where serious felonies are litigated. His next court date is Aug. 11.