The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Husband of former Coralville city councilor found not guilty of sexually abusing a child

The child attended an in-home daycare run by the defendant, Jeffrey Dodds, and his wife Jill Dodds.
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Grace Smith
The Johnson County Courthouse is seen on South Clinton Street in Iowa City on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

Jeffrey Dodds was found not guilty on Monday for three counts of second-degree sexual abuse that could have resulted in him going to prison for up to 75 years. 

The case surrounds a daycare called Simple Abundance Child Care Jeffrey Dodds and his wife, Jill Dodds, jointly operated since 2001. The daycare took in children aged 0-5 years old.

The daycare closed on Nov. 30, 2021, pending an investigation into child sexual abuse. The allegation came from one child who attended the daycare from June 2020 to November 2022 according to testimony from the child’s mother, Erin Dougherty.

At the time of publication, no motions for a civil suit — which holds a lower standard for determination of guilt — have been filed by the child’s family. 

Concerns arose about potential sexual abuse when the child’s grandmother, Roxanne Dougherty, testified the child and their brother visited her in late December 2022.

Roxanne Dougherty testified the child was playing with a doll in a sexual way which made her concerned. She testified she asked the child what they were doing and they said they were doing what Jeff did to them. 

The child’s parents were notified and they set up an interview with social worker Katie Burrell to find out what occurred. The interview, which was recorded and presented in court, showed the child said Jeff had touched them inappropriately in the downstairs area of the daycare.

On March 20, the child took the witness stand in a separate courtroom from Jeffrey Dodds. The child said Jeffrey Dodds had touched them in a sexual way multiple times in both the bathroom and upstairs bedroom. They said this happened every day and at one point said it happened hourly.

The timeframe the sexual abuse allegedly took place was in June 2021 when Jill Dodds was recovering from knee replacement surgery. 

Jill Dodds testified she had this surgery on May 28, 2021, and the daycare was closed the following week. The daycare then reopened with Jeffrey Dodds as the primary caregiver while Jill Dodds recovered in the home for the next two weeks.

To comply with Iowa Department of Human Services regulations, the daycare reduced the amount of children they were caring for to less than eight while Jeffrey Dodds was the primary caregiver.

Jill Dodds testified she never saw Jeffrey Dodds alone with any of the children. She also testified that she was mostly in a recliner on the upstairs level of the home, which is where the Dodds’ living quarters are located.

This child’s father, Kris Dougherty, testified he saw Jeffrey Dodds watching the children alone when he picked his child up around 10 times. He also said there was one time he knew Jeffrey Dodds was in the house completely alone because he saw Jill Dodds in the driveway when he was leaving.

RELATED: Jury begins deliberation in Jeffrey Dodds’ sexual abuse of a minor case

The Dodds’ home is ranch-style with two levels. The basement level was where the daycare operated, and the upstairs level was where the Dodds’ lived and also made lunch for the children. Jill Dodds testified she primarily sat in a recliner near the stairs to the basement during her recovery. 

The prosecutors in this case argued the child had no reason to lie about being sexually abused. They also argued that the behavior the child was displaying was a sign of sexual abuse. Additionally, they argued Jeffrey Dodds had ample opportunity to sexually abuse the child.

Jeffrey Dodds’ defense argued there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of this crime. The defense pointed out that the child had inconsistencies in interviews in testimony relating to where the abuse occurred, how many times, and how frequently. 

The defense argued the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeffrey Dodds committed these crimes because they had no physical evidence or witnesses to the crime. Additionally, the defense argued the only evidence they had was the child’s memory of the event. 

Before the allegations and arrest of Jeffrey Dodds in April 2022, Jill Dodds was a Coralville city councilor for around 10 years, having started in 2012. Jill Dodds was asked to step down from her position by the Mayor of Coralville Meghann Foster, which Jill Dodds did in late April 2022. 

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About the Contributors
Jack Moore
Jack Moore, News Editor
he/him/his
Jack Moore is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from Cedar Rapids Iowa. Along with working at The Daily Iowan, Jack works for the University of Iowa's UI-REACH program as a Resident Assistant. UI-REACH is a program for students with learning, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities intended to provide support to these students throughout their college experience. Additionally, Jack is involved in Iowa City's live music scene as he plays bass for local Iowa City band "Two Canes."
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
she/her/hers
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.