CHINA — When Danielle Dodge remembers her cousin James, she’ll think of them splashing away the summer heat in a swimming hole or chasing each other around the yard.

Life grew much more difficult for James Dodge as he grew older. His choices had a tendency to leave him on the wrong side of the door to a jail cell.

To his family, however, Dodge was a loyal companion taken away unnecessarily.

“James has done some bad stuff; I’m not denying that,” Danielle Dodge said, but added that he was also very generous to others. “When the family needs him, he’s always been there.”

James Dodge, 38, was stabbed once in the chest Friday night inside the 324 Hanson Road home he had shared with his girlfriend, Rebecca Bragg, for the last several years. Dodge later died at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

The state medical examiner on Monday determined Dodge had died as a result of a homicide.

Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said Tuesday that investigators continue to piece together a picture of that night based on the evidence, the medical examiner’s report and interviews. Three other people were in the home at the time and have cooperated with investigators, police said.

No one has been charged in connection with Dodge’s death.

“This investigation now focuses on determining the sequence of events inside the home,” McCausland said. “I don’t expect any answers this week.”

Dennis Dodge Jr. lives just down the road from his brother, who had stopped by the afternoon of July 11 to pick up some scrap metal to recycle for gasoline money.

“I told him I loved him and I’d see him tomorrow,” the brother said, his voice cracking.

Little more than 48 hours later, police knocked on his door and began asking questions about some of James Dodge’s friends.

“After that they told me he was deceased,” Dennis Dodge Jr. said. “They couldn’t tell me how it happened.”

Details of James Dodge’s criminal past — which includes burglary, theft and drug possession — have resurfaced in recent days in media reports about his death. Dennis Dodge Jr., who said he works at Richard Redemption in South China, said he has heard the hurtful comments about his brother from people who never really knew him.

“It ain’t been easy,” he said. “I loved him very much, and I will miss him for the rest of my life.”

James Dodge has eight children, the youngest of whom is 8, his brother said.

“It’s as hard on them as it is everybody else,” he said.

He said his brother waged a nearly lifelong battle with alcoholism. Much of James Dodge’s bad behavior occurred while he was under the influence of substances, he said. His brother had been taking medication designed to help him quit drinking, but it wasn’t working.

The drinking continued, and it often led to chaos inside the Hanson Road home.

“They all drank themselves into a stupor,” Dennis Dodge Jr. said, referring to his brother and others. “They fought over there almost every night; but still, the man didn’t deserve to get stabbed to death.”

A couple of weeks ago, according to several family members, a group of people beat and bound James Dodge, put him into the trunk of a car, took him to China Lake and threw him into the lake. Dennis Dodge Jr. said he was unsure whether anyone told the police.

McCausland said Tuesday he was unaware of the incident.

“I couldn’t believe it happened and nobody got in trouble for it,” Dennis Dodge Jr. said. “He (James Dodge) seemed to joke about it, actually.”

The victim’s father, Dennis Dodge Sr., wonders whether the incident at the lake and the stabbing are connected. He said police have told family members little about the investigation. James Dodge was not his biological son, but Dennis Dodge Sr. said he raised him and gave him his last name.

“I talked to him quite often,” he said. “I went over Friday, but he wasn’t home.”

James Dodge loved the outdoors and was an artist who often put his talents to work creating tattoos for friends and relatives. The one Dennis Dodge Sr. carries on his arm suddenly holds more significance: an old GMC truck, or “jitterbug,” that he used to haul wood.

“That will always remind me,” Dennis Dodge Sr. said. “He was very loved and he will be sadly missed.”

Most of the Dodge family reunions over the past several months have been inside hospitals or in funeral homes, Danielle Dodge said.

“It’s just been struggle after struggle,” she said. “Everything we’ve had, he was always there. You called and you just knew he was going to be there. It’s not going to be the same.”

She saw James Dodge last in January at a funeral for their aunt. The two talked occasionally.

“As kids we were always together,” Danielle Dodge said. “I think that’s why it was so hard. You grow up and you have your own family and you grow apart, but it doesn’t change the memories you have as a child.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]

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