A 60-year-old woman is shot and nearly killed by young drug dealers.

Men crowded around a car buying drugs

Drugs were being dealt on her street

C.w. Roddy with a stern look

C.W. Roddy was gunned down at home


Just past midnight on January 1, 1990, paramedics and police in East Palo Alto, California, responded to a 911 call. A 60-year-old woman had been shot in the stomach after unknown gunmen had fired 35 rounds of ammunition into her house and car. The victim was C.W. Roddy, a retired phone company employee who had lived in the area with her son for 23 years.

C.W. Roddy approaching an officer in a police cruiser

C.W. talked to the police

The attack was the culmination of a three-year campaign of terror against C.W. by a group of young drug dealers. Their customers were often affluent residents from the surrounding communities.  Darnell Roddy is C.W.’s son:

“The drug dealing on our street was very much like a drive-up bank window. They drive up and dope dealers would rush to the car in a total frenzy of competition with one another trying to get the sale. And it continued like that day and night.”

C.W. decided it was time to take action. The first confrontation came when teenage drug dealers parked their cars in front of her house. When they refused to move, C.W. told them she would report their license plate number to the police. C.W. frequently reported the young traffickers, but the under-staffed local police could not handle the enormous problem. According to C.W.:

“I’ve always felt that your home is your castle, and what you do in your home is your business. But when they bring their drugs out in front of my house in the streets, that makes it my business. And I don’t do that kind of business.”

In February of 1988, C.W. was physically threatened as she walked down the street.  According to C.W., a young man said he was going to blow up her house:

“And I said to him, ‘Are you gonna make sure that I’m in it?’ And I looked up and saw a police officer sitting directly across the street.”

A living room at night with bullets shooting through the window and furniture

Her house was sprayed with bullets

C.W. went over to the police officer and told him about the threat. The officer asked C.W. if she would like to make a citizen’s arrest, and she said yes.  C.W. said that the officer took the offender away, but that he was back within a matter of minutes.

Things only got worse over the next eighteen months. During certain hours of the day, the streets resembled a rush hour traffic jam. During off hours, the dealers used C.W.’s front curb as their personal parking lot.

In October of 1989, C.W. again asked the dealers to move their car away from her home. C.W. said that the confrontation suddenly turned violent when one of the dealers struck her in the face. Then he threatened to beat her with a piece of wood. According to C.W.:

“I was infuriated. And I said to myself, ‘This is stupid.’ So I started back across the street and they started to say, ‘Yeah, go call the police.’  After the boy was arrested and taken to the police station, he was on his way back home before I even finished with the police report.”

Two months later, in December 1989, C.W. was involved in another confrontation. Chris Thomas, a new neighbor, was attacked with a knife when he came to her defense:

“They cut him very badly in the face and they had to take him to the hospital to get stitches.”

Police arrested the young man who had attacked the neighbor. For the next ten days, things were quiet. Then came New Year’s Eve. According to Chief Dan Nelson of the East Palo Alto Police Department:

“On New Year’s Eve in East Palo Alto, for some strange reason, a lot of citizens like to shoot guns. They just shoot up in the air.”

At midnight, C.W. said she was awakened by the gunfire:

“I heard all the shooting. And I looked up at the clock and I said, ‘Oh, they’re just celebrating New Year’s Eve.’  Of course, I got up and then I went in the living room. I noticed across the street there were three young men. They were standing around talking and there weren’t any cars coming down the street at that particular time. About twenty minutes after midnight, it had all quieted down.  Then all of a sudden, I heard all these shots.”

C.W.’s home was sprayed with automatic gunfire, shattering her living room windows. C.W.’s son, Darnell, was also home at the time:

“I hit the floor. I was about to get up and I heard my mother scream in pain.”

C.W. had been shot in the stomach. Her son immediately called for help and the police arrived within minutes. C.W. thinks the attack was planned and that the assailants were trying to kill them.  Police recovered shell casings from three weapons: a .38 revolver, a .380 semi-automatic pistol, and an assault weapon, which was possibly an Uzi.

After their initial investigation, the police called in the FBI. According to Special Agent William E. Smith of the San Jose, California, FBI:

“We know that there were three to four individuals who were responsible for firing these rounds into the home of Mrs. Roddy. This is a neighborhood that has been somewhat paralyzed because of the amount of violence that has been generated from those who took a stance to come forward and say ‘No more.’”

To date, no suspects have been identified. But even though the case remains unsolved, the attack has rallied the neighborhood. A group of mothers took charge of the local park and drove out the drug dealers. They were successful, but they know it is only the first step on a long road. C.W. said that she is hopeful:

“I went by a couple of Saturdays ago and just observed the children out there playing.  And it was such a beautiful sight, and it made me feel so good that it brought tears to my eyes. So it’s looking better. It didn’t all happen in one day and I don’t expect it all to change in one day, but I do see the beginning of a change.  And the future looks bright.”

Neighborhood residents are still hoping that C.W.’s attackers can be brought to justice.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. David

    I highly doubt in a city as thoroughly corrupt as Palo Alto that she nor her family will ever see justice. I hope she does, but I doubt it.


  2. Anonymous

    I pick up, kkk, is in the drug, production,trade local, and in uniforms, I get clean clothes, delivermen.


  3. Chanita jackson

    God Bless U CW And God Will Punish The People That Had Tried To Take Your Life!


  4. veraZ

    Your story brings tears to my eyes…. I just saw unsolved mysteries today 9/2/15 & I know you’ve been in heaven for 3 years watching how your blood has made a difference. Your perpetrators will pay. Your son probably carries a heavy burden of guilt. Ourr heavenly father will give him peace of mind, just as surely as he will see those predators punished.


  5. Jean Stanton

    God bless CW. God protect her. A stranger, far away (Wilmington NC), is praying for you.


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