True Crime

Aussie’s agony: My sister was killed at a party

Sandy and her sister were so close, but then something shocking happened

Weeks after Sandy’s sister went missing, her family received devastating news.

Here, Sandy Eaton, 36, from Hobart, Tasmania, shares the story in her own words.

I smiled as my younger sister Jodi, 28, opened the front door.

‘Hey sis,’ she grinned, pulling me in for a hug.

Walking into her home, I said hello to my nieces, who were nine and five.

I hadn’t seen Jodi in a few weeks and we were well overdue for a catch up.

There were just two years between us, so we were super close and I’d often go over for dinner.

Jodi was passionate about family time and she’d always whip up amazing meals for us to enjoy as we chatted the night away.

She was also an incredible mum and doted on the girls.

Two weeks later, I was at home when our mum, Margaret, rang me.

‘Have you heard from Jodi? No-one knows where she is,’ she breathed.

I hadn’t heard from her since we’d spoken on the phone a few weeks earlier.

Mum said Jodi had gone to a friend’s party the previous night, as the girls were with their dads for the weekend.

Jodi’s boyfriend had left the party early, but she hadn’t come home.

And by the time the kids were due back from their dads’, we really started to panic. It was totally out of character for her.

Jodi and mum Margaret
Jodi with our mum Margaret

We all knew Jodi would make sure she was home in time for them.

Jodi’s boyfriend also had a voicemail from her, where she’d sounded distressed saying words like ‘leave me alone’ or ‘get off me’.

We reported Jodi missing and police started an investigation, questioning those who were at the party.

I didn’t know any of them.

We attempted to shield the girls from what was going on, but they’d often ask where their mummy was.

It was devastating.

Two weeks after Jodi’s disappearance, Mum and I made a public appeal on TV.

It felt so surreal as we sat in front of the cameras.

‘Please help us bring her home,’ I sobbed.

As the days continued to pass, it remained a mystery.

I clung to a tiny glimmer of hope that Jodi was alive.

Then three long weeks after Jodi had gone missing, police phoned.

They wanted to speak to me, my brother Michael, 39, and our parents.

I knew in my heart it was bad news.

But as we all sat on the couch, holding on to each other, I still felt utter disbelief as they told us Jodi’s body had been found.

She’d been wrapped in a child’s plastic paddling pool secured with duct tape, and buried in a shallow grave on a rural property.

Why would anyone kill Jodi? I thought.

Sandy and mum Margaret making police appeal
Mum and I made a public appeal

Days later, police charged Darren Michael Dobson with her murder.

They’d only met at the party a few hours before he’d killed her.

The following year, in May 2015, Dobson, 38, appeared at the Supreme Court in Hobart and pleaded guilty.

We heard how Dobson choked Jodi to death out of rage after the pair had an argument. He then hid her body under the house.

Prosecutor Jackie Hartnett told the court my lovely sister had been ‘physically restrained, overpowered and strangled,’ and had suffered a blunt force trauma to the left side of her head.

Around 48 hours later, Dobson asked his brother-in-law Jonathan Paul Pearce, to help him move Jodi’s body. She was loaded into the back of a car and taken to an isolated farm owned by Dobson’s uncle, Maxwell Douglas Morrison, 59.

On the way, they stopped at a servo to refuel and Dobson even bought a pie and a drink.

Morrison was jailed for failing to report her killing.

Pearce pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to murder.

He was sentenced to five years in prison with a non-parole period of half that term.

Jodi was the core of the Eaton family
Jodi was the core of our family

Dobson got life in jail but would be eligible for parole after 15 years.

I was disgusted when I heard about his dark past.

When Jodi was strangled, he’d been out on bail for grabbing his partner’s throat and holding her against a wall.

In 2006, he had choked and punched a pregnant former partner into unconsciousness, landing him three years in jail.

And back in 1997, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for choking and raping a female neighbour three times.

He was quite clearly a dangerous, violent man and a threat to women.

Why was he walking the streets?

I felt so let down by the system. The fact parole means Dobson could be out of jail again is just sickening.

He needs to be locked up indefinitely.

Currently, Tassie laws mean someone can’t be charged with strangulation, choking or suffocation as a specific criminal offence.

My family and I are urging the Tasmanian Government to introduce this law.

It already exists in NSW, ACT, SA and Queensland.

A law change would ensure perpetrators were
put in prison for a minimum of five years, which could save lives.

What happened to Jodi is heartbreaking and has changed my family forever.

The girls, now aged 15 and 11, have to grow up without their mum by their sides.

Our homes are covered with photos of Jodi, and Mum even has a special wall dedicated to her.

Fun-loving and generous, Jodi was the core of our family.

Nothing will bring our wonderful Jodi back, but we’ll never forget her.

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