Todd Hodne Cause of Death: The Dark Side of a Football Star

Todd Hodne was a former football player who had a promising career at Penn State University, but ended up as a convicted rapist and murderer. He died of cancer on April 29, 2020, at the age of 61, while serving a life sentence in a New York prison. His story is one of talent, violence, and tragedy, and raises questions about the culture and accountability of college sports.

A Rising Star

Todd Hodne was born on April 23, 1959, in Wantagh, Long Island, New York. He was a gifted athlete who excelled at football, playing as a linebacker for St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay. He was recruited by Penn State, where he played in seven games as a freshman, including the 1977 Fiesta Bowl. He was expected to become a star player for the Nittany Lions, under the legendary coach Joe Paterno.

However, his football career was derailed by his criminal behavior. In the summer of 1978, he and two friends robbed a record store, and he was arrested on burglary charges. He was suspended from the team for the season, but Paterno gave him a chance to return if he proved himself academically and morally.

A Serial Rapist

What Paterno and the public did not know was that Hodne was also a serial rapist, who had sexually assaulted at least two Penn State students while attending the university. He was convicted of one of the rapes, and expelled from the school in December 1978. He was released on bail, and returned to his hometown, where he continued his predatory behavior. He was arrested again in May 1979, on four counts of first-degree rape, among other charges. He pleaded guilty to two of the rapes, and was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison, to be served consecutively with his Pennsylvania sentence.

Hodne’s crimes shocked and outraged the community, and raised questions about how he was able to get away with them for so long. According to an ESPN article by Tom Junod and Paula Lavigne1, Hodne used his charm, intelligence, and football fame to lure and manipulate his victims, and to avoid suspicion and detection. He also exploited the gaps and flaws in the criminal justice system, and the lack of communication and cooperation between the authorities in different states. He was able to obtain bail, parole, and plea deals, despite his violent and repeated offenses.

A Cold-Blooded Killer

In 1986, Hodne was paroled, despite the objections of the prosecutor who tried his case. He returned to Wantagh, where he got a job, a girlfriend, and a therapist. He seemed to be on the path to rehabilitation, but he soon relapsed into drug addiction and crime. He stopped attending his therapy sessions, lost his job, and was evicted from his girlfriend’s apartment.

On January 10, 1987, Hodne committed his final and most brutal crime. He hailed a taxi, driven by a 62-year-old man named Joseph Pugliese, and asked him to take him to a nearby motel. When they arrived, Hodne pulled out a gun and demanded money from Pugliese. He then shot him in the head, killing him instantly. He fled the scene with $40, but was arrested the next day, after the police traced the gun to him.

Hodne was convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He never expressed any remorse or regret for his actions, and never apologized to his victims or their families. He spent the rest of his life behind bars, until he died of cancer in 2020.

A Cautionary Tale

Todd Hodne’s cause of death marked the end of a tragic and twisted saga, that exposed the dark side of a football star. His story is a cautionary tale of how talent and fame can be corrupted by violence and crime, and how the system can fail to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. His story also raises questions about the role and responsibility of college sports, and whether they foster a culture of entitlement, impunity, and cover-up. His story is a reminder of the need for justice, accountability, and compassion, for both the perpetrators and the victims of crime.

Doms Desk

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