Before Monday, not a lot of people knew the name Todd Hodne. After a 32,000-word ESPN.com report, a lot more people do, and what they’ve found out is disturbing, to put it mildly.
Hodne, who played football at Penn State for Joe Paterno in the late 1970s, has a rap sheet that includes sexual assault against more than a dozen women and the murder of a cab driver in 1987 that led to him going to prison until his death in April of 2020 at 61.
The report, titled “Untold” and written by Tom Junod and Paula Lavigne, details Hodne’s transformation from a Long Island kid given an opportunity to play football at one of the nation’s premier schools to a serial sexual predator.
Before Jerry Sandusky, there was Todd Hodne. Before the serial sexual predator who ended Paterno's career, there was the serial predator who left his career untouched. Here are finally the voices of the women who want this story told #Untold w/ @TomJunod https://t.co/QD6QTOurm0
— Paula Lavigne (@pinepaula) April 11, 2022
John B. Collins, a prosecutor for one of Hodne’s crimes, wrote to a parole board that, in nearly 30 years on the job, “Todd Hodne, to this day, remains among the three most dangerous, physically imposing and ruthless excuses for a human being I have ever faced in court.”
That includes serial killers.
Hodne came to Penn State in 1977. The next year, he became “The Penn State Rapist,” wrote ESPN.
“There were other rapes and rapists; Penn State, in the mid-to-late seventies, was enduring an epidemic of sexual assault that female students to this day still talk about. But even against that backdrop, Hodne’s attacks stand out because he was a football player who, according to one family member, ‘had no control over his drunk impulses.’
“He attacked with a knife to the throat, and when he attacked women, he made sure they couldn’t see him, but he also liked to suggest they knew him.”
On Aug. 19, 1978, Hodne held a knife to a Karen — who asked only for her first name to be published — and sexually assaulted her. That afternoon, Paterno suspended Hodne for the entire 1978 season and also mentioned a robbery Hodne committed earlier in the year.
In September, then-Penn State senior Betsy Sailor was raped by Hodne, and soon, his reputation as a vicious predator became clear.
Paterno warned his players not to testify in favor of Hodne. Tony Capozzoli testified against his coach’s wishes, and Capozzoli told ESPN that Paterno kicked him off the team while he still remained on scholarship.
“To a fault, (Paterno) put the program ahead of everything else,” Capozzoli told ESPN.
After Sailor’s case went to court, Hodne was found guilty by a jury in March of 1979. Following the verdict, Judge Richard Sharp told those inside the Centre County Courthouse that Hodne would be allowed to go back home to Long Island before the sentencing.
Later in 1979, Hodne raped a 23-year-old woman in the woods, raped and beat a 20-year-old woman behind a school and physically assaulted a 16-year-old girl. ESPN’s report states that Hodne was indicted on four counts of first-degree rape, three counts of first-degree sodomy, two counts of second-degree burglary and one count of first-degree attempted rape.
That September, he pled guilty to two counts of rape, two more of sexual assault and a count of attempted second-degree robbery. Hodne was sentenced to between seven and 21 years of prison and got released on parole in 1986.
In ’87, he murdered a cab driver and father of four, Jeffery Hirsch, who he initially planned to rob, and died in prison. Hirsch’s daughter, Kristen, who was just a baby when her father was murdered, was quoted in the story.
“To grow up without a dad really sucks,” Kristen Hirsch told ESPN. “The love from your father is the first true love you know, and I don’t have that. I’ve never had that, and I probably never will.”
Penn State issued a statement that said Hodne “committed horrific crimes” and expressed support for the victims. The University hopes they “can find some solace in the fact that Hodne was caught, convicted and spent the rest of his life in prison for what he did.”