Murder Under the Friday Night Lights Recap for When the Rules Don’t Apply

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Murder Under the Friday Night Lights Recap for When the Rules Don’t Apply

  • This week’s Murder Under the Friday Night Lights is titled When the Rules Don’t Apply and takes place State College, PA at Penn State.


  • Barbara Johnson talks about growing up in Long Island as a Bethpage High 1976 graduate. When she was twenty years old, she went jogging and heard someone sneak up behind her. At first, she thought it was another person on the street, but things took a turn when she was attacked, held at knifepoint and raped. He only stopped when she told him that her father was a police officer and was going to come looking for her.


  • Once home, Barbara told her father what happened, and he helped her retrace her steps so he could find some sort of evidence. Barbara’s mom took her to the hospital.  Little did she know that she was not the first victim of this rapist.


  • Attention was soon brought to the case, which was lead by Barbara’s father.


  • Lt. Ron Smeal talks about life in state college as does former Penn State tight end Irv Pankey, who recalls what it was like to play football for the school.


  • Duane Musser, State College PD Investigator remembers how at the time, Coach Joe Paterno was a legend in the town and how the football players were considered God and able to get away with anything.


  • Betsy Sailor, who was part of the Penn State class of 1979, remembers being at football games in the school and how 1978 was a big year for the team. Irv also remembers the influential year.
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  • Betsy also remembers how Paterno would run a tight ship and make his players dress up for media appearances. On the outside, it looked as if they were All-American football players.


  • On September 13, 1978 (seven months before Barbara was raped), Betsy got a call from a man who claimed his girlfriend was looking for a roommate. He was answering Betsy’s ad she placed on her behalf. She gave him the details of the place and went out for the night. When she got back home, she was attacked and raped. She recalls that he was a white male wearing jeans and it was a two hour ordeal.


  • When it was over, she called the police and remembers him being so kind and gentle as she gave her statement. The rape was reported in the paper and before long there were reports of other women who were also attacked.


  • Duane and Ron remember working on the case and not coming up with enough evidence to find out the identity of the rapist. They think they can get fingerprints on not only Betsy’s lamp, but the knife left behind and the medicine cabinet that the rapist had gone through. Unfortunately, they came up empty.


  • The personal and want ads were also looked into, in case the rapist lured his victims the same way he did Betsy.


  • Authorities continue to struggle, but it wasn’t until a woman named Susan reported that she got a call from the man who raped her asking if she liked it and wanted it done again. It turned out that he had lured her the same way he lured Betsy.
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  • The call was traced to a Penn State dorm belonging to football players Fred Ragucci and Todd Hodne. Irv remembers them being teammates, while Duane recalls how Todd was arrested for a burglary he was involved in with two other players, despite initially escaping from authorities at a time. Todd’s fingerprints were taken and they were a match to the ones found at Betsy’s.


  • Paterno was notified that there was a warrant for Todd’s arrest. It was assumed that Paterno would try and find Todd since it was known that he was dangerous.


  • On October 16th, 1978, Betsy was notified by her then-boyfriend that her rapist had been found. She was thrilled, but shocked because it was Todd. Irv was also in shock because he assumed at the time that it was hearsay.


  • All the while, it was assumed that Paterno got Todd an attorney, who encouraged him to turn himself in. However, he denied being the rapist and said that he was at a party and the knife in question had been stolen from him. None of this could be proven.


  • On October 25th, the preliminary hearing took place, which was open to the public. Several football players showed up to support Todd, while Betsy was questioned by Todd’s attorney. She tried to recall the details, including his suede Pumas. At that point, Irv knew his friend was guilty.


  • After the hearing and before the trial, Todd was out on bail. Betsy was moved to the dorms for her safety. When she was there, Irv went to visit her and promised to protect her and that he believed every word she said.
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  • On March 1, 1979. the trial began. Todd was found guilty and Betsy was taken by police for her own protection. In a scary turn of events, Todd’s bail was not revoked and he was sent home by his family instead of going to jail. Everyone was shocked by this and scared that he would attack again.


  • Seven weeks after the conviction, a woman named Georgette Perkel answered the door and was met face to face by a man who claimed to be looking for volunteer coaches. However, the man raped her and tied up her mother.


  • Another attack took place a month later, this time to a sixteen-year-old girl. A cop who was in the neighborhood was able to apprehend the rapist, who happened to be Todd Hodne. News soon got out about the incident, and it shocked everyone in the town where he grew up.


  • Six months later, Todd was sentenced to prison. He was also suspended from the team.


  • Todd was released in 1986 and killed a cab driver.


  • Barbara thinks that Todd was protected by Paterno due to the fact that he was a football player. Betsy also thinks this is the reason Todd wasn’t initially put in jail and allowed to be out to commit more crimes.


  • Betsy and Irv are now together after reuniting in 2020.
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