Serial Women's Sock Snatcher in Illinois in Trouble Again

James Dowdy has admitted his hankering for women's hosiery has been his undoing, earning him three stints in prison and repeated scoldings from judges over the years.

So police say it's no surprise the 36-year-old man is knee deep in trouble again because of his lust for leggings.

St. Clair County prosecutors charged Dowdy on Friday with felony attempted burglary for his uninvited visit to a parked car and with misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for dropping stolen socks "in an unreasonable manner, as to alarm and disturb."

"He's obviously got some problems," Belleville police Capt. Don Sax said Monday of Dowdy, who remains jailed on $50,000 bond. "We can't crawl into his head and come up with a particular answer to why he does this. We have to assume it's part of his sexual deviation."

Authorities have no evidence that Dowdy has ever threatened anyone.

"To the best of our knowledge, he's just after the socks," Sax said. "Generally, they are almost always female socks."

In the weeks leading to his latest arrest, Sax said, witnesses in Dowdy's neighborhood reported seeing a suspicious person slinking about, at times peeking through windows. Often, Sax says, socks were left behind, though it's unclear whether the culprit dropped them clumsily or as a calling card.

Police responding to one of the reports saw Dowdy — who fit the description of the man reported by neighbors — trying to crawl into his house through a basement window, socks in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Witnesses picked Dowdy from a photo lineup, Sax said, but he wasn't arrested at the time.

Dowdy was arrested April 28, after someone reported seeing him near or in a parked car — and after a woman's sock was found in a backyard near where witnesses claimed Dowdy had been.

His troubles stretch back at least 13 years.

In 2004, Dowdy was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted residential burglary, a felony reportedly tied to his strolling into a female neighbor's home for her socks.

Seven years earlier, Dowdy got a six-year sentence for breaking into another woman's home and stealing socks.

And in 1994, Dowdy was sentenced to three years for trying to burglarize a home, ultimately getting caught by police with a bag of socks.

"I know what I did was wrong," he told the judge back then during sentencing. "And the thing with the socks, I would like to get help with it so I can get over it, get it out of my life and get on with my life."

Messages left Monday for some of his relatives in Belleville were not immediately returned.

Dowdy has been assigned to be represented by the county public defender's office, though no specific counselor there has yet been assigned to him, officials said Monday.

"Obviously, our hope is that he either be incarcerated in jail or a hospital someplace where this can be dealt with," Sax said. "Sneaking around a house in today's society, at some point, someone is going to get hurt."