Wash. Serial Killer Pleads Guilty

ByJohn K. Wiley

S P O K A N E, Wash., Oct. 19, 2000 -- Robert L. Yates Jr. pleaded guiltytoday to 13 murders, taking a place among the nation’s mostprolific serial killers.

The Army veteran and helicopter pilot also pleaded guilty to onecount of attempted murder as part of a deal to escape the deathpenalty.

Yates removed his glasses and wiped his eyes as he answered“guilty, your honor” as each count was read against him. It washis first public show of emotion since his arrest in April.

Yates made no statements during the 30-minute court appearance,other than to answer questions. The small courtroom was packed withfamily of victims.

The 48-year-old father of five is to be sentenced next Thursdayto 447 years in prison.

Death Penalty Possible in Other CasesYates was arrested in April and charged with the deaths of eightwomen and the attempted murder of another in the Spokane area in1996-98. He also was charged with the murders of two women inPierce County that occurred in the same period.

All of the victims were involved in a life of prostitution anddrugs, and had been shot.

Yates pleaded guilty to seven of the Spokane slayings he wascharged with, three Spokane-area slayings he was suspected of but notcharged with, the murder of a young man and woman in Walla WallaCounty in 1975, and the murder of a woman in Skagit County in 1988.

Yates also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of ChristineSmith, 32, of Spokane, the only victim known to have escaped hisattacks.

Yates could still face the death penalty in the two Tacoma-areaslayings, and in an additional slaying in Spokane County that isbeing held in abeyance in case Yates tries to renege on theagreement or file an appeal.

A Family’s AnguishYates’ relatives this week said they knew him as a caring familyman who loved cars and the outdoors, and was proud of his servicein the Army and National Guard as a helicopter pilot.

But Sonja Yates, one of Yates’ four daughters, said there hadbeen signs of trouble.

“My mom had her suspicions that he was sneaking around once ina while,” the 22-year-old said Wednesday, speaking publicly forthe first time since her father’s arrest. “He would stay out until2 in the morning. She wondered what he was doing.”

Investigators say Yates frequently cruised Spokane’s red-lightdistrict in a white 1977 Corvette and picked up prostitutes. Lastspring, investigators recovered a victim’s DNA in the car,providing the evidence that triggered Yates’ arrest.

After the arrest, Yates’ family left their Spokane home and wentinto hiding.

Yates takes his place among the nation’s most prolific killers,a list that includes the uncaught Green River Killer, blamed forthe deaths of at least 49 women in Washington and Oregon startingin 1982, and Ted Bundy, a Tacoma native who confessed to killing 30women, including eight in Washington state, before his execution inFlorida in 1988.

John Wayne Gacy Jr. was convicted in 1980 of 33 Chicago-areamurders, the most convictions by anyone in U.S. history.