S P O K A N E, Wash., Oct. 18 -- Patrick Oliver and Susan Savage were justtwo months out of college in 1975 when they set out for a Sundayafternoon swim and a picnic.
At some point, the childhood friends crossed paths with anotheryoung man on a hunting trip — 23-year-old Robert L. Yates Jr.
For Oliver, fresh from studies in France, and Savage, a recentgraduate of Washington State University, the chance encountermarked a tragic end.
For Yates, it apparently was a beginning of a murderous streakthat lasted until the 1990s.
Yates, now 48, will plead guilty to 13 murders, including thoseof Oliver and Savage, and one attempted murder on Thursday, SpokaneCounty Prosecutor Steve Tucker announced today. Except for theyoung couple, all the victims were women involved in prostitutionor drugs.
Death Penalty Still Possible
The 18-year Army veteran and helicopter pilot will be sentencedOct. 26 to 447 years in prison, but the plea bargain will allow himto escape the death penalty in those cases, Tucker said.
However, the agreement doesn’t cover two slayings in PierceCounty and one other slaying in Spokane, and he could face death inthose cases.
“This plea agreement doesn’t keep him from being prosecutedanywhere else,” Tucker said.
Yates sealed his plea offer by directing investigators to a bodyburied in his own side yard, evidence investigators missed in morethan a month of searching his home.
Helping With The InvestigationThe plea agreement was contingent on the body being that ofMelody Murfin, 43, a suspected victim missing for two years.
An autopsy Tuesday failed to positively identify the body andinvestigators said DNA samples would be required. However, Tuckersaid jewelry found with the corpse matched jewelry that Murfin’sfamily members described.
“Last night by telephone, family members verified the rings shehad on and the necklace,” Tucker said. “Everything matches, he(Yates) hasn’t told us anything that is not true yet.”