Robert Lee Yates Jr. Was born on May 27, 1952, is an American serial killer from Spokane, Washington. From 1975 to 1998, Yates is known to have murdered at least 11 women in Spokane. Yates also confessed to two murders committed in Walla Walla in 1975 and a 1988 murder committed in Skagit County.
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Yates was born on May 27, 1952 and grew up in Oak Harbor, Washington in a middle-class family that attended a local Seventh-day Adventist church. Before his birth, his grandmother murdered his grandfather with an axe in 1945.
Yates graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1970. In 1975, he was hired by the Washington State Department of Corrections to work as a correction officer at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Where is Robert Lee Yates Today?
For the appalling killing spree, Yates was charged with 13 counts of first-degree murders and one count of attempted murder at Spokane County Superior Court. He pleaded guilty for his crimes as part of a plea bargain so as to not receive the death penalty. He apologized to the family members of his victims as well. He had received a sentence of 408 years behind bars. While Yates was already incarcerated, Yates was also charged with two more crimes— the murders of Melinda L. Mercer (in 1997) and Connie Ellis (in 1998). He was found guilty and was given the death penalty. He had died by lethal injection on October 3, 2002. But Yates had viewed his previous sentence as an all-encompassing one and appealed the case.
The veteran’s legal team, in 2013, filed a habeas corpus petition claiming that Yates was mentally ill, and suffered from a severe paraphilic disorder, which contributed to his killing spree. However, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, said, “I don’t think Mr. Yates helps his cause by relying on the fact that he’s a necrophiliac.”
In July 2015, the Washington Supreme Court refused to change Yates’s sentence. However, in 2018, it was announced that the death penalty was unconstitutional in the state, and Yates, who was once on death row, is now serving life in prison with the impossibility of parole at the Washington State Penitentiary.
The murders Yates had committed between 1975 and 1998 in Spokane all involved sex workers who worked along Spokane’s East Sprague Avenue. Initially, the victims were solicited for sex work by Yates, who would have sex with them (often in his 1979 Ford van), sometimes do drugs with them, then kill them and dump their bodies in rural locations. All of his victims died of gunshot wounds to the head. Eight of the murders were committed with a Raven .25-caliber handgun, and one attempted murder was linked to the same model of handgun.
On August 1, 1998, Yates had picked up sex worker Christine Smith, who managed to escape after being shot, assaulted and robbed. She is the Yates’ only known attempted murder survivor. On September 19, 1998, Yates was called to give a DNA sample to Spokane police after being stopped. He had refused, stating that it was too extreme of a request for a “family man.