EVERETT — They could have given into the hate and rage that led David “Joey” Pedersen to kill four people in three states.
Instead, they chose on Friday to focus on the people they love and how their lives were made better because of them.
Leslie “DeeDee” Pedersen was a kind and strong woman, who loved her family and friends. Her daughters treasured the refuge she provided. Her nieces valued her advice and determination. She lit up when she talked about her grandchildren.
David “Red” Pedersen made his wife happy. He opened his home to family and friends alike, making sure they knew he was glad to see them and eager to make them feel welcome.
They shared their memories at a court hearing where Joey Pedersen was sentenced to life in prison for the murders. They didn’t let Pedersen’s actions at the hearing distract them from honoring Red and DeeDee Pedersen.
“When I was a teenager, my aunt was someone who I wanted to grow up to be. She taught me how to love the people in my life even when I didn’t necessarily agree with their behavior. She never yelled or shouted. Instead, throughout her life, she always led by kind example,” Debbie Rounds told Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese.
Krese on Friday sentenced Joey Pedersen, 31, to the only sentence available to the judge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
Pedersen pleaded guilty on Monday to two counts of aggravated murder for killing his father, Red Pedersen and his wife, DeeDee.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe declined to seek the death penalty for Joey Pedersen after the police investigation turned up evidence that Red Pedersen had molested his children and others decades ago.
Roe said the death penalty was justifiable in the case, but he didn’t believe a jury would unanimously agree that Joey Pedersen should be executed after being told about the abuse during the mandatory penalty phase of a trial.
Joey Pedersen on Friday told the judge he killed his father because he’d abused his own daughter. The woman, Holly Perez called her brother’s motive irrational.
She didn’t attend the hearing on Friday. A victim advocate read her statement. Perez wrote that her brother’s actions were vile and asked the judge not to show him leniency. She is afraid of her brother and believes that if he is ever free he will hurt others.
Despite the abuse she and her brother endured, there was no justification for her father’s murder, she wrote.
Her stepmother, DeeDee Pedersen certainly didn’t deserve to die, Perez wrote.
DeeDee Pedersen was not married to Red Pedersen when the abuse occurred. Her daughters don’t believe she knew her husband’s past.
She “was completely innocent. … If this is something she would have known about, Red would not have been in our lives, even if it caused her pain,” her daughter, Lori Nemitz said.
Joey Pedersen on Friday said he killed DeeDee Pedersen, and insisted she knew about his father’s misdeeds. Prosecutors, however, allege that the convicted killer’s girlfriend, Holly Grigsby, slashed the Everett grandmother’s throat. Grigsby, 25, has admitted in interviews with detectives and reporters that she wielded the knives. She also is charged with aggravated murder for the Sept. 26 killings.
Roe hasn’t announced if he’ll seek the death penalty for Grigsby. It’s unlikely. Death sentences are automatically reviewed by the appellate courts, and one factor is whether the punishment is proportional for others convicted of similar crimes.
Joey Pedersen on Friday called his girlfriend’s incarceration a “grave injustice.” He also said Roe wasn’t courageous enough in the case. He baited the prosecutor, saying Roe should “stand up” and explain to the community that Pedersen never intended to resist a death sentence.
If that was so, the killer didn’t explain why he accepted the plea, knowing that prosecutors wouldn’t seek his execution.
Pedersen spoke while surrounded by five county corrections officers. He may not have realized that Roe was standing behind him in the courtroom, listening to every word.
“I’m thankful this will likely be his only chance to spew his hateful viewpoints in the state of Washington,” Roe said after the hearing.
Joey Pedersen’s fate could be different in two states where he can’t blame the victims.
Pedersen in court Friday admitted to killing those “individuals in Oregon and California,” a teen who was shot because he had a “Jewish sounding” last name, and a black man who Pedersen thought was a drug dealer.
He and Grigsby are accused of shooting devout Christian Cody Myers, 19, in Oregon after they dumped Red Pedersen’s Jeep with the slain man still inside.
Myers was headed to a jazz festival when he encountered the pair. They wanted his car. He was shot multiple times.
The couple then headed down to California, looking for a different getaway car. They ran into Reginald Clark, 53, outside a grocery store in Eureka, Calif.
The disabled black man was shot in the head.
In an interview with doctors at Western State Hospital, Pedersen called Clark “riffraff,” and said he wasn’t sorry for killing any of the victims.
Instead, Pedersen said his only regret was not reaching Sacramento, Calif. That’s where Grigsby told authorities the couple had planned to “kill more Jews.”
“I wish we had been more successful. I wish we had made it to Sacramento,” Pedersen is quoted as saying in a psychiatric evaluation filed Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Pedersen and Grigsby could still face the death penalty in the slayings in Oregon and California. Federal prosecutors could consolidate the cases, and prosecute the killings as hate crimes. In Oregon, the Lincoln County district attorney has announced plans to prosecute the couple for the death of Myers. He said he was waiting for the case here against Grigsby to be resolved before he seeks their extradition.
Joey Pedersen will leave Everett soon. His violence won’t be forgotten.
But neither will the love that a family has for those who were taken.
“My mother was the most beautiful, compassionate, empathetic, love-filled woman there ever was,” Susan Ellis wrote. “She was the strongest woman I ever knew and I was proud to be called her daughter.”
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.