Prosecutor’s statement on death penalty decision

Here is the full text of a press release Monday from Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe, explaining his decision to accept a guilty plea that will forego a death penalty trial for David “Joey” Pedersen. Pedersen is scheduled to be sentenced Friday to life in prison without possibility of release:

Today my office agreed to allow guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the brutal murders of Leslie and David Pedersen. These pleas ensure that today’s defendant, Mr. Pedersen’s son, will never walk free again. We agreed to these pleas after a thorough and detailed investigation by the Everett Police Department, led by detectives Steve Brenneman and Phillip Erickson. We also met four separate times with family members and friends of Leslie and David.

Any aggravated murder charge in Washington brings with it the possibility of a death penalty proceeding. I have been involved in a number of aggravated murder prosecutions in my 25-year career, as well as multiple death penalty cases. I believe that the death penalty is appropriate in some cases. Our senior prosecutors and seasoned members of the Everett Police Department gathered last week to discuss the possibility of the death penalty for this defendant, though the ultimate decision is mine alone. I have also discussed the same question with family and friends of the victims on multiple occasions.

Though in my opinion the acts of this defendant make the death penalty an appropriate punishment, after full and fair consideration of the materials provided to me by the police investigation, I have decided not to seek to have him executed. I told surviving family and friends my decision at our most recent meeting last Tuesday. They were disappointed, but I believe understand my decision and my reasons for it. Since the public also has a right to know why I decided not to seek the death penalty for this defendant, I am issuing this press release. The family and friends of the victims have already had an opportunity to review it.

The defendant (pleaded) guilty to murdering two people. By all accounts, Leslie Pedersen was an incredibly lovely person who hadn’t harmed anyone in her entire life. She was not married to David Pedersen in his younger years, when he was raising the defendant and the defendant’s sister, and was therefore in no position to either know about, or prevent the decades-ago activities of her husband, which this murder investigation brought to light. Leslie Pedersen was not even in David Pedersen’s life at the time.

The police investigation revealed that many years ago when his children were young, the late David Pedersen engaged in child abuse. Significant, credible evidence exists that he engaged in multiple acts of child sexual abuse, victimizing his own children, and others. The defendant has repeatedly confessed to killing his father, and cited some of that abuse as a reason why. Whether that was his true, sole or only motivation is less certain, but what is certain is that any jury considering his fate would first hear hours, days, or perhaps weeks of testimony on the subject, some of it from the actual victims of the abuse.

Neither my senior attorneys, myself, nor members of the investigative team believe that with what a jury would hear, there is any reasonable chance of them unanimously returning with a verdict of death for this defendant. As such, I will not seek a death sentence I believe we cannot realistically achieve, despite my feeling that such a sentence would be justified.

Nothing can justify this defendant’s actions, and in fairness to the late David Pedersen, it should be noted that no evidence has come to light of any recent wrongdoing by him. As mentioned previously, it doesn’t appear there was ever any wrongdoing at all by Leslie Pedersen. Though legally and morally responsible for Leslie’s murder as well, this defendant is not believed to have been physically responsible for the acts which killed her. It does appear clear however, that he irrationally held animus towards Leslie for being married to his father, and believed that she was aware of his father’s past. There has never even been any suggestion that Leslie did anything to him, nor to anyone else. She was murdered anyway, before the defendant continued on a southerly rampage into Oregon and California.

This plea and upcoming sentencing ends the Washington case against this defendant. As for the co-defendant, I expect to receive a mitigation package from the defense shortly, and my announcement about whether I will seek the death penalty will be made after a separate review and consultation process. Today’s action does not impact or limit in any way actions or prosecutions of either defendant by other jurisdictions.

I will answer questions posed to me, though I will not, out of respect for the deceased and their families, discuss in any further detail the sexual abuse allegations except to repeat that Leslie Pedersen was in no way involved in those activities.

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