Judge sets Sept. 19 execution date for serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr.

TACOMA — A judge signed a death warrant Friday for convicted serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr., but the execution date could be postponed for further appeals.

Yates, 56, showed no reaction as Pierce County Superior Court Judge John McCarthy set an execution date of Sept. 19, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Friday. Relatives of Yates’ victims were among those who packed the courtroom during the short hearing.

Yates’ attorneys said they expect to immediately ask the state Supreme Court for a stay of execution.

Yates was sentenced to death in 2002 for shooting two Tacoma prostitutes and suffocating them by tying plastic grocery bags over their heads.

The former smelter worker and Air National Guard helicopter pilot also was sentenced to 408 years for murdering 13 women in Spokane, Walla Walla and Skagit counties. All those victims were prostitutes he killed in the same manner as the Tacoma women, but Yates avoided the death penalty in a plea deal.

The Supreme Court examined Yates’ Tacoma case in an earlier appeal, upholding his death sentence in an 8-1 ruling last year.

In that appeal, Yates asked the court to take a fresh look at how capital punishment is applied in Washington.

He pointed to Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, who avoided capital punishment for killing 48 women through a plea deal with King County prosecutors. Yates also raised his own plea bargain in Spokane County — he got life in prison for slaying 13 women, but death for killing two Tacoma women.

Yates’ lawyers argued at the time that such disparity showed Washington allows “disproportionate, freakish, wanton and random” application of the death penalty.

Yates also contested Pierce County’s decision to withdraw from what he called a deal with the Spokane prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for his guilty pleas and information about his victims.

But the high court swept away all of Yates’ arguments, saying prosecutors’ discretion to seek the death penalty as they see fit did not pose a basic constitutional flaw in how the state applies capital punishment.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Vesper Peak, as seen from Gothic Peak, is the highest summit on the left. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Anacortes man found dead near Vesper Peak identified

Adam L. Johnson, 29, didn’t return from a hike Saturday. Search and rescue found his body in a creek.

A driver yelled "Black lives don’t matter” at a man working in his driveway.
Family endures racist taunt over ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign

They were doing yard work at their Everett home when a driver yelled ‘Black lives don’t matter.’

‘Residency makes you a doctor:’ New WSU program coming to Prov

WSU’s medical college is starting an Everett-based internal medicine residency. New docs will come here.

A police officer stands outside of Boohan Oriental Market after a shooting on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
1 dead, 2 injured after Edmonds shooting; suspect arrested

One woman was shot in the face. Police believe all four people knew each other.

Sultan woman, 20, identified after fatal Friday night crash

Sarah A. Markley crashed into a tree and died of blunt-force injuries, the medical examiner found.

Jazz Jarrell leads a march outside Denney Juvenile Justice Center to push reforms in Everett on September 26, 2020.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
No more youth jail, group demands at small rally in Everett

The Snohomish County Equity Alliance wants youth treated differently in the criminal justice system.

Human skeletal remains found Saturday near Mill Creek

Circumstances around the death are under investigation by the sheriff’s office Major Crimes Unit.

Three people were shot at the Boo Han Oriental Market Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, off of Highway 99 in Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds triple-shooting suspect turned self in, police say

The suspect allegedly admitted to family that he shot his wife and her two friends. One later died.

Worker cheer and wave as Boeing's 787 Dreamliner takes off from Paine Field Tuesday morning on Dec. 15, 2009. (Justin Best/ The Herald
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a WSJ story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.

Most Read