Yates’ Island Co. link probed

Killer’s confession prompts review of unsolved murders


Herald Writer

WHIDBEY ISLAND — Island County sheriff’s investigators are reviewing three unsolved cases to determine whether confessed serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr. may have been involved.

Yates, who pleaded guilty Thursday in Spokane County to 13 murders and one attempted murder of females ranging from 16 to 47 years old in 1975, 1988, and 1997-98, has piqued the interest of police agencies in other unsolved killings, including slayings in Snohomish County.

Yates, 48, grew up in Oak Harbor, attended Whidbey Island schools and may have maintained ties to the area, Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley said Friday. His staff has talked to investigators on Spokane’s homicide task force who brought Yates to justice.

"Right now there’s a gap of almost 10 years" between some of Yates’ killings, Hawley said. "That just doesn’t fit with the actions of a serial killer. He knew the area, he grew up in the area."

More importantly, Yates and one of Island County’s victims had mutual friends.

"There’s a potential that he actually knew her," Hawley said.

Linda Fisler Moran, 27, vanished Dec. 22, 1996, from a gas station at a Bayview business area in south Whidbey, Hawley said.

"We have no evidence to point to him, but we know he had friends in the area that he visited, and he would have passed right by that gas station," the sheriff said.

The county’s other unsolved cases under review are:

  • Darrin Wade Gehrke, 23, who was shot to death. His body was found on the outskirts of Oak Harbor in a slightly wooded area off a main road on June 20, 1995, Hawley said.

    "We’d like to be able to eliminate (Yates) as a suspect," Hawley said.

  • Teresa Hesselgrave, 19, whose body was discovered April 15, 1977, in a wooded area near Coupeville. She died of asphyxiation.

    "You just don’t know," Hawley said.

    If Yates is connected to Hesselgrave’s death, Hawley would be willing to work out a deal so her family could have some closure, he said. Her relatives still live on Whidbey.

    He’s also skeptical of information from Yates’ lie-detector test regarding his killings.

    "I’ll be honest with you. They said they gave him a polygraph," Hawley said. "Serial killers are good liars. Any good serial killer could beat a polygraph."

    Talk to us

  • More in Local News

    A few weeks before what could be her final professional UFC fight, Miranda Granger grimaces as she pushes a 45-pound plate up her driveway on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Her daughter Austin, age 11 months, is strapped to her back. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Daily Herald staff wins 5 honors at annual journalism competition

    The Herald got one first-place win and four runner-up spots in SPJ’s Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

    Panelists from different areas of mental health care speak at the Herald Forum about mental health care on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    At panel, mental health experts brainstorm answers to staff shortages

    Workforce shortages, insurance coverage and crisis response were in focus at the Snohomish forum hosted by The Daily Herald.

    Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
    Report of downed hot air balloon turns up farmer’s tarp near Snohomish

    Two 911 callers believed they saw a hot air balloon crash, leading to a major search-and-rescue response. It was a false alarm.

    People gather for a color throw at Stanwood and Camano’s first-ever Pride celebration on Saturday, June 4, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    ‘We’ve at least come a little ways’: Snohomish to host first Pride event

    A 10 a.m. parade on First Street will be followed by a pop-up market with 60 vendors, a downtown wine walk, queer cabaret and more.

    The site of a former 76 gas station and a handful of century old buildings will be the location for new apartments buildings at the corner of Pacific and Rucker on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Old gas station demolished for apartments in downtown Everett

    A 200-unit apartment complex between three and seven stories tall is proposed at Pacific and Rucker avenues.

    Kamiak High School is pictured Friday, July 8, 2022, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Kamiak football coach fired amid sexual misconduct investigation

    Police believe Julian Willis, 34, sexually abused the student in portable classrooms on Kamiak High School’s campus.

    Police: Marysville man fist-bumped cop, exposing tattoos of wanted robber

    The suspect told police he robbed three stores to pay off a drug debt. He’d just been released from federal prison for another armed robbery.

    People begin marching down First Street with a giant balloon “PRIDE” during Snohomish’s inaugural Pride celebration on Saturday, June 3, 2023, in downtown Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    GALLERY: Snohomish hosts first official Pride celebration

    Scenes from the parade and other events celebrating LGBTQIA culture and people in downtown Snohomish.

    Cat killed, 9 people displaced after duplex fire in Everett

    None of the people were injured in the fire reported around 1:15 a.m. in the 11500 block of Meridian Avenue S.

    Most Read