Yates link possible in ’70s killing


Herald Writer

COUPEVILLE — Confessed serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr., who grew up in Oak Harbor, worked for a brief period at Whidbey General Hospital, hospital officials said Monday.

Yates’ mother was a former employee of the year at that hospital, and a hospital worker could be a possible victim of Yates’.

Sheriff Mike Hawley last week confirmed that his investigators are looking at Yates in connection with three unsolved Island County cases — two homicides and a missing person.

Among the slayings is the death of 19-year-old Teresa Hesselgrave. Her body was found in a wooded area near Whidbey General Hospital in April 1977.

Yates, 48, a married father of five and a former military helicopter pilot, is to be sentenced this week to more than 400 years in prison for 13 murders — one in Skagit County, two in Walla Walla and 10 in Spokane. He then will face charges in two other slayings in Pierce County.

Authorities in Island, Snohomish and Spokane counties are reviewing records on other unsolved slayings to determine whether Yates may have been involved.

Yates underwent a pre-employment physical on Dec. 31, 1975, and is believed to have worked at Whidbey General Hospital for about six months early in 1976, according to the recollections of other employees.

Yates worked in housekeeping, a department supervised for years by his late mother, Anna Mae Yates.

Hospital officials couldn’t confirm the exact dates of Yates’ employment or his mother’s because personnel records are maintained only for seven years, Rose said.

Hawley said last week that Yates has been back to Island County to visit family or friends, and investigators fear he may have crossed paths with Hesselgrave.

Authorities say the two had mutual friends and may have known each other.

The other cases Island County sheriff’s investigators are pursuing are the disappearance in December 1996 of Linda Fisler Moran, 27, who disappeared from a gas station in south Whidbey; and the death of Darrin Wade Gehrke, 23, whose body was found in a wooded area near Oak Harbor in June 1995. Gehrke had been shot to death.

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