Yates’ wife visits him and asks why

By NICHOLAS GERANIOS

Associated Press

The wife of serial killer Robert L. Yates Jr. says she asked him during a jailhouse visit why he killed at least 13 people.

"I said, ‘Do you know why you killed these women?’ " Linda Yates recalled in an interview that aired Friday night on NBC television’s "Dateline" program.

"I want to know why, like anybody else," Linda Yates said she asked her husband. "And how you could have done this, and still be married to me?"

Her husband, who grew up in Oak Harbor and is still under investigation for deaths there, had no answer.

It was Linda Yates’ first interview since the arrest of her husband in Spokane the morning of April 18. She and the couple’s children were rousted from their home without notice law-enforcement officers who had come to search the house for evidence.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the Yates family went into hiding. The couple has four daughters and one son.

"How could you not see the signs?" Linda Yates said, according to a transcript of the interview supplied by "Dateline." "But, see, you’re so close to somebody you don’t see it."

But in retrospect, she said there were some clues.

"Especially when he said he was going hunting, and he was dressed up nice and had cologne on," she told "Dateline." "You don’t go out hunting with cologne on."

Linda Yates also said she confronted her husband when she found evidence that indicated he was having extramarital affairs.

"He always had answers to everything," she said. "Already prepared in his mind, I think."

Yates confessed to the killings in October as part of a deal to escape the death penalty. But the plea bargain included another bombshell for his wife: Her husband revealed that for two years the body of one of his victims had been buried in their yard just outside their bedroom window.

"They (police) called me at work and said that they found a body in your yard. And I said, ‘Oh my God.’ I turned ice cold," Linda Yates said.

She said her husband was moody.

"He was a very moody person," she said. "He could one minute he could be real easygoing, and go into a room and come out and be a totally whole different person."

Yates was sentenced last month in Spokane to 408 years in prison for 13 murders — 10 women in Spokane since 1996, a woman in Skagit County in 1988 and a couple near Walla Walla in 1975 — and one attempted murder. The victims in Spokane and Skagit County had been involved in drugs or prostitution.

Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley last month said he’s investigating Yates in connection with two more unsolved homicides and a missing person. Among the slayings is the death of 19-year-old Teresa Hesselgrave, whose body was found in a wooded area near Whidbey General Hospital in 1977.

Yates once worked at the hospital, and might have known Hesselgrave.

Also under investigation are the deaths of Darrin Wade Gehrke, 23, in 1995 and the disappearance of Linda Fisher Moran, 27, in December 1976.

In addition, Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives are probing a Yates connection to the unsolved murders of a young British Columbia couple whose bodies were found in 1987 near High Bridge south of Monroe.

Yates, 48, still faces two aggravated first-degree murder charges and a possible death penalty in the deaths of two women in Pierce County.

Yates is an Army veteran and National Guard helicopter pilot who served tours in Germany and at several U.S. bases. Law enforcement officers in many of those places are studying unsolved crimes to see if Yates might be involved.

Linda Yates, who is from Walla Walla, married Robert Yates in 1976.

The loss of their main breadwinner has been a financial hardship for the family, she said.

Robert and Linda Yates jointly filed a personal bankruptcy petition in late October. The couple filed under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which allows individuals to keep certain belongings while selling off other property to repay creditors.

The petition states that Yates and his wife have assets of more than $136,000 and liabilities totaling $475,000.

One of the creditors listed is Christine L. Smith, a woman who survived a 1998 attack and in July filed a lawsuit against Yates. Yates pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder in that attack.

The bankruptcy petition lists their two-story home on Spokane’s South Hill as the family’s biggest asset. The house has been assessed at $113,000.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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