Execution Date Set For Spokane Serial Killer

TACOMA — A judge in Tacoma on Friday signed a death warrant for serial killer Robert Yates, setting an execution date of September 19th.

His defense lawyers say they expected to ask the state Supreme Court later Friday or Saturday for a stay of execution so they can again appeal his sentence for killing two women – Melinda Mercer and Connie LaFontaine Ellis – in Pierce County.

Friday’s hearing was the first time in nearly six years that Yates has appeared in a Pierce County courtroom and family members of his victims were sitting in the gallery for the symbolic setting of his execution date.

“It’s been 11 years the end of this year that she’s been gone. I still miss her. I think about her every day,” Clara Wason, mother of murder victim Laurie Wason said. “I detest him. I detest looking at him. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but I hope he goes to rot in hell. I really do.”

Not everyone in the courtroom was there on behalf of his victims. Pastor Kent Attwood was there in support of Yates.

Attwood befriended Yates while he was on trial in Pierce County and says the former Kaiser smelter worker and Army National Guard pilot was truly remorseful for his actions.

“He’s a father still. He’s a husband still. He’s an uncle, he’s a brother, he’s a son,” Attwood said.

For Ondreya Smith, mother of murder victim Sunny Oster, it doesn’t matter to her that Attwood wants people to remember that Yates is a father, husband, brother, uncle or son. What matters to her is that people remember all of the people whose lives he ended.

“What would really make me happy is for his cell to be lined from wall to wall with every person’s life that he took so he can look at them every day,” Smith said.

The high court ruled last year that Yates received a fair trial and that his death sentence in 2002 was legal. The death sentence in Pierce County for the murders of two women there came after he previously pleaded guilty to killing 12 women in Spokane.

Yates avoided the death penalty with a plea deal and received a 408 year sentence.

NOTE: The signing of the death warrant sets in motion a chain of events regarding the administration of capital punishment as outlined in
Department of Corrections Policy# 490.200 which you can read here.