Judge To Sign Serial Killer’s Death Warrant

SPOKANE — Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates has been transferred from death row in Walla Walla to Pierce County where he will be in court Friday as Judge John McCarthy signs his death warrant.

Yates was tranferred from Walla Walla State Penitentiary to the Pierce County Jail early Thursday morning. During the Friday morning hearing Yates will face Judge McCarthy, who will sign the warrant and select a day for his execution.

State law requires his execution to follow within the next 90 days.

Yates has already unsuccessfully appealed his 2002 conviction in Pierce County for the murders of Melinda Mercer and Connie LaFontaine Ellis. Mercer was killed in 1997 while Ellis was killed in 1998 and in both cases their bodies were found near Camp Murray where Yates participated in training while serving as a helicopter pilot in the Washington Army National Guard.

In between the murders of Melinda Mercer and Connie LaFontaine Ellis Yates also killed six women in Spokane County.

Before being tried and convicted in Pierce County Yates agreed to a plea deal with Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker that spared him the death penalty for the murders of more than a dozen people over a span of more than two decades.

In exchange for his plea deal – which included confirming to authorities the whereabouts of victim Melody Murfin – Yates was given 408 years in prison without possibility of parole for the murders of 13 women in Spokane County, two people in Walla Walla County and one person in Skagit County between 1975 and 1998.

After his sentencing in Spokane Yates was transferred to Pierce County where prosecutors there used details of his plea agreement to show the court his violent criminal history in order to secure his conviction and a death penalty verdict against him.

Once the death warrant is signed Friday it will be sent to the superintendent of the Walla Walla State Penitentiary for execution of the sentence. Yates’ attorneys are expected to ask for a stay of execution from the Washington State Supreme Court.

If granted, Yates will be temporarily spared from the death penalty while he continues to appeal his death sentence.