Robert Lee Yates Jr was a quiet family man, a decorated war hero and a good neighbour – or so it seemed...
On 26 August 1997, the body of Jennifer Joseph was found on a farm northeast of Spokane, Washington, USA.
The 16-year-old had been shot dead. A single button was missing from her jacket.
Jennifer was just one of many street workers found murdered in the Spokane and Tacoma areas. There was a serial killer on the loose and prostitutes were his prey.
Jennifer had last been seen getting into a white Corvette, driven by a white man in his 30s or 40s.
In November that same year, the police pulled over a man for speeding – he was driving a 1977 white Corvette.
The driver, Robert Lee Yates Jr, was soon to go free. A year later, he was pulled over again, this time for soliciting a prostitute. He claimed the girl was a friend of his daughter’s and he was simply driving her home.
It wasn’t until 1999 that police started connecting the dots…
They tracked down the Corvette that Yates had by then sold. Carpet samples matched fibres on Jennifer Joseph’s shoes and police found the missing button from her jacket. Jennifer’s blood was on the passenger seat and seatbelt, too.
Yates was arrested.
His background had shown no clue that, one day, he’d kill…
Born in Spokane, Washington, in 1952, to Anna Mae and Robert Lee Yates Sr, he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist. He floated through school without many friends, but was a good baseball player and sung in the school choir.
At 20 Yates married. Just 18 months later, his marriage was over and he wed for a second time. Six months later he became a father.
Then, at 25, he enlisted in the Army.
But, early into his second marriage, his wife left Yates for a month, after discovering he’d drilled a hole in an attic wall so he could watch a couple in an adjoining apartment having sex.
Over the next 18 years, Robert Yates received 12 military medals and became a helicopter instructor pilot.
In 1996 he left the Army and joined the National Guard as a helicopter pilot.
By then, bodies were piling up…
During 1990, three women were shot and dumped along the Spokane River. Between 1992 and 1996, three more bodies were found. And, from August 1997 to October 1998, 12 more prostitutes were killed.
All were shot in the head and had plastic bags over their heads. The killer was said to have had sex with the bodies before dumping them.
Meanwhile, Yates was known as a quiet family man, a good pilot, and a good neighbour. Nobody had an idea of his dark side.
Robert Yates Jr was arrested in 2000 for the murder of Jennifer Joseph.
The quiet, family man could no longer hide his sickening taste for murder. In 2001, Yates, then 48, admitted murdering 13 people, including Jennifer Joseph.
In 2002, he was found guilty of another two counts of first-degree murder for killing a further two prostitutes. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection. He remains on Death Row.