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The Religious Affiliation of Washington State Serial Killer
Robert L. Yates, Jr.


Robert L. Yates, Jr. is a Seventh-day Adventist who became the most prolific serial killer in the history of the state of Washington.

From: Kari Sable Burns, "Serial Killer Robert L. Yates, Jr.: Spokane, Washington" on KariSable.com (http://www.karisable.com/skazyates.htm; viewed 20 July 2005):

A middle-aged father of 5, Robert L. Yates Jr., a decorated military helicopter pilot, and National Guardsman was convicted of 15 murders but suspected of as many as 18. The most prolific serial killer ever sentenced in Washington state, he now sits on death row.

He came from a solid, loving home with encouraging Support, a moral upbringing and Christian teaching from the time he could walk. He was an obedient child, a dedicated student, and a team player on the Oak Harbor High School football team...

Washington state prosecutors suspect Yates is responsible for the slayings of as many as 18 women, many with a history of drug abuse and prostitution. Victims were shot in the head. The first body was found Feb. 22, 1990, and the killings continued for a decade...

Recently, Yates Sr. said, his son has returned to his Seventh-day Adventist faith.

"He fell away from God," the father said. "He went to the depths. But he's come back, and I really feel it's sincere." Crying, he continued, "I love him so much, and I've told him a good many times. I abhor what he's done, but I love him just the same."

..."I do believe you have remorse and a sense of sorrow and loss," [Judge] McCarthy quietly told Yates [after Yates read his statement of contrition]. "I hope your conversion to religion is indeed sincere. Only you and God can confirm the validity of that."

Yates' family says he is at peace with the decision, his attorney, Roger Hunko, said Yates will fight execution. Not doing so would be akin to suicide, which under Yates' Christian faith would be an unforgivable sin, Hunko said.

The full text of Robert Yates' statement to jury, from: Kari Sable Burns, "Serial Killer Robert L. Yates, Jr.: Spokane, Washington" on KariSable.com (http://www.karisable.com/skazyates.htm; viewed 20 July 2005):
I prepared this statement so that I might leave nothing in my heart that needs to be said.

To all my victims' families, to my family and to the people in the community, to the families of Melinda Mercer and Connie LaFontanie Ellis, I know you are suffering great anguish. I find no words to comfort you, to explain, justify or soften all the evil, pain, separation and death that I've caused.

Some things are inexpressible and inexplicable in terms of human language. The world is a frightening place, and I've made it more so for many. I've caused so much pain and devastation.

Hundreds of people are hurting and grieving because of my acts. I let sin enter my life. I let it grow and mature until it wrought its direct consequence: death. The wages of sin bring death. Sin and wrongdoing may start small but if left unchecked, they grow into something ugly. I believe that (unintelligible), in and of itself, sin blinds us. It blinded me.

Within myself I've had no power to defeat this full-blown sinful nature. There were times -- long periods -- when in between my horrific crimes, there were periods of relative calm. Nothing evil happened. But that sinful nature, which wrought so much recent violence, never really left.

Scripture says the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure; who can understand? Our hearts can be deceitful beyond our own understanding, and surely mine was. I couldn't rid myself of this sinful nature. Somewhere, through all this devastation, God was knocking on the door of my heart, but I wouldn't let him in. I thought to myself, how could a God love or hear anything that was not clean. I thought I wasn't good enough to even speak to God, and if He wouldn't listen to me, then who would?

My guilt was like a disease eating away at my soul. I couldn't share that with anyone else. Sin and guilt gnaws at our mind and causes acid to build up in our stomachs. We've all had guilt at some times in our lives. My sin and my guilt was overwhelming. It became hard to live with myself.

Few men have ever felt the guilt I have from all the horror I've brought into your lives. I tried to cleanse myself from that guilt through denial. That only resulted in making things worse.

I lived a double life. I stayed in denial -- denial of my needs, denial that someone, somewhere could help me. Through my denial, because I couldn't face the truth, I thought I could be self-correcting, that if I kept it all to myself, someday it would all go away. That's denial. By my denial, I blinded myself to the truth -- the truth that no one is so alone in this world as a denier of God. But that was me, alone and in denial.

Even after my arrest in Spokane in April of 2000, for a couple of weeks I persisted. I remained in denial. In May of 2000, as I started to read the word of God for the first time in over 25 years, I began to understand that someone had seen all the hideous crimes I've committed. Someone else had been there the whole time, watching each of my victims die.

God had seen it all.

That realization was like slamming into a brick wall at 100 miles an hour. It was like standing naked and ugly before the whole world. It was looking at all the ugliness inside me and exposing it for what it really was.

So the best thing that could ever have happened that April was for me to be arrested and brought to account for my actions. God had seen it all. The public and the families had seen and felt the loss and the death and the hurt caused by my actions. Now it was time for Robert Yates to open his eyes and see all that, too.

It was impossible to be in denial any longer. It was time to face the truth. When sin has deadened moral perception, the wrongdoer does not discern the defects of his character or realize the enormity of the evil he has committed. For once I listened when God spoke.

Until God's spirit working through the human agencies of law enforcement and our justice system woke me out of my spiritual blindness, I couldn't see the enormous devastation I had created, the tremendous pain and suffering I had caused. Until I came back to the love of God in Jesus Christ, I could not turn aside from my sinful nature, for the mind of the sinful man -- and that was me -- brings death. The mind of the man controlled by the Spirit brings life and peace. Someone needed to open my eyes.

So I turned to God. Until I turned to faith, though before in death, I saw I couldn't face the truth that finally God was bringing me to account. It was me.

I hadn't felt some of that out in Riverside. God already did it. I had to confess to him so I could admit to myself the enormity of my evil, that I needed to tell someone else who would listen and not condemn. After that I stopped the denial, stopped trying to hide the truth from my attorneys in Spokane. I told them all about my crimes stretching back all the way to 1975. That was the right way -- the only way back to God.

It's been a long road back. One doesn't fall into such a deep morass of evil and climb back out in one day. Hearing the heartbreaking testimonies of all the mothers, wives, sisters, brothers and children of the lost family members I've taken from them burdens me with the incalculable loss of the unending grief and the harm that I've brought to hundreds of people. I'm so very, very sorry.

If God is the creator of this universe, then there are no unimportant people, and I took the lives of these loving, wonderful, important people from you. I feel your hurt every day and it won't go away. It never will. I've devastated your hopes and dreams. I've left you with only photographs and memories instead of warm family gatherings, cherished hugs and future happiness. The opportunity to say farewell or clear up misunderstandings was not afforded you.

Please don't squeeze back tears. Tears are part of the adjustments. Tears are jewels of remembrance, painful but glistening with the beauty of your children -- children God loved so much. Children that are, as the Bible says, asleep, waiting the day when they will be called forth to be reunited with you. Please trust in that blessed hope. God is not so far from you that he is not touched by your tears. All of heaven shares your sorrow.

I believe with all my heart that there is a huge battle being waged between good and evil in this world, a spiritual battle that has allowed tragedy in this case, unexplainable evil to step forward. Why has all this evil been allowed to exist in the world? Some day God will show us. So that's why we have to trust that some day our God, who's absolutely pure, will end this struggle. When He does, the Bible promises that the old order of things will have passed away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, only the happiness and joy you long for so much this day. That's a promise from God.

Nothing I have said here today will justify or excuse my wrongs or even make sense of them. My compassion goes out to all I've hurt. There's absolutely no excuse that anyone could ever offer for the depths of pain in this room and in the lives of every person I've touched and all the tragedy I've wrought. There are so many innocent victims in all of this -- families, friends and communities, my family, who had nothing to do with any of this. I'm so very, very sorry for what has happened. I and they can offer no justification for any of it. We do offer you all our sympathies and our prayers.

There are inadequate words for me to express my guilt, my shame and my sorrow for having devastated you in taking away the wonderful people, the wonderful, loving people, the warm human beings you cared for so much. It's my prayer that you will look to God to help fill the hollow I've left in your hearts.

My future is in His hands. I share your grief and always will. I'm sorry beyond what words can say. I apologize to all of you, and I thank the court for allowing me to speak.

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Webpage created 20 July 2005. Last modified 20 July 2005.
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