SEATTLE (Reuters) - A white supremacist suspected with his girlfriend of killing four people in a violent road trip across the Pacific Northwest has pleaded guilty to two slayings in a deal with prosecutors that spares him from the death penalty in Washington state.
David Joseph Pedersen, 31, entered a guilty plea on Monday to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the shooting death of his father, David “Red” Pedersen, 56, and the stabbing death of his stepmother, Leslie Mae “DeeDee” Pedersen, 69.
Both were slain last September in the Puget Sound city of Everett, Washington, some 30 miles northeast of Seattle.
Under terms of his plea deal, Pedersen will be sentenced on Friday to life in prison, Snohomish County prosecutor Mark Roe told Reuters.
Roe decided not to seek the death penalty against Pedersen in part because of evidence that his father had “engaged in multiple acts of child sexual abuse, victimizing his own children, and others” when they were young, the prosecutor said in a statement after the court hearing.
Roe did not specify whether Pedersen himself was a victim of such abuse. In a jailhouse interview published after his arrest in October, Pedersen cited sexual abuse of a sister and a cousin as the reason he killed his father.
The slain stepmother, Leslie Pedersen, “was an incredibly lovely person who hadn’t harmed anyone in her entire life” and did not know Pedersen at the time of the alleged sexual abuse or when his children were young, according to Roe’s statement.
David Pedersen and his girlfriend, Holly Grigsby, now 25, were arrested in October in northern California, capping what authorities said was a two-week, three-state crime spree that began with the two slayings in Everett and ended with Grigsby telling police she and Pedersen were on their way to “kill more Jews” in Sacramento.
The couple’s white supremacist leanings were evident in a White Power tattoo on Pedersen’s neck and through Facebook postings by Grigsby.
An affidavit filed in the case said Grigsby had confessed to killing the stepmother by slashing her throat after binding her with duct tape.
The affidavit also said Grigsby told police that her boyfriend shot his father in the back of the head as the elder Pedersen drove the couple to a bus station.
Authorities said the pair then drove his Jeep to their home state of Oregon and left the father’s body there in his vehicle.
The couple are suspected of later shooting to death an Oregon man, Cody Myers, 19, who the affidavit said they singled out in the mistaken belief that he was Jewish, before dumping his body in the woods and driving his car to California.
There, the couple are accused of committing a fourth murder, that of Reginald Clark, 53, a black man found shot to death in his car in Eureka, California.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle, said the couple still faced the possibility of consolidated federal charges stemming from the killings in Oregon and California. But no other charges have been filed in the case outside of Washington state, Roe said.
Grigsby, who pleaded not guilty in October to first-degree murder in connection with the two Everett slayings, remains held in the Snohomish County Jail, and prosecutors will decide by April 2 whether to seek the death penalty against her. Her trial date is set for September 28.
Editing by Steve Gorman