A 31-year-old white supremacist once associated with a neo-Nazi gang known as the “Aryan Death Squad” and his female companion are in custody in northern California as suspects in two murders and the disappearance of a disabled veteran.
David Joseph Pedersen, convicted of threatening to murder federal Judge Edward Lodge of Idaho in 2001, was arrested Wednesday near Marysville, Calif., in a stolen car with his companion, 24-year-old Holly Ann Grigsby, of Portland.
They both have been identified by authorities in Washington state as suspects in the brutal Sept. 28 slaying in Everett, Wash., of Pedersen’s stepmother, 69-year-old Leslie Mae Pederson.
A bloody pillow covered her head and her hands were tied with duct tape, according to police who found a sword near the victim. A medical examiner determined she died from “incised wounds of the neck” and ruled her death a homicide.
Her husband, David Jones “Red” Pedersen, a 56-year-old disabled veteran, remains missing from the home, according to authorities who say in court documents they aren’t sure if he is a suspect or another victim. Family friends say he had difficulty traveling in a car because of his medical problems.
David “Joey” Pedersen and Grigsby had been visiting his father and stepmother just prior to the killing and disappearance. Grigsby’s father, Fred Grigsby, of Portland, Ore., told The Associated Press that his daughter has a history of drug addiction and has associated with white supremacists.
After the discovery of the homicide at a mobile home retirement center in Everett, authorities issued a nationwide alert for the elder Pedersen’s black 2010 Jeep Patriot. All-points bulletins also were issued for David Joseph Pederson and Grigsby.
While that search was under way, 19-year-old Cody Myers, of Lafayette, Ore., was reported missing while traveling to attend a jazz festival last weekend in Newport, on the Oregon Coast.
A body, identified as that of Myers, was found late Tuesday in the remote Mary’s Peak area, not far from his home, about 250 miles south of Everett, Wash. Details of his death haven’t been released, but authorities say they are treating it as a homicide.
After the Oregon teenager was reported missing on Sunday, authorities in Oregon issued an alert bulletin for his car, a white 1999 Plymouth Breeze. It was spotted Wednesday near Yuba City, Calif., by an alert California Highway Patrol officer who saw a woman stretching by the parked vehicle. Recognizing that it matched a wanted vehicle, the officer turned around and later stopped the stolen car without incident and arrested Pedersen and Grigsby. Grigsby had dyed her hair, authorities said, and he was wearing a turtleneck covering a large “SWP” – Supreme White Power – tattoo on his neck. A band-aid covered another tattoo under his left eye.
Supreme White Power is the name of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang that operated some years ago in Southern California and elsewhere. It does not appear to be currently active. The name and its acronym appear to be sometimes used by white supremacists as a general slogan, not necessarily connected to a group.
CHP officers found two handguns and a rifle in the stolen car driven by the suspects, according to The Appeal-Democrat newspaper in Marysville, Calif.
“It’s a huge relief to all of us that our two suspects are in custody,” Everett Police Sgt. Robert Goetz told The Everett Herald Wednesday evening. The police official added, “We still need to remember that we have a missing person. … [T]he case is far from over.”
Court documents show David Joseph Pedersen was indicted in 2001 on federal charges of threatening to assault and murder a U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge and mailing threatening communications. He pleaded guilty in December 2001 to both federal felonies and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The nature of the threat couldn’t be immediately learned from public records, but the senior federal judge has handled several high-profile cases, including the Randy Weaver “Ruby Ridge” firearms case in 1993, a legal landmark that helped spawn to the militia movement of that decade. Pedersen would have been 13 years old during the deadly standoff between Weaver’s family and federal agents at Ruby Ridge, a mountaintop in northern Idaho.
Pedersen’s connections with white supremacists also aren’t fully known, but there is speculation he may have developed his racist views while in prison in Colorado and Oregon.
He was placed on supervised release – a form of probation — for four years, but remained on supervision in July of this year when his case was transferred from the District of Idaho to the District of Oregon, according to court documents obtained by Hatewatch.
Those “special conditions” of release ordered Pedersen to “not associate with any current or past members of the Aryan Death Squad or any other members of an organized gang as identified by law enforcement.”
Little is known of the Aryan Death Squad, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has no record of recent activity. According to unconfirmed Internet postings, the group was active around 2005 and was described by one person as a “satellite” of White Aryan Resistance, a neo-Nazi organization that was long based in Southern California. Another poster described it as active in the prisons around the same time. It was said to embrace Nordic paganism and an array of typical neo-Nazi beliefs.
On July 15, after Pedersen’s federal probation was transferred to Oregon, a federal probation officer in Eugene asked U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken to modify Pedersen’s conditions of release to “provide him with mental health treatment and psychotropic medications.”
“On July 7, 2011, Pedersen reported to my office,” the probation officer said in a public document. “He [Pedersen] recently ran out of the medication, Zoloft, to address his depression [and] requested assistance from our office.”
The order, subsequently signed by the judge, said Pedersen “shall take psychotropic medication, if medically approved, for the treatment of a mental or emotional disorder.”