It now appears likely that confessed hate killer David “Joey” Pedersen will next face federal charges in connection with a West Coast killing spree that left his father, stepmother and two strangers dead.
The 31-year-old Pedersen, whose body is decorated with white supremacy tattoos, was sentenced late last week in Everett, Wash., to life in prison after pleading guilty four days earlier to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the slayings of his father and stepmother.
Mark Roe, the prosecutor in Snohomish County, said he decided not to pursue the death penalty in Washington state because there was “significant and credible” evidence that Pedersen had been sexually abused as a child by his father. Against that backdrop, the prosecutor said it would be unlikely any jury would return a death penalty against Pedersen for killing his father.
But there are different circumstances in two other murders he’s accused of committing.
While Pedersen remains in custody in Washington, federal investigators are now reviewing evidence linking him and co-defendant Holly Ann Grigsby to the murders of Christian Cody Myers, 19, in Lincoln County, Ore., and Reginald Clark, 53, a disabled black man shot in the head outside a grocery store in Eureka, Calif.
In interviews with authorities, Pedersen has confessed to murdering Myers in the mistaken belief that he was Jewish and to killing Clark because of the color of his skin. Those killings easily could be the basis for federal hate crime charges.
“I can’t imagine a case that cries out more for federal hate crime charges than this one,” one official said in describing the evidence against Pedersen and Grigsby.
An Oregon sheriff described the eight-day rampage as a “vicious, wild reign of terror” that ended on Oct. 5 with their arrests by the California Highway Patrol near Marysville.
“I can tell you that the federal agencies are looking into it,” Justice Department spokeswoman Gerri Badden told Hatewatch today when asked if Pedersen may next face federal charges in Oregon. She could offer no timeline, saying only that “a review of the case is continuing.”
Prosecutors in the civil rights division at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., would typically review cases in which federal hate crime charges are to be lodged.
In Lincoln County, Ore., district attorney Rob Bovett told Hatewatch today that he won’t seek Pedersen’s extradition from Washington state until charges are resolved against Grigsby, Pedersen’s girlfriend.
In Oregon, the pair likely would face state charges of aggravated murder. That charge leaves it up to the trial jury to decide not only the question of guilt but whether to impose the death penalty, Bovett said.
“I can assure you that we are definitely going to want them,” Bovett told the Portland Oregonian last week. “But it wouldn’t make sense for any of the jurisdictions to try these folks separately.”
California also is likely to extradite Pedersen and Grigsby.
Their rampage began Sept. 28 when they fatally shot David “Red” Pedersen, 56, in the head as he took his son and Grigsby to a bus station in Everett. The suspects then returned to the Pedersen home in Everett, where Leslie “Dee Dee” Pedersen’s throat was slashed after she was bound with duct tape. A sword was found near the body.
As he was sentenced to life in prison, Joey Pedersen told the judge he killed his father because he had abused his own daughter. But that woman, Holly Perez called her brother’s motive irrational in a statement read by a victim advocate, the Everett Herald reported.
Perez described her brother’s actions as vile and asked the judge not to show him leniency, saying she’s afraid of Pedersen and believes that he will hurt others if he ever regains his freedom, the newspaper reported.
When the pair was arrested, Grigsby told authorities she and Pedersen were headed to California “to kill more Jews.”
During a psychiatric evaluation, Pedersen, who has spent half his life behind bars, specifically denied having joined with racists in prison and said he doesn’t like to be viewed as a “simplistic stereotype” white supremacist. The report concluded that Pedersen doesn’t have any history of drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness and has above-average intelligence.
When asked if a large tattoo of the letters “SWP” across his neck stood for “Supreme White Power,” Pedersen “replied in a deadpan voice, ‘It stands for I don’t want to get hired for a corporate job,’” the psychiatric evaluation says.
Pedersen told evaluating psychiatrists that “if he must label his philosophy, it would be best described as ‘white racialism,’ meaning ‘I see everything as a battle, and race is paramount. I see our culture as Europeans as threatened, and those are my views.”