They Meet, They Fall in Love, They Go on a Crime Spree
If Holly Ann Grigsby’s story was heartbreaking, then David Pedersen’s was even sadder. He grew up in various small towns in Oregon, including Salem, Stayton, and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, and like Holly, was the child of a divorce. His parents divorced when he was nine years old, after his mother discovered that his father had been molesting his sister.
It seems that violence was always in his bones. A relative told a Portland radio station that Pedersen had exhibited violent tendencies since he was as little as seven years old, calling him “a sociopath.”
Pedersen spent half of his life in prison, entering for the first time for robbery when he 16. After that six-year stint, more time was added for bad behavior while he was behind bars.
He told the Appeal-Democrat that he had spent eleven of his fourteen years in prison in solitary confinement due to all the fights he got into when he was locked up. At one point he threatened a judge, so he could get a court date, and he beat a corrections officer in the face with a hot iron.
According to the Associated Press, he had accrued 68 offenses during his time in prison. He was finally released three months early, just four months before the killing spree. Once on the outside, he had a brief period of calm, or at least the kind of calm that a man like Pedersen can have. His hobby was cage fighting.
Though as normal as he might have tried to be—he wasn’t into drugs at the time of his release—his collection of bold and obvious White Power tattoos would get him notice wherever he went. From the Adolf Hitler tattoo on his stomach, to the “SWP” engraved on his neck (it stands for Supreme White Power), to the swastika over his heart, it would have been hard for Pedersen to blend into society.
And then, he met Holly. The rest was, unfortunately, bloody history.
The Trial and the Cocoa Puff Incident
Since their spree sprawled across four states, the question remained over where they would be initially tried. On October 18, after the California judge set bail for $1 million dollars, they were extradited back to Washington state, where they faced two counts of aggravated murder, which comes with the possibility of the death penalty. The prosecutor had not yet announced what his decision would be.
During the couple’s separate trials, the case became a media sensation for another, more ridiculous reason. In February, Grigsby asked to be able to continue to buy Cocoa Puffs from the jail commissary, which was stopped when Pedersen also requested he be able to buy provisions. Because of their classification as high-risk, they were denied their requests. Grigsby’s lawyer went to court to fight for her right to Cocoa Puffs, but was denied.
As for the more serious matters of the case, Pedersen pleaded guilty in March, which means his case won’t go to trial. The Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe said that he won’t seek the death penalty. He explained the reason for his decision, citing mitigating circumstances. “The police investigation revealed that many years ago, when his children were young, the late David Pedersen engaged in child abuse,” Roe said in a statement. “Significant, credible evidence exists that he engaged in multiple acts of child sexual abuse, victimizing his own children, and others. The defendant has repeatedly confessed to killing his father, and cited some of that abuse as a reason why. Whether that was his true, sole or only motivation is less certain, but what is certain is that any jury considering his fate would first hear hours, days, or perhaps weeks of testimony on the subject, some of it from the actual victims of the abuse.” Roe went on to state that he believed that no jury upon hearing about Pedersen’s circumstances would return a death penalty.
As for Grigsby, she’s pleaded not guilty, even though she had confessed to some aspects of the crime to the police and in the media. On May 4, Mark Roe issued the following statement:
“I have decided not to seek the death penalty for Holly Ann Grigsby. The charges remain two counts of Aggravated Murder in the First Degree, with Life Imprisonment without parole the only remaining sentencing option.
There is ample evidence that co-defendant David J. Pedersen’s hatred for his father was the primary motivation for these crimes. Unarguably, the nature of this defendants alleged physical acts, committed against a completely innocent victim, Leslie Pederson, almost defy description. Still, this defendant had no violent criminal history previous to this, is quite young at 24, and appears to have been following the lead of David J. Pedersen.
Proportionality also weighs against seeking death for this defendant after declining to do so for her co-defendant who was older, instigated the crimes, and had more criminal history, some of it violent.
The case remains set for trial. As is the practice of this office we will not further discuss specific facts of pending cases, pursuant to RPC 3.8. As always, the defendant is presumed innocent, and that presumption remains intact.”
The duo could still face the death penalty in California and Oregon.