Robert Lee Yates Jr.
On Wednesday, April 1, 1998, the body of 34-year-old Linda M. Maybin was found in the 4800 block of East 14th Avenue only a short distance from where the bodies of Laurel Wason and Shawn McClenahan were found the previous December. Similar to Wason and McClenahan, Maybin's body had been covered with vegetation that did not grow in that area and consisted of many of the same species previously found there, bolstering the investigative theory that perhaps the plant material had been brought from the perpetrator's home. Maybin's body was fully clothed, and there were remnants of plastic bags in the area of her head. The body was badly decomposed, and animals had disturbed it. It was obvious that it had been there for some time.
The animal damage and degree of decomposition fit the time Maybin was last seen, which had been on November 21, 1997 when she had been contacted by a police officer on East Sprague. It was possible that she had been seen the following night, but that could not be confirmed. She was reported missing on November 29, 1997 by a Spokane County Health District employee that works with prostitutes. The fact that Maybin's body was found in such close proximity to where Wason's and McClenahan's bodies were found prompted investigators to believe that the killer was using the site as a cluster dump site. However, an exhaustive search of the area failed to turn up any additional bodies.
Additional investigation showed that Maybin was known to use illicit drugs, particularly crack cocaine. Acquaintances told the police that she usually carried a pipe for smoking crack tucked inside her pants in her pelvic region. However, the pipe was not found—only a folded paper towel was recovered from this area of her body. She was also known to carry a velvet, drawstring bag like that sold with Crown Royal whiskey, but this, too, was missing from her body.
On Tuesday, July 7, 1998, a white female body was found in a vacant lot near 218 N. Crestline in Spokane. It was subsequently identified as that of Michelyn J. Derning, 47, who had a history of prostitution and was last seen on July 4, 1998 in Spokane. Derning's body had been covered with grass. A piece of Styrofoam and two hot tub covers also covered her, which, the detectives determined, had come from a pile of debris in the vacant lot. Derning's body was nude, and her lower denture, engraved with her name, was missing from her mouth. Cause of death was gunshot wounds, and a toxicology examination revealed the presence of methamphetamine in her body.
On Tuesday, October 13, 1998, the body of 35-year-old Connie L. Ellis, also known as Connie L. LaFontaine, was found in the vicinity of the 1700 block of 108th Street South, in Tacoma. When the Pierce County Sheriff's Department responded, they found that the body was badly decomposed, had three plastic bags placed over the head, and the victim had sustained a gunshot wound to the head. A 9mm caliber bullet was found at the scene, but follow-up investigation revealed that Ellis carried a small gun capable of firing a 9mm bullet, prompting the investigators to believe that the bullet found at the scene had belonged to Ellis and not her killer. Ellis' gun was not found. Like all of the others, Ellis was known to be involved in prostitution and drug usage. Because of the ongoing investigations of murdered prostitutes in several counties that were obviously linked to the Spokane serial killer, who was clearly traveling across the state to carry out his murders, Pierce County detectives promptly notified the Spokane cops of their discovery. The discovery of Ellis' body brought the official body count attributed to the Spokane serial killer to 17. There were likely many others that were not yet found or linked to the elusive killer.