Robert Lee Yates was the Spokane Serial Killer who murdered at least 18 people: An American Monster investigates

Mugshot of Robert Lee Yates
Robert Lee Yates is known to have killed at least 18 people in Washington state. Pic credit: Spokane County Sheriff’s Office

An American Monster on ID is looking into the case of The Spokane Serial Killer, Robert Lee Yates, who spread terror through sex workers in Spokane when he embarked on a killing spree in the late 1990s.

Yates is known to have killed at least eighteen people, mostly but not exclusively women, between 1975 and 1998. The majority of the murders took place in Spokane between 1996 and 1997.

Yates was a veteran of the military having served as a helicopter pilot for 18 years. He served abroad in Germany, Somalia, and Haiti, and had received medals and commendations.

His first known victims were Patrick Oliver and Susan Savage in 1975, who he came across while doing shooting practice near Walla Walla, WA. The pair were picnicking when Yates shot them and left their bodies in the woods.

Their remains were discovered a few days later, but their killer’s identity remained a mystery until Yates was arrested 25 years later.

Yates went on to kill another sixteen women, thirteen of whom were sex workers from Spokane. He would solicit prostitutes for sex before killing them and dumping their remains in rural locations.

This psychopathic monster was a family man, married with five children, who never suspected that their father was a killer. He would often tell his wife that he was going on a hunting trip when he preyed on prostitutes.

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In May 1998, after murdering Melody Murfin, he buried her remains right under the bedroom window where his wife was asleep at the time.

Cops gathered evidence against Robert Yates

On April 18, 2000, Yates was eventually arrested and charged with the murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Joseph. He was tied to her death through DNA swabs taken from the victim, and by a clothing button of Jennifer’s, that was found in his Corvette.

The police were convinced that he was responsible for multiple murders, but Yates initially refused to cooperate.

At first, Yates professed his innocence, but he decided to strike a deal with the prosecutors on realizing the weight of evidence against him. He agreed to plead guilty to 13 of the murders, and in exchange, they promised not to go for the death penalty.

He was sentenced 408 years in prison plus life.

More from Investigation Discovery

Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on ID.

The disappearance of popular high school teacher Theresa Lockhart from Portage, Michigan, remained a mystery for five months until her husband admitted to the murder in a suicide note. Christopher Lockhart confessed to killing Theresa and drew a map of the location of her remains before he hanged himself in his basement.

Beloved TV host Scott Rogers had a dark secret; he had fled England for the US after he was accused of sexually assaulting young boys at his performing arts school. When federal agents began investigating him, he was shot dead by his lover Mathew Hodgkinson in a suicide pact.

The Spokane Serial Killer: An American Monster airs at 11/10c on Investigation Discovery.

Robert Lee Yates committed his first murders in 1975. he would go on to murder at least 16 more before he was finally caught in 2000.

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