Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Lee Yates Jr.


On Tuesday, September 14, 1999, one of the task force detectives paid a visit to the Yates home, located at 2220 East 49th in Spokane.  Yates was either not at home or was unavailable, and the detective left a message for Yates to contact Detective Marvin Hill as soon as possible.  Yates complied and contacted Hill that same day, and arrangements were made for him to meet with Hill and other detectives, including David Bentley, the following day at the Public Safety Building.  When Yates showed up detectives greeted him in the lobby.  They immediately noted that he had light brown hair, and observed that he was sweating profusely.

After being taken into an interrogation room, the detectives advised him that his name had surfaced in connection with the serial murder investigation.  They told him that he was not being considered a suspect at that point, that he did not have to answer any questions and that he was free to leave at any time.  Yates acknowledged that he understood.

Yates was first questioned about the contact he had made with the girl and the police on November 10, 1998, and he basically repeated the same story that he had told the police officer that stopped him, namely that he had been instructed to pick up the girl after being asked to do so by her father.  It was a fairly common story that johns typically tell police when they've been caught picking up a prostitute, and the detectives told him so.  Nonetheless, Yates stuck with the story.  When asked to recall the girl's name, he had difficulty doing so but said that he thought her name was Jennifer.  When he was asked her father's name, he told the detectives that he could not remember it.  When asked how he knew Jennifer Robinson's father, he claimed that they had worked together for a short time.  As he continued responding to their questions, Yates claimed that he drove the young woman to her home, which he said was about two blocks off of Mission Avenue.

The detectives bluntly confronted Yates by telling him that they didn't believe his story.  They also told him that acts of prostitution, drugs, and other minor offenses were not important to their inquiry and that there would be no consequences regarding him if he made any admissions regarding such acts.  However, they stressed that the impetus of their investigation centered on the murders that had been committed, and told him that lying to them would only arouse additional suspicion toward him as a suspect.  When they told him that contacting the girl's father could easily check his story about Jennifer, he maintained that he had told them the truth.

When asked about the earlier traffic infraction on September 24, 1997, in which he had been stopped by the police while driving a white Corvette, he claimed that he had made an abrupt lane change to avoid colliding with a bus.  He claimed that he had been on his way back to work at a business called Pantrol, located on East Riverside in Spokane, and admitted to having owned the white Corvette but had since sold it to a friend.  When asked about any other vehicles he drove or owned, Yates said that he owned a silver 1985 Honda Civic and a dark blue 1985 Honda Accord.  He said that he had access to vehicles at work, but drove them sparingly and never took them home with him.

Next they asked him about any contact he may have had with prostitutes.  Yates said that there was one occasion in the autumn of 1998 in which he had picked up a female hitchhiker because it was very cold outside.  When she got into his car she propositioned him, at which time, he said, he dropped her off about a mile from where he had picked her up.  He said that he had not been involved with any other prostitutes in Spokane, but admitted that he had hired prostitutes in Germany several years earlier while serving in the military.

Yates was then asked if he would voluntarily provide a sample of his blood to the detectives to help eliminate him as a suspect.  He stated that he wanted to discuss the issue with his wife first, and would call them with his decision.  He then left the building, but called back later to say that he would not be providing the requested blood sample.


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