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Task force tracks movements of Yates
"A task force tracking the footsteps of confessed serial killer Robert L. Yates Jr. is planning a national conference to share its information with scores of other jurisdictions.More than 50 police agencies - from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Dothan, Ala. - have expressed interest in Yates, an Oak Harbor native, as a possible suspect in their unsolved homicides.Detective Sgt. Cal Walker, supervisor of the Spokane homicide task force, said the date and location of the national briefing haven't been chosen, but a site in the central United States is being discussed.The single briefing and information exchange will save time and money for the task force, which would otherwise have to brief each individual agency, Walker said.Officials with the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and the Washington state attorney general's Homicide Investigation Tracking System will assist with the conference.A detailed timeline of Yates' whereabouts and other evidence should help other jurisdictions rule out or retain Yates as a suspect, Walker said. The Island County Sheriff's Office is exploring possible links to several unsolved cases in the county.Yates, a 48-year-old father of five, has pleaded guilty to killing 13 people, many of them prostitutes he picked up while cruising Spokane's red-light district in his white Corvette.The timeline will show where Yates was stationed with the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot before moving to Spokane in April 1996, including stops in Fort Rucker, Ala., Fort Drum, N.Y., and two U.S. bases in Germany.He was raised on Whidbey Island and graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1970. He lived and worked in Walla Walla before joining the Army in Seattle in 1977.We have information on him, starting back in the 1960s, Walker said. We have grouped together information from the 1970s, the '80s and the '90s. From 1992 forward, we've got a pretty detailed timeline.Yates' history is being traced through receipts, employment and military records and interviews with family members.The job became more difficult when Spokane task force investigators lost their power to subpoena certain records after Yates pleaded guilty in Spokane to 13 murders and an attempted murder. But authorities in Pierce County are actively investigating Yates and therefore still have subpoena power.Spokane task force detectives are working closely with investigators in Pierce County.Yates isn't talking. He is being held in an isolation cell in the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma.Investigators still haven't found the handguns he used to kill 10 women in Spokane County and three other victims in Walla Walla and Skagit counties.Yates was sentenced to 408 years in prison last October after confessing to those crimes. He is scheduled to stand trial in Tacoma in June for the murders of two women found shot to death in 1997 and 1998. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty for those crimes.Evidence obtained by the Spokane task force will be a key part of the Pierce County case, in which prosecutors plan to show Yates was involved in a common scheme or plan to kill women with ties to prostitution or drugs. "