Associated Press SPOKANE - Robert L. Yates Jr.'s confession to killing two people near Walla Walla in 1975 renewed law enforcement interest in possible links to unsolved murders elsewhere.
Until Yates' admission last month that he shot and killed Patrick Oliver and Susan Savage, authorities looked for cases with similarities to Spokane-area slayings: women involved with drugs and prostitution who had been shot, their heads typically wrapped in plastic grocery bags.
Investigators from about 20 Washington state agencies and 35 out-of-state departments have asked Spokane authorities for information about Yates, the Spokane Homicide Task Force said.
Some have little or no evidence to suggest a connection. But others have placed Yates in their area around the time of murders that have gone unsolved, and a few have DNA evidence for comparison.
A meeting on Oct. 10 underscored the interest other departments have in the serial killer. Nearly 100 investigators and crime analysts from the Northwest gathered in Burien, south of Seattle, to hear more about how Yates operated.
Yates has not granted detectives a tell-all interview or explained what happened to handguns used in the killings. Until then, at least, many investigators, including those in Spokane, will keep hunting for more victims.
The Spokane County Homicide Task Force plans to look at unsolved murders in the Spokane area dating as far back as the early 1970s.
German authorities, too, have renewed their interest in Yates since his confessions. Vancouver, British Columbia, police have eyed the serial killer in the disappearances of 28 prostitutes.
And strong suspicions are held by detectives in Watertown, N.Y., and Dothan, Ala., that Yates might be tied to unsolved murders there.
The different style of the Walla Walla killings opens "a much wider range of homicides to consider him in," FBI special agent Norm Brown said of the German investigations.
The difficulty, Brown said, will be where to draw the line on Yates: Just how many cases to revive with him in mind.
After a plea deal reached last month, Yates was sentenced in Spokane to 408 years in prison. He admitted killing 13 women, but still faces two first-degree murder charges and a possible death penalty in Pierce County.
Spokane Sheriff's Sgt. Cal Walker said Yates sometimes traveled the nation's highways, leaving his family behind.
"It makes you stop and wonder what can happen between point A and point B," Walker said.
The meeting last month in Burien was to see if more links could be established.
"The idea was to try and elicit more cases that may be tied to Mr. Yates," said Jim Hansen, an investigator with the state attorney general's office, who has worked with the task force.
"We believe there's too much time in between the killings, and there's something more. It's just a matter of finding them."
Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart said his detectives are looking for a link to the November 1987 shooting deaths of a British Columbia couple.
The body of Jay Cook, 20, was found in the woods. He had been shot to death. Days before, the body of his traveling companion, Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, had been found in nearby Skagit County. She had been shot and sexually assaulted.
"It's somewhat similar to the Walla Walla case," Bart said.
Skin samples taken from underneath Van Cuylenborg's fingernails have been sent to the crime lab to see if they match Yates' DNA, Bart said. Results are pending.
Other departments lack concrete evidence such as DNA samples, but are grasping at the chance to solve an old murder.
"Those agencies are doing the same thing we did when we heard a serial killer was caught," before Yates' arrest in April, Walker said.
Two Vancouver, British Columbia, detectives visited Spokane last month seeking a Yates connection in the disappearance of 28 street women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside since 1975.
Vancouver police became interested in Yates immediately after his arrest. They've combed Spokane files, but had difficulty placing Yates in Canada around the times of disappearances, Vancouver Police spokeswoman Janice Williams said.
Detectives in Portland, Ore., have been unable to link Yates to the death of Cassie N. Stevens, whose body was found by a jogger in a Southwest Portland park on July 14, 1999.
"We weren't able to come up with connections with their case and our case," Det. Shirley McLaughlin of Portland said.
McLaughlin would like to question Yates. Until then, he hasn't been ruled out as a suspect in the killing.
Bryant Mixon, sheriff of Dale County, Ala., would like to interview Yates about a slaying during the time Yates was stationed at nearby Fort Rucker.
Tarayon Corbitt was found shot in the head and chest with a .45-caliber Glock. He was dressed in women's clothes. Yates remains a suspect in that case, Mixon said.
"We're trying to get an interview now," he said. "I certainly hope that bears fruit."
Sgt. Gary Comins in Watertown, N.Y., said Yates is being investigated in the slaying of Tina Hosmer-Smith on Aug. 1, 1990. She was shot in front of the city's old police station after leaving a bar.
Yates was stationed at Fort Drum, near Watertown, from 1991 to 1995.
Comins has not determined Yates' whereabouts at the time of the murder because of difficulties in retrieving military records. Walker said records are especially spotty before 1992.
A polygraph test administered as part of Yates' plea deal in Spokane indicated he was telling the truth when he said he had not killed outside of Washington State.
The validity of the test has been questioned by Spokane investigators and nationally known polygraph experts.
"I would not want to send anyone into the penitentiary or let him out based on a polygraph," Mixon said. "That would be irrelevant to me."