Ghosts of Highway 20, Episode 5 – ACKROYD

Ghosts of Highway 20, Episode 5 – ACKROYD

September 17, 2019 0 By William Hollis


When John Ackroyd was a young man his
family placed an ad in the local newspaper for some Labrador puppies they
had for sale In a police interview years later an acquaintance who showed up to look at them described a horrifying scene he said he walked in to find puppy
body parts scattered across the yard Ackroyd had hacked the entire litter to
death with a machete saying these are my dogs and nobody’s going to get them The only thing between more innocent people being murdered and him running free was us Who knows what he would have gotten away with how many other people would
have died at his hands That’s where I had issues about you know the not knowing He went to the grave of a lot of secrets Where’s the justice in all this? We don’t get to know where she’s at How is this right? Was he an evil guy? Hell yeah he was Did he deserved to die in prison? Yeah he did and hopefully he’s enjoying this time in hell [Lucinda Williams singing “The Ghosts of Highway 20”] ♪ I know this road like the back of my hand ♪ ♪ Same with the stations on the FM band ♪ ♪ Farms and truck stops, firework stands ♪ ♪ I know this road like the back of my hand ♪ By June of 1992 the task force
investigating John Ackroyd had pivoted from the case of Ackroyd’s missing
stepdaughter 13 year old Richanda Pickle to the 1978 murder of Kaye Turner
for which he had long been the prime suspect Two young women who were recent
acquaintances of Ackroyd’s Melissa Sanders and Sheila Swanson had
also recently disappeared The walls were closing in on Ackroyd Well we’re really just getting started,
this is a first step got a lot of work ahead of us it’s just an accumulation
and at this point of a lot of hard detective work that’s been done by a lot
of different agencies to get it to this point Aykroyd and another man Roger Beck are charged with kidnapping raping and killing Kaye Turner That June 14th
John Ackroyd was finally arrested along with his friend Roger Dale Beck Beck had been with Aykroyd the day kay
Turner disappeared but was largely ignored in the original investigation More than a decade had passed since Kaye’s killing and there wasn’t much new physical evidence to uncover But in Beck the task force saw a potential suspect They took a fresh look at him and found a goldmine of new information Beck, initially, he was an alibi witness He was a friend of John’s they were guys that
spent a lot of time together We didn’t think he was really one of the main
players you know we thought Ackroyd killed her maybe on the way down, went to Beck’s house and they went out and they established this alibi thing Investigators interviewed Beck’s family members and began hearing variations of
the same story That Beck had spoken many times over the years about taking part in Kaye’s murder sometimes even bragging about it They interviewed his sister She had picked up Beck once or twice when he got drunk in a bar and couldn’t drive home and picked him up and he was crying, made some statements about how they killed this girl There was a guy there, I don’t know if it was Pam’s brother or brother-in-law something He had some statements that Beck made They were leaving, he said, we got to go up on the mountain see John get our story straight Pam was Beck’s ex-wife Pam Ramirez She had originally provided an alibi for both Beck and Ackroyd for the morning Kaye was killed but had divorced him and moved to California in the years since It became obvious we needed to interview
Beck’s wife, ex-wife so we planned a meeting to California that’s when it really
opened up the famous quote was like, I lied like hell when Beck and him returned the day that she disappeared they had blood all over them he had her burn his
clothes and his brand-new boots both had blood on them and they didn’t have a
deer like they were supposed to have it became very clear that Beck was a
part of it that day and that she actually knew that he was a part of it
and covered it up but she was very afraid of him and for good reason With no way to know exactly what had
happened the morning of Kaye’s murder investigators came up with a novel idea they decided to recreate and videotape different scenarios based on the little
information they did have they asked deputies and detectives to play Kaye, Ackroyd and Beck Found a truck like the one Ackroyd drove in 1978 and met at Camp Sherman in the winter of 1992 They couldn’t use the videos as evidence but the exercise helped investigators test theories on how Kaye’s abduction might have happened and humanized a woman none of them had ever known I was basically the same physical height and build and looked a lot like what Kaye looked like at the time she was killed they just had me jogging down the road filming and they would have Ackroyd’s
vehicle approach me only difference is I knew what was coming and she didn’t it was just basically two days of repeating a scenario over and over until we got it right or adding a new little twist to it where they had gained control over her a different way Will MacAnulty was lead detective on this case
and he’s a bear of a man with a heart of a teddy bear he said to me let’s film
this one more time and this time I want Kaye to win and in the last scenario I was
able to take the gun away and I shot him it was empowering to be able to pull it
away from him and and put him down I wish Kaye woulda had the chance to do that Ackroyd’s trial began in August of 1993 prosecutors had plenty of circumstantial evidence but physical evidence was scarce they had little more than what was found in 1979 a few bones, what was left of Kaye’s clothes and her Timex watch She wound her watch and timed every single run that she ever ran for years the watch wouldn’t have just run down
when she was running Kaye’s watch offered a chance to prove the date and time she was killed establishing that she had died the same
morning she disappeared when Aykroyd admitted to stopping and talking to her
would further tie him to the scene of the crime Timex, you know, they take a
lickin’ and keep keep on tickin’ I mean that was a perfect example of that The Timex guy, he was a designer of this thing he was R&D on this watch
they had a stem that pulled out you know you could and you wound it and he
testified basically that the only two only three ways that the watch could
have stopped where it ran down and we pretty much eliminated that were the stem gets pulled out, so you can pull it out and you can wind it up without changing
the time or it can it can if it has a really substantial blow that exceeds the
shock limits of the watch it will stop so basically I mean our pitch was yeah
either by grabbing her or pulling off her shirt that stem got pulled out somehow so we were actually able to prove that the watch would still run and it was on am so it it was exactly the time she would have been there and it had the 24 on it as well so it was the right date With the time of her death
established by the watch investigators sought to determine the cause of Kaye’s
death to what little they had of her remains but not much had ever actually
been found much of what Ackroyd claimed to have
discovered in 1979 turned out to be animal bones The only two bones that
were identified as human were the only two bones that could identify her the mandible and the skull which were separate those are the only two that
were found Prosecutors took what they did have as well as what was left of Kaye’s clothes to a US Fish and Wildlife lab in Southern Oregon for analysis We never really had a definitive idea how Kaye had died there were no bullet casings found, there were no bullet fragments recovered or anything like this Fish and wildlife the US Fish and Wildlife had just built that really sophisticated lab in Ashland and it just opened and they were happy to get something to work on with their techniques they could show that this fabric was cut rather than torn there are panties and shorts had been
cut off of her rather than just getting ripped up by a coyote or something the evidence of cut clothing bore a striking similarity to both Marlene Gabrielsen’s
rape and Karen Lee’s disappearance but the analysis revealed even more There were knife stabs through her shirt and they found some lead fragments on
her shirt where she’d been shot so now we have an idea how Kaye was killed all the sudden it’s like the lightbulb went on Both Ackroyd and Beck had made some
statements I think at least Beck had about being stabbed and shot so that
corroborated those statements that he had made it was an enlightening
experience when all of a sudden we got wait a minute we’ve been looking at
these things as tears all this time but in reality they’re not these are wounds and that was a big piece of the puzzle was always missing [music] Assistant Attorney General Doug Dawson
used graphic discussion about Turner’s fatal wounds to try and prove that the
only way Ackroyd could know how she died as he said he did in previous police
interviews was because Aykroyd was indeed the killer Ackroyd’s defense hinged on the idea
that he was simple-minded and had become confused by police during his various interactions with them His lawyer offered a theory that it
wasn’t Kaye Turner but a different runner he had encountered that morning and that he had conflated the two as a result of the extensive news coverage that had followed Kaye’s disappearance There were two runners so there was some confusion but that was basically his thing was it was the wrong runner That’s when I was avidly running and and I just got up whenever I got up and put my clothes on and go for my run and that afternoon I had to go to the store for something so I went to the store and that’s when we saw a search and rescue people were and so I remember asking what’s going on and I said oh you know somebody was out
running today and she hasn’t returned and I remember just thinking oh man you
know and then just went home For me they really really connected it
wasn’t tell during the trial when I had to go and just say yes I was the other
person running because a lot of you know they’d either described her or me If Morris saw Kaye or Ackroyd on her run that Christmas Eve morning neither registered
with her as anything unusual and there’s no way of knowing if Ackroyd saw her But a few months earlier in August Morris experienced a frightening encounter with a man on a different camp Sherman Road I was working as a waitress
at Black Butte Lodge for that summer and we’d often ride our bikes there was
several of us that lived in the Camp Sherman area So I was just riding back by myself and I was off the highway so I was on the road
to Camp Sherman and I was good enough at that time to bike ride without the
handlebars so and I remember I still had my waitress dress on I remember that and
there was a pickup truck car kind of just off the road and there was a person the guy you know kind of moving around and stuff and as I got closer he
went to the back of his pickup comes out of the back of the pickup with a gun and he and he points it at me following me and I was just about opposite
at that point and he was yelling something like stop or come hear something I can’t
remember exactly and my mind just went I’m going for it so I just dropped down
on my handles and pedaled like crazy and then I weaved because I know it’s harder
to hit a moving target and I remember just listening for the you know
listening for the motor to start but he didn’t shoot didn’t follow and when I
got to the Camp Sherman homes I went went past and went to the store
to report it a guy pulled a gun on me It wasn’t until years later when she was called to testify at John Ackroyd’s trial that she would see the man again I just remember looking at him and just went that was the guy with the gun yeah that was him That’s when it really hit me that could have been me, that could have been me There never was any physical evidence to
prove Ackroyd’s guilt but the jury heard the tapes of voluntary interviews he’d given to police after Rachanda’s disappearance which contained numerous lies and contradictions This not only contradicted his statements in earlier interviews but was simply impossible In reality Kaye’s remains had been scattered by scavengers and her skull wasn’t among what Ackroyd claimed to have found in 1979 Kaye’s skull wasn’t discovered until 1980 when a hunter stumbled across it about a half mile away To the jury when taken as a whole the taped interviews were almost as good as a confession The verdict is in
after just four hours of deliberations a jury tonight has reached its decision in
the trial of John Arthur Ackroyd the jury found Ackroyd guilty on all counts two counts of aggravated murder and three counts of murder Ackroyd was convicted this evening of killing Kaye Jean Turner as Turner was jogging on
Christmas Eve in Camp Sherman almost 15 years ago You know I feel like justice
has been served but it’s not like the total weight’s off your back I mean maybe it’s just gonna be there I think it you know the
good guys won and kind of restored my faith in the system [clears throat] that it does work You know you you do what you can but it was a very important, maybe one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life is helping get him off the streets you just don’t know how many
lives might have been saved It saved women’s lives if he had stayed out if he had never been convicted he and maybe Beck would’ve done more crimes and killed more women for sure you know he managed to get through that whole thing without ever getting caught that was the only time he’s ever been arrested or charged anything in his life not because he was all that smart but he
managed to do it How did Ackroyd manage to do it? He was an opportunistic killer who preyed on women who were vulnerable and exposed a runner on an empty road, a child who feared him, two teens adrift in the world There were no witnesses and no physical evidence but there had been an unmistakable warning sign Before he was ever suspected of being a killer Ackroyd had raped Marlene Gabrielsen in the woods outside of Sisters she went to
police and they dismissed her as a liar Ackroyd knew he’d gotten away with rape, he even laughed about it he used the cover of Highway 20 to stalk women who were alone and counted on society’s blind eye to marginalize people to avoid
prosecution for decades Killing the right kind of people in the right kind of place during the right kind of time was all it really took [music] By 2010 Ackroyd had been imprisoned for
almost 20 years the potential for him to become eligible
for parole was on the horizon Kaye Turner’s murder was the only one Ackroyd had been tried for and Rachanda Pickle’s case was still technically open Detective Mike Harmon began to pursue its resolution They used to say in cold
cases time was your friend because relationships change but at a certain
point time is no longer your friend If we don’t find her body we’re not going
to have any additional evidence so is this case prosecutable now – one of the
things that that kind of influenced the prosecution was that that John was
eligible to put in for parole and one of the things we did not want is John Arthur Ackroyd to be released from prison Mike told me he’s like you know I don’t want to sound cold but I don’t want that son of a bitch out and if I got to use your sister as a tool to keep him in there I’m going to I don’t want this guy
out and I agreed with him yeah absolutely this guy cannot get out the ultimate goal was especially for Byron Rachanda’s brother was to get Rachanda back I knew it was gonna be a long hard road because Mike was very open going that he’s not admitting to this he’s like you know I’m hoping with you being there through this process that you know maybe as a last living testament that he
has that you know where he could actually feel good about himself that
you know where is she The DA’s office had to decide whether to
bring Ackroyd to trial after all this time or negotiate a plea deal While the 2010 investigation had turned up new information like the fact that Rachanda had disclosed her sexual abuse by Ackroyd to friends there was still no smoking gun officials consulted with Byron and tried
to involve his mother Linda but she declined to make the trip from California Byron had to make the decision alone I asked him, I’m like, what’s the new evidence because I was convinced there had to been a new evidence because we went to a grand jury indictment we were moving forward wow there’s got to be a smoking gun and when they revealed to me that there was no smoking gun that’s when I called for a break and my wife and I was out there in the hall I lost it oh my gosh dang where’s my dad and my mom was here this is a big decision do we take the deal or do we push it and go to trial and have the chance of losing
it all I’m like I’m gonna take the deal I’m not gonna I’m not gonna gamble this
guy getting away with it John Ackroyd sitting there he’s looking forward we did not make any eye contact When I opened the door he made a quick brief and when he seen it was me I’m the only one
there connected to this no support pissed off but at the same time I felt good at the same time knowing that I actually seeing, seeing this through for Rachanda giving her a voice in all of it The no contest plea meant that
Ackroyd wasn’t admitting guilt but also wasn’t denying it it guaranteed he would die behind bars The location of Rachanda’s body remained a mystery and the plea was immediately sealed the details remain secret until early 2017
when the Oregonian asked a judge to unseal them I was under a gag order that I couldn’t go to the media Where’s the justice in all this that? You know we don’t get to know where she’s at I can’t tell anybody about what’s going How is this right? it definitely felt being victimized again it was like this this fucking prick has more right than what we do [music] The Kaye Turner and Rachanda Pickle
cases had now been resolved and Melissa Sanders and Sheila Swanson’s murders were eventually closed as well investigators Linda Snow and Ron Benson
had uncovered new information like the witness accounts of Ackroyd coming to the Sweet Home shop with bloody hands They also confirmed that some items
found near the teens remains like a used rivet and a beaded car seat cover were commonly used by highway workers on the job The investigators and the Lincoln County DA were satisfied that they had enough to prosecute Ackroyd but taking the case to grand jury didn’t seem worth the expense Ackroyd was already locked
up for good I’ve talked to the DA and she believes that this is something we could have put in front of a grand jury if need be The costs of prosecuting our
case would have been huge with no additional outcome So he was going to
die in prison one way or the other So just being able to say that we could if
we needed to That was our end goal was to get it to
that point In December of 2016 John Ackroyd died in prison with him die the answers to many questions leaving the unknowns to haunt his
victims, the survivors and investigators alike When you first hear
the guys dead you’re thinking okay a monsters gone but then you kind of have
that sad emotional moment where you know for Byron she’s she’s not around and he doesn’t have that closure he has that closure to John’s dead but he
doesn’t have that closure to where his sister is at least I got something the families of these other victims no closure my heart goes out to ’em I had asked if, can I, any way that I can go and talk to this man? and they said no Do you remember her and I just wanted to look him in the eye and ask him if he did it did it did he remember it did he you
know then when I found out that he died I go that’s a rotten thing to do, I was
just so figured I would be, maybe at the end of this, that’s what I wanted was to have something but I’m not now so Sheila Swanson’s brother Bart
occasionally takes Highway 20 to visit the spot off Hayes Creek Road where his
sister’s body was found I go up there you know – pretty much to Remind myself that I still haven’t let it go let her know that I haven’t let it go Byron keeps photos of his sister from
childhood and thinks of her often telling his own children that they had
an aunt Rachanda who they’ll never know Actually got a tattoo of it I do Last summer It’s just didn’t have any way to put it to rest and it’s very big part of my life and I just wanted to be able to have a celebration and stuff you know it’s not
a tattoo of hurt and shame but it is of love just try to get some closure somehow Mark Foster has returned to volunteer
police duty after interviews for this story rekindled a desire to protect his
small rural community You know these things, you can’t go through these kind of things without it having some impact on you too so I just spent a lot of time out on this road patrolling and and just
keeping an eye on the community so maybe this year I can just be out there and and if possible prevent such a thing from ever occurring again Bill Hanlon stayed in touch with Kaye Turner’s mother after the trial and knows how much it meant to her that her daughter’s killer was finally brought to justice something that never would have happened
without his perseverance To this day he keeps Kaye in his thoughts
every Christmas Eve I do a run every Christmas Eve morning, Kaye Turner yeah I ultimately told wrote her mother a Christmas card and told her I did that she’s said that’s the best memorial she could have After the trial the woman who was the
presiding grant of the presiding juror her mother went out there and found her
and said I just want to tell you the first time I saw you you I knew you were
the woman who would say my daughter’s soul the day before we went for the Beck
sentencing we had the whole task force here her mother was here she sat here and told stories about Kaye Turner, her daughter and it was very satisfying, everybody was listening you know it was great Marlene Gabrielsen grew up as a member
of the Inupiat people in Alaska and she moved back there for a time
after her rape no longer feeling safe in Oregon She eventually returned but still
struggles not just with the aftermath of the attack but the knowledge that had she been believed much of what followed might never have happened I figured it
was because I was nothing I wasn’t going to amount to anything I was brown and I was ugly So you know you’re not gonna amount to anything Don’t think you are
you know I think that’s why I cowered so much back then You’re the first person
and you know what my first thought was when I read that message why would she
care cuz that’s the mindset I had with this whole thing from the gate that’s what made me come because there’s someone that actually cared Ya know which is a miracle ya know I mean this makes me feel really
good because there is a reason why I’m here and I guess I am not that ugly you
know and I’m not worthless My name? Yeah Marlene K Gabrielsen I’m Inupiaq I’m a strong woman [Lucinda Williams singing “The Ghosts of Highway 20”] ♪ Every question and every breath ♪ ♪ Every exit leaves a little death ♪ ♪ In its wake a memory ♪ ♪ That will wander with the ghosts of highway 20 ♪ ♪ Ya I know this road like the back of my hand ♪ ♪ Same with the stations on the FM band ♪ ♪ Farms and truck stops and firework stands ♪ ♪ I know this road like the back of my hand ♪