Friday, August 10, 2012

Bobby Derrick

Crime Tape
Located on the northern Oregon coast, Sand Lake cannot be classified as a city or a town due to its small population but, perhaps, it could be classified as a com­munity, although many people would argue that is stretching it a bit. Driving through the community, one sees an occasional house, a trailer home, the grange hall highlighting the area. There is no police or fire department, no res­taurants or movie houses, not even a church. There is, however, a gas station and a country store, both of which could be easily missed by the blink of a passing eye.
Sand Lake is normally peaceful, though, a small coastal town where a few people make their home, located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean about 65 miles south of Oregon’s northern border. Most of the residents’ necessities are obtained in nearby Tillamook, 14 miles to the northeast, or in Portland, about 85 miles northeast. When Sand Lake’s resi­dents are in need of emergency services, such as fire, police or medical, they are usually supplied by Tillamook city or county authorities, but it is rare that they are needed. However, on the morning of December 26, 1981, it would be a diffe­rent story indeed when the Oregon State Police and the Tillamook County Sher­iff’s Department were called to the scene of a brutal double murder that would shock this small community and leave them talking about it for years to come, an act so vicious, so cold-blooded that it would ultimately shatter the tranquility of the northern Oregon coast.
The day after Christmas, spirits should still be running high, and it should be a time of good will, joy and happiness. For most people it is all these things and more, but for the Derrick families of Sand Lake it was a time of death, a time of tragedy and sadness so severe that each subsequent Christmas and New Year could only serve to renew sad memories of the events that transpired on late Christmas evening in 1981.
It was approximately 6:40 a.m. on Saturday, December 26th, when Mark Schackart, Tillamook County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher, received a phone call from a distraught man who reported that a possible shooting had taken place in a trailer home in the 19100 block of Derrick Road in nearby Sand Lake. The caller could not give any specific details, but told Schackart that he feared some­thing dreadful had happened at his brother’s trailer, located across the road from his own home. Schackart assured the worried man someone would be there to investigate shortly, then notified the state police and dispatched one of his own deputies as well. The trip from Til­lamook to Sand Lake via U.S. Highway 101, the Pacific Coast highway, took about 10 minutes.
Michael D. Stephenson, Oregon State Police investigator, and John E. Johan­nessen, Tillamook County deputy sher­iff, were the first officers to arrive at the trailer home. The name on the mailbox listed the resident as Robert John Der­rick.
The two policemen met with Der­rick’s brother, the man who notified the authorities, before going inside the trail­er. They took notes as the man talked, then entered the trailer. They were a­ghast at what they saw.
The inside of the trailer was literally a bloody mess. Everywhere the two cops looked; there was grisly human tissue and blood, some of which was still very wet. On both sides of the walls in the narrow hallway, there was a spray of blood with bits of what looked like gray matter of the brain clinging to the walls and the floor. There was also a consider­able amount of blood on the floor, as if someone had fallen and bled profusely. The blood on the floor was smeared, as if the person wounded had attempted to crawl, or was possibly dragged through it. It was not a pretty sight, grisly enough to make even the most hardened cops queasy and nauseous.
When the cops made their way into the main bedroom they were equally shock­ed, perhaps even more so, by the mess there. The bed was drenched in blood, and there were the same traces of gray matter on the wall at the head of the bed. There were sprays and spatters of blood on the walls on either side of the bed, and the cops could detect traces of what appeared to be powder burns on the sheets and mattress. Again the blood was smeared on the sheets, as it had been on the hallway floor, as if the person injured had moved himself or had been moved by another person.
The cops had no doubt that a shooting had occurred, and it most likely resulted in someone’s death. But, the body or bodies were nowhere to be found. Also, the cops wondered whether just one per­son had been injured, or more. The cops couldn’t be sure at this point, but it looked to them like two separate shoot­ings had occurred. Could the victims have been the residents of the trailer, Robert and Bonnie Derrick? Again they couldn’t be sure, but that seemed the most likely possibility.
Stephenson and Johannessen were careful not to disturb anything until addi­tional help arrived and began processing the trailer for clues. Stephenson called his own office in Portland and requested that a team of investigators from the Ore­gon State Police crime labs be sent out to go over the place, and Johannessen cal­led his department for additional de­puties and homicide investigators. They needed additional personnel to not only search for clues, but to help protect the crime scene as well.
While they were waiting for the addi­tional help to arrive, Stephenson and Johannessen interviewed Robert Der­rick’s brother, the man who initially cal­led them to the scene. The man reiterated what he had already told them, adding that his brother’s pickup truck was mis­sing from the residence. He told the cops that he hadn’t heard anything unusual, and hadn’t seen anyone drive away with the pickup. It was a mysterious and baf­fling case to say the least, particularly since the cops had so little to work with at this point. They knew there was plenty of evidence inside the trailer, but little of it would be useful until it could be re­trieved and sent to the state crime labs for analysis.
When the state crime lab technicians and photographers arrived, they wasted no time. Police barriers identifying the property as a crime site were quickly put up, and police photographers thoroughly photographed the trailer inside and out. When they were finished, the crime experts began orderly processing of the evidence available to them.
While the crime lab technicians were gathering blood samples, as well as paint and fabric samples, detectives began a methodical search of every room of the trailer. Within no time at all, detectives had ferreted out a shotgun from an undis­closed location. The cops suspected that it had been fired recently, but they couldn’t be certain until the weapon had undergone a firearms examination at the state crime labs.
While technicians and detectives were working inside the trailer, Tillamook County deputies were searching outside the trailer as well as adjacent properties. They were looking for anything which might prove useful, but were hoping to find the victim(s) of the alleged shoot­ing, who would either be dead or dying. There was no way, the cops reasoned, anyone could sustain such severe in­juries that would involve the loss of brain tissue and blood and be able to survive. If they did, they would most assuredly be in a vegetable state and would probably be better off dead.
Meanwhile, detectives felt certain that they could obtain some valuable clues as to what happened on the evening of December 25th or early the next morning if only they could find Derrick’s missing pickup truck. An APB was immediately issued for the much sought vehicle, and detectives decided it would be a good idea if they began an air and ground search for the missing truck or any dead bodies that may have been dumped in one of the hundreds of thousands of re­mote square miles in the area.
By mid-afternoon little progress had been made in the case, and neither the Derricks nor their missing truck had been found. The cops were speculating that when they did turn up, they would be dead and their truck probably would turn up in another state. None of the cops, at this point, really had any idea which way the case could turn. All they could do was develop theories as to what happened based on the information they had, changing those theories as new informa­tion dictated.
The case took a dramatic turn around 4:00 p.m. when an air-search team from the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Depart­ment reported spotting a pickup truck matching the description of the Der­ricks’. They reported that the pickup was lying at the bottom of a 70-foot embank­ment at Cape Lookout State Park, about three miles from the Derricks’ trailer home.
State troopers and county deputies hastily converged on the area, knowing they had their work cut out for them. They would have to get down the steep drop off somehow and check for any survivors, and would have to make arrangements to have the wrecked pick­up pulled up to the road.
Although they really didn’t expect to find anyone alive in the truck, a group of deputies nonetheless quickly descended the steep embankment to check for survi­vors. When the deputies reached the pickup, they horrifyingly discovered their original assumption had been cor­rect: there were two very dead bodies inside.
The bodies were those of a man and a woman, both naked. The cops could see at a glance that the couple hadn’t died as a result of the trip down the embank­ment, but had instead died violently at the hands of a merciless killer who had intended that they die.
When the deputies and crime lab personnel had removed the two bodies from the truck, they could see that they were fresh corpses. Rigor mortis was just beginning to set in, an indication that the man and woman had been dead only a few hours (rigor mortis usually sets in about 12 hours after death and is com­pleted and sometimes gone by 48 hours).
The faces of the two murder victims had been blown almost completely away by what the cops and medical examiner believed were shotgun blasts at close range. Although state police and county detectives believed the two victims to be Robert John Derrick and his wife Bon­nie, they knew they would have to make positive identification to be certain. Since identification by sight would be next to impossible due to the severe con­dition they were in, the cops also knew that positive identification would have to be made through comparison of dental charts with impressions taken from their teeth.
It didn’t take long for the authorities to determine that the pickup truck belonged to Robert Derrick. They simply called in the vehicle’s license number to the Ore­gon Department of Motor Vehicles for confirmation, the results of which nar­rowed the gap of doubt as to whom the victims were. For all intents and purposes, the cops knew at this point that the victims were the Derricks, but they still had to be one hundred percent certain and ordered the dental comparisons.
By now the news media had received word about the grisly discovery at Cape Lookout State Park, and some over­zealous member of the press managed to get behind the police lines to get a closer look and some pictures. It didn’t take long for a state trooper to notice the un­acceptable infraction.
“Get your reporters out of there,” he said to the newsman in charge. “They’re down there tromping all over potential evidence. Why in the hell do you guys think we put up police lines? Certainly not for dramatic purposes. Can’t you guys read? It says, ‘DO NOT CROSS.”‘ The cop was obviously angry, and right­ly so. It was his as well as every other cop’s responsibility to make sure the crime scene was protected from intrud­ers, no matter how well-meaning they might claim to be. The newsmen knew they used poor judgment in going behind police lines and, needless to say, it didn’t take long for them to scramble back to their appropriate places.
Next was the troublesome if not pain­staking job of getting the victims’ pickup pulled back up the 70-foot embankment. To accomplish this somewhat difficult task, three heavy-duty tow trucks were called to the scene.
After the workmen secured the pickup to the tow truck win­ches, the removal process began. It took nearly an hour for them to get the wreck­ed vehicle back up to the road and, when they did, the authorities ordered it moved to the state police crime labs in Portland for a thorough going-over.
At this point in the investigation the cops had a lot of questions they needed to answer in order to make any progress in the case. Why, for instance, were the two victims naked? Had their clothes been removed to prevent a prompt iden­tification of their bodies? This seemed the most likely possibility, but the cops had to consider they might have been naked when killed, particularly if they had been in bed just prior to the shooting. This seemed likely as well, especially if the victims turned out to be Robert and Bonnie Derrick, for at least one person was shot in the Derricks’ bed while it was believed another person was shot in the hallway of their trailer home. The cops knew they had their work cut out for them in this case, and that a lot of ground had to be covered before they could begin to answer their nagging questions with any degree of certainty.
Meanwhile, state troopers and county deputies combed the surrounding area for clues, many retracing their steps back to the spot where the pickup and bodies were found. A photographer from the sheriff’s department took pictures of the immediate area as a back-up for the state police photographer. The more photo­graphs the better, he reasoned, as he photographed the two bodies from every imaginable angle. He was obviously nauseous, and a loud sigh of relief could be heard when the somewhat macabre job was finished.
As the photographer was busy packing up his equipment, a doctor representing the Tillamook County Medical Examin­er’s office arrived to take a look at the two corpses. Although he believed the victims’ deaths were caused by the gun­shot wounds, he said autopsies would have to be performed to be absolutely certain. He then authorized the deputies and troopers to have the bodies taken to Portland, where the postmortems could be conducted under the direction of Dr. William Brady, Multnomah County medical examiner.
At the Multnomah County morgue, the two bodies were quickly identified as 44-year-old Robert J. Derrick and 26-year-­old Bonnie P. Derrick. Soon after the identifications had been made, patholog­ists and toxicologists from Portland routinely converged on the corpses and proceeded to conduct the autopsies under the direction of Dr. William Brady, who described every action and every finding into a tape recorder’s microphone.
It didn’t take long for the medical ex­aminers to determine the cause of the Derricks’ deaths. By the conclusion of the autopsies, after extensive examina­tions of the head injuries, the doctors unanimously agreed the victims died as a result of being shot in their heads with a shotgun at close range and concluded that the couple had been dead less than 24 hours when discovered.
In the meantime, police were having a tough time with their investigation, and had no suspects in custody yet. There were plenty of clues, but they weren’t yet pointing in any one direction. To make matters worse, their evidence gathering had been greatly hampered by the heavy winter rains, a problem which prompted detectives to fear that many potential clues may have been lost be­cause of the heavy incessant rainfall.
When the crime lab experts finished with the pickup truck, they had plenty of fingerprints to give the detectives. But the cops knew that even latent prints would be of little use at this point in the investigation, because those lifted from the inside and outside of the pickup would have to be matched to a suspect after the suspect was taken into custody and fingerprinted.
Even though the prints would be easi­ly identifiable when being compared with the prints of a suspect, the cops knew they would still have to go through the somewhat tedious task of searching the fingerprint files. Because general fingerprint files, such as those of the FBI, are arranged or sorted using a sys­tem that requires prints from all ten fin­gers, a single or even a few prints found at the scene of a crime usually can’t be checked anyway. Unless, of course, the prints are those of a known criminal, such as a kidnapper or bank robber, for which case some major metropolitan police departments and federal law en­forcement agencies maintain a single fingerprint file. But this was clearly not that kind of case here, and police offi­cials were getting nowhere fast in their investigation of the double killing.
The rude awareness that two very vio­lent murders, not to mention the subse­quent slipshod attempt at disposing of the corpses, had been committed on the usually peaceful shores of the Oregon coast had spread quickly throughout the communities located up and down High­way 101, creating an ominous atmos­phere of gloom over the, region. The population’s general feeling was that a heavy pall now covered everyone and everything. And as time went on, those feelings intensified due, at least in part, to the fact that the cops still had no one in custody and weren’t willing to discuss who their investigation was focusing on as a possible suspect.
However, just when the investigation seemed to be at its lowest point (as is usually the case when dealing with the complexity of a homicide investigation), police officials received the break in the case they had long been seeking. Tilla­mook County investigators, as well as detectives from the Oregon State Police and Washington County, were tipped that the Derricks’ 16-year-old son, Robert Lyle Derrick, also known as “Bobby,” had escaped several weeks earlier from the Cordero Juvenile Deten­tion Facility in Hillsboro and had been hiding out from authorities by staying at least part of the time at his parents’ trailer home. Detectives eagerly wanted to find Bobby so they could question him. It was entirely possible, they reasoned, that he knew nothing, but cops’ instinct told them otherwise.
The latest theory detectives had de­veloped indicated they believed that Derrick and his wife were shot gunned to death either early Saturday morning or late Friday evening, December 25th. The cops believed that Derrick was shot in the hallway of the trailer and that his wife was shot as she lay in bed.
In an attempt to uncover as many pertinent facts to the case as possible, detectives quest Toned John Derrick’s brother again, as well as his wife. The couple lived across the road from their murdered relatives’ trailer, and detec­tives hoped they might be able to learn something useful. The information they were told was indeed quite useful, enough to steer their investigation to­wards a suspect. Their suspect was the murdered couple’s own son, Bobby.
The dead couple’s relatives told the cops that Bobby Derrick came to their house and told them, “Someone mur­dered my folks,” showing little emotion when he made the shocking statement. Another relative backed up their story. With that, the cops decided to return to the trailer with hopes of finding informa­tion that might lead them to Bobby.
When they arrived at the trailer, sleuths were relieved when they found Bobby inside. Tillamook County Depu­ty Sheriff Johannessen routinely ques­tioned the youth about his parents’ vio­lent deaths, and Bobby answered him very calmly. He told policemen that someone murdered his parents on Christ­mas evening, but would not or could not say who committed the violent act. Get­ting nowhere with the teenager, the cops took him into custody on charges stem­ming from his escape from the Hillsboro juvenile detention center and booked him into the Tillamook County Jail.
Although Bobby Derrick remained calm while being questioned, something about his demeanor bothered the cops, prompting them to interrogate the run­away teenager again. He was taken from his cell into an austere interrogation room where he was seated at a square table.
During the subsequent questioning, probers noted definite conflicting stories about what had occurred on the evening of December 25th and the morning of December 26th, not to mention the ab­sence of a decent alibi. When they asked Derrick if he killed his step-mother and father, he repeatedly denied the insinua­tions. In spite of the denials, detectives felt sure he was the killer, and decided to employ an unusual and shocking technique to get at the truth.
They left the room for a few minutes, leaving Bobby there alone to think and contemplate the situation he was facing. When they returned they had a large man­ila envelope in their possession. After a few moments, they took out several 8×10 black and white glossy photographs of Bobby Derrick’s parents after their bodies had been found. The effects of the photos were grisly and gross for the cops, to say the least, but they were profound, almost devastating, for Bobby Derrick. He began to shake, and tears were soon streaming down his face.
After calming down a bit from the ini­tial shock of seeing his dead parents’ photos, Bobby broke down and made a complete confession to the detectives. It was indeed a surprise to the cops that they obtained a confession from the teenager so quickly. Even though they had a gut- level feeling that he was the guilty party, they thought they would have a tough time getting the confession, if at all.
“He sat and tears ran down his cheeks for two or three minutes after he saw the pictures,” said Oregon State Police In­vestigator Michael D. Stephenson, who was one of the first officers to arrive at the murder scene. Stephenson said that after he was finished crying, Bobby appeared calm once again and gave them a more detailed account of what had hap­pened.
Derrick told the cops that he and his father had become involved in a heated argument on Christmas evening and, as the altercation intensified, Bobby’s father threatened to have him returned to the juvenile detention center he had escaped from a few weeks earlier. In a fit of anger, the younger Derrick got hold of a shotgun his dad kept in the trailer and shot his father in the hallway. He then went to his parents’ bedroom where Bon­nie, his stepmother, was lying in bed. Before she knew what was happening, he shot her once in the face at close range, killing her almost instantly.
Bobby Derrick also admitted to Stephenson and Johannesson that he then loaded the bloody, naked bodies of his dead parents into the back of the family pickup truck, drove it approximately three miles to Cape Lookout State Park and, leaving the truck’s gearshift in neu­tral, pushed it over the 70-foot embank­ment where it was found.
The cops then handed the case over to Robert D. Wasson, Tillamook County D. A.
The case looked like it would be easy to prosecute, particularly with all of the physical evidence and the confession. But there was a problem, and that was that Bobby was only 16 years old and under the jurisdiction of the juvenile sys­tem. Knowing that if Bobby were con­victed in juvenile court, according to state law, he would be released on his 21st birthday. For that reason, Prosecu­tor Wasson chose to file a petition to remand Bobby Derrick to adult court where he would face murder charges for killing his parents. Wasson was success­ful in his attempt, and Judge Delbert Mayer ordered Derrick to stand trial as an adult. Derrick was lodged in the Tilla­mook County Jail under $300,000 bail on two counts of murder.
The problems facing DA Wasson didn’t end when Derrick was remanded to adult court. In spite of Derrick’s inter­rogation room confession, the suspect pleaded innocent at his arraignment by reason of insanity. Derrick’s attorney, John Tuthill, introduced a motion that Circuit Court Judge Delbert Mayer be disqualified from hearing the case be­cause Derrick had appeared before the judge during the juvenile proceedings. The motion was granted, and Washing­ton County Circuit Court Judge John Lund was brought in to replace Mayer, thus enabling the trial to begin.
A key question in Bobby Derrick’s trial was whether the killing of his pa­rents took place the night of December 25th or early the next morning. The de­fense contended that the homicides occurred early the next morning. Coun­selor Tuthill’s defense of Derrick was simply that on Christmas night his client committed the murders while in a state of “extreme emotional disturbance,” brought on by the, argument between Bobby and his father shortly before the shootings occurred.
On the other hand, DA Wasson produced expert testimony from a psychia­trist in his attempt to prove Derrick was rational when he gunned down his father and stepmother. In the first four days of the trial, heard in a packed court­room with standing room only, Wasson called nine witnesses to the stand in his attempt to prove that Derrick was ration­al and of sound mind and had premedi­tated the murders. Wasson also called three relatives of Derrick’s as well as the law enforcement officers involved in the case to testify about Derrick’s emotional state shortly after the killings took place. They all testified that the defendant seemed calm and unemotional after the killings occurred.
In spite of a strong attempt to convince the jury that Derrick was indeed mental­ly unbalanced at the time of the killings, his defense wasn’t enough. The jury found Robert “Bobby” Lyle Derrick guilty of intentional murder and first-degree manslaughter. Wasson was far from pleased, as he had attempted to get an aggravated murder conviction, a stif­fer penalty requiring that at least 30 years in prison be served before being eligible for parole. As it turned out, Derrick can be paroled in as little as five years by a majority vote of the five member state parole board.
While the convicted murderer was awaiting sentencing in Tillamook Coun­ty Jail, Derrick and two other inmates created a serious disturbance in a com­mon jail cell on Monday, January 3, 1983. It was not known if the disturb­ance was part of a plan of escape, or if the inmates were just trying to cause trouble for the sake of causing trouble. Just the same, according to Chief Deputy Mike Mee, all available deputies, as well as two Tillamook City police officers, were called in to help quell the disturb­ance.
According to the reports Derrick and the two other inmates attempted to start a fire in the bullpen (a common jail cell used for housing several prisoners) under the cell window to attract atten­tion, allegedly to celebrate Derrick’s sentencing which was scheduled for later that day.
“The disturbance broke out about 12:30 a.m.,” said Deputy Mee, “when the three inmates barricaded the doors of the bullpen and set the fire. They apparently were going to celebrate Der­rick’s sentencing, which was scheduled for today.” He then added that the in­mates barricaded the cell by pushing beds to the cell doors, then tying the beds to the cell bars by using towels. “The other inmates didn’t want anything to do with the disturbance and they asked to be let out of the bullpen,” said Mee. “After this Deputy Mark Berrest and Lt. Jim Wagner, jail corrections officer, tried to negotiate with the three inmates.” Mee said the deputies had to eventually force their way in when nego­tiations broke down.
“No one was injured,” said Mee, “but Mace was used on one inmate and that cooled them down. Finally they had to cut the towels and force their way in. They were contained from the start, but every time we have a serious disturbance we muster all hands.”
Circuit Court Judge Jon Lund sent­enced Derrick to life in prison for the murder of his stepmother, and meted him 20 years for the manslaughter death of his father. Lund also handed down two five-year sentences for the use of a gun in carrying out the heinous crimes. He was immediately turned over to state correc­tional authorities and taken to the Oregon State Penitentiary where he would serve his sentences until such time that a parole board deems him eligible for parole.
D.A. Wasson had attempted to have the jury verdicts on Derrick set aside after the eight-woman, four-man jury handed down the murder and manslaughter find­ings instead of the aggravated murder charges (meaning two or more persons killed in the commission of the same crime) which had been sought by the state.
In his motion to set aside the jury ver­dicts, Wasson had charged that Judge Lund had given wrong instructions to the jury before it began deliberations at the end of the trial. The motion was denied by Lund, however, and the verdicts were allowed to stand.
“Had Derrick been convicted of aggravated murder he would have re­ceived a life sentence with no chance of parole before 30 years,” said the some­what disgruntled Wasson.

4 comments:

  1. This was my grandpa, stepgrandma. and my uncle, it heartbreaks me that ill never know any of them. I wish I knew what they were like. I wish his would have never happened but this is what true greed and envy does it distroys families. especially mine.

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  2. Smh I wish people wouldn't post this or share it. this is my family and we are still cursed by it. I wish horrifying pasts can fade away but with people who continuously reminding us makes it harder.

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  3. I knew Bobby,he was my Friend. I always thought he was covering for that " Uncle "....... they held him till he was close to 18,so they could try him as an adult.

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  4. Bobby was my childhood friend. I always thought it was that strange uncle.

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