Murder suspect nabbed in Yuba County takes ‘full responsibility' for 4 deaths
In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Appeal-Democrat, suspected murderer David Joseph Pedersen admitted to killing his father, and took responsibility for three more deaths.
"Everything that's been reported I take full responsibility for," he said.
Pedersen says he killed his father, 56-year-old David Jones Pedersen, of Everett, Wash., because he molested his daughter — David Joseph Pedersen's older sister — when the two were children.
"I felt it was my responsibility to make sure it didn't happen again," he said during the 45-minute interview Sunday night in Yuba County Jail.
Pedersen also said his girlfriend, Holly Ann Grigsby, who was arrested with him Wednesday in Yuba County, was involved in the killings only under duress, held against her will and should be absolved of any crimes.
"It's something I did and Ms. Grigsby had nothing to do with," he said. "She's been misportrayed."
Pedersen declined to talk in detail or admit outright to the other killings. He also declined to discuss what happened between his father's death and when he and Grigsby were arrested in Yuba County.
David Joseph Pedersen, 31, and Grigsby, 24, were arrested after a three-state manhunt when a California Highway Patrol officer recognized their car on Marysville Road. They were wanted for first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a 69-year-old Leslie Pedersen — Pedersen's father's wife — and are also suspected in the death of a 19-year-old Oregon man, whose car they were driving at the time of the arrest.
However, Grigsby told Washington state investigators she killed Leslie Pedersen using two knives, The Associated Press reported Monday. The stepmother was found Sept. 28 with her hands tied with duct tape and a bloody pillow wrapped around her head.
Pedersen also expects to be charged with the murder of a "dead Negro" in a truck in Eureka, "in that the bullet from my gun is in his head," he said, but declined to be more specific. Eureka Police Department said Monday that Pedersen and Grigsby are linked to the death of 53-year-old Reginald Alan Clark of Eureka, who was found shot in the head in his truck Friday in a residential neighborhood.
Sgt. Patrick O'Neill told the Eureka Times-Standard police have not determined a relationship between the murder suspects and Clark or to the Eureka area, or if the murder was racially motivated. Detectives interviewed Pedersen and Grigsby at the jail on Saturday.
Pedersen, whose tattoos include a three-prong swastika and a reference to "Supreme White Power," said he does have certain racial and philosophical beliefs but does not belong to any groups or movements.
When asked Sunday if additional bodies may turn up, Pedersen said, "I don't want to get into that."
Pedersen entered the visiting room for the jail's maximum security offenders Sunday night about 9 o'clock without handcuffs, dressed in a long-sleeved orange jail uniform.
Seated behind a thick window, he spoke softly and matter-of-factly into the black telephone, sometimes answering only that he did not want to talk about a certain subject. A single lapse in his somber mood came at the end of the interview, when he asked if the reporter had seen the YouTube video of his mixed martial arts battle, and smiled as he recalled the severity of the blows and said it's one of the only fights he has ever lost.
Pedersen said he doesn't care what people think about him.
"Those who know me, know," he said. "And the rest are going to make their own conclusions."
But he does want to clear Grigsby's name. They have only been dating a few months.
"She's a sweet-hearted girl who has a heart of gold," Pedersen said. "I think she deserves a bit more than she's got in life."
The couple were arraigned Friday in Yuba County Superior Court, where they pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicle theft and being felons in possession of firearms. Bail was set at $1 million each and the arraignment was continued until today, with the expectation Pedersen and Grigsby will be extradited to Oregon and Washington on murder charges.
Pedersen called the Appeal-Democrat from the jail after their arraignment Friday and requested an interview. He declined to talk about the subject matter over the phone.
He also asked that money be put into his and Grigsby's jail accounts to purchase phone cards, stamps, envelopes and other materials for contacting their family members because they have no means of doing so. That request was rejected.
The jail denied the Appeal-Democrat's request to record Pedersen's interview.
Pedersen's public defender, Benjamin Wirtshafter, declined comment Monday.
Pedersen said his life growing up in Stayton, Ore., Salem, Ore., and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base was that of any other family. His parents were happy, and he and his sister, who is one year older than him, got along well with the exception of common sibling disputes.
But when he was 9 years old, his parents divorced when his mother learned his father had been molesting their daughter, Pedersen said. The elder Pedersen became estranged from the family, and they had no contact until David Joseph Pedersen reached out after release from prison four months ago.
"He chose not to be a part of my life," Pedersen said.
He does not believe there is any documentation of his father's alleged abuse.
Pedersen and his mother have always had a close relationship, and it was she who told him when he was in prison four years ago about his father's molestation of his sister and an adopted cousin. The revelation did not surprise him.
"I think it was made clear to me when I was a youngster," he said. "(At the time) it was something I didn't understand."
Pedersen soon decided he needed to kill his father, he said.
"Once the decision was made, it was just a matter of doing it," Pedersen said.
He does not refer to Leslie Pedersen as his stepmother, and said, "She is just some woman he married that I never knew." But in speaking with her after he got out of prison, he learned she knew her husband had once molested his daughter.
"She knew what he had done and continued to support him," Pedersen said.
His main reason for going public about the killings is he figures people in Everett are talking about what a nice man his father was and are mourning him. Pedersen wants them to know the truth.
"It looks like I'm an irrational psychopath and I'm not," he said.
"I'm not glad he's dead. I don't get joy from it. But I do get satisfaction," he said. "He didn't deserve to be walking around anymore."
Pedersen is not interested in using his dad's status as a child molester as his defense, but he will address it in the trial. Yes, people can change, he said, but not always.
"I think there are some things that are not worth forgiving," Pedersen said. "If you have something in you to do that, there is no getting around that."
Pedersen has been able to speak with his mother once since his arrest, during a 20-minute collect call to her in Salem. It was heartbreaking, he said.
"I've been breaking her heart my whole life but this one takes the cake," Pedersen said.
He and his sister, whose name is also Holly, have been estranged for years, he said. But he has always remained close with his mother.
"She's always loved and been there for me. She's a great woman and deserves better," he said. "She's devastated by all this, as you can imagine."
Reached by phone Monday, Linda Pedersen said, "I love him. He's my son. I love him unconditionally." A soft-spoken woman, she declined to comment further.
A family member confirmed sexual and physical abuse by the father Monday, speaking on condition on anonymity to Portland TV station KOIN, and she described the younger Pedersen as a "sociopath," saying he began exhibiting violent tendencies at age 7. She also expressed her condolences to the families of the victims.
"What has happened in your past, it doesn't justify killing a teenage boy and killing your family and innocent people along the way," she said.
Pedersen has spent nearly half his life behind bars, with time in the Oregon state prison system and federal facilities in Louisiana, Colorado and Texas.
He was first sentenced to six years in prison for robbery when he was 16. But he continued to rack up time for various assaults and fights that were driven by an urge to deviate from his normal prison routine, Pedersen said.
He estimated that of his 14 years in prison, 11 of them were spent in solitary lockdown. It was such stints of sensory deprivation that prompted him to threaten a federal judge in 2001, with the knowledge it would at least get him into court.
Shortly after that, he assaulted a corrections officer, beating him profusely in the face with a hot iron. He admits the attack was brutal, but said it was because corrections officers sadistically target prisoners to elicit responses.
When asked if he considers himself a violent person, Pedersen said, "It'd be kind of laughable to say no."
When choosing to kill his father, he understood the ramifications of his decision, he said.
"I pretty much figured there was a rough road ahead of me from the beginning," Pedersen said.
He said it doesn't matter when he is extradited to Oregon and Washington because he'll likely be facing a capital offense charge, or how long of a prison sentence he is facing. Both states have the death penalty.
After 14 years in prison, Pedersen said he does not agree with how the system is run, from everyday operations to the basic premise of incarceration.
"Either someone is worthy of being a member of society or they are not," he said.
And if they are not, Pedersen said, they are better off dead.
CONTACT reporter Ashley Gebb at 749-4783.