TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- Robert Lee Yates Jr. made a deal to spare his life two years ago when he confessed to murdering 13 prostitutes. But it may not be enough to keep him off death row.
Yates was convicted Thursday of two more slayings that could bring the death penalty, the aggravated first-degree murder of Melinda Mercer, 24, and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35.
The 50-year-old father of five is already serving a 408-year sentence after reaching a plea agreement two years ago. Pierce County refused to sign on to that deal and took him to trial in the deaths of Mercer and Ellis in hopes of signing his death warrant.
"We want to get the full measure of justice for these victims," said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jerry Costello.
The penalty phase begins Tuesday.
The defense admitted that Yates killed Mercer and Ellis, but argued that his crimes did not warrant the death penalty.
So the question for jurors was whether the murders met the legal definition of aggravated murder.
The panel deliberated less than two days before finding that the killings involved all three aggravating factors cited by prosecutors: that Yates robbed his victims, that he killed them to conceal other crimes and that more than two people were killed in a common scheme.
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