A white supremacist couple accused of killing four people in a violent road trip across the Pacific Northwest have been indicted on racketeering charges and other federal offenses that carry a maximum sentence of the death penalty.
The 15-count indictment, announced on Friday, charges David Joseph Pedersen, 32, and his 25-year-old girlfriend, Holly Ann Grigsby, with belonging to a criminal enterprise that committed "acts of murder on the basis of race, color, religion and perceived 'degenerate' conduct."
The pair were arrested last October in northern California after what authorities described as a bloody, two-week crime spree that began in the Puget Sound city of Everett, Washington, with the slaying of Pedersen's father and step-mother.
Their three-state road trip, during which they are accused of killing a middle-aged black man and a 19-year-old stranger singled out because they thought he was Jewish, ended with Grigsby allegedly telling police she and Pedersen were on their way to "kill more Jews" in Sacramento, California.
The couple's white supremacist associations were also evident from tattoos on Pedersen's neck and through racist Facebook postings by Grigsby.
In addition to racketeering and conspiracy charges under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, they are accused of kidnapping, carjacking, transportation of stolen vehicles, identity theft, credit-card fraud and various firearms violations.
Pedersen pleaded guilty in March to Washington state counts of first-degree murder for the shooting death of his father, David "Red" Pedersen, 56, and the stabbing death of his stepmother, Leslie Mae "DeeDee" Pedersen, 69, in Everett.
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
As part of his plea deal with local prosecutors, he was sentenced in state court to life without the possibility of parole. Grigsby was still awaiting trial in that case.
But the federal indictment, returned by a grand jury in Portland on Thursday, essentially trumps any further charges the couple faces in Washington, Oregon and California, prosecutors said.
It allows both defendants to be tried together for all four slayings and other offenses in a single case, said Craig, Matheson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney in Snohomish County, Washington.
"It's a far more efficient way of doing it," he told Reuters.
Several of the counts in the indictment carry a maximum sentence of the death penalty or life in prison. But it will be up to a U.S. attorney general to decide whether to seek a death sentence.
The 24-page indictment charges that Pedersen researched the names and addresses of Jewish organizations in Seattle, Portland and Sacramento to identify "potential targets for elimination" and that he had a "draft 'press release' to alert the media about the purpose of the planned murders."
The indictment describes their purpose as "promoting and advancing a white supremacist movement to 'purify' and 'preserve' the white race and 'reclaim our country.'"
Although the indictment says Pedersen and Grigsby were members of a criminal organization, no other individuals were named or referred to in the document.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)