AUGUST 25, 1997
Clearview man charged in two Eastside murders
by Andrew Walgamott
SEATTLE--A 28-year-old Clearview man may have confessed murdering his girlfriend's mother to a childhood chum and then killed her as well.
According to papers filed in King County Superior Court last week, in early June a drunk Gary Dean Ackley admitted to Stephanie Dittrick that he killed Arlene Jensen before the seamstress' body was found near Woodinville June 21.
Ackley then took Dittrick camping July 5 and allegedly killed her, covering the body with limbs and sticks, papers say.
Ackley is being charged with first-degree murder in connection with Dittrick's death, and second-degree murder for Jensen's death. Second-degree murder is defined as lacking premeditation, according to prosecutor's office spokesman Dan Donohoe.
Both women died of homicidal violence of unknown cause.
Ackley's motives became a little clearer with charging papers. Jensen was the grandmother of Julie Jensen and Ackley's two children, ages 5 and 9 months. Court documents allege that between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year an enraged Ackley "threatened to kill Arlene," due to a dispute over the children.
Co-workers of Ackley's, who was a machinist at Pacific Tools in Redmond, claimed he "expressed animosity towards Arlene" and that he was paranoid Jensen was plotting to take the children away from him, even fearing she would sic Child Protective Services on him.
According to papers, Jensen had visited with Julie and the children at the suspect's home a mile south of Clearview on State Route 9 the day of May 26. That same night, Ackley's whereabouts can't be determined between 10 p.m. and 12:15 a.m., when Ackley came home and seemed "anxious" to Julie, and again between 12:15 to 8 a.m. May 27, papers say. Jensen disappeared sometime that night from evidence at her Kingsgate condominium.
Jensen's son, David, went to her home May 27 after her employer Helly Hansen contacted him when she failed to arrive at work that morning. David found her front door ajar, TV on, trash empty but receptacle in the middle of the kitchen, automatic coffee machine full of coffee, ashes on a coffee table and floor, and two Basic cigarette butts in the toilet.
Jensen smoked Marlboro's, Ackley smokes Basic. Papers say Ackley had a key to Jensen's home.
Later, state crime lab tests revealed a pattern of blood on Jensen's bedsheet indicating a struggle "resulting in some type of injury," according to papers. Prosecutors allege that in the act of committing second-degree assault, Ackley killed Jensen.
Jensen's body was discovered in swampy ground June 21 near Chateau Ste. Michelle less than a mile from her home. At the scene, investigators found bedroom slippers and a navy blue Helly Hansen jacket, both identified as belonging to Jensen. Also found nearby was an empty Basic cigarette pack.
Lab tests from a June 11 search warrant on Ackley's 1978 Pontiac Firebird found microscopically and chemically similar fibers from the upholstery and rear floor mat of the car on the Helly Hansen jacket. Fibers from the jacket also appear in the rear seat of the car.
Papers allege that Jensen had never ridden alive in the Pontiac. Co-workers place him in Redmond May 27 at about 5:20 and 5:50 a.m., though he called in sick at 6:20 a.m. He arrived to work wearing brand new shoes at 10:10 a.m., according to papers.
Interviews of Dittrick's friends show that she was "plagued by Jensen's disappearance and murder." Allegedly she had been in contact with Ackley and had told two friends in early June that he had admitted killing Jensen to her. Papers say Dittrick had a conversation with her mother about Ackley's involvement in Jensen's murder shortly before she disappeared.
Ackley, driving a red 1978 Toyota Celica, dropped by Dittrick's Union Hill house early the morning of July 5. According to several neighborhood witnesses who'd been partying with Dittrick that night, the two spoke about going camping.
After Dittrick sent party-goers home, Ackley called his son at about 9:30 a.m. and told him "he was going to 'fart' around," papers say. Friends and family can't account for his whereabouts between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The last person to see Dittrick alive may have been a man driving along Miller River Road near Skykomish who saw a man and woman in their late 20s to early 30s near a parked red Celica between 1 and 2 p.m. July 5, court documents say.
The witness gave police a description of Dittrick's clothing that matched what was found with her body August 10. The witness couldn't positively identify Ackley, but pointed out a picture of the suspect in a photo montage "looking most like the man [he] saw," according to papers.
Dittrick's body, tent and bag of unsoiled clothing were found near where the witness saw the Celica parked. Ackley was arrested August 22 in Redmond. He is being held in jail on bond of $1 million.
Police are sure they have their man. "We're confident in the evidence we've collected," Joanne Elledge, King County Police spokesperson said.
Arraignment next week
Wearing red prison togs and sandals, and appearing unshaven, Ackley went before King County Superior Court Judge Bobbe Bridge last Friday morning while his public defender, Jeff Ellis, asked that arraignment be put off until next week.
The court wanted to put Ackley in a lineup and have a witness who previously identified him in a montage identify him in person. Ellis called the move a "charade," saying Ackley would be the only person in both the lineup and the montage.
Ackley appeared nervous as a photographer requested a picture of him, a request denied by both Ellis and Prosecuting Attorney Roger Davidheiser. Arraignment was rescheduled for August 27.
King County Prosecutors allege Gary Dean Ackley killed his veritable mother-in-law then told a childhood friend of the crime and killed her too. Read what authorities believe happened to Arlene Jensen and Stephanie Dittrick.A 28-year-old Clearview man may have confessed murdering his girlfriend's mother to a childhood chum and then killed her as well.