September 21, 1998
Ackley found guilty of two murders
by Woodinville Weekly staff
SEATTLE--A jury found Gary Dean Ackley guilty of murdering his girlfriend's mother and then killing a childhood pal he'd confided the slaying to last week.
Reaction from the victims' families was one of relief but also of loss. Ackley himself was visibly disturbed by the verdict.
Outside the court, family members of both victims spoke to members of the media.
"I don't hate him, and I should," Dianne Kerman, Stephanie Dittrick's mother, told KIRO TV. "He's in the hands of God."
She has remembered Ackley as the boy she used to feed pizza to and bandage his scraped knees as he and Dittrick grew up in Redmond.
David Jensen, Arlene Jensen's son, told KOMO TV, "In some small way my mom and Stephanie get to smile today."
The decision came after two days of deliberations on the part of a twelve-member jury.
Prosecutors, who dubbed Ackley the "Holiday Weekend Killer," say he killed Jensen, 53, of Kingsgate at the end of Memorial Day weekend, 1997, for meddling with his children, and then murdered Dittrick, 29, of Redmond over the Fourth of July weekend later that year to conceal the first crime.
Fibers, metal shavings and Ackley's own words linked him to Jensen, and witnesses say he was the last one to be seen with Dittrick.
The bodies of the two women were to decomposed to determine how they died. Jensen's body was found in a swampy area near Chateau Ste. Michelle, and Dittrick's was discovered near Skykomish.
Ackley's defense attorneys were reportedly expected to file a motion for a new trial. They contended the defendant was elsewhere when the women were killed, and called the state's evidence circumstantial.
Ackley was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder for Dittrick's death, and first-degree murder for Jensen.
After the verdict was read, Ackley, 29, could be seen to bow his head in television coverage of the proceedings and turn to the courtroom with a pained look to his face.
The Clearview-area machinist will be formally sentenced in about a month, according to King County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Dan Donohoe.
"He faces life in prison for the conviction of aggravated murder," Donohoe said.
Ackley's girlfriend Julie Jensen will now raise three children without their father, or their grandmother.