Among the other notable homicide cases Tacoma police detective Bob Yerbury has investigated:
# Jonathan Perkins, 30. The Fort Lewis Army sergeant was fatally shot in his bed Dec. 29, 1987. His wife and her lover were convicted in the murder-for-hire case. The wife had promised to split the proceeds of her husband’s insurance policy with the gunman.
# Kathleen Daneker, 40. She died of cyanide poisoning Feb. 11, 1991, two days after taking a Sudafed capsule to relieve a sinus headache. The investigation later revealed that she was one of two people who died after they took altered capsules.
# Joseph Meling of Tumwater was convicted in federal court of tampering with medicine bottles in stores to mask his scheme to kill his wife. She lived, but Daneker and a Lacey man died.
# Robert Carl Henry, 33. A masked gunman fatally shot the businessman on Sept. 11, 1995, in the parking lot of North Coast Electric Co. For more than five years, Yerbury worked the case and traced a distinctive shotgun through a chain of owners. The last was Larry Shandola, who was convicted in Henry’s slaying.
# Julie Ann Maroni, 27. She was fatally shot July 8, 1998, during an attempted carjacking in a South Tacoma motel parking lot. Three men were convicted in the slaying. Information developed during the investigation led to convictions in a double homicide in Seattle. Duane Seraile, one of the men convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Maroni’s death, also was convicted in the 1997 slayings in Seattle.
Yerbury can’t say exactly how many killings he’s been the lead investigator on, but when he testifies in court he says he’s been to about 500 homicide scenes in his years as a detective. He has only a handful of unsolved cases, most notably the 1998 slaying of Linda Tran and her two children and the fiery explosion that destroyed their Salishan house.
“That one is just kind of haunting,” he said. “It’s a very good family, very good people.”
In the criminal justice community, Yerbury is praised for his thoroughness and determination.
“Bob doesn’t give up,” said Jim Bridston, a retired Tacoma police detective who was Yerbury’s partner for six years in the homicide unit. “He will follow whatever he can follow as far as he can follow it.”
Prosecutors and fellow detectives can cite many murder cases that ended in convictions thanks to Yerbury’s hard work. For example, in 1991 two suspected gang members were gunned down in a car near Lincoln High School. Though not the lead detective, Yerbury carefully examined the window of the victims’ car, knowing the suspects might claim self-defense. He determined the window was rolled up high enough that no one in the car could get a hand out the window to point a gun at someone.
“He took apart the door so he could see where that window had been,” retired Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne recalled. “We were able to rule out self-defense.”
Chief Don Ramsdell said Yerbury quietly goes about his investigations and doesn’t seek the credit for what he does.
“He gives that to all the people he works with,” Ramsdell said. “People respect him for his knowledge and the way he goes about his work.”
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