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One of the reasons Sandy's -- as she was called -- murder disturbed me so much was because I knew her uncle. Her mother's brother, Jerry Yates, was a detective sergeant in the Crimes Against Persons Unit of the Seattle Police Department. His unit investigated homicides, robberies, sex crimes, and missing persons. Yates was in charge of the Missing Persons Division. He was an extremely kind man who worked hard to find loved ones other people had lost, and everyone who knew Yates was saddened that he would lose his own niece to an unknown killer. Although homicide investigators do their best to solve every case assigned to them, the men who had worked beside Jerry Yates for years vowed they wouldn't stop until they saw his niece's killer brought to justice.
But it would prove to be a baffling case marked by bizarre circumstances. In the beginning, the vicious senseless murder of a 16-year-old girl seemed to be only a slight challenge to experienced detectives. But so many suspects who might have killed Sandy Bowman emerged, clouding the probe with false leads that led only to frustrating dead ends.
Sandy Bowman was her maternal grandfather's favorite of all the offspring. Benjamin Yates was a hardworking Kansas native born around the turn of the century, and he had suffered many tragic losses in his life. His first wife, Ida Murphy Yates, died eight years after their marriage, leaving him with three children to raise. He was remarried to Neva Taylor Yates and they had eight more children. Sadly, their two baby sons, Earl and Donald, both died when they were only a year old, and another son, Ray, succumbed to leukemia at the age of 13. James, Jerry, Shirley, Dorothy, and Beverly grew to adulthood.
Every family deals with grief in its own fashion, and perhaps because Benjamin and Neva had to bury three of their children, they covered up their pain, kept their sorrow to themselves, and seldom discussed their losses.
Dorothy Yates married Roy Maki in 1947 three months before her sixteenth birthday. Dorothy, was a native of Kansas who married a young Washington State man. Beverly Yates was 16 when she married Hector Gillis Jr.
Dorothy Maki was only 17 when her first son, William, was born, followed by Robert in just eleven months. Two baby boys in one calendar year meant that Dorothy had her hands full. Sandy came along four years later, and she was a sweet-faced baby girl with dark hair and huge eyes, someone her mother could dress up in frilly clothes.
Sandra Darlene "Sandy" Maki was born on December 3, 1952, the adored baby sister of her brothers William and Robert Maki.
The Yateses were a close family, and Dorothy's sisters, Beverly and Shirley, had children -- who, along with Jerry's, played with their cousins often. When the children were young, they lived near each other in the Ballard section of Seattle, the neighborhood populated mostly by Scandinavians -- Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, and Finns. Fishing ships docked in Ballard in between trips to Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, and both commercial and private boats had to move through the Ballard Locks to reach the open sea.
Ballard was a low-crime area and so was most of the near north end of Seattle in the fifties and sixties. Ballard was on the western end of 45th Street, and the University of Washington was on the eastern. In between were the family neighborhoods with Craftsman-style houses and local shops: Wallingford, Fremont, Green Lake. Decades later, they would be hip, then funky, and finally very expensive.
The elder Yateses, Benjamin and Neva, lived over in Port Orchard on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Their grandchildren visited and Benjamin doted on freckle-faced Sandy. She was always laughing and she loved dogs.
Sandy's parents divorced in 1964 when she was 12 and her mother remarried later in the year. Surrounded by her large extended family, she seemed to handle the divorce well.
Sandy was always popular and dated often in junior high and high school. She was petite and wore her thick brown hair in a short bouffant cut with a fringe of bangs over her high forehead. Like most young women who followed the fashion of the day, she lined her blue eyes with a dark kohl pencil and applied several coats of mascara. Teenagers tried to emulate the English star Twiggy, and even though few of them were as sliver thin as she was, they all wore short dresses and go-go boots in 1968 and listened to recordings by the Doors and the Beatles.
Sandy had gone steady with a boy named Lee Wilkins* for a while, but it was Tom Bowman who won her heart. She had never planned on going to college; so far all the women in her family dropped out of school to marry young, and she had looked forward to being married and having her own home.
She and Tom were very young. Sandy was only 15 when they were married on July 27, 1968, but her family saw that she had a lovely wedding. She was happy when her stepsister, Jo Anne Weeks, caught her wedding bouquet. The two young women got along very well.
Sandy and her new husband rented a small apartment, but something frightened her there and they quickly found another where she would feel safer. They were able to rent a second-floor apartment in the Kon-Tiki complex at 6201 14th Street N.W. for a reasonable price. They didn't have much furniture, but what they chose was Danish Modern.
She wasn't pregnant when she got married, but Sandy conceived two months later and both she and Tom were eagerly looking forward to the birth of their baby in June 1969.
Tom worked the three to eleven p.m. shift at the American Can Company, so Sandy was alone most evenings, but she had so many friends she didn't feel lonesome.
On December 3, Sandy celebrated her sixteenth birthday. She was excited about her first Christmas as a married woman.
Washington State had an extremely cold winter that year and Seattle's city streets were clogged with snow before Christmas, when usually it was only the mountain passes where snow was to be expected. In the Cascades, drifts towered over vehicles and the summits were often closed to traffic -- and skiers -- until the roads were cleared and avalanche danger was past.
Temperatures had dropped on Tuesday, December 17, and Ballard's streets were soon covered with snow.
That day, just a week before Christmas Eve, began happily when Sandy checked her mailbox and found a letter from a relative in New York with a twenty-dollar check tucked inside as a Christmas gift. Today, it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it went much further in 1968. The average yearly income was about $6,400 a year, and gasoline cost only thirty-four cents a gallon. Tom was making a good living at the can factory, but the check was a wonderful surprise for Sandy. She smiled as she waved the check in front of her husband and told him she was going to buy more presents with it.
Snow fluttered past their windows as they shared a leisurely breakfast. It was the one meal of the day they could enjoy together without rushing. Then they listened to records on their stereo set -- Hey Jude and Green Tambourine.
Two of Sandy's girlfriends who had attended Ballard High School with her dropped by to visit with them. The snow kept falling, making the apartment seem very cozy.
Early in the afternoon, Tom changed into his work clothes and Sandy asked if she could ride along with him as far as the bank. She wanted to cash the gift check, and then she planned to shop and visit some of her relatives who lived in Ballard. She promised him she would be home early; it would be dark well before five. The shortest day of the year was only four days away, and Seattle's winter days were almost as dark as those in Alaska. Tom didn't want her out after dark or walking alone on slippery streets when she was pregnant, even though she was six months from having their baby.
He grinned as he watched her walk away from his car toward the bank, enjoying the enthusiasm Sandy showed over even a simple shopping trip. Their marriage was still at the "playing house" stage and the newlyweds considered themselves very lucky.
Copyright © 2001 by Simon & Schuster