Death of Ore. teen linked to white supremacists

October 6, 2011 - 3:40 AM
NW Couple Crime Spree

Holly Ann Grigsby sits in the back of a California Highway Patrol vehicle following a traffic stop on Marysville Road and Gettys Court near Yuba City, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Grigsby and her boyfriend Joseph Pedersen are wanted for a murder in Washington state and the disappearance of a teenager in Oregon. (AP Photo/Appeal Democrat, David Bitton) MAGS OUT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The paths of a teenager who called his mother daily and two white supremacists fleeing a murder scene in Washington state crossed in Western Oregon's lush Willamette Valley less than a week ago.

The teenager who had thoughts of joining the ministry was found dead, the victim of "homicidal violence." The two people who commandeered his car, a man named David Joseph Pedersen and his girlfriend, Holly Grigsby, threw up their hands in surrender to police on Wednesday.

An Oregon sheriff called their weeklong road trip down the West Coast "a vicious, vile reign of terror." After days of searching on land and air, a California Highway Patrol trooper with a lingering doubt about the white sedan with Oregon plates made the bust.

Someone stumbled on the teenager, 19-year-old Cody Myers, in the woods in western Oregon on Tuesday. Relatives and friends say he was studious, religious and caring.

"Cody was devoted to his family. He would've done anything for anybody to help anybody," said Myers' mother, Susan Myers. "He had passion for life, for God, for his beliefs. He didn't deserve this."

Exactly what took place in the woods west of Corvallis, Ore., is unclear. Police know that the 24-year-old Grigsby and Pedersen, 31, were spotted by a camera at a convenience store on Sunday, where they used a stolen credit card.

The card belonged to Pedersen's stepmother, Leslie Pedersen. She was found dead on Sept. 28. His father, David Jones Pedersen, is still missing.

A martial-arts expert with a prominent white-supremacy tattoo on his neck, Pedersen spent the ages of 16 to 31 in one form of incarceration or another, save for a one-year stretch in the mid-2000s.

Even while in prison, Pedersen couldn't avoid trouble. Major disciplinary infractions included assault, extortion, disobedience, harassment and destruction of property.

Grigsby, whose white supremacist leanings were made clear to her fellow inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, also found herself in trouble in prison, getting written up for assault and possession of contraband.

Sought in the slayings of Pedersen's stepmother, they went south, to Oregon. Pedersen's father's Jeep went missing with them, and police assume it has been abandoned somewhere in Oregon.

Grigsby was dating Pedersen, but is married to Dannel Larson of Portland, Ore. He told The Associated Press his wife is simply gullible, the victim of a person capable of manipulating her into doing things she never would otherwise

"That man," Larson said, "took her on a road straight to hell."

Grigsby and Pedersen somehow came into contact with Myers, who worked two summers for a relative's construction company, said the company's owner, Mike Klein. When the crews would go on the road, Myers would call his mother at least once a day.

Myers' parents, brother and sister and other relatives were at a Wednesday night press conference in Salem where police confirmed the body that had been found was the missing teen's.

Myers' mother, Susan, cried at times. Her daughter, Brittany Klein, handed her tissues.

Details remain unclear. Pedersen and Grigsby have been named "persons of interest." They were found with handguns and rifles, all of them loaded, but police have not said how Myers died.

Pedersen and Grigsby come from a world inhabited by convicts, violence and white supremacists.

Grigsby's father, Fred Grigsby of Portland, said his daughter had been involved with white supremacists, and also had battled drug addiction.

"She went to treatment. I thought she got her life together," he told The Associated Press.

Grigsby spent time in prison for a variety of charges beginning in 2006, including identity theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle. After completing probation, she was again sentenced in 2008 on identity theft charges and served two years.

Pederson has a white supremacist tattoo on his neck and convictions dating back to 1997. He was first convicted of robbery at age 16 in Marion County, Ore. and has a spent a total of 13 years in prison for felony offenses that include assault and robbery and sending a letter threatening to kill a U.S. judge.

Pederson was released from prison this past May. His time free of bars and handcuffs lasted 134 days.

On Wednesday afternoon, California Highway Patrol Officer Terry Uhrich was on a routine patrol in rural Yuba County. He spotted a woman standing next to a parked vehicle, three of its doors open. A man was inside the car.

"I pulled up to the side of them, just thinking they were needing assistance or something like that. I asked the female if they were all right. She said they were fine, she was stretching," Uhrich told The AP. "It kind of hit me that dispatch had put out a BOL about an hour and a half before — be on lookout for a stolen vehicle out of Oregon and it had a male and female out of it."

He ran the license number and confirmed it was Cody Myers' vehicle, then began following the couple as they drove slowly down the road. After about two miles, they turned into a side road leading to a church and Uhrich followed them.

Uhrich turned on his patrol car lights, got out and, using his door as a shield, drew his sidearm and ordered them to turn off the engine. They complied, keeping their hands where he could see them. They occasionally leaned over and kissed.

Other officers arrived within minutes and arrested the couple, finding a rifle and two handguns inside the stolen car. The handguns were within reach of the suspects.

They were taken to a Yuba City police department holding cell to await interviews by the Oregon State Police and Everett, Wash., police.

Uhrich said they acted tranquil, "like they knew it kind of was over."

Uhrich drove Grigsby in the back of his patrol car, while Pederson was taken in a separate car.

Along the way, said Uhrich, Grigsby sang along to a song on the radio — "not a worry in the world."

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Cooper reported from Salem, Ore. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Tim Fought and Terrence Petty in Portland, Ore., and Don Thompson in Sacramento; and news researcher Judy Ausuebel in New York.

Nigel Duara can be reached at www.twitter.com/nigelduara