The calm town of Bellingham, Washington State, was startled by the James Dickey murder case in the 1990s.
At first, there was hope for Kristy Ohnstad’s safe return after she vanished. That hope was quickly dashed, though, as her lifeless, dismembered body was found close to the tranquil Lake Samish.
The inquiry that followed was characterised by law enforcement officials’ never-ending pursuit of justice and their quest for answers.
The incident attracted widespread attention, and the country held its breath as the manhunt for the offender heated up.
In the end, the investigation team’s efforts were successful in locating James Dickey, a person associated with the horrifying murder.
The public and media closely followed the subsequent trial in an effort to provide Kristy with justice and provide closure for her bereaved family.
In the compelling real crime series “Evil Lives Here: Shadows of Death: The Evil Twin,” the James Dickey murder case received a great deal of attention.
This episode methodically detailed the investigation that ultimately resulted in the capture and prosecution of the murderer. It also displayed the graphic details of the crime.
Let’s get started with the horrifying murder tale.
The disappearance of Kristy Ohnstad
A 14-year-old Bellingham, Washington, girl named Kristy Ohnstad suffered a terrible fate that rocked the neighbourhood to its foundation.
Kristy, known for her upbeat disposition and popularity among peers, was a typical adolescent who hoped for a prosperous future.
Tragically, her life began to spiral out of control when her stepfather, Clark Elmore, who had been posing as James Dickey, attacked her.
When Kristy missed her school bus on a crucial Monday morning in 1995, everything started to unravel. She confronted her Dickey out of frustration and shared a horrific secret from her past: he had assaulted her when she was just five years old.
Kristy was confined in a van with her stepfather on a remote dirt road close to Lake Samish, threatening to expose him.
The following scene showed a horrifying act of brutality. Dickey sexually assaulted Kristy despite her cries and protests, subjecting her to horrific atrocities.
He choked her till she passed out because he was so furious. However, the cruelty continued after that.
Dickey used a metal spike to pierce her skull. He continued to end her life by using her belt and a garbage bag, making sure she would never confess to his crimes.
A young life was cruelly robbed by him before he disposed of her bruised body in the woods.
After Kristy didn’t come home from school a few hours later, her mother Sue Ohnstad immediately reported her missing to the police, sparking a desperate search.
Days went by with no sign of Kristy, so the neighbourhood organised rallies in the event of a miracle.
The truth, though, started to become clearer when a man. In a ditch, Willie Golightly found Kristy’s backpack that had been carelessly thrown there. A sweater and Sue Ohnstad’s contact information were found inside.
As officials stepped up their investigation and interviewed friends and acquaintances in search of leads, the terrible reality set in.
On April 21, law officers made the tragic discovery when they discovered a motionless, partially nude person close to Lake Samish.
The initial medical assessment made clear the brutality of the crime: Kristy had been struck repeatedly, her head having been broken by what appeared to be a sledgehammer.
Her identification was confirmed by DNA evidence, and an autopsy revealed the horrific details of her death, including rape and strangled.
The most alarming discovery was a metal spike sticking out of her ear. Medical evaluation was an
proof that she was the victim of a violent, twisted attack on the brain.
Was James Dickey murderer of Kristy?
Suspicion was placed on James Dickey, also known as Clark Elmore, who was dating Kristy Ohnstad’s mother, Sue Ohnstad, at the time her body was found after she vanished.
He had allegedly molested Kristy since she was a child, and she had intended to report him to the police.
The police were suspicious of James as he repeatedly requested Willie Golightly for Kristy’s backpack until they arrived, despite his first appearance of being concerned about her abduction.
His van was searched, but nothing linking him to Kristy was discovered. However, the police obtained an arrest warrant after discovering paint flecks on Kristy’s body that matched the colour of one of James’ toolboxes, which led to a massive manhunt.
Unexpectedly, he told Sue he had errands to go and then took off for Oregon.
While he was away, the police continued their inquiry and gathered concrete proof connecting Elmore to the crime.
He had a change of heart and returned to Bellingham, where he turned himself in to the police, about six days later. He was then detained and accused of killing Kristy.
What did James Dickey, aka Clark Elmore, stand accused of?
James has never disputed his guilt throughout the course of the appeals process, which has lasted more than 20 years. He gave a thorough account of the murder and ensuing cover-up in a taped confession.
He expressed regret that Kristy had not reported him before to the death and acknowledged that he had thought about killing her anytime she brought up the sexual assault.
He was accused of first-degree aggravated murder, a crime that carries a potential death sentence or a life sentence without the possibility of release.
Elmore initially apologised in the public, but he did not want to put Kristy’s family through a trial. Knowing that the prosecution would seek the death penalty, he entered a plea of guilty to all charges.
Three judges who had presided over Elmore’s earlier hearings as well as a defence investigator testified at the James Dickey murder trial under the direction of public defender Jon Komorowski.
They gave testimony in court regarding Elmore’s behaviour, portraying him as sad and dejected. Elmore’s confession was played to the jury, and the prosecution also showed the jury pictures of Kristy’s horribly fractured skull from the autopsy and information about Elmore’s prior criminal history.
The jury reached a judgement on May 3, 1996, finding no justification for being lenient with Elmore. Elmore was hence the first person to ever get a death sentence in Whatcom County, Washington.
He has been on death row for a considerable amount of time and is currently the second-longest serving Washingtonian.
The convict of James Dickey murder case
James Dickey, who was actually born Clark Elmore, pleaded guilty in court to aggravated first-degree murder and was given the death penalty in May 1996.
Most of his pleas to have his conviction overturned were rejected, despite his best efforts. Elmore used up all of his legal options, leaving him with little choice but to sit and wait for his execution.
In an ironic turn of events, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee intervened in 2014 and halted all executions in the state.
Among the issues raised by Governor Inslee were the inconsistent application of the death penalty and the financial burden it placed on the states.
As a result, Clark Elmore was freed from the death row in 2018. He is still detained at the Walla Walla, Washington, facility known as the Washington State Penitentiary.
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