Back in the 1990’s, James Dickey murder case shocked the quiet town of Bellingham, Washington State, in the 1990s.
The disappearance of Kristy Ohnstad initially sparked hope for her safe return. However, that hope was swiftly crushed when her lifeless and mutilated body was discovered near the serene Lake Samish.
The investigation that followed was marked by relentless determination as law enforcement agencies searched for answers and pursued justice.
The case gained national attention, and the nation held its breath as the hunt for the perpetrator intensified.
Ultimately, the efforts of the investigative team paid off, leading them to James Dickey, a man connected to the heinous crime.
The trial that followed was closely watched by the media and the public, seeking closure for the devastated family and a sense of justice for Kristy.
The James Dickey murder case garnered significant attention in the gripping true crime series, “Evil Lives Here: Shadows of Death: The Evil Twin.”
This episode showcased the gruesome details of the murder and meticulously chronicled the ensuing investigation that ultimately led to the apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrator.
Let’s delve into the spine-chilling murder story.
The disappearance of Kristy Ohnstad
Kristy Ohnstad, a 14-year-old girl from Bellingham, Washington State, met a horrific fate that shook the community to its core.
Known for her cheerful personality and popularity among friends, Kristy was just like any other teenager, dreaming of a bright future.
Tragically, her life took a nightmarish turn when her stepfather, Clark Elmore, who had been living under the fake identity of James Dickey, unleashed his rage upon her.
It all began on a fateful Monday morning in 1995 when Kristy missed her school bus. Frustrated, she argued with her Dickey, revealing a dark secret from her past – he had molested her when she was only five years old.
Threatening to expose him, Kristy found herself trapped in a van with her stepfather on a secluded dirt road near Lake Samish.
What unfolded next was a chilling act of violence. Dickey subjected Kristy to unspeakable horrors, s*xually assaulting her against her pleas and tears.
Consumed by his rage, he strangled her until she lost consciousness. But the brutality did not end there.
Dickey took a metal skewer, driving it into her skull. He then used her belt and a plastic bag to further snuff out her life, ensuring she would never reveal his crimes.
Finally, he heartlessly discarded her battered body in the woods, a young life stolen in the cruelest of ways.
Hours later, when Kristy failed to return home from school, her mother, Sue Ohnstad, immediately reported her daughter missing to the police, igniting a frantic search effort.
As days passed by, there was no sign of Kristy; hence the community came together for rallies in the hope of a miracle.
However, the truth began to unravel when a man. Willie Golightly discovered Kristy’s backpack tossed carelessly into a ditch. Inside was a sweatshirt and a phone number belonging to Sue Ohnstad.
The grim reality took hold as authorities intensified their investigation, interviewing friends and acquaintances in search of the leads.
The horrifying discovery came on April 21 when law enforcement located a lifeless, partially undressed body near Lake Samish.
The initial medical examination revealed the savage nature of the crime – Kristy had been brutally striked, her head shattered by a sledgehammer-like object.
DNA evidence confirmed her identity, while an autopsy exposed the harrowing details of her final moments, including rape and strangulation.
Most disturbingly, a metal spike was found protruding from her ear. The medical test was an
evidence that her brain was attacked in a twisted act of violence.
Was James Dickey murderer of Kristy?
When Kristy Ohnstad went missing, and her body was discovered, suspicion fell on James Dickey, also identified as Clark Elmore, who was dating her mother, Sue Ohnstad, at the time.
It was revealed that he had allegedly abused Kristy since her childhood, and she had plans to report him to the authorities.
Although he initially appeared concerned about Kristy’s disappearance, the police became suspicious when James visited a citizen named Willie Golightly to retrieve Kristy’s backpack and repeatedly asked for it until the police arrived.
Despite searching his van, no evidence connecting him to Kristy was found. However, when the police found paint specks on Kristy’s body matching the color of one of James’ toolboxes, they issued an arrest warrant, triggering a nationwide manhunt.
Surprisingly, he fled to Oregon after informing Sue that he had errands to run.
During his absence, the police continued their investigation and obtained direct evidence linking Elmore to the crime.
About six days later, he had a change of heart and returned to Bellingham, turning himself in to the police. He was subsequently arrested and charged with Kristy’s murder.
What was Clark Elmore, aka James Dickey accused of?
Throughout the appeals process spanning over two decades, James has never contested his guilt. In a taped confession, he provided a detailed account of the killing and subsequent cover-up.
He admitted that he considered killing Kristy whenever she reminded him of the sexual abuse, expressing regret that she had not reported him before the murder.
He was charged with first-degree aggravated murder, a crime carrying the possibility of either the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole.
Initially expressing remorse in the media, Elmore did not want to subject Kristy’s family to a trial. He pleaded guilty as charged, knowing that the prosecution would seek the death penalty.
During the James Dickey murder case trial, his defense team, led by Public Defender Jon Komorowski, presented witnesses, including a defense investigator and three judges who had presided over Elmore’s earlier hearings.
They testified about Elmore’s demeanor in court, describing him as upset and dejected. The prosecution played Elmore’s confession to the jury and presented evidence, such as Elmore’s prior felony record and images of Kristy’s brutally bludgeoned skull during the autopsy.
On May 3, 1996, the jury returned a verdict, finding no reason to show Elmore leniency. As a result, Elmore became the only person ever sentenced to death in Whatcom County, Washington.
He has since been on death row for an extended period, ranking as the second-longest serving Washingtonian on death row.
The convict of James Dickey murder case
James Dickey, born as Clark Elmore, entered a guilty plea for aggravated first-degree murder in court, resulting in his death sentence in May 1996.
Despite his attempts to have his conviction overturned, the majority of his petitions were denied. Elmore exhausted all available legal avenues, leaving him with no recourse but to await his execution.
However, in a twist of fate, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee intervened in 2014, issuing a stay on all death sentences in the state.
Governor Inslee cited concerns about the inconsistency of death penalties and the financial burden they placed on states.
As a result, in 2018, Clark Elmore was removed from death row. He remains incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary located in Walla Walla, Washington.