ALBANY, Ore. — Investigators believe they’ve nailed down a 23-year-old case with the indictment of an Oregon inmate on a charge of killing his stepdaughter.
When 13-year-old Rachanda Lea Pickle disappeared in 1990 from the trailer she shared with her mother and state highway mechanic John Arthur Ackroyd, officers from several counties searched acres of lava rock along the crest of the Cascade Range near Santiam Pass.
But Pickle was never found.
On Wednesday, detectives said they were prepared to show at trial that she is dead, and a prosecutor said advances in DNA technology were the foundation of the indictment against Ackroyd, now 63.
He appeared in court Wednesday in Linn County before being returned to the State Penitentiary, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported.
He is serving a life sentence for the abduction and killing of a woman jogging at a resort near Sisters in 1978. He and another man were convicted in 1993.
Detectives in the Pickle case said it’s hard, but not impossible, to convict a suspect when a victim’s body hasn’t been found — what’s called a “no-body homicide.”
“It’s difficult to prove that a 13-year-old doesn’t exist,” said Detective Mike Harmon of the Linn County sheriff’s office. “An adult would have a database trail associated with credit cards, utility bills, driver’s licenses and property transactions. Rachanda did not have a cellphone, no Internet connection. She didn’t even have a telephone in their home.”
He wouldn’t divulge other details but said advances in DNA technology supported the indictment.
Ackroyd was represented by Lane County attorney Elizabeth Baker, who said she had been contacted only a few hours before the arraignment. He is due back in court May 8.
Ackroyd was working at a state highway maintenance center at Santiam Junction when Pickle disappeared, the Bend Bulletin reported at the time. He, Pickle’s mother and the girl lived in a trailer at the facility.
In the 1978 case, the paper reported, Ackroyd was accused of abducting Kaye Jean Turner, a competitive runner from Eugene, as she jogged along a road near Camp Sherman, where she had rented a cabin for the holidays with her husband and another couple.
Ackroyd was a suspect early on. He was seen in the area and told investigators he had seen and spoken to Turner. He also led police to her remains months later, saying he came across them while walking his dog. Investigators said Pickle’s disappearance gave impetus to the investigation into Turner’s slaying.
He was convicted along with Roger Dale Beck. State records show Beck is 63 and in the State Penitentiary.