Infamous murderer dies in prison

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John Ackroyd was convicted of 1978 murder of a female jogger in the Camp Sherman area.


HOLLY M. GILL - A newspaper article in the Dec. 28, 1978, issue of the Pioneer outlines the search efforts for Kaye Turner.
A man convicted of the Dec. 24, 1978, murder of a jogger at Camp Sherman died last week in his cell at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.

John Arthur Ackroyd, 67, died unexpectedly Friday of apparent natural causes, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections, which reported that he was found unresponsive in his cell at about 12 a.m. Dec. 30.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - John Arthur AckroydAckroyd was the sole occupant of the cell, where medical staff began lifesaving efforts without success. He was pronounced dead at 12:23 a.m., and next of kin was later notified.

Ackroyd had been in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections since Jan. 11, 1994, when he began serving a life sentence for two counts of aggravated murder and three counts of murder — all for the death of Kaye Jean Turner, 35, of Eugene.

Turner was staying with her husband, Noel, and another couple in a cabin at Camp Sherman for the Christmas holidays in 1978, when she went out for a one-hour jog at about 8:30 a.m. By 11 a.m., her husband and two friends began driving around the area roads searching for her, fearing she was injured.

Around 2 p.m., the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office was notified and an official search started, with Search and Rescue personnel and volunteers on the ground, assisted by bloodhounds, and aircraft. It was unseasonably warm — around 53 degrees in Madras that day — and Turner was wearing yellow shorts, yellow and blue running shoes, and a blue sweatshirt.

During the investigation, police spoke to Ackroyd, who had been in the area and said he had seen and spoken to Turner, but his friend, Roger Dale Beck, who lived in Sisters at the time, provided an alibi for him. The two men worked for the highway department at Santiam Junction, and eventually confessed to poaching in the area.

After five days, the search was called off, but law enforcement continued to look into the matter.

More than seven months later, on Aug. 12, 1979, Ackroyd reported that he was walking his dog and came upon yellow shorts and some bone fragments in the area. He also tried to collect money from a group that set up a reward fund for information on Turner, but was turned down because the group's leader was suspicious of Ackroyd.

A more thorough search of the area yielded more bone fragments, including a jawbone that was positively identified as Turner's, a shoe and other clothing items.

A little more than a year later, on Oct. 4, 1980, a deer hunter found Turner's skull about three-quarters of a mile from that location, but in accounts of the story in the Madras Pioneer, officials had no evidence of foul play.

Over most of the next decade, investigators may have had their suspicions, but never had enough evidence to charge anyone with a crime. But on July 10, 1990, that changed when Ackroyd's 13-year-old stepdaughter, Rachanda Leah Pickle, who lived with him and her mother near the Santiam Pass, went missing. Once again, Ackroyd was the last person to see her.

For the next 23 months, investigators put together a case against Ackroyd and Beck, whose ex-wife told them that she had overheard a conversation between the two about shooting a woman in the mountains. Forensics later revealed that Turner had been raped, stabbed and beaten.

Ackroyd, of Sweet Home, and Beck, of Porterville, Calif., both 42 at the time, were arrested June 12, 1992, and charged with the rape and murder of Turner. Ackroyd was lodged in the Jefferson County Jail, and Beck, in the Linn County Jail, to prevent collaboration.

More than a year later, Ackroyd's trial got underway in the Jefferson County Circuit Court on Sept. 8, 1993. On Oct. 5, 1993, a jury found him guilty on all five counts of murder. Beck's trial started in the same courtroom on Oct. 28, and concluded Nov. 22, 1993, with the same verdict: guilty on all counts.

Ackroyd, who was also a suspect in other murders in the state, was sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 6, 1993. He was arraigned on a murder charge in the death of Pickle in April 2013, but no trial date had been set at the time of his death.

Beck was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 3, 1994, and remains incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

OSP, the state's only maximum-security prison, houses over 2,000 male inmates, and is surrounded by a 25-foot-high wall with 10 towers.

The Department of Corrections noted that, as with all unanticipated deaths in state prisons, the Oregon State Police Criminal Investigation Division is conducting an investigation into Ackroyd's death.