John Arthur Ackroyd is accused of killing his stepdaughter, Rachanda Pickle, who vanished in 1990
On July 10, 1990, Rachanda Lea Pickle, 13, vanished from her family’s home at the State Highway Division maintenance compound near the Santiam Junction, about 40 miles east of Sweet Home.
Her body never has been found.
On Wednesday, Pickle’s stepfather, John Arthur Ackroyd, 63, was charged with her murder in Linn County Circuit Court. Bail was set at $1 million by Judge Carol Bispham.
Ackroyd was represented by Lane County attorney Elizabeth Baker, who said she knew little about the murder case and had been contacted to represent Ackroyd only a few hours before the arraignment.
His next court appearance was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 8.
Ackroyd was arrested Tuesday by Detective Mike Harmon of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. He is serving a life sentence for the Christmas Eve 1978 murder of Kaye Jean Turner in the Metolius River area. Ackroyd — who originally reported finding Turner’s remains — and Roger Beck were convicted of Turner’s murder in the fall of 1993.
Ackroyd was transferred to the Linn County Jail and returned to Salem after his arraignment. An indictment prepared by prosecutors George Eder and Coleen Cerda had been handed down by a Linn County grand jury.
The search for the 90-pound, 4-foot 7-inch teenager was among the more exhaustive efforts in the county’s history. At times, more than 100 law enforcement officials and volunteers from seven counties participated in the effort, searching on foot, horseback and by helicopter.
Harmon said the key to the indictment after more than two decades was showing beyond a reasonable doubt that Pickle was no longer alive.
In addition, he said, prosecutors need to make a case that Pickle had been killed and that Ackroyd had killed her.
Although he did not want to divulge the details that led the Linn County Sheriff’s Office to take action in the case, Harmon said advancements in technologies — specifically DNA testing — were the foundation for the indictment.
“It’s difficult to prove that a 13-year old doesn’t exist,” Harmon said. “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.”
Nevertheless, Harmon believes that Pickle is dead and Ackroyd should be tried for what is known as a “no-body homicide.”
“In recent years, several no-body homicide cases have been successfully prosecuted,” said Capt. Paul Timm. “We’re ready to show this person no longer exists.”
Although the case is more than 20 years old, Harmon said the Sheriff’s Office does not consider it a “cold case.”
“We keep our old case files on the back wall and we constantly work them,” Harmon said. “People’s relationships change over the years and that can open up new opportunities for information. People get divorced, friendships break up. People who were unwilling to talk 20 years ago, may be willing to do so today.”