John Ackroyd was no stranger to Oregon police, or even to the district attorney in Jefferson County: The state highway mechanic had been accused of a 1977 rape and a suspect in a 1978 murder, both of which took place near Highway 20. Then, in 1990, his name surfaced again. Rachanda Pickle, the 13-year-old daughter of his ex-wife Linda, went missing from her Santiam Junction home. As Noelle Crombie writes in Part III of the Oregonian/OregonLive’s five-part series “Ghosts of Highway 20,” Ackroyd and Linda had an “unusual arrangement”: They lived together, though they had divorced years earlier. And Ackroyd was molesting Rachanda. She vanished on July 10, while Linda was at work; Ackroyd took the day off, and was the last person to see the teen alive.
He claimed she turned down his invite to go take photos of deer with him and was gone when he returned. But there were also disturbing sexual undertones: In speaking to police, he noted her bra size and said she had started to develop and was menstruating. He suggested her blossoming womanhood could have lured a predator to their home. He also had sex with Linda the night Rachanda went missing, “significant” because his low libido meant such an act rarely happened; investigators thought he may have gotten a rush from harming Rachanda. But there was no body or evidence, so they circled back to Kaye Turner’s 1978 murder and caught a break—the woman who provided an alibi for Ackroyd admitted she lied. Things accelerated, and by 1992, his arrest in Turner’s case was nearing. Then two more women died. Read Part III in full here. (Or catch up on Parts I and II.)