It was a bizarre scene that went unmentioned to authorities for years: Two workers at the state highway shop in Sweet Home, Oregon, saw John Ackroyd pull in uncharacteristically late one night in 1992. The state highway mechanic would swap his truck for a state vehicle at the shop, and when he rolled in, they saw his sleeves were rolled up, revealing dried-blood-covered arms. When they pressed him about the jarring sight, he said he had hit a deer, "had to gut him out," and tossed the carcass into the brush. "The anecdote never made it past shop gossip," writes Noelle Crombie in Part IV of the Oregonian/OregonLive's five-part series on Ackroyd, who by that time had been a suspect in a rape, a murder, and the disappearance of his young stepdaughter.
That story got retold in 2012, when the Lincoln County District Attorney's Office reopened the 1992 murders of two young women and heard Ackroyd's name floated. Police had looked at him at the time—Melissa Sanders, 17, and Sheila Swanson, 19, had been camping with Sanders' family and, bored, decided to hitchhike home along Highway 20—but turned up no physical evidence linking him to the murders. This time, investigator Ron Benson and researcher Linda Snow's dogged work unearthed the story of the blood-covered Ackroyd, which was in none of the police reports. They managed to find the two workers who saw him, and they recounted the same story. Benson and Snow were "stunned by the damning account all these years later" and were ready to go to a grand jury. Read Part IV in full here. (Or catch up on Parts I, II, and III.)