Editor’s note: This is an edited, condensed excerpt from “Seattle’s Forgotten Serial Killer: Gary Gene Grant,” by Cloyd Steiger (History Press, 2020). Books are available for purchase locally wherever books are sold, and at arcadiapublishing.com.
ON MAY 10, 1971, the King County Prosecutor’s Office made a bombshell announcement: It was dismissing charges against a man who had spent more than a week in custody, accused of murders he did not commit, but had confessed to. Prosecutors also announced charges against Gary Gene Grant, a 19-year-old who lived with his parents in a Renton trailer near the shores of Lake Washington, of murder in the first degree for the deaths of Carol Erickson, Joanne Zulauf, Bradley Lyons and Scott Andrews. Prosecutor Christopher Bayley later announced he would seek the death penalty against Grant for the murders.
Erickson, who was studying culinary arts at Renton Vocational Technical Institute, was 19 when she was murdered on Dec. 15, 1969. Zulauf, 17, lived with her family just outside Renton’s city limits and was a student at the same school (now Renton Technical College) when she was killed on Sept. 20, 1970. Bradley and Scott, each 6 years old, were playing outside near their Renton homes when they were murdered on April 20, 1971.
The prosecutor’s office also announced criminal charges of unlawful electronic interception of a conversation, a gross misdemeanor carrying the possibility of a year in jail, against Renton Police Capt. William Frazee. Frazee had listening and recording devices installed in a Renton police station room where Grant eventually was held, and where he talked with his attorneys. Frazee was placed on leave and soon retired from the department, eventually receiving four months’ probation but no jail time. In Frazee’s 1991 obituary in The Seattle Times, the King County Superior Court judge who had sentenced Frazee called him “an honorable police officer who made a mistake in the investigation of one of the most brutal set of murders ever to occur in King County.”
The killings shook a community, and their reverberations continue today.
BAYLEY WAS ELECTED prosecutor for King County in November 1970. He took office in January 1971. When a notorious crime happened in King County, Bayley met with his top advisers, chief criminal deputy David Boerner and chief civil deputy Norm Maleng, to discuss the case. Maleng would later follow Bayley as the elected prosecutor and would serve decades in that role.
“I relied on their advice to determine how to handle the case,” Bayley said.
In 1971, Bayley had the Grant prosecution to deal with. The case was complicated by the illegal recording of Grant speaking with his attorney.
When Bayley heard about the recording, he was aghast. “The first thing,” he later said, “was how shocking that this would happen, and the fact that the police department involved in doing this seemingly not understanding that it was illegal and would ruin the case.”
It was crucial that Bayley separate his office from the recording. Bayley brought on a special prosecutor to help with the Grant case. He chose Edmund Allen, a former assistant chief criminal deputy for the prosecutor’s office who recently had become a private attorney. Bayley’s office was treading through a minefield, and any mistake could result in the killer of four people, including two children, walking free.
Assisting Allen was a young deputy prosecutor, Michael DiJulio, who would work for 36 years at the King County Prosecutor’s Office before retiring.
At the time of the Grant trial, DiJulio was the father of small children. “Getting past the unlawful recording of Grant was the big hurdle in the case,” DiJulio said. “And getting the confessions in.”
Grant’s lawyers were former King County prosecutors James Anderson and C.N. “Nick” Marshall. DiJulio recalled, “Nick Marshall put [Grant] on the stand in the pretrial hearing, as well as during the trial, trying to keep him [from getting] the death penalty.”
THE CASE WOULD weigh heavily on Allen. His son, Edmund Allen Jr., was 6 years old at the time, the same age as the two boys who were murdered. Allen, who died in 2018, frequently spoke to his son about the case over the years.
“The thing I remember most poignantly about that is the boys were 6. It was 1971, and I was exactly 6 then. I remember my dad talking specifically about the boots those boys were wearing: black rain boots with a little red stripe around it,” Allen Jr., himself an attorney and former King County prosecutor, said about the case. “I had those exact same boots. My dad told me how he was thinking about those boys and their parents, taking the boys out to do the same things we would do. That hit him hard.
“He talked to me about a lot of his cases,” Allen continued. “Especially when I went to work for the prosecutor’s office. He talked about the detective [sic] bugging the room. Not just of a conversation, but a privileged conversation with his attorney that jeopardized the whole case. They had to insulate the prosecutor’s office. I remember the term he used: ‘They made us wash all the evidence’ to keep a level of separation between the actual case and the recording.
“Gary Grant was a particularly evil and prominent name he spoke of. My dad loved trying that case — his last as a prosecutor.”
IN A CLOSED HEARING on June 28, 1971, after King County Superior Court Judge David Soukup ruled on several earlier motions made by the defense, defense attorneys moved to dismiss the charges against Grant entirely, saying his rights had been violated when his conversation with his previous attorney was recorded by the Renton Police Department.
On June 30, Soukup denied the motion to dismiss.
“An innocent public should not be penalized because of an illegal act on the part of the police department,” Soukup said in his ruling. He noted that Frazee had been criminally charged for his actions. “The criminal statute that makes charging possible,” Soukup said, “puts the penalty where it belongs, instead of on an innocent public.”
The trial for the four killings started on Aug. 12.
“DURING JURY SELECTION,” Allen Jr. said, “my dad asked the prospective jurors if they’d seen the movie ‘Hang ’Em High,’ with Clint Eastwood. The defense objected, saying, ‘This is not a theatrical event,’ but there was a mass-hanging scene in that movie, and the death penalty was by hanging in Washington. He wanted to make sure they weren’t prejudiced by that.”
A jury of 10 men and two women was empaneled, and the trial began.
Seattle police detective Dewey Gillespie testified to interviewing Grant before a polygraph examination. “I advised him of his rights,” Gillespie said, “and he said he understood. He never refused to answer any question I asked him.”
Grant claimed to have lapses in his memory, and then began to sob, Gillespie told the jury. Grant told Gillespie what happened during the crimes, starting with the boys. Gillespie said Grant sobbed and said, “God, why did I do it? I like little boys!”
Virginia Thompson, Joanne Zulauf’s mother, took the stand.
Clyde Reed described to the jury how he and his bloodhound searched the area where Zulauf was last seen, eventually finding her body in a ravine.
A friend of Grant, Richard Krantz, testified that he was in the area of the Zulauf murder about 12 hours after it happened when he came across Grant, soaking wet and walking in the rain. He stopped and gave Grant a ride to his home, some distance away. When he asked Grant why he was so far from home, Grant simply said, “I was taking a walk.”
Next came the powerful testimony of the mothers of Scott Andrews and Bradley Lyons. Both women wept, describing seeing the boys playing on a dirt pile near their homes before walking into a wooded area nearby, never to see them alive again.
The last time she saw her son, Scott’s mother said, “He was laughing. He seemed so happy.”
Kay Sweeney, from the Seattle Police Crime Lab, testified about the shoeprint found at the scene of the boys’ deaths, and its comparison to Grant’s tennis shoes. Sweeney testified that he couldn’t absolutely match the shoes to the print, but the mark they made was consistent.
By Aug. 20, just eight days after the trial began, the state rested its case against Grant.
THE DEFENSE BEGAN its case the next day. In their opening statements, the attorneys asked the jury to “view the defendant as the human being he is.”
Their only hope was to convince the jury that Grant was not sane when he committed the killings, and to save him from the imposition of the death penalty.
Defense attorney Marshall told the jury that Grant “suffers from a split personality. An unconscious rage existed in this man at the time of the murders. Testimony for the defense will show that Grant is normally very quiet and nonviolent and often experiences dreams and visions of grandeur.”
He told the jury that Grant’s earliest memories were of his parents fighting, with “extreme turmoil in his early years of life.” He described Grant joining the Navy, only to be sent home as a “mama’s boy,” back to the same turmoil from which he was trying to escape.
The first witness for the defense was Grant’s close friend Frank Pigott. He testified about his relationship with Grant. He talked about a time that month when he and Grant got into a fight over a girl. “That was the first time I saw him lose his temper,” he told the jury. He said they’d patched things up that same night, and he didn’t notice anything different about Grant’s behavior.
It was the night before Zulauf was killed.
Glen Grant, Gary’s father, testified next. He told the jury that his son loved animals and was despondent when they died. He described Gary’s home environment as “rough” due to his wife, her problems with alcohol and their constant quarreling. Glen Grant described the separation he and his son had to endure.
“My wife liked to throw things,” he told the jury. “Pots and pans — whatever was convenient. Gary was home when most of that happened.”
A psychiatrist testified about Grant’s lack of mental awareness and his psychological disconnect from the facts of this case. If the jury were not to return the death penalty, he opined, Grant likely would be a model prisoner.
Though they had moved for a dismissal because of its existence, the defense inexplicably played for the jury the unlawfully recorded interview between Grant and his first attorney at the Renton Police Department.
THE DEFENSE’S LAST witness was Grant himself.
“They put him on the stand,” DiJulio said, “and he basically went into a trance. Marshall started questioning him, and once he got into the nitty-gritty, Nick just let him go. I don’t remember if he admitted doing the murders, but he walked right up to them. You couldn’t really cross-examine him, because he admitted it. We weren’t completely sure he wasn’t playacting, but if he wasn’t, it was a pretty good manner of doing it.”
With that testimony, the defense rested.
In closing arguments, Allen asked the jury to find Grant guilty of all four murders and impose the death penalty. “The only real issue in the case is whether or not you impose the death penalty,” Allen told the jury. “I submit, though it is your decision, if ever an appropriate case for the death penalty exists, this is it.”
Marshall tried to convince the jury to see the human side of Grant. “Try to put yourself in his shoes,” he told them, “and look at him as a human being. Taking another life is not going to solve a thing. Nineteen years of misery, turmoil and hopelessness preceded the murders.” He told them that Grant was “emotionally ill” at the time of the crimes. “He has a split personality,” he continued, “marked by tender, loving care and unconscious rage.”
After reading the jury instructions, Soukup adjourned for the day on Aug. 23, 1971. The jury would begin deliberating the next morning.
ON WEDNESDAY, AUG. 25, 1971, after two full days of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict: guilty of all four counts of murder. The jury did not impose the death penalty on Grant.
With that, the work shifted to presentence reports and determining how long Grant would serve in prison.
On Sept. 29, 1971, exactly three months after his 20th birthday, Grant appeared for sentencing before Soukup. Before he handed down his sentence, the defense asked for a new trial.
Soukup denied the motion.
The prosecution asked for four consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole. They cited a psychiatrist’s presentence examination of Grant, in which he said Grant “at times doesn’t know what he’s doing” and could commit more murders. Defense attorney Marshall asked the court to impose concurrent terms, citing Grant’s psychiatric problems and a psychiatrist’s opinion that he would be a model prisoner.
Soukup followed the prosecution’s recommendation, imposing four consecutive life terms, essentially sending Grant to prison for the rest of his natural life.
Immediately after the sentencing, Marshall and co-counsel James Anderson withdrew as Grant’s attorneys. Grant’s parents had hired two different attorneys, James Grubb and Wesley Hohlbein, to appeal the conviction. The Grants were not pleased that Marshall and Anderson had not argued that Gary had not committed the murders at all. Grubb and Hohlbein said they would appeal the conviction.
The appeal was heard by a three-judge panel of the Washington Court of Appeals. On July 9, 1973, the appeals court returned its ruling, finding no errors justifying dismissal of the charges or a new trial.
The defense requested a review by the Washington State Supreme Court. Its request was denied. The team ultimately made a motion to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. On Oct. 15, 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the motion.
Grant’s conviction and sentence would stand.
MANY OF THE PEOPLE associated with this crime died long ago.
The mentally tortured man who at one time claimed to have killed Scott Andrews and Bradley Lyons (charges against him were dismissed in May 1971) died in Tacoma in 1985.
Capt. William Frazee, who was responsible for the unlawful recording of Grant’s conversations, particularly with his attorney, was forced to retire from the Renton Police Department. After his career with the Renton police ended, Frazee went to work as a civilian warrant officer with the Seattle Police Department, arresting people with outstanding misdemeanor warrants. Frazee died in May 1991. His obituary listed his friends’ and family’s discomfort in discussing what led to the end of his tenure in Renton.
The sites of the crime scenes seem peaceful and quiet to those unaware of what happened there.
Carol Erickson’s murder scene, just a mud-covered trail lined with Scotch broom and other brush at the time of the murder, is now a well-maintained path along the river. A sculpture sits at almost the same spot where her body was found on a drizzly December morning in 1969.
The cabin where she lived and was walking to the evening she was killed was long ago razed and is now the site of a latte stand.
The trail where a neighbor saw Joanne Zulauf cut into the woods on a path — the last person to see her alive other than Gary Grant — has been developed. Houses sit on that spot today. The woods where her body was found are still there, quiet, peaceful and beautiful.
The place where the lives of two young and innocent boys were stolen is still a large wooded area overlooking the serenity of the Cedar River.
Gary Gene Grant, 69, remains in prison, more than 50 years after the murder of Carol Erickson and more than 49 years after he was arrested.
The trailer park where Grant lived a troubled life with his parents, near the shores of Lake Washington, was long ago removed. It was replaced with high-end condominiums after Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park was built across Lake Washington Boulevard from the site.
The lives of the victims’ families were forever ruined, and no prison sentence for Grant would change that.
Grant sits in prison, an obscure and little-known serial killer. He has made claims that he doesn’t remember the crimes.
The friends and families, police officers, detectives and prosecutors, as well as the people who lived in Renton during the time he sowed his savagery, will never forget him or what he did.