A convicted serial killer serving two life sentences has pleaded guilty to the murder of an 18-year-old pizza delivery girl who disappeared 25 years ago.
William Scott Smith, 48, entered the plea Tuesday at a brief hearing before Marion County Presiding Judge Paul Lipscomb attended by law enforcement officials and the family of Sherry Eyerly.
Smith killed Eyerly, 18, during a botched kidnap attempt, according to a confession he made to "cold case" investigators for the Marion County sheriff's office.
After kidnapping the wrong woman, Smith strangled Eyerly in a secluded spot along the Little Pudding River, he told police. He left her body in the river. It never has been recovered.
Under a plea deal with prosecutors, Smith immediately starts a third life sentence that will run alongside the two he is serving for the sex slayings of two other young Salem women in 1984.
Smith was convicted in July 1984 of the murders of Willamette University student Katherine Redmond, 18, and convenience store clerk Rebecca Ann Darling, 21.
Both women were found strangled after disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Redmond's car was found abandoned in Salem less than an hour after she left a fraternity party, the engine running and the driver's door open. Smith dragged Darling from the store where she worked. Both women had been raped.
Eyerly disappeared the evening of July 4, 1982, after being sent to deliver three large pizzas to a remote location, Deputy District Attorney Don Abar said.
Her car was found nearby less than a half hour later with the driver's door open, the engine running, the headlights on and the emergency brake set. The pizzas lay on the ground near her car.
Her disappearance created a sensation in Salem. Searches for the young woman proved fruitless. Thousands of dollars in reward money went unclaimed. The television show "Unsolved Mysteries" revisited the case multiple times. Psychics were quoted in the Statesman Journal as to who the killer might be.
"This is probably one of the more famous missing persons cases in this area," Abar said after Tuesday's hearing. "She was just, poof, she was gone, and her family spent thousands looking for her."
Lipscomb summed up the city's feelings in his closing remarks Tuesday. "On behalf of the community, we're all happy to have this closure today," he said.
Eyerly's family declined comment, but her mother released a statement.
"I want to thank all the law enforcement personnel who worked so hard these last two and a half decades to bring some justice for Sherry and the people who loved her so," Linda Eyerly Tunnell said in her statement.
"I have special gratitude for the cold case team which never forgot about my daughter, and never gave up trying to bring a definitive resolution to her murder."
Convicted serial killer pleads guilty to third murder