North Spit murder: Police apprehend suspect in town
Murder suspect Dennis Lee Robertson rides in the back seat of a police car following his arrest Friday morning at Gib's RV's on Ocean Boulevard in Coos Bay. - World Photos by Madeline Steege

Following a nearly 20-hour manhunt involving more than 100 officers, police Friday arrested the man suspected of murdering a Grants Pass tourist and shooting a Coos County Sheriff's deputy near Coos Bay's North Spit.

Dennis Lee Robertson, a 41-year-old from Coos Bay, was taken into custody shortly before noon near Gib's RV's off Ocean Boulevard. According to Coos County District Attorney Paul Burgett, two parole and probation officers followed Robertson's wife's vehicle in an unmarked car to the area where they spotted the suspect.

"His head had been shaved and there were some other things that were different," Burgett said.

The district attorney said Robertson had shaved off his mustache and changed his clothes but was recognizable to Coos Bay officers. Robertson apparently surrendered without a struggle after they found him hiding in the brush behind the business' used RV storage area.

Richard Palmer, a technician who works at Gib's and typically unlocks the back lot where Robertson was found, said he hadn't seen anyone unfamiliar at the business Friday morning when he did his rounds and didn't know how long Robertson may have been in the area.

"I didn't see anything unusual but he had a motor home in the back," Palmer said.

He added that Robertson apparently also owned a boat and trailer that were stored there. Police suspect Robertson also broke into several trailers and Burgett confirmed that police were investigating "two or three" crime scenes at the storage area, hoping to develop more evidence.

Brinda Lender, an office manager at the dealership said shortly after she saw two marked police vehicles enter the business' grounds she answered a phone call from 911 dispatchers who asked her to lock the doors to ensure the suspect couldn't access the office. A short time later, Lender said approximately 12 police vehicles swarmed the business' parking lot and officers took Robertson into custody.

"I couldn't actually see him, but there was probably not a lot of struggle," she said. "He had his cowboy hat on."

Burgett said it remains unclear how the suspect was able to elude a massive manhunt that began after the shooting of Deputy Rod Roberts on Thursday afternoon.

"We don't know," Burgett said. "Either he got out before they had the noose tightened or he got out after it was tightened. It was a big area and there's lots of room, obviously."

Special Weapons and Tactics teams responded from Coos and Douglas counties and the Oregon State Police.

Officers wearing camouflage drove Humvees equipped with thermal imaging devices and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter with the gear was sent from Astoria. In all, more than 100 officers with a pack of at least six police dogs helped search the area.

Deputy Roberts, a 16-year law enforcement veteran who has been with the Sheriff's Office more than 11 years, was shot twice, once in the forearm and again in the upper shoulder, after responding to a report of an armed robbery near the North Spit. He was released from Bay Area Hospital on Friday and is recovering at home, according to Coos County Sheriff Andy Jackson.

Detective Sgt. Craig Zanni, of the Coos County Sheriff's Office, said 30-year-old Stacey Bingaman called police on her cell phone Thursday to report she and her companion had been robbed by a man armed with a rifle or sawed-off shotgun while they were walking on a trail near the North Spit.

Bingaman and William Parmenter, 30, had come from Grants Pass to spend time at the beach, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney R. Paul Frasier.

Frasier reported Bingaman told police she had been tied and had a T-shirt wrapped around her head. While blindfolded, she heard several gunshots. After she was able to free herself, Bingaman called police.

Police eventually discovered Parmenter's body hidden in the brush about 300 yards from the initial crime scene.

Roberts, one of the first two deputies to arrive at the scene, was shot when he located a man fitting the description of the suspect and confronted him. The deputy fired four rounds at the suspect and it was thought he had struck him after a pair of bloody pants was discovered on the dunes.

However, Burgett said Friday, Robertson didn't have any sizable injuries beyond small cuts. Burgett said he doesn't believe a weapon has been recovered.

Sheriff Jackson said he visited with Roberts on Friday and while the deputy is frustrated with the events that led to the shooting he is recovering comfortably.

"I don't think he has anything to be regretful about," he said.

"Eventually, he'll be back," Jackson added later.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Robertson served three years and five months at a medium-security federal prison in Sheridan on a conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was released Jan. 21, 1998. Robertson earned a good conduct release, with time taken off his sentence for good behavior and few or no incident reports, according to a spokesman at the prison.

Currently, Robertson was wanted on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Friday, he was indicted on one charge of aggravated felony murder in Parmenter's death. Robertson also has been charged with attempted aggravated murder, two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree kidnapping. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 11 a.m. on Monday in Circuit Judge Michael Gillespie's courtroom at the Coos County courthouse.

Parmenter and Bingamin were apparently on the coast to search for tree burls, rounded growths on some trees that are highly prized for use as decorative accents on furniture, luxury cars and custom jets, according to The Associated Press.

Parmenter worked for Portland-based North Pacific Lumber and ran a lumber yard in Grants Pass that gathered the burls.

Parmenter leaves behind a wife and a 9-year-old son.

Staff Writer Susan Chambers and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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