Fugitive sex offender could face death penalty in killing of two Pierce County men

A fugitive sex offender from California faces a possible death sentence in Washington after being charged with the state’s highest crime in the beating deaths of his two Pierce County roommates over the weekend.

Not guilty pleas were entered Wednesday on behalf of Richard Earl Atkisson, 40, to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of Joseph Moisa, 66, and Michael Henderson, 20.

Superior Court Judge Phil Sorensen ordered Atkisson held without bail.

Deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer notified Atkisson and his attorneys that Prosecutor Mark Lindquist is considering whether to seek the death penalty for Atkisson if he is convicted as charged.

Under state law, the prosecutor has 30 days to make such a decision, unless, as is usually the case, a judge extends the deadline to allow defense attorneys more time to compile a mitigation package arguing for life in prison instead.

Atkisson was arrested Sunday after a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy verifying the addresses of local sex offenders found Moisa and Henderson dead inside a home in the 7700 block of 200th Street East, which is in the Frederickson area.

Deputies later found Atkisson in another part of the county standing near Moisa’s car, court records show. Atkisson had Moisa’s ID card in his pocket, the records state.

Atkisson, who was being sought on a warrant for failing to register as a sex offender in California, allegedly admitted to detectives that he killed the men.

“He said that he thought about it and planned it for about a day, and then he killed them the following day,” Ausserer wrote in a declaration of probable cause. “The defendant told the detectives he saw Mr. Moisa developing sexual relationships with young men, and he could not handle it.”

Sheriff’s officials have said authorities have no information that Moisa or Henderson were grooming boys for sex.

Moisa had a conviction for a sex offense, also from California, but detectives had no information he was committing sex crimes in Pierce County. It was his address the original deputy was verifying Sunday.

Atkisson told detectives he attacked Moisa while the he slept and then attacked Henderson when he heard the commotion and entered Moisa’s bedroom to see what was going on, court records show.

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