Oregon’s Christmas killer could be freed after just 14 years of 25 years in prison if Governor Brown grants clemency

Dale Rost III was a father of five from Oregon when he went out walking his dog just before Christmas in 2005 and encountered a few meth-fueled thugs who forced him to strip and tied him up.

They ransacked his house, took his wallet and shot him in the eye at close range with a .22 rifle.

His now adult children say they are appalled that Democratic Governor Kate Brown is considering clemency for one of the suspects in the heartless murder of their father two days before Christmas 17 years ago.

Lynley Janet Rayburn and her then-boyfriend, Gerard “AJ” Smith, walked out in the early morning of December 23, 2005 – armed with the shotgun and on meth, according to court documents. Both were convicted of robbery and murder after killing Dale Rost III.
(Yamhill County Correctional Facility)


Lynley Janet Rayburn, 26 at the time, and her then-boyfriend Gerard “AJ” Smith, then 20, went out early in the morning of December 23, 2005 – armed with the rifle and drunk on methamphetamine , according to court documents. Both are serving life sentences for robbery and murder in connection with what happened next.

They walked up a century-old rural lane and encountered Rost, 54, letting the dog out at around 1:30 a.m. He would be a grandfather many times over if he were still alive today, according to his children.

Smith and Rayburn tied him up and raided the house, which at the time was filled with Christmas presents. They took his debit and credit cards and asked him for the PIN numbers, which he provided hoping they would take his things and leave.

Dale Rost III and one of his daughters, Kendra Pettit, in an undated photo.

Dale Rost III and one of his daughters, Kendra Pettit, in an undated photo.
(Courtesy of the Rost family)


But before he left, Smith put the gun in the tied up man’s eye and pulled the trigger, according to Rost’s daughter, Sarah Olson, who told Fox News Digital on Friday that she was the one who was fell on the scene of the crime a few hours later when her father had failed. showing up at a family holiday party.

“She brutally murdered someone,” Olson said of Rayburn. “The fact that Governor Brown is even considering this is absolutely absurd.”

Rayburn repeatedly admitted to participating in the crime and pleaded guilty in December 2006, according to court documents.

Lynley Janet Rayburn and her boyfriend Gerard

Lynley Janet Rayburn and her then-boyfriend, Gerard “AJ” Smith, walked out in the early morning of December 23, 2005 – armed with the shotgun and on meth, according to court documents. Both were convicted of robbery and murder after killing Dale Rost III.
(Yamhill County Correctional Facility)


Police reports say she even told detectives on the day of the crime that “I fucking did it” and “I fucking kill[ed] him.”

After killing Rost, the couple used their debit and credit cards to buy hundreds of dollars worth of items around town and to withdraw cash from ATMs – using their stolen car to get around.

They met a friend that afternoon, who had just been released from county jail, and told him he was sitting in a dead man’s car, along with other details of the crime .

The friend, Nathan Napp, told detectives the murder was Rayburn’s idea, according to investigators.

She was afraid that Rost would identify her if they let him go because she “had children” and “if they left the victim alive, they would be arrested by the police”, according to prosecutors. So Smith “taped the guy” and shot him.


Brown declined to be interviewed for this article. But through a spokesperson, she released a lengthy statement.

“To be clear, the governor has not yet made a decision on this matter,” spokesman Charles Boyle told Fox News Digital. “Anyone can submit a clemency petition to the governor, and our office has not initiated that process. We initiated communication with the district attorney’s office to seek their comments after we received the petition.”

The petition appears to have been the work of a group of students from the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland. They sent a 112-page letter to the governor outlining Rayburn’s troubled childhood and alleged attempts to improve her life behind bars and helped her file for executive clemency in April 2021.

Brown also attended Lewis and Clark Law.


“Lynley is a police officer and soft-spoken, likes to see the positive in situations and is grateful for the programs she participated in while incarcerated to work on herself and do good in Coffee Creek. [Correctional Facility] community,” the missive begins. “She accepts responsibility for her actions that led to her incarceration and wants a chance to live her life better outside of prison.

Olson said the Lewis and Clark report “is based entirely on opinion – no facts of the case”.

“It’s just amazing to me,” she said. “She’s not someone who just committed a minor crime – she murdered someone. She humiliated someone, made them strip naked, tied them up. It’s just amazing for me.”

Taking a plea deal that saved Rayburn the death penalty and years of appeals to Rost’s family in December 2006, she was sentenced to 25 years to life for felony murder – plus an additional 35 months for theft qualified. If she is granted clemency, she will be freed for 14 years before being eligible for parole – serving around half of her minimum sentence.

“They could have been given the death penalty,” said Justin Olson, Rost’s son-in-law. “The only reason they haven’t is that we haven’t had to spend 25 years doing exactly what we’re dealing with right now.”

The petition on Rayburn’s behalf also includes a handwritten letter she herself wrote to Governor Brown.

In it, she again admits that she agreed to participate in the crime, but claims that after tying up Rost, she got out and got into his car. She claims, in the letter, that Smith killed Rost alone and returned to her with the dead man’s car — a direct contradiction to the facts of the case, prosecutors argued.

Boyle said the governor is “making every effort” to get input from victims of crime before granting clemency, but Olson said neither she nor other members of her family have been contacted by the governor’s office before learning from prosecutors that Rayburn’s case was pending. review.

“Governor Brown believes that granting clemency is an extraordinary act that should be reserved for people who have made incredible changes and are dedicated to improving their communities,” Boyle said. “She assesses clemency applications on a case-by-case basis and considers various factors regarding the applicant’s history and case when making these decisions.”

Rost’s children started a petition urging Brown to refuse the clemency request.

“Clemency should be reserved for those wrongfully convicted and, in exceptional cases, for those reformed,” their letter said. “Neither is true in our case. A murderer who tied a father of five to the Christmas tree before executing him is not an innocent bystander. By playing his own victim card, the murderer and [Criminal Justice Reform Clinic] took a cheap shot at justice and ruthlessly taunted our family. »


Yamhill District Attorney Bradley Berry, who prosecuted Rayburn in 2006, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. But he sent his own letter to the governor, urging him to reject the clemency request – which he said “stunned” him.

“The downplaying of her role in this murder by the authors of the app…shows that she took little or no responsibility for her actions on the day that she and Smith robbed, humiliated and murdered Dale Rost in cold blood,” he wrote. .

Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf contributed to this report.

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