Gary Leon Ridgway
Age: DOB 2-18-1949
Address: Auburn, Wash.
Personal: Married, one son. Painter, Paccar/Kenworth Truck,
Arrested: Nov. 30, 2001
Initial charges: Dec. 5, 2001, four counts of aggravated murder
in the deaths of Marcia Chapman, 32; Cynthia Hinds, 17, and Opal Mills,
16, who were discovered Aug. 15, 1982, near the Green River; and Carol
Ann Christensen, 21, found May 8, 1983, in Maple Valley. Pleaded not
guilty at Dec. 18, 2001, arraignment.
Second round of charges: March 27, 2003, three counts of murder
in the deaths of Debra Bonner, 23, Wendy Coffield, 16, and Debra Estes,
15. Their remains were found in the 1980s. Pleaded not guilty at April
3, 2003, arraignment.
King County plea agreement: Pleaded guilty Nov. 5, 2003, to 48
counts of aggravated first-degree murder in a deal that spared him from
execution and finally brought answers in the infamous and long-unsolved
Sentenced: Dec. 18, 2003, to 48 consecutive life terms
Defense attorneys: Tony Savage, Mark Prothero
Lead prosecutor: Jeffrey Baird
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, UT
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: The Green River killer
US Navy (1970-71)
Tom Ridgway (d.)
Mother: Mary Rita Ridgway (d. 15-Aug-2001, cancer)
Brother: Gregory L. (older)
Brother: Thomas Edward (known as Ed, younger)
Wife: Claudia Kraig Barrows (m. 15-Aug-1970, div. 14-Jan-1972)
Wife: Marcia Lorene Brown (m. 14-Dec-1973, div. 27-May-1981,
later Marcia Winslow)
Son: Matthew (b. 1975)
Wife: Judith Lorraine Lynch (m. 12-Jun-1988, div. 5-Sep 2002)
High School: Tyee High School,
SeaTac, WA (1969)
Loitering (for the purpose of
Murder Pled guilty to 48 counts 5-Nov-2003, life sentence
Risk Factors: Gonorrhea
Gary Leon Ridgway (born February 18, 1949),
known as the Green River Killer, murdered numerous women in
Washington during the 1980s and 1990s, earning his nickname when the
first five victims were found in the Green River. He strangled them,
usually with his arm but sometimes using ligatures. After strangling the
women, he would dump their bodies throughout forested and overgrown
areas in King County.
On November 30, 2001, as he was leaving the Renton,
Washington Kenworth Truck factory where he worked, he was arrested for
the murders of four women whose cases were linked to him through DNA
evidence. As part of a plea bargain wherein he agreed to disclose the
whereabouts of still "missing" women, he was spared the death penalty
and received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Ridgway was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Mary
Rita Steinman and Thomas Newton Ridgway. He has two brothers—Gregory
Leon and Thomas Edward. He was raised in the McMicken Heights
neighborhood of SeaTac, Washington.
Ridgway's homelife was somewhat troubled; relatives
have described his mother as domineering and have said that young
Ridgway witnessed more than one violent argument between his parents. As
a boy Ridgway had a habit of wetting the bed. His mother would often be
the one to discover the accidents and would bathe him immediately. She
would belittle him and embarrass him in front of his family. From a
young age, Ridgway had conflicting feelings of sexual attraction and
anger toward her.
As a young child, Ridgway was tested with an I.Q. of
82, signifying low intelligence, and his academic performance in school
was so poor that at one point in high school he had to repeat a single
school year twice in order to attain grades decent enough to pass. His
classmates at Tyee High School describe him as congenial but largely
forgettable. His teenage years, however, were troubled; when he was 16,
he stabbed a six-year-old boy, who survived the attack. He had led the
boy into the woods and then stabbed him through the ribs into his liver.
According to the victim and Ridgway himself, Ridgway walked away
laughing and saying, "I always wondered what it would be like to kill."
At age 18, while in high school, Ridgway joined the
Navy. After graduation, he married his high school girlfriend, Claudia
Barrows, and was sent to Vietnam, where he served onboard a supply ship
and saw combat. During his time in the military, Ridgway began spending
a lot of time with prostitutes and contracted Gonorrhea for the second
time. This angered him, but he continued to have unprotected sex with
prostitutes. Meanwhile, his wife Claudia, alone and 19-years-old, began
dating again, and the marriage quickly ended within a year.
Friends and family, questioned about Ridgway after
his arrest, described him as friendly but strange. His first two
marriages resulted in divorce because of infidelities by both partners.
His second wife, Marcia Winslow, claimed that he had placed her in a
chokehold. Ridgway had become fanatically religious during his second
marriage, proselytizing door-to-door, reading the Bible aloud at work
and at home, and insisting that Marcia follow the strict teachings of
their church pastor. Ridgway would also frequently cry after sermons or
reading the Bible; though Ridgway continued to solicit the services of
prostitutes during this marriage and also wanted Marcia to participate
in sex in public and inappropriate places, sometimes even in areas where
his victims' bodies had been discovered.
According to Time Magazine writer Terry McCarthy,
Ridgway had an insatiable sexual appetite. His three ex-wives and
several old girlfriends reported that Ridgway demanded sex from them
several times a day. Often times, he would want to have sex in a public
area or in the woods. Ridgeway himself admitted to having a fixation
with prostitutes, with whom he had a love-hate relationship. He
frequently complained about their presence in his neighborhood, but he
also took advantage of their services regularly. It's possible that
Ridgway was torn between his uncontrollable lusts and his staunch
In 1975 his second wife gave birth to his son,
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ridgway is believed
to have murdered at least 71 women (according to Ridgway, in an
interview with Sheriff Reichert 2001) near Seattle and Tacoma,
Washington. His court statements later reported that he had killed so
many, he lost count. A majority of the murders occurred between 1982 to
1984. The victims were believed to be either prostitutes or runaways
picked up along Pacific Highway South (International Blvd. 99) whom he
strangled. Most of their bodies were dumped in wooded areas around the
Green River except for two confirmed and another two suspected victims
found in the Portland, Oregon area. The bodies were often left in
clusters, sometimes posed, usually nude. He also sometimes later would
return to the victims' bodies and have intercourse with them (an act of
necrophilia). Because most of the bodies were not discovered until only
the skeletons remained, four victims are still unidentified. Ridgway
occasionally contaminated the dump sites with gum, cigarettes, and
written materials belonging to others, and he even transported a few
victims' remains across state lines into Oregon to confuse the police.
Ridgway began each murder by picking up a woman,
usually a prostitute. He sometimes showed the woman a picture of his
son, to help her trust him. After having sex with her, Ridgway strangled
her from behind. He initially strangled them manually. However, many
victims inflicted wounds and bruises on his arm while trying to defend
themselves. Concerned these wounds and bruises would draw attention,
Ridgway began using ligatures to strangle his victims. Most victims were
killed in his home, his truck, or a secluded area.
In the early 1980s, the King County Sheriff's Office
formed the Green River Task Force to investigate the murders. The most
notable members of the task force were Robert Keppel and Dave Reichert,
who periodically interviewed incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy from
1984. Their interviews with Bundy were of little help in the Green River
investigations but elicited confessions from Bundy on unsolved cases.
Also contributing was John E. Douglas, who has since written much on the
subject of the Green River Killer.
Ridgway was arrested in 1982 and 2001 on charges
related to prostitution. He became a suspect in 1983 in the Green River
killings. In 1984, Ridgway took and passed a polygraph test, and on
April 7, 1987, police took hair and saliva samples from Ridgway.
Around 1985, Ridgway began dating Judith Mawson, who
became his third wife in 1988. Mawson claimed in a 2010 television
interview that when she moved into his house while they were dating,
there was no carpet. Detectives later told her he had probably wrapped a
body in the carpet. In the same interview, she described how he would
leave for work early in the morning some days, ostensibly for the
overtime pay. Mawson speculated that he must have committed some of the
murders while supposedly working these early morning shifts. She claimed
that she had not suspected Ridgway's crimes before he was contacted by
authorities in 1987, and in fact had not even heard of the Green River
Killer before that time because she didn't watch the news.
Author Pennie Morehead says that when she interviewed
Ridgway in prison, he said his urge to kill was reduced while he was in
a relationship with Mawson, causing him to commit fewer murders than he
otherwise would have, and that he truly loved her. Mawson told a local
television reporter, "I feel I have saved lives ... by being his wife
and making him happy."
The samples collected in 1987 were later subjected to
a DNA analysis, providing the evidence for his arrest warrant. On
November 30, 2001, Ridgway was at the Kenworth Truck factory, where he
worked as a spray painter, when police arrived to arrest him. Ridgway
was arrested on suspicion of murder of four women nearly 20 years after
first being identified as a potential suspect when DNA evidence
conclusively linked semen left in the victims to the saliva swab taken
by the police. The four victims named in the original indictment were
Marcia Chapman, Opal Mills, Cynthia Hinds, and Carol Ann Christensen.
Three more victims—Wendy Coffield, Debra Bonner, and Debra Estes—were
added to the indictment after a forensic scientist identified
microscopic spray paint spheres as a specific brand and composition of
paint used at the Kenworth factory during the specific time frame when
these victims were killed.
Plea bargain, confessions, sentencing
Early in August 2003, Seattle television news
reported that Ridgway had been moved from a maximum security cell at
King County Jail to an undisclosed location. Other news reports stated
that his lawyers, led by Anthony Savage, were closing a plea bargain
that would spare him the death penalty in return for his confession to a
number of the Green River murders.
On November 5, 2003, Ridgway entered a guilty plea to
48 charges of aggravated first degree murder as part of a plea bargain,
agreed to in June, that would spare him execution in exchange for his
cooperation in locating the remains of his victims and providing other
details. In his statement accompanying his guilty plea, Ridgway
explained that all of his victims had been killed inside King County,
Washington, and that he had transported and dumped the remains of the
two women near Portland to confuse the police.
Deputy prosecutor Jeffrey Baird noted in court that
the deal contained "the names of 41 victims who would not be the subject
of State v. Ridgway if it were not for the plea agreement." King
County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng explained his decision to make
We could have gone forward with
seven counts, but that is all we could have ever hoped to solve. At the
end of that trial, whatever the outcome, there would have been lingering
doubts about the rest of these crimes. This agreement was the avenue to
the truth. And in the end, the search for the truth is still why we have
a criminal justice system ... Gary Ridgway does not deserve our mercy.
He does not deserve to live. The mercy provided by today's resolution is
directed not at Ridgway, but toward the families who have suffered so
On December 18, 2003, King County Superior Court
Judge Richard Jones sentenced Ridgway to 48 life sentences with no
possibility of parole and one life sentence, to be served consecutively.
He was also sentenced to an additional 10 years for tampering with
evidence for each of the 48 victims, adding 480 years to his 48 life
Ridgway led prosecutors to three bodies in 2003. On
August 16 of that year, remains of a 16-year-old female found near
Enumclaw, Washington, 40 feet from State Route 410, were pronounced as
belonging to Pammy Annette Avent, who had been believed to be a victim
of the Green River Killer. The remains of Marie Malvar and April Buttram
were found in September. On November 23, 2005, The Associated Press
reported that a weekend hiker found the skull of one of the 48 women
Ridgway admitted murdering in his 2003 plea bargain with King County
prosecutors. The skull of Tracy Winston, who was 19 when she disappeared
from Northgate Mall on September 12, 1983, was found by a man hiking in
a wooded area near Highway 18 near Issaquah, southeast of Seattle.
Ridgway confessed to more confirmed murders than any
other American serial killer. Over a period of five months of police and
prosecutor interviews, he confessed to 48 murders––42 of which were on
the police's list of probable Green River Killer victims. On February 9,
2004, county prosecutors began to release the videotape records of
Ridgway's confessions. In one taped interview, he told investigators
initially that he was responsible for the deaths of 65 women, but in
another taped interview with Reichert on December 31, 2003, Ridgway
claimed to have murdered 71 victims and confessed to having had sex with
them prior to killing them, a detail which he did not reveal until after
his sentencing. In his confession, he acknowledged that he targeted
prostitutes because they were "easy to pick up and that he hated most of
them." He also confessed that he had sex with his victims' bodies after
he murdered them, but claimed he began burying the later victims so that
he could resist the urge to commit necrophilia.
Ridgway talked to and tried to make his victims
comfortable before he committed the murders. In his own words, "I would
talk to her... and get her mind off of the, sex, anything she was
nervous about. And think, you know, she thinks, 'Oh, this guy cares'...
which I didn't. I just want to, uh, get her in the vehicle and
eventually kill her."
Later in a statement Ridgway said that murdering
young women was his "career".
Ridgway is incarcerated at Washington State
Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington
Before Ridgway's confession,
authorities had attributed 49 murders to the Green River Killer. As
mentioned above, Ridgway confessed to murdering as many as 71 victims.
At the time of his December 18,
2003 sentencing, authorities had been able to find 48 sets of remains,
including victims not originally attributed to the Green River Killer.
Ridgway was sentenced for the deaths of each of these 48 victims, with a
plea agreement that he would "plead guilty to any and all future cases
(in King County) where his confession could be corroborated by reliable
Wendy Lee Coffield
July 8, 1982
July 15, 1982
Gisele Ann Lovvorn
July 17, 1982
September 25, 1982
Debra Lynn Bonner
July 25, 1982
August 12, 1982
Marcia Fay Chapman
August 1, 1982
August 15, 1982
Opal Charmaine Mills
August 12, 1982
August 15, 1982
Terry Rene Milligan
August 29, 1982
April 1, 1984
Mary Bridget Meehan
September 15, 1982
November 13, 1983
Debra Lorraine Estes
September 20, 1982
May 30, 1988
Linda Jane Rule
September 26, 1982
January 31, 1983
Denise Darcel Bush
October 8, 1982
Shawnda Leea Summers
October 9, 1982
August 11, 1983
Shirley Marie Sherrill
between October 22, 1982
Colleen Renee Brockman
December 24, 1982
May 26, 1984
Alma Ann Smith
March 3, 1983
April 2, 1984
Delores LaVerne Williams
March 14, 1983
March 31, 1984
Gail Lynn Mathews
April 22, 1983
September 19, 1983
Andrea M. Childers
April 14, 1983
October 11, 1989
Sandra Kay Gabbert
April 17, 1983
April 1, 1984
April 16, 1983
December 14, 1983
Marie M. Malvar
April 30, 1983
September 29, 2003
Carol Ann Christensen
May 4, 1983
May 8, 1983
Martina Theresa Authorlee
May 22, 1983
November 14, 1984
Cheryl Lee Wims
May 23, 1983
March 22, 1984
Yvonne Shelly Antosh
May 31, 1983
October 15, 1983
Carrie A. Rois
June 2, 1983
March 10, 1985
Constance Elizabeth Naon
June 8, 1983
October 27, 1983
Kelly Marie Ware
July 18, 1983
October 29, 1983
Tina Marie Thompson
July 25, 1983
April 20, 1984
April Dawn Buttram
August 23, 1983
August 31, 2003
Debbie May Abernathy
September 5, 1983
March 31, 1984
Tracy Ann Winston
September 12, 1983
March 27, 1986
Maureen Sue Feeney
September 28, 1983
May 2, 1986
Mary Sue Bello
October 11, 1983
October 12, 1984
October 26, 1983
August 16, 2003
Delise Louise Plager
October 30, 1983
February 14, 1984
Kimberly L. Nelson
November 1, 1983
June 14, 1986
December 23, 1983
March 13, 1984
Mary Exzetta West
February 6, 1984
September 8, 1985
Cindy Anne Smith
March 21, 1984
June 27, 1987
Patricia Michelle Barczak
October 17, 1986
Roberta Joseph Hayes
Last seen leaving a Portland, Oregon
jail on February 7, 1987
September 11, 1991
between March 5th and April 13, 1990
September 20, 1990
August 6, 1998
Unidentified White Female
Died prior to May 1983
March 21, 1984
Unidentified White Female
April 22, 1985
Unidentified Black Female
Between 1982 and 1984
December 30, 1985
Unidentified White Female
From December 1980 to January 1984
January 2, 1986
Before Ridgway's confession, authorities had not
attributed the Green River Killer with the deaths of victims Rule,
Barczak, Hayes, Reeves, Yellowrobe and 'victim 49'.
Ridgway's confession and directions lead police
search crews to find the bodies of Avent, Buttram, and Malvar in
August and September 2003.
On Tuesday, December 21, 2010, hikers near the West
Valley Highway in Auburn, WA found a skull in the vicinity of where
Marie Malvar's remains were found in 2003. The skull was identified as
belonging to Rebecca "Becky" Marrero, who was last seen on December 3,
1982. The King County Prosecutor confirmed that Ridgway would be
formally charged with her murder on February 11, 2011. On February 18,
2011, he entered a guilty plea in the murder of Rebecca Marrero,
adding a 49th life sentence to his existing 48. Ridgway confessed to
murdering Marrero in his original plea bargain, but due to
insufficient evidence, the charges could not be filed. Therefore,
there is no change in his current incarceration status.
The remains of Tracy Winston were found, without a
skull, in "Kent's Cottonwood Park" in March 1986. Winston's skull was
found in November 2005 near Tiger Mountain, miles away from the
discovery site of the rest of her body. Police assume someone carried
it to the location.
Ridgway is suspected of — but not charged with —
murdering the remaining six victims of the original list attributed to
the Green River Killer. Either Ridgway did not confess to the victim's
death, or authorities have not been able to corroborate with reliable
July 7, 1982
April 18, 1984
Kasee Ann Lee (Woods)
August 28, 1982
not yet found
June 9, 1983
Keli Kay McGinness
June 28, 1983
not yet found
Angela Marie Girdner
April 22, 1985
October 20, 1983?
not yet found
Ridgway denied killing Amina Agisheff. Agisheff
does not fit the profile of any of the victims of the Green River
Killer considering her age, and she was not a prostitute or a teenaged
Although he has never been charged with her murder,
Gary Ridgway did confess to killing Kasee Ann Lee. During police
interrogations in 2003, Ridgway stated that he strangled Lee in 1982
and left her body near a drive-in theatre off the Sea-Tac Strip. As of
October 2008, law enforcement officials have been unable to locate
Lee's remains at the dump site that Ridgway indicated.
Ridgway is a suspect in the death of Tammie Liles.
Her body was discovered within a mile of the bodies of known victims
Shirley Shirell and Denise Bush. Liles remained unidentified until
Evidence exists to suggest that Ridgway murdered
Keli Kay McGinness. Shortly before her disappearance, McGinness was
questioned by a Port of Seattle police officer while "dating" Ridgway
near the SeaTac Strip. Furthermore, during the summer of 2003, Ridgway
led authorities to the bodies of several of his victims. One of those
bodies (which later turned out to be April Buttram) was initially
identified by Ridgway as being that of Keli Kay McGinness. According
to Ridgway, he often confused McGinness with Buttram because of their
Ridgway is a suspect in the death of Angela Marie
Girdner. Her body was discovered within a mile of the bodies of known
victims Shirley Shirell and Denise Bush. Girdner remained unidentified
until October 2009.
Ridgway has been considered a suspect in the
disappearances/murders of five other women not attributed at the time to
the Green River Killer. No charges have been filed.
Kristi Lynn Vorak
October 31, 1982
not yet found
Patricia Ann Leblanc
August 12, 1983
not yet found
Rose Marie Kurran
August 26, 1987
April 24, 1990
not yet found
July 12, 1991
not yet found
In 2008, the Lifetime Movie Network aired The
Capture of the Green River Killer, a TV movie loosely based on his
crimes. John Pielmeier portrays Ridgway.
The movie, Green River Killer, was released
Green River was released on May 8, 2008.
This non-fiction story closely parallels events with the Green River
case. Directed by Sam Taybi.
The TV series, Crimes That Shook the World,
featured Gary Ridgway in a biography (starring Frank Violi) (narration
by Tim Pigott-Smith) of the Green River Killer.
The Seattle grunge band Green River was named after
the Green River Killer, who was, at the time, at large. Green River
song "Ozzie" references the killer directly.
As well as movies, many books have been written about
the Green River murders and Gary Ridgway himself. Along with these known
novels, there are countless numbers of books that Green River Killings
are featured in. Renown thiller novelist Ann Rule wrote, Green River,
Running Red.Others include: The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt
for the Green River Killer by Robert D. Keppel; Chasing the Devil
by Sheriff David Reichert; Case of the Green River Killer by
Diane Yancey; Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River
Killer by Mark Prothero with help from Carlton Smith; Search for
the Green River Killer by Cartlton Smith with help from Tom Guillen;
Green River Serial Killer: Biography of an Unsuspecting Wife by
Pennie Morehead telling the story of his third wife and her struggles
with the truth; Gary Ridgway: Story of America's Most Prolific Serial
Murderer, Told by Reporters who covered the case from the beginning:
The Green River Killer by King County Journal Staff; Serial Killers:
Issues Explored Through Green River Murders by Tomas Guillen.
Inmate in Wash. state pleads guilty to 49th murder
February 19, 2011
SEATTLE -- One of the nation's most prolific killers
pleaded guilty Friday to killing a 49th person.
Gary Ridgway already is serving 48 life terms at the
Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He entered his plea on a
murder charge at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent, a
Ridgway, who has been dubbed the Green River Killer,
confessed to killing Rebecca "Becky" Marrero in 1982 as part of a 2003
plea deal that spared him the death penalty.
Ridgway, who was a commercial truck painter, has been
convicted of 48 murders and confessed to or been suspected of dozens
more. Several victims were dumped in or posed along the Green River.
He preyed upon women and girls at the margins of
society -- runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts strangled in a spree
that terrorized Seattle and its south suburbs in the 1980s.
Marrero, a 20-year-old mother, was last seen when she
left a motel in 1982.
Prosecutors originally declined to charge Ridgway in
Marrero's death in 2003 because he was not able to provide conclusive
evidence that he killed her. The plea deal required him to plead guilty
to future King County charges based on new evidence.
Marrero's remains were discovered Dec. 21 when
teenagers found a skull in a ravine at Auburn, south of Seattle. They
were found 100 feet from where investigators found another of Ridgway's
victims, Marie Malvar, in 2003.
Ridgway, who turned 62 on Friday, was charged with
murder on Feb. 7. He was brought from the state prison for the
arraignment, where he sat handcuffed and shackled around his legs.
After Ridgway entered the plea, Marrero's sister,
Mary Marrero, told county Superior Court Judge Mary E. Roberts that the
family had agonized for 29 years, wondering what happened to her.
"I don't agree with this plea deal to spare his
pathetic life," she said in a halting voice, as Ridgway turned in his
chair to face her and two other family members at a lectern. "It makes
me sick to my stomach that he beat the system."
Ridgway, she said, knows where all his victims are
and what he did to them. She called them "his trophies."
She told the judge, "If I had one thing to ask today,
it would be to kill him."
Ridgway rose and began to apologize to the family,
but was cut off by a man in the audience who shouted, "Shut your mouth."
"I'm sorry you had to wait this long for some truth
and some justice," Roberts said to the family.
The judge told Ridgway that in his case, "I can find
no compassion," then sentenced him to a 49th consecutive life term.
Ridgway was arrested in 2001 after advances in DNA
technology enabled authorities to link a saliva sample he gave
authorities in 1987 to some of the bodies. He pleaded guilty two years
later, agreeing to help authorities locate as many remains as possible.
He is serving life without release in solitary
confinement at the state prison, where he's allowed out of his cell one
hour a day four times a week.
Green River killer confession: Text
Wednesday, 5 November,
Excerpts from confession by US
lorry driver Gary Ridgway, who has pleaded guilty to murdering 48 women
in the notorious Green River killings, as read in court by prosecutor
Jeff Baird. [Source: Associated Press]
I killed the 48 women listed in the
state's second amended information.
In most cases when I killed these women I did not
know their names.
Most of the time I killed them the first time I met
them and I do not have a good memory of their faces.
I killed so many women I have a hard time keeping
I have reviewed information and discovery about each
of the murders with my attorneys and I am positive that I killed each
one of the women charged in the second information.
I killed them all in King County.
I killed most of them in my house near Military Road
and I killed a lot of them in my truck not far from where I picked them
I killed some of them outside. I remember leaving
each woman's body in the place where she was found.
I have discussed with my attorneys the common scheme
or plan, aggravating circumstance charged in all of these murders.
I agree that each of the murders I committed was part
of a common scheme or plan.
The plan was I wanted to kill as many women I thought
were prostitutes as I possibly could.
I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate
most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex.
I also picked prostitutes as victims because they
were easy to pick up without being noticed.
I knew they would not be reported missing right away
and might never be reported missing.
I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill
as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.
Another part of my plan was where I put the bodies of
Most of the time I took the women's jewellery and
their clothes to get rid of any evidence and make them harder to
I placed most of the bodies in groups which I call
clusters. I did this because I wanted to keep track of all the women I
I liked to drive by the clusters around the county
and think about the women I placed there.
I usually used a landmark to remember a cluster and
the women I placed there.
Sometimes I killed and dumped a woman intending to
start a new cluster and never returned because I thought I might get
caught putting more women there.
Green River Homicides
On July 15, 1982, the body of Wendy
Lee Coffield was found in the Green River in a rural area of the City of
Kent in King County, Washington. Another body was found in the river
within a month and Detective Dave Reichert was assigned as the lead
homicide investigator. However, within a few days Reichert was again at
the banks of the river investigating more deaths. While surveying the
riverbank near two bodies on August 15th, he and Detective Sue Peters
discovered another body. With the murders of Debra Lynn Bonner, Marcia
Faye Chapman, Opal Charmaine Mills and Cynthia Jean Hinds added to that
of Coffield, it was clear that the community was not dealing with an
isolated crime. Meeting in the homicide and robbery unit of the King
County Sheriff's Office, a team was formed to investigate these series
of seemingly linked crimes.
Thus began one of the longest and
largest serial murder investigations in United States history.
Eventually, the deaths of at least 48 women would be linked to the Green
By mid-November of 1982, the
investigators who had worked the initial Green River cases with Reichert
were re-assigned back to their duties. Detective Reichert remained the
lead and only detective on these cases until March of 1983 when he was
joined by Detective Fae Brooks.
In August 1983, Larry Gross, Ben
Colwell, Pat Ferguson and Liz Druin were brought together to assist
Reichert and Brooks in the investigation. By this time, the
investigation was spanning the country, following leads and actively
On January 16, 1984, the King
County Sheriff’s Office formally created an enhanced Green River Task
Force to investigate the deaths. Local law enforcement agencies
including the Port of Seattle Police Department, Seattle Police
Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, the
FBI and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office all contributed
detectives to assist. It was also at this time that Detective Tom Jensen
was assigned to the case.
In addition to the traditional
tasks of compiling a paper trail on suspects, detectives went to
extraordinary lengths searching for any trace physical evidence. They
collected birds’ nests and animal feces, searched on hands and knees
with magnifying glasses and tweezers. They knew that the entire case
might hinge on a microscopic fragment that could be easily overlooked.
In 1987, George Johnston of the
Washington State Patrol Crime Lab gathered what would become a key piece
of evidence. After receiving a search warrant to collect a saliva sample
from the key suspect, Johnston had the suspect bite down on a piece of
gauze. Even though DNA identification techniques were not yet fully
developed for criminal justice purposes, this gauze would prove
In 1988, detectives began looking
more closely at the DNA evidence in the case. They submitted evidence to
multiple labs. However, the quality and quantity of the samples made
identification impossible without destroying the evidence. For the
ensuing years, Detective Jensen closely monitored developments in DNA
By April of 1990, there were only
five detectives left on the Task Force. Detective Reichert was promoted
to Sergeant and was assigned to other duties in the King County
Sheriff’s Office. By the end of 1990, only Detective Jensen was assigned
full-time to the case with Detective Doyon assisting him in a part-time
capacity. He then began a long-term process of correlating evidence and
managing tips, as well as continuing the investigation.
In 1997, a key suspect’s saliva
sample was submitted to the State Crime Lab. In February 1998, the
Sheriff’s Office received a report that the sample was too degraded for
the most sensitive (RFLP) profile.
In April of 2001, Dave Reichert,
who was elected Sheriff of King County in 1997, brought together an
evidence review team to jump-start the investigation.
In September of 2001, Detective
Jensen informed Sheriff Dave Reichert that the Washington State Patrol
Crime Lab had matched DNA evidence to suspect Gary Leon Ridgway. The
patience of investigators succeeded in definitively tying the physical
evidence to a single suspect. Had they tested and thereby destroyed the
genetic samples any sooner, the case might never have reached its
At the same time, King County
Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng assigned Senior District Prosecutor
Jeff Baird to the case. On November 30, 2001, Gary Leon Ridgway was
arrested and subsequently charged with the murders of Cynthia Jean Hinds,
Marcia Faye Chapman, Opal Charmaine Mills and Carol Ann Christiansen.
In December of 2001, Sheriff
Reichert directed the formation of the Green River Homicides
Investigation Team, comprised of one Captain, one Sergeant, twelve
detectives from the King County Sheriff's Office, one detective from the
Port of Seattle Police Department, one detective from the Seattle Police
Department and one detective from the Bainbridge Police Department.
There are two Administrative Specialists, one Evidence Specialist and
one Information Technology support person. In addition to working the
charged cases, the remaining cases were assigned to detectives for
Prosecutor Norm Maleng formed his
prosecution team comprised of five deputy prosecutors, one investigator
and four support staff. The Green River Homicides Team and the
prosecution team (also known as the Green River Task Force) moved into
their shared office space in January of 2002.
Following the formation of the
Green River Homicides Team, one of the largest projects was providing
discovery to the Ridgway defense. This included:
• Approximately 400,000 pages of documents.
• Approximately 15,000 photographs.
• Approximately 500 audiotapes.
• Approximately 170 videotapes.
These numbers increased as the
detectives began their reviews of each of the cases.
In April of 2003, many years of
tenacious investigative and scientific work paid off when the King
County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged Gary Leon Ridgway with
three additional murders (Wendy Lee Coffield, Debra Lynn Bonner and
Debra Estes). These charges were possible because of advances in the
ability of scientists to identify paint samples on the molecular level.
Once again, science and determined investigative work advanced the case.
On June 13, 2003, the King County
Prosecuting Attorney's Office and Gary Leon Ridgway entered into an
agreement. In exchange for the Prosecutor not seeking the death penalty,
Ridgway agreed to plead guilty to all murders that he committed in King
County. He agreed to provide complete, truthful and candid information
concerning the crimes that he had committed in King County and answer
all questions during interviews conducted by the detectives or the
prosecuting attorney. Ridgway agreed to disclose the existence and
precise location of all undiscovered remains of victims.
The agreement expressly required
that the parties and all those working with them keep the terms of the
agreement CONFIDENTIAL until the entry of a formal plea.
Over the next several months,
detectives of the Green River Task Force interviewed Ridgway extensively.
During each interview, members of the King County prosecution team and
lawyers from the Ridgway defense team were present.
The Task Force transported Ridgway
throughout King County for the purpose of identifying the key locations
where he disposed of victims' remains. Ridgway directed investigators to
numerous sites where he remembered placing a victim. On each of the
excursions, members of the Green River Task Force, the Security Detail (comprised
of King County Sheriff's Office Special Operations members and Criminal
Intelligence Unit detectives) as well as representatives from the
prosecution and defense teams accompanied Ridgway. Because of this
investigative tactic, four sets of human remains were found and tied to
three suspected victims.
On November 5, 2003 in King County
Superior Court, Gary Leon Ridgway pled guilty to 48 counts of Aggravated
Murder in the First Degree.
The Green Rvier Killer
On August 15,
1982, Robert Ainsworth, 41, stepped into his rubber raft and began his
descent south down the Green River toward the outer edge of Seattle's
city limits. It was a trip he had made on many occasions, yet this time
it would be different. As he drifted slowly downstream, he noticed a
middle-aged balding man standing by the riverbank and a second, younger
man sitting in a nearby pickup truck. Ainsworth suspected that the men
were out for a day's fishing.
He asked the older
man if he had caught anything. The man replied that he had not.
According to Smith and Guillen's book, The Search for the Green River
Killer , the man standing then asked Ainsworth if he found anything, to
which Ainsworth replied, "Just this old singletree." Soon after, the two
men left in the old pick-up truck and Ainsworth continued to float down
the river. Moments later he found himself surrounded by death.
As he peered into
the clear waters his gaze was met by staring eyes. A young black woman's
face was floating just beneath the surface of the water, her body
swaying beneath her with the current. Believing it might be a mannequin,
Ainsworth attempted to snag the figure with a pole. Accidentally, the
raft overturned as he tried to dislodge the figure from a rock and
Ainsworth fell into the river. To his horror, he realized that the
figure was not a mannequin, but a dead woman. Seconds later he saw
another floating corpse of a half nude black woman, partially submerged
in the water.
swam toward the riverbank where the truck stood earlier. In shock, he
sat down and waited for help to arrive. Within a half hour, he noticed a
man with two children on bicycles. He stopped them, told them of his
gruesome discovery and asked them to get the police. Before long, a
policeman arrived at the scene and questioned Ainsworth about his find.
The officer disbelievingly walked into the shallow river and reached out
toward the ghostly form. The officer immediately called for backup.
reinforcement arrived at the scene, detectives sealed off the area and
began a search for evidence. During the search, a detective made another
macabre discovery. He found a third body, that of a young girl who was
partially clothed. Unlike the other two girls, this one was found in a
grassy area less than 30 feet from where the other victims lay in the
water. It was obvious that she had died from asphyxiation. The girl had
a pair of blue pants knotted around her neck. She also showed signs of a
struggle, because she had bruises on her arms and legs. She was later
identified as Opal Mills, 16. It was believed that she had been murdered
within 24 hours of her discovery.
examination of the bodies at the scene, Chief Medical Examiner Donald
Reay determined that all three girls died of strangulation. The two
girls found in the water, later identified as Marcia Chapman, 31, and
Cynthia Hinds, 17, were both found to have pyramid-shaped rocks lodged
in their vaginal cavities. They were both held down by rocks in the
determined that Chapman, a mother of two who had gone missing two weeks
earlier, had been dead for over a week. She had shown advanced signs of
decomposition. However, Hinds was believed to have been in the river for
a period of only several days.
The three bodies
were not the only ones to be found in and around Washington state's
Green River. Several days earlier, the body of a woman named Deborah
Bonner was discovered. Her nude body had been found slumped over a log
in the Green River. She too had been strangled to death.
Just a month
earlier, another young girl, identified as Wendy Lee Coffield, was found
strangled and floating in the Green River. Moreover, six months prior to
Coffield's discovery, the body of her friend Leanne Wilcox was found
several miles from the river in an empty lot. It was not believed that
the Green River Killer murdered Wilcox, but the opinion of the
investigators has been recently challenged.
Within the space
of six months, six bodies had been discovered in or near the river. The
police detectives at the scene quickly realized that there was a serial
killer on the loose. They knew that they had to find and catch him as
soon as possible before any more women disappeared.
Nightmare Come True
A special task
force was assembled of King County detectives to investigate the Green
River murders. According to The Seattle Times, it was the largest police
task force ever assembled since the Ted Bundy murders less than a decade
earlier. Major Richard Kraske, the head of the Criminal Investigation
Division; and Detective Dave Reichert of the King County Major Crime
Squad led the team. They enlisted the help of FBI serial killer profiler
John Douglas and criminal investigator Bob Keppel, who was known for his
unique and successful approach of compiling evidence in the Ted Bundy
case eight years earlier.
got off to a shaky start because a massive influx of information swamped
the police force within a relatively short period of time. They simply
did not have the means to process the ever-increasing amount of data and
evidence and much of it was lost, misplaced or overlooked entirely. In
fact, the situation got so bad that at one point they enlisted the help
of volunteers to assist the police in the ongoing investigation.
investigation, detectives learned that the many of the murdered girls
knew each other and shared a similar history of prostitution.
Investigators decided to begin their search for the killer in the area
where the girls were known to frequent. They conducted hundreds of
interviews with many prostitutes who worked the main strip in Seattle,
stretching from South 139 th Street to South 272 nd Street.
Investigators tried to obtain information on any suspicious characters
they might have encountered. However, many of the girls were reluctant
to talk because of their blatant mistrust for the police.
One of the
prostitutes who worked the strip filed a report with police, stating
that a man who raped her made reference to the Green River murders. Soon
after the report, the task force began to search for the assailant. On
August 20, 1982, the police announced that they had him in custody as a
potential suspect in the Green River murders. However, they were unable
to find any plausible evidence connecting him with the crime. He was
eventually released and the search resumed for the killer.
There were other
prostitutes who filed reports with the police that were of special
concern to the task force. It was believed that the reports could be
related to the Green River murders. Interviews taken by two separate
prostitutes claimed that a man in a blue and white truck abducted them
and attempted to kill them.
According to one
account by Susan Widmark, 21, a middle-aged man in a blue and white
truck solicited her. Once Widmark was in his truck, he pointed a pistol
to her head and sped off toward the highway. He took her to a desolate
road, turned off the engine and proceeded to violently rape her.
rape, he allowed her to dress while he began to drive away from the
scene with her still in the car. While driving, he made reference to the
recent river murders, while continuing to hold a gun to her head.
Fearing for her life, she managed to escape from the vehicle while at a
stoplight. Widmark was able to make out part of the registration number
of the truck before the man sped away.
A similar incident
happened to Debra Estes, 15, who filed a report with police in late
August 1982, concerning a rape. Estes told police that she was walking
down the highway when a man in a blue and white pick-up truck approached
her and offered her a ride. She accepted and climbed into the vehicle.
To her amazement, the man pulled a pistol out and pointed it at her
head. He violently forced her to give him oral sex before releasing her
into the woods, handcuffed and driving off. She immediately fled the
scene looking for help.
Seeing an emerging
pattern that could have been related to the Green River murders, the
task force decided to follow the lead and search for the truck and
driver. They hoped that new information concerning the man would lead
them to a break in the case.
That September, a
meat butcher named Charles Clinton Clark was pulled over in his blue and
white truck while driving along Seattle's main strip. After a background
check was conducted, it was learned that Clark owned two handguns.
Investigators believed that Clark might be the man they were looking
for. They obtained his driver's license photo and showed it to both
Widmark and Estes. Both women positively identified Clark as their
Clark was arrested
and his house and vehicle were searched. The police found the two
handguns that were allegedly used in the assaults. After interrogation
by police, Clark admitted to attacking the women. However, there was
speculation as to whether he was the Green River Killer because he was
known to release his victims following an attack. Moreover, Clark had a
solid alibi during the time many of the Green River victims disappeared.
When Clark was
being booked with the rape of Widmark and Estes, 19-year-old Mary
Bridgett Meehan disappeared during a walk. Meehan was more than eight
months pregnant and went missing near the Western Six Motel. The motel
was located on the strip and was a frequent hangout and workplace for
many of the prostitutes that fell victim to the Green River Killer.
Based on a hunch,
Detective Reichert began to suspect that one of the volunteer civilians
working on the case might be the Green River Killer. A 44-year-old
out-of-work taxi driver became the focus of the investigation and was
vigorously interviewed by the police. They were concerned because two
weeks prior to Meehan's disappearance, two 16-year-old girls, Kase Ann
Lee and Terri Rene Milligan, mysteriously disappeared. They too were
thought to have had a history of prostitution. It was suspected that
they had fallen victim to the Green River Killer. The taxi driver seemed
to fit the profile of the killer devised by FBI agent John Douglas.
Douglas, the Green River Killer was a confident, yet impulsive
middle-aged man who would most likely frequent the murder scenes, in
order to reenact the crimes in his mind. The killer was probably
familiar with the area and was likely to have deep religious
convictions. Moreover, Douglas believed that he might have an active
interest in police work, especially the investigation into the recent
murders. The killer might even contact the police in an effort to assist
in the ongoing investigation.
During most of the
winter of 1982, police heavily monitored the taxi driver's movements,
although he continuously denied having anything to do with the Green
River murders. The taxi driver eventually became the primary suspect in
the killings. He was arrested for unpaid parking tickets, because
investigators had no solid evidence connecting him to the murders,
except that he knew five of the victims.
On September 26,
1982, the decomposing remains of a 17-year-old prostitute named Gisele
A. Lovvorn were discovered. She had gone missing for more than two
months before a biker found her nude body near abandoned houses south of
the Sea-Tac International Airport. She had been strangled to death by a
pair of men's black socks. Intriguingly, at the time of her
disappearance, she was blonde. Yet, when her body was discovered her
hair was dyed black. Although her body was not found in the direct
vicinity of the now infamous river, police believed that she was a
victim of the Green River Killer.
1982 and April 1983, approximately 14 girls disappeared. Those missing
included Mary Meehan, Debra Estes, Denise Bush, Shawnda Summers, Shirley
Sherrill, Rebecca Marrero, Colleen Brockman, Alma Smith, Delores
Williams, Gail Matthews, Andrea Childers, Sandra Gabbert, Kimi-Kai
Pitsor and Marie Malvar. Most of the girls, ages ranging from between 15
and 23 years old, were known prostitutes who frequented the strip.
The Green River
Task Force's attention was temporarily drawn to one possible suspect,
allegedly involved in the disappearance of the last girl to go missing,
Marie Malvar. On April 30, 1983, Malvar's boyfriend saw her talking with
a potential customer in a dark-colored truck as she was soliciting on
the strip. The boyfriend claimed that he saw Malvar get into the truck
before it sped away. According to Smith and Guillen, Malvar's boyfriend
stated that Malvar and the unknown man seemed to be engaged in an
Suspicious of the
driver of the truck, the boyfriend followed them. Before long, the truck
with his girlfriend in it gave chase and eventually disappeared when the
boyfriend was held up by a stoplight. It was the last time he ever saw
his girlfriend. He later notified the police of Malvar's disappearance.
Less than a week
after the incident, he, along with Malvar's father and brother, spotted
the suspicious truck near the place where he initially lost sight of it
days earlier. They followed the truck to a house located on South 348 th
Street and called the police. The police eventually arrived at the house
and spoke with the owner, Gary Ridgway, who denied having ever seen
Malvar. Satisfied, the police left the residence and failed to pursue
the matter any further.
A similar truck to
that owned by Ridgway was also involved in the April disappearance of a
young prostitute named Kimi Kai Pitsor. While in the process of turning
a trick, Pitsor's pimp saw her getting into a dark green pick-up truck
with an attached camper. He described the driver of the vehicle as
having a pockmarked face. He watched as the two drove off and he never
saw Pitsor again. He later informed police, but the information
concerning Pitsor's disappearance and Malvar's was never fully
By the spring of
1983, the investigation into the Green River Killer and related murders
was collapsing. The task force detectives realized that the probability
of the taxi driver being the killer was low, yet they continued to keep
him as a prime suspect. They had no new leads and prostitutes continued
to rapidly disappear throughout the city. Inundated with an avalanche of
tips, the task force was unable to keep up with the massive influx of
information. They enlisted the help of Bob Keppel to help organize the
mountain of information.
All That Remains
In late April,
Keppel spent three weeks going through all the information available
pertaining to the murders believed to have been attributed to the Green
River Killer. Upon completion of his analysis, he compiled a report for
the sheriff of King County, Vern Thomas. To the task force's dismay, the
report was highly critical of the ongoing investigation.
Keppel in his book, The Riverman , if the killer were to be found, many
changes needed to be made. The report compiled by Keppel stated that
most of the data, including evidence, files and witness accounts
connected with the crimes were in total disarray. The first thing that
was needed was a complete reorganization and accurate categorization of
all the data. Then, once that was completed, similarities and
dissimilarities among the cases needed to be identified in order to find
common threads possibly connecting the murders to one or more killers.
There was no doubt
that a successful and thorough investigation would cost the county a lot
more time and money than they previously expected. Already the
investigation was the largest operation in the history of the country.
The amount of money needed to implement Keppel's suggestions would far
exceed the estimated $2 million dollars. However, something needed to be
done in an effort to stop the murderous rampages of the killer.
On May 8, 1983,
another body was discovered that was later identified as Carol Ann
Christensen, 21. Her remains were found by a family hunting for
mushrooms in a wooded area near Maple Valley. When Christensen's body
was found, the killer displayed her corpse in an unusually gruesome way.
found with her head covered by a brown paper bag. When it was removed,
it was found that she had a fish carefully placed on top of her neck.
Smith and Guillen state that the killer also placed another fish on her
left breast and a bottle between her legs. Her hands were placed crossed
over her stomach and freshly ground beef was placed on top of her left
hand. Further examination revealed that she was strangled with a cord.
Intriguingly, she also showed signs of having been in water at some
point, even though the river was miles away. The task force speculated
that she was yet another victim of the Green River Killer.
During the spring
and summer of 1983, nine more young women, many of whom were
prostitutes, disappeared. Those missing included Martina Authorlee and
Cheryl Lee Wims, 18, Yvonne Antosh, 19. Carrie Rois, 15, Constance Naon,
21, Tammie Liles,16, Keli McGuiness, 18, Tina Thompson, 22, and April
Buttram, 17. A majority of the girls were placed on the ever-growing
list of possible Green River Killer murders. However, there were some
who did not make the list because they were found outside of the
parameters where the Green River Killer was known to dump many of the
several more bodies were discovered. In June, the unidentified remains,
which were believed to be of a 17 to 19-year-old white woman was found
on SW Tualatin Road. On August 11, the body of missing Shawnda Summers
was discovered near the Sea-Tac Airport. One day later the remains of
another body, which remained unidentified, was found at the Sea-Tac
Airport North site. The fall and winter of 1983 would also yield as many
disappearances and even more corpses.
and December of 1983, nine more women went missing and seven bodies were
discovered, all of whom were believed to have been abducted and murdered
by the Green River Killer. The missing women, who were mostly
prostitutes, included Debbie Abernathy,26, Tracy Ann Winston, 19,
Patricia Osborn and Maureen Feeney, Mary Sue Bello, 25, Pammy Avent, 16,
Delise Plager, 22, Kim Nelson, 26, and Lisa Lorraine Yates.
Those whose bodies
were discovered included Delores Williams, 17, who had gone missing
March 8, 1983. Her remains were discovered on September 18 at Star Lake.
That same day, the remains of Gail Matthews, 23, were also discovered at
Over the next few
months, the bodies of five more women were discovered.
On October 15, the
skeletal remains of Yvonne Antosh, who was last seen on May 31, was
found near Soos Creek on Auburn-Black Diamond Road. She was one of the
few victims to have had a missing person's report filed on her. Twelve
days later, the partially buried skeleton of Constance Naon was found in
an area south of Sea-Tac Airport.
The task force
investigators believed that there were probably more bodies to be found
in that area, so they decided to conduct a search with the assistance of
a team of teenaged Explorer Boy Scouts. On October 29, during a sweep of
the empty lots surrounding the airport, one of the scouts found a
skeleton covered with trash beneath some bushes. The remains were later
identified as Kelly Ware, 22.
deadly rampage claimed two more victims whose bodies were discovered
before the New Year. On November 13, following an extensive search of
several lots surrounding an area south of Sea-Tac near South 192 nd
Street, the badly decomposed remains of Mary Meehan and her unborn baby
were found. According to the
Cold Serial Web site
Meehan and her child were the only victims attributed to the Green River
Killer, who were fully buried. Several unexplainable items were found on
or close to the body, including two small pieces of plastic, a large
clump of hair near the pubic region of the body, a patch of skin
attached to the skull, which contained fibers on it, three small bones,
two halved yellow pencils and clear plastic tubing.
One month later,
on December 15, the skull of Kimi-Kai Pitsor was found in Auburn,
Washington, near Mountain View Cemetery. It seemed as if the killer
found a new burial site to place his victims. It would be the fifth
known "dumping ground" used for the disposal of the bodies.
following Pitsor's discovery, the Green River Task Force increased by
more than half, due to the increasing number of murders in the area. It
was feared many more murders would occur in the coming months. Their
predictions would prove to be correct.
"official" count of Green River victims was estimated at this time to be
11 or 12, the number has been and continues to be challenged. The
precise number to this day remains unclear and it is believed to be much
higher than initially estimated. Near the final months of 1983, there
were approximately 18 bodies discovered in the Seattle region. Many
victims were not included on the list, even though they were killed in
very nearly the same fashion as the other victims. There was no
explanation given as to why the women were excluded from the list.
In January 1984,
the Green River Task Force came under new leadership headed by Captain
Frank Adamson, who previously headed the police department's internal
affairs unit. During the first few months of Adamson's assignment,
drastic changes took place. He first decided that it would be in the
investigation's best interest to relocate the task force headquarters to
the Burien County precinct, which was near the airport and closer to
where the crimes were occurring.
advice, Adamson divided up various tasks and assigned them to
individuals within the team. It was believed that this method would
facilitate a more thorough organization, integration and assemblage of
the vast amounts of information and lead to more successful results in
the case. Smith and Guillen stated that one team composed of seven
investigators and one sergeant/team leader was assigned to handle the
victims of the Green River Killer. Another team of similar construction
was assigned to information pertaining to probable suspects.
assigned three detectives to a newly-constructed crime analysis section,
whose duties involved the follow-up of leads and analysis of possible
trends and methodologies utilized by the killer, as well as other
pertinent information relevant to the case. Twenty-two police officers
were also assigned to the task force's proactive squad, which developed
new strategies to monitor prostitute activities on The Strip and any
unusual events or dealings in the area.
Moreover, a new
strategy was imposed by Keppel that changed the investigators' focus
from a suspect's possible guilt to the suspect's possible innocence. The
implication of this strategy allowed investigators to quickly eliminate
people under suspicion who had alibis and instead concentrate on more
The suspects that
remained were prioritized according to their threat: those who were most
closely linked to victims, fit the profile of the killer and his
movements were put in category "A"; those who were less closely linked
with the crimes were assigned to categories "B" or "C" before being
eventually eliminated. Just when it seemed as if the newly revised task
force was better prepared to capture the Green River Killer, the
On February 14,
1984, the skeletal remains of a woman, who was later identified as
Denise Louise Plager, were discovered 40 miles from the city close to
interstate 90. She was the first victim to be found that year, but not
the last. Over the next two months approximately nine more bodies would
Some of those
found included those of Cheryl Wims, 18, Lisa Yates, 26, Debbie
Abernathy, Terry Milligan, 16, Sandra Gabbert, 17, and Alma Smith, 22.
The other victims remained unidentified. Most of the girls had one
primary thing in common, a history of prostitution.
appeared as if the Green River Task Force was making few advances in the
investigation, distinct patterns began to emerge that allowed the team
to create a more accurate profile of the killer and his movements. The
killer seemed to have several dumping grounds where he would dispose of
the bodies of his victims. With the exception of Meehan, the bodies that
were discovered were found partially buried or covered with garbage or
foliage. Most of the bodies had been found off of isolated roads in or
near illegal waste dumping areas. The FBI's profiler John Douglas
concluded that the bodies were dumped in the areas because the killer
thought of the women as "human garbage."
dumping grounds moved away from the river and concentrated mostly around
the Sea-Tac Airport and Star Lake. In 1984, the victims' remains were
concentrated in the areas of Mountain View Cemetery and North Bend off
of or near to Interstate 90. The victims were also disappearing from two
primary areas, the strip and the downtown area of Seattle.
The task force
worked under the assumption that the killer worked or lived close to the
area where he was disposing the bodies. The task force determined that
the areas where the bodies were found, when plotted on a map, roughly
formed a triangular shape. It was believed that the killer might live
somewhere within that triangle.
discovery was also made in April when the skeletal remains of some of
the victims were found. Shoe impressions, possibly that of the killer,
were revealed when investigators removed the brush that partially
concealed the bodies. Upon examination of the prints, investigators
learned that they were made by a size 10 or 11 man's walking shoe. It
was a vital piece of evidence that could connect the killer with his
In mid April, a
volunteer task force worker and psychic, Barbara Kubik-Pattern, had a
vision that another woman's body would be found close to Interstate 90.
Kubik-Pattern immediately contacted the police and told them about her
vision, but became increasingly frustrated when they failed to act on
the new information. Taking matters into her own hand, she and her
daughter set out to find the woman.
leads revealed by her vision, Kubik-Pattern and her daughter eventually
came across another body. Immediately after the discovery, the two women
drove to a nearby search area that was patrolled by the police. When she
informed one of the officers of her discovery, she was rebuffed and even
threatened with arrest for obstruction of the guarded perimeter.
informed reporters that were stationed nearby of her discovery. Finally,
members of the task force approached her as she talked with the
reporters and asked her to show them the body. Shortly thereafter the
police were confronted with the gruesome discovery.
remains were that of Amina Agisheff, 36. She was last seen on July 7,
1982 walking home from her work at a restaurant in downtown Seattle.
Agisheff did not fit the description of many of the other victims.
She was older than
the other victims and a waitress, not a prostitute. Agisheff was also in
a stable relationship at the time of her disappearance and was a mother
of two. Although there were obvious differences between Agisheff's
lifestyle and those of the other victims and the location of where her
body was disposed, investigators believed that she was the victim of the
Green River Killer. Moreover, she was listed as one of the killer's
first victims, even though several murders prior to her disappearance
matched the M.O. of the killer.
On May 26, two
children playing on Jovita Road in Pierce County were shocked when they
discovered a skeleton. The police and task force were immediately
alerted to the new finding. Following a medical examination, it was
discovered that the remains were that of fifteen-year-old runaway
Colleen Brockman. Investigators still had no new leads to the identity
of the killer, apart from the location of the bodies and the shoe print.
After almost three years, the murderous killing spree continued.
Ted Bundy Offers to Help
discovery of Brockman, the rash of murders seemed to be diminishing.
However, the desire to catch the killer remained a top priority for the
task force. In August 1984 investigators believed their big break in the
case arrived when two criminals in a San Francisco jail confessed to the
Green River murders. After extensive interviews with the two prisoners,
the confessions were determined to be a hoax.
later, the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy offered from his prison cell
on death row to assist Keppel and the task force in finding their man.
Bundy offered his old antagonist a rare glimpse into the mind of a
serial killer, an offer that Keppel could not refuse. The two men
conversed mostly via letters, where Keppel asked detailed questions that
he hoped Bundy could answer.
Much of the
information that Keppel received greatly interested Keppel and the task
force investigators. Bundy suggested that the killer knew his victims,
probably even befriending them before he lured them to their deaths.
According to Keppel's book The Riverman, Bundy suggested that the killer
likely disposed of even more bodies where they found the more recent
ones. Moreover, he believed the disposal pattern of the bodies led
closer to the killer's home.
Bundy was able to
give unusual insight from a killer's prospective, much of which was
helpful to the case. The information received from Bundy assisted the
detectives in their general understanding of serial killer behavior. In
fact, Bundy became one of the primary consultants, next to Douglas and
Keppel that contributed to the build-up of the killer's profile. Despite
this unusual advice, the task force remained stymied as to the identity
of the Green River Killer.
murders seemed to have slowly diminished, they did not cease altogether.
Between October and December 1984, two more bodies, identified as Mary
Sue Bello, 25, and Martina Authorlee, 18, were discovered. Both bodies
were found off of Highway 410. The total body count had climbed to 31,
although only 28 of the victims actually made it on the ever-growing
"official" Green River murder list. Fourteen women were still believed
to be missing.
On March 10, 1985,
another partially buried body was found near Star Lake Road . The victim
was eventually identified as Carrie Rois, 15. She disappeared during the
summer of 1983.
In mid June, a man
bulldozing a patch of land in Tigard , Oregon , discovered the skeletal
remains of two more women. The remains were later identified as Denise
Bush, 23, and Shirley Sherrill, 19. Both girls were known prostitutes in
Seattle . The discovery of the two women confirmed the fact that the
Green River Killer's parameters had extended out of state. It seemed as
if a new dumping ground had been revealed.
profiler John Douglas re-evaluated the previous profile of the killer
and came to a new conclusion, that there were two separate killers.
Douglas suggested that, although the profiles of both killers were
similar in many ways, the way in which they disposed of the bodies
slightly differed. To Douglas , it seemed as if one of the killers went
to greater effort to conceal the bodies than the other. Whereas some of
the bodies were partially covered or buried in isolated areas, other
bodies lay openly exposed to detection, such as those found in the Green
theory seemed to be plausible, there were no suspects available that
could support his theory. The case had run cold and no likely suspects
could be connected with any of the murders. Pressure mounted on the task
force for its inability to capture the killer(s) after more than three
It was not until
the winter that the skeletal remains of yet three more victims were
found. The first remains were identified as those belonging to Mary
West, which were found in a wooded area in Seward Park in Seattle . The
other two remains were that of Kimi-Kai Pitsor and another unidentified
white female between 14 and 19 years old. The unusual aspect of this
more recent discovery was that Pitsor's remains had been located in two
different locations. In December 1983 her skull was discovered in
Mountain View Cemetery and two years later the remainder of her body was
found a short distance away in a ravine.
It could have been
possible that an animal dragged the skull from the body sometime after
death, however there was no evidence that this occurred. The police
believed it was the work of the killer. Investigators were uncertain as
to the killer's motive for dividing the body between two different
locations. They speculated that it was done to taunt the police or
confuse the investigation.
In February 1986,
the Green River Task Force seemed to get the break it had been hoping
for. A man described by investigators as a "person of interest" was
brought in to the police station and searched. The event received a
great deal of media attention.
An FBI agent and
Detective Jim Doyon of the task force extensively questioned the new
suspect. However, before long they realized he was not the man they were
looking for. Shortly thereafter the man was released.
During this time,
the public became increasingly aware of the task force's lack of
results. Thus far there had been several suspects taken into custody and
each one proved to have no connection with the murders. Public anger and
fear reached a boiling point. The media referred to the Green River Task
Force as a joke.
To make matters
worse, that summer the skeletal remains of three more women were
discovered off of I-90, east of Seattle . The remains were those of
Maureen Feeney, 19, Kim Nelson, 26, and another unidentifiable young
woman. Feeney was the only one of the three that investigators were able
to link to a career in prostitution. The number of victims was quickly
climbing toward a staggering 40.
By the end of
1986, the staff had been reduced by 40 percent and Adamson was
reassigned to another project. Captain James Pompey became the new
leader of the Green River Task Force. Pompey immediately began to
reorganize the team and the data related to the investigation.
Just as Pompey was
beginning to get started, two more bodies were discovered in December.
This time the bodies were found much further away than expected in an
area north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Yet again, the killer
seemed to be taunting investigators. Even more intriguing was that the
partial remains of several other women had been scattered along side the
bodies of the two women. Even though the bodies were located a great
distance from the others, there was no doubt in the investigators' minds
that the work was that of the Green River Killer.
In the beginning
months of 1987, investigators had a new suspect in relation to the Green
River murders. Previously known to police, the newest suspect had been
picked up for attempting to solicit an undercover police officer posing
as a prostitute in May 1984. However, the man was released after he
successfully passed a lie detector test. When investigators looked
deeper into the man's past, they discovered that he had been accused of
choking a prostitute in 1980 near the Sea-Tac International Airport .
Yet, the man pleaded self-defense after claiming the woman bit him and
he was soon after released from police custody.
One of the task
force detectives, Matt Haney, was highly suspicious of this suspect and
decided to dive even further into the man's history. He discovered that
the police had at one time stopped and questioned the man back in 1982
while he was in his truck with a prostitute. The investigator learned
that the prostitute he was with was one of the women on the Green River
murder list, Keli McGinness.
police approached the man again in 1983 in connection with the
kidnapping of murder victim Marie Malvar. A witness, Malvar's boyfriend
followed the truck to the suspect's house after recognizing it as the
one that he last saw his girlfriend in. Haney believed he might be on to
the Green River Killer.
Haney learned from
the man's ex-wife that he often frequented the dumpsites, where many of
the bodies had been discovered. Also, several prostitutes claimed to
have seen a man matching the suspect's description regularly cruising
the strip between 1982 and 1983. It turned out that the man passed the
strip almost daily on his way to work. Some of the most damaging
evidence discovered was that the man, who worked as a truck painter, was
found to have been absent or off duty on every occasion a victim
Finally, on April
8, 1987, the police obtained a warrant and searched the man's house.
According to the Seattle Times , the police also took "bodily samples"
of the suspect so that they could compare them with the evidence they
had from the Green River victims. However, there was insufficient
evidence to arrest him and the man was released from police custody. The
suspect was identified as Gary Ridgway.
following Ridgway's release, Captain Pompey died from a massive heart
attack related to a scuba-diving accident. The unfortunate event was
picked up by the media and sensationalized. It was suggested that the
Green River Killer was actually a police officer that murdered Pompey,
regardless of the fact that there was absolutely no substantiating
evidence to support the theory. One newspaper even called for an
official investigation into the death of Pompey. It seemed as if the
public's nerves had become raw after so much death in the city.
The task force,
which was now led by a Captain Greg Boyle, was called once again in
June. Three boys stumbled across the partially buried skeletal remains
of a young woman, while searching for aluminum cans. The girl, who was
identified as Cindy Ann Smith, 17, was found in a ravine behind the
Green River Community College . She had been missing for approximately
three years before her discovery.
More bodies of
missing young women were discovered in the year that followed. Some of
which included, that of missing runaway Debbie Gonzales, 14, and Debra
Estes, 15, who disappeared six years earlier. Their deaths were
attributed to the Green River Killer. Although there were still bodies
being discovered, there were no recent killings attributed to the Green
River Killer in the Seattle region.
In 1988, the
discovery of more than 20 bodies of prostitutes in San Diego led to the
belief that the Green River Killer moved and continued his murderous
rampage in California . Detective Reichert and the new task force
commander Bob Evans temporarily joined forces with the San Diego police
department in an effort to find the killer. In December 1988,
investigators had a new suspect.
A man named
William J. Stevens caught the attention of the police after several
callers phoned him in as a potential suspect during the airing of the
popular true crime detective show "Crime Stoppers." Stevens was a prison
escapee who was on the run for eight years, after a two-year stint
behind bars for burglary. At the time he was rediscovered by police, he
was enrolled at the University of Washington as a pharmacology student.
As task force
investigators delved into Stevens' past, they learned that he was
already a suspect in the Green River killings. It was also learned that
Stevens had a blatant contempt for prostitutes and was known to have on
several occasions talked about murdering them. When police searched his
home they found masses of firearms, several drivers licenses, credit
cards in assumed names and sexually explicit nude photos of prostitutes.
Stevens was highly involved in robbery and credit card fraud, which he
used to survive.
investigators exhaustively interviewed Stevens about the Green River
murders and searched the premises of his home throughout the summer and
fall of 1989. Investigators even searched Stevens' father's home for
clues tying him to any of the murders. However, nothing was found
linking him to the murders.
card records and photographs produced by Stevens' brother provided a
tight alibi against his involvement with the crimes. According to the
numerous records and receipts, Stevens was traveling across the country
during the summer months of 1982, when many of the murders occurred.
Eventually, Stevens was cleared of all involvement in the Green River
In October 1989,
two more skeletal remains of young women were found. One of the victims,
identified as Andrea Childers, was found in a vacant lot near Star Lake
and 55 th Ave. South . Like many of the young women found before her,
the cause of death remained unclear due to the state of decomposition.
In early February 1990, the skull of Denise Bush was found in a wooded
area in Southgate Park in Tukwila , Washington . The remainder of Bush's
body was located in Oregon five years earlier.
Once again, it
seemed as if the killer was purposely moving the bones around in an
effort to confuse investigators. Task force investigators were beginning
to believe that the killer had defeated them. Morale among the officers
was at an all-time low.
According to the
Seattle Times , in July 1991 the task force was reduced to just one
investigator named Tom Jensen. After nine years, roughly 49 victims and
$15 million dollars, the task force still had not caught the Green River
Killer. The investigation became known as the country's largest unsolved
murder case. The case remained dormant for 10 years.
Gary Ridgway Is Caught
In April 2001,
almost 20 years after the first known Green River murder, Detective
Reichert, who had become the sheriff of King County , began renewed
investigations into the murders. It was a case he refused to let go of
and he remained determined to find the killer. This time the task force
had technology on their side.
Reichert formed a
new task force team initially consisting of six members, including DNA
and forensic experts and a couple of detectives. It wasn't long before
the force grew to more than 30 people. All the evidence from the murder
examination was re-examined and some of the forensic samples were sent
to the labs.
The first samples
to be sent to the lab were found with three victims that were murdered
between 1982 and 1983, Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Carol Christensen.
The samples consisted of semen supposedly taken from the killer. The
semen samples underwent a newly-developed DNA testing method and were
compared with samples taken from Ridgway in April 1987.
On September 10,
2001, Reichert received news from the labs that reduced the hardened
detective to tears. There was a match found between the semen samples
taken from the victims and Ridgway. On November 30, Ridgway was
intercepted by investigators on his way home from work and arrested on
four counts of aggravated murder.
included that of the three girls and also Cynthia Hinds, in which
circumstantial evidence was also found connecting him with her death.
The man that investigators had sought for 20 years was finally in police
custody. This time they wouldn't let him go.
originally born in Salt Lake City , Utah , on February 18, 1949, worked
for a computer company at the time of his arrest. During the time of the
murders, he was employed as a truck painter for 30 years at the
Kentworth truck factory in Renton , Washington . Ridgway owned many
trucks during that time, one of which was of special interest to
investigators. According to Seattle 's KING5 television station, a 1977
black Ford F-150 owned by the suspect, allegedly was connected with some
of the victims. Today, the truck remains under investigation.
According to Time
Magazine's Terry McCarthy, Ridgway had an unusual sexual appetite. His
three ex-wives and several old girlfriends told the reporter that he was
sexually insatiable, demanding sex several times a day. Often times, he
would want to have sex in a public area or in the woods, even in the
areas where some of the bodies had been discovered.
Ridgway was also
known to have been obsessed with prostitutes, a fixation that bordered
on a love hate relationship. Neighbors knew him to constantly complain
about prostitutes conducting business in his neighborhood, but at the
same time he frequently took advantages of their favors. It was possible
that he was torn by his uncontrollable lusts and his staunch religious
beliefs. McCarthy states that according to one of his wives, he became a
religious fanatic, often times crying following sermons and reading the
continues to be gathered from Ridgway in connection with the Green River
murder case. Although he has pleaded not guilty on all counts in the
preliminary hearings, it is suspected that evidence will prove
otherwise. Ridgway's attorney Tony Savage expects a trial sometime in
the year 2004. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty. Ridgway
remains interned in jail awaiting his fate. Millions around the world
wait for one question to be answered: Is Ridgway the only Green River
Gary Ridgway Avoids Death Penalty
On November 5,
2003, Gary Ridgway, 54, avoided the death penalty in King County,
Washington by confessing to the murders of 48 women, most of whom were
murdered in the 1982-84 timeframe. The deal Ridgway made was to
cooperate with authorities on closing these cases in exchange for 48
life sentences without the possibility of parole. His formal sentencing
will occur in January of 2004.
some of the victims were buried and possibly killed in Oregon and other
areas outside King County , Ridgway could face the death penalty in
Families of the
victims are angry. They had been led to believe that the prosecutors
would seek the death penalty, but instead, capital punishment was plea
bargained away. Also, legal scholars are wondering about whether this
case signals the end of the death penalty in Washington State . If a man
who premeditatedly murders 48 women doesn't get the death penalty, then
who is eligible for it?
psychopath, Ridgway forgot his victims, had a "hard time keeping them
straight," never learned their names, and wrote them off as vicarious
thrills, never personalizing them at all. They were throwaways to
Ridgway: disposable women.
"I killed some of
them outside. I remember leaving each woman's body in the place where
she was found," he said. "I killed most of them in my house near
Military Road , and I killed a lot of them in my truck not far from
where I picked them up." He claims that they were all killed in King
County , hoping that prosecutors outside King County will buy it and not
for women in general and prostitutes in particular was clear in his plea
prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not
want to pay them for sex. I also picked prostitutes as victims because
they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not
be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I
picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I
wanted without getting caught."
typical serial killer behavior when he expressed his interest in
reliving the murder experience which gave him the sense of empowerment
that he lacked in his everyday life. He buried his victims in clusters
so that he could drive by and remember the cluster and the pleasure he
experienced in the murder of those victims.
officials want to create the impression that this plea bargain brings
closure to this case. But, it does not. There is something a bit fishy
here: we are led to believe that Ridgway went into a killing frenzy in
the 1982-84 period and then stopped completely, until he murdered once
more 1990 and then once again in 1998. Unfortunately, that is not
usually what happens in the world of a serial killer. They can slow
down, especially when there is a great deal of police activity, but not
really stop. Are we to believe that he really went so long without
killing after 1984 when he killed some 46 women in just a few years?
Our expectation is
that there are many more victims buried within and outside of King
County . It took many years to find the bodies that were part of this
plea bargain. It may take many years to find the rest of them. It's not
really over yet.
All text that
appears in this section was provided by www.crimelibrary.com (the very
best source for serial killer information on the internet).
Serialkillercalendar.com thanks the crime library for their tireless
efforts in recording our dark past commends them on the amazing job they
have done thus far).