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A.K.A.: "The Green River Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Necrophilia
Number of victims: 49 +
Date of murders: 1982 - 1998
Date of arrest: November 30, 2001
Date of birth: February 18, 1949
Victims profile: Wendy Lee Coffield (16) / Gisele Ann Lovvorn (19) / Debra Lynn Bonner (23) / Marcia Fay Chapman (31) / Opal Charmaine Mills (16) / Terry Rene Milligan (16) / Mary Bridget Meehan (18) / Debra Lorraine Estes (15) / Linda Jane Rule (16) / Denise Darcel Bush (23) / Shawnda Leea Summers (16) / Shirley Marie Sherrill (18) / Colleen Renee Brockman (15) / Alma Ann Smith (18) / Delores LaVerne Williams (17) / Gail Lynn Mathews (23) / Andrea M. Childers (19) / Sandra Kay Gabbert (17) / Kimi-Kai Pitsor (16) / Marie M. Malvar (18) / Carol Ann Christensen (21) / Martina Theresa Authorlee (18) / Cheryl Lee Wims (18) / Yvonne Shelly Antosh (19) / Carrie A. Rois (15) / Constance Elizabeth Naon (19) / Kelly Marie Ware (22) / Tina Marie Thompson (21) / April Dawn Buttram (16) / Debbie May Abernathy (26) / Tracy Ann Winston (19) / Maureen Sue Feeney (19) / Mary Sue Bello (25) / Pammy Avent (15) / Delise Louise Plager (22) / Kimberly L. Nelson (21) / Lisa Yates (19) / Mary Exzetta West (16) / Cindy Anne Smith (17) / Patricia Michelle Barczak (19) / Roberta Joseph Hayes (21) / Marta Reeves (36) / Patricia Yellowrobe (38) / Rebecca Marrero (20) / Unidentified White Female (12-17) / Unidentified White Female (17-19) / Unidentified Black Female (18-27) / Unidentified White Female (14-18)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: King County, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms on December 18, 2003
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2 photo gallery 3
map of killings
Prosecutor's summary of the evidence
Amended charges
Statement of defendant on plea of guilty
1984 letter

Name: Gary Leon Ridgway
Age: DOB 2-18-1949
Address: Auburn, Wash.
Personal: Married, one son. Painter, Paccar/Kenworth Truck, Renton, Wash.
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 slayings.

Dec. 18, 2003, to 48 consecutive life terms
Defense attorneys: Tony Savage, Mark Prothero
Lead prosecutor: Jeffrey Baird


Gary Leon Ridgway

Born: 18-Feb-1949
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, UT

Gender: Male
Religion: Baptist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Green River killer

Military service: US Navy (1970-71)

Father: 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 prostitution) 16-Nov-2001
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.

Early life

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." someone

Adult life

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 religious beliefs.

In 1975 his second wife gave birth to his son, Matthew.


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 the deal:

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 much...

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 sentences.

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 evidence."

# Name Age Disappeared Found
1 Wendy Lee Coffield 16 July 8, 1982 July 15, 1982
2 Gisele Ann Lovvorn 19 July 17, 1982 September 25, 1982
3 Debra Lynn Bonner 23 July 25, 1982 August 12, 1982
4 Marcia Fay Chapman 31 August 1, 1982 August 15, 1982
6 Opal Charmaine Mills 16 August 12, 1982 August 15, 1982
7 Terry Rene Milligan 16 August 29, 1982 April 1, 1984
8 Mary Bridget Meehan 18 September 15, 1982 November 13, 1983
9 Debra Lorraine Estes 15 September 20, 1982 May 30, 1988
10 Linda Jane Rule 16 September 26, 1982 January 31, 1983
11 Denise Darcel Bush 23 October 8, 1982 June 1985
12 Shawnda Leea Summers 16 October 9, 1982 August 11, 1983
13 Shirley Marie Sherrill 18 between October 22, 1982 June 1985
14 Colleen Renee Brockman 15 December 24, 1982 May 26, 1984
15 Alma Ann Smith 18 March 3, 1983 April 2, 1984
16 Delores LaVerne Williams 17 March 14, 1983 March 31, 1984
17 Gail Lynn Mathews 23 April 22, 1983 September 19, 1983
18 Andrea M. Childers 19 April 14, 1983 October 11, 1989
19 Sandra Kay Gabbert 17 April 17, 1983 April 1, 1984
20 Kimi-Kai Pitsor 16 April 16, 1983 December 14, 1983
21 Marie M. Malvar 18 April 30, 1983 September 29, 2003
22 Carol Ann Christensen 21 May 4, 1983 May 8, 1983
23 Martina Theresa Authorlee 18 May 22, 1983 November 14, 1984
24 Cheryl Lee Wims 18 May 23, 1983 March 22, 1984
25 Yvonne Shelly Antosh 19 May 31, 1983 October 15, 1983
26 Carrie A. Rois 15 June 2, 1983 March 10, 1985
27 Constance Elizabeth Naon 19 June 8, 1983 October 27, 1983
28 Kelly Marie Ware 22 July 18, 1983 October 29, 1983
29 Tina Marie Thompson 21 July 25, 1983 April 20, 1984
30 April Dawn Buttram 16 August 23, 1983 August 31, 2003
31 Debbie May Abernathy 26 September 5, 1983 March 31, 1984
32 Tracy Ann Winston 19 September 12, 1983 March 27, 1986
33 Maureen Sue Feeney 19 September 28, 1983 May 2, 1986
34 Mary Sue Bello 25 October 11, 1983 October 12, 1984
35 Pammy Avent 15 October 26, 1983 August 16, 2003
36 Delise Louise Plager 22 October 30, 1983 February 14, 1984
37 Kimberly L. Nelson 21 November 1, 1983 June 14, 1986
38 Lisa Yates 19 December 23, 1983 March 13, 1984
39 Mary Exzetta West 16 February 6, 1984 September 8, 1985
40 Cindy Anne Smith 17 March 21, 1984 June 27, 1987
41 Patricia Michelle Barczak 19 October 17, 1986 February 1993
42 Roberta Joseph Hayes 21 Last seen leaving a Portland, Oregon jail on February 7, 1987 September 11, 1991
43 Marta Reeves 36 between March 5th and April 13, 1990 September 20, 1990
44 Patricia Yellowrobe 38 January 1998 August 6, 1998
45 Unidentified White Female 12-17 Died prior to May 1983 March 21, 1984
46 Unidentified White Female 17-19 Unknown April 22, 1985
47 Unidentified Black Female 18-27 Between 1982 and 1984 December 30, 1985
48 Unidentified White Female 14-18 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.

Task force victims list

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 evidence.

 Name Age  Disappeared  Found
 Amina Agisheff 35  July 7, 1982  April 18, 1984
 Kasee Ann Lee (Woods) 16  August 28, 1982  not yet found
 Tammie Liles 16  June 9, 1983  April 1985
 Keli Kay McGinness 18  June 28, 1983  not yet found
 Angela Marie Girdner 16  July 1983  April 22, 1985
 Patricia Osborn 19?  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 runaway.

  • 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 1998.

  • 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 similar physiques.

  • 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.

 Name Age  Disappeared  Found
 Kristi Lynn Vorak 13  October 31, 1982  not yet found
 Patricia Ann Leblanc 15  August 12, 1983  not yet found
 Rose Marie Kurran 16  August 26, 1987  August 1987
 Darci Warde 16  April 24, 1990  not yet found
 Cora McGuirk 22  July 12, 1991  not yet found

Popular culture

  • 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 in 2005.

  • 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.

  • The Julie Ruin song "I Wanna Know What Love Is" references the Green River Killer.

  • Aggrotech group Combichrist made mention of Ridgway in their song "God Bless"

  • The Jakprogresso song "Dumpsites" references Gary Ridgeway

  • The song "Deep Red Bells" by Neko Case was inspired by her growing up as a teenager in the area during the time the murders


Inmate in Wash. state pleads guilty to 49th murder

Associated Press

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 Seattle suburb.

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, 2003

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 them straight.

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.

'Common scheme'

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 up.

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 these women.

Most of the time I took the women's jewellery and their clothes to get rid of any evidence and make them harder to identify.

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 killed.

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 Investigation

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 River killer.

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 pursuing suspects.

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 invaluable.

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 analysis.

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 conclusion.

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 review.

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.

Quickly, Ainsworth 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.

Soon after 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.

Following an 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 water.

Reay further 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.

A 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.

The investigation 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.

During their 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.

Following the 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 attacker.

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.

According to 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.

Between September 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 argument.

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 connected.

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.

According to 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.

Christensen was 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 bodies.

That summer, 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.

Between September 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 Star Lake.

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.

The killer's 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.

Two weeks 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.

Although the "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.

Chasing Evil

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.

Following Keppel's 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.

Adamson then 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 probable suspects.

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 inevitable occurred.

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 be found.

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.

Although it 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."

During 1983 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.

An important 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 victims.

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.

Following the 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.

Angered, Kubik-Pattern 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.

The decomposing 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

Following the 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.

Several months 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.

Although the 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.

Meanwhile, FBI 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 River.

Although the 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 years.

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.

Moreover, the 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 disappeared.

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.

Several weeks 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.

Task force 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.

Moreover, credit 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 murders.

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.

The charges 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.

Ridgway, 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 bible.

Today, evidence 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 Killer?

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.

However, because some of the victims were buried and possibly killed in Oregon and other areas outside King County , Ridgway could face the death penalty in other jurisdictions.

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?

A typical 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 prosecute him.

Ridgway's contempt for women in general and prostitutes in particular was clear in his plea bargain statement:

"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."

Ridgway exhibited 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.

King County 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 (the very best source for serial killer information on the internet). thanks the crime library for their tireless efforts in recording our dark past commends them on the amazing job they have done thus far).



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