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Nathan Moore
Nathan Moore

Green River Killer

Gary Leon Ridgway (born February 18, 1949), also known as the Green River Killer, is an American serial killer and sex offender. He was initially convicted of 48 separate murders. As part of his plea bargain, another conviction was added, bringing the total number of convictions to 49, making him the second most prolific serial killer in United States history according to confirmed murders.[n 1] He killed many teenage girls and women in the U.S. state of Washington during the 1980s and 1990s.[2]

Green River Killer

Gary Leon Ridgway was born on February 18, 1949, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the second of Mary and Thomas Ridgway's three sons. His home life was somewhat troubled; relatives have described his mother as domineering and have said that, while young, he witnessed more than one violent argument between his parents. His father was a bus driver who would often complain about the presence of sex workers.[5]

In the early 1980s, the King County Sheriff's Office formed the Green River Task Force to investigate the murders. Task force members included Robert Keppel and Dave Reichert, who periodically interviewed incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy in 1984. Bundy offered his opinions on the psychology, motivations, and behavior of the killer. He suggested that the killer was revisiting the dump sites to have sex with his victims, which turned out to be true, and if police found a fresh grave, they should stake it out and wait for him to come back.[14] Also contributing to the investigation was FBI Special Agent John E. Douglas, who developed a profile of the suspect.[15]

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.[25][26] On February 9, 2004, county prosecutors began to release the videotaped records of Ridgway's confessions. In one taped interview, he initially told investigators that he was responsible for the deaths of 65 women.[27] 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 before killing them, a detail which he did not reveal until after his sentencing.[27]

While Ridgway is not as infamous as other serial killers like Ted Bundy, he took far more victims than Bundy ever did. In fact, by the time Bundy had already been captured in the mid-1980s, authorities were actively seeking his help in catching Ridgway, who at that point was still at large.

Having deplorable, but valuable, first-hand experience with the same kinds of killings that had been happening in the Green River area, Bundy proved to be an asset to the case. He became a regular interviewee of Keppel and Reichert and offered his unfiltered opinion on the psychology of the still-active Seattle serial killer, as well as his motivations and behavior.

During one interview session, Bundy reportedly suggested that the uncaught Seattle serial killer was most likely revisiting his dumpsites to perform necrophilia on the corpses. He advised the investigators that if they found a fresh grave, they should stake it out and wait for the killer to return.

But unlike some other infamous serial killers, Gary Ridgway is still alive today. He is currently 72 years old and serving out his life sentences at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Ridgway is expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Gary Ridgway, the Seattle-area truck painter who was unmasked as the Green River serial killer and went on to plead guilty to killing 49 women, now claims that he killed closer to 80 women over two decades.

On July 15, 1982, the body of Wendy Lee Coffield was found in the Green River. Within a month, four other bodies were found on the riverbank: Debra Lynn Bonner, Marcia Faye Chapman, Opal Charmaine Mills and Cynthia Jean Hinds. 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.Our investigation continued for decades. Over time, the combination of advancing technology, science, and determined investigative work advanced the case until an arrest was made in 2001.

It has been almost 20 years since the first young prostitutes, juvenile runaways and hard-luck teenagers began to disappear here along this stretch of highway near the airport known as the Strip. In a hard, cold rain today, it is still a rough place where desperate women ply their trade -- but once, it was known as "a hunting ground" for a committed, wily serial killer.

Between 1982 and 1984, a predator dubbed "the Green River killer" is believed to have abducted, sometimes raped and then murdered by strangulation and perhaps other methods 49 women. The youngest was 15. Most of the victims had not reached their 21st birthday.

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, who was one of the original detectives assigned to the Green River slayings and was in the woods along the river when the first bodies were found, was careful not to proclaim the case solved.

In its work, the task force produced several profiles of the Green River killer. One theory held that he was a law enforcement officer or someone close to law enforcement -- a police officer or a security guard or someone who posed as an officer.

Other profiles, some based on evidence at the crime scenes and the histories of past serial murderers, suggested that the Green River killer smoked cigarettes and drank beer, was in his late twenties or thirties and had "a nagging mother."

Another problem: The killer chose his burial grounds well. Most of the bodies were not found for months or years, and in the rainy Seattle climate, the victims were quickly reduced to bones, with scant physical evidence to help police decode their deaths.

Why did the Green River killer suddenly stop in 1984? That is a question that has baffled investigators. Some officials, before the arrest of Ridgway, thought the killer might have died, or had been arrested, or was jailed on unrelated charges. He might have stopped because of increased use of police "decoys" along the Strip who were arresting and interviewing customers of prostitutes.

Now, they are not sure. Another serial killer might have been plying his or her trade a few hours' drive north in Vancouver, British Columbia. There are dozens of unsolved serial slayings around the West.

Investigators remove the body of Wendy Lee Coffield, the first victim found of the Green River killer, on July 15, 1982.MARCIA CHAPMANCAROL CHRISTENSENCYNTHIA HINDSOPAL MILLSGary Leon Ridgway, a longtime suspect in the serial slayings, will be formally charged this week with the murders of four women.

The case takes its name from a river south of Seattle, where Ridgway began dumping his victims in 1982. Most of the women were prostitutes, whom he said he targeted "because I thought I could kill as many as I wanted without getting caught."

In confessing to more murders than any other serial killer in U.S. history Wednesday, the 54-year-old former truck painter provided heart-wrenching details of the 48 women he murdered to their families gathered in a Seattle courtroom to hear his confession.

The remains of dozens of women turned up near Pacific Northwest ravines, rivers, airports and freeways in the 1980s. Investigators officially listed 49 of them as probable victims of the Green River Killer.

"We were pretty surprised that Ted Bundy would write to the task force," Reichert told Fox News Digital. "He made it very clear what his purpose was in his letter. What he wanted to do, according to his description, was to get us into the mind of a serial killer. But we knew, just by the way the letter was written and the words he used, that he was just injecting himself into the situation, trying to find out as much as he could about the case."

Green River killer investigator Dave Reichert said Ted Bundy (left), who was on death row, wrote a letter to the task force about the case. DNA would later prove Gary Ridgway (right) was the identity of the murderer. (Getty Images)

In this undated King County Prosecutor's Office handout photo, Green River killer Gary Leon Ridgway is seen as he takes investigators to one of the sights where he said he allegedly buried one of his victims. On November 5, 2003, in Seattle, Washington, Ridgway plead guilty to 48 murders dating back more than 20 years. In 2011, Ridgway pled guilty to the 1982 murder of his 49th victim, 20-year-old Rebecca Marrero. (Photo by King County Prosecutor's Office via Getty Images)

On August 12, 1982, Frank Linard discovers the body of a woman floating in the Green River, yards from the Kent slaughterhouse where he works. The remains are identified as those of Debra Lynn Bonner, 23, a prostitute who had disappeared on July 25. Police quickly link her death to those of earlier victims Wendy Coffield, 16, and Leann Wilcox, both known prostitutes. As more bodies are discovered in or near the Green River over the next few days, police conclude that a serial murderer, dubbed the Green River Killer, is on the loose. Over the next two years, 49 victims, mostly young prostitutes and dancers known to frequent the Highway 99/Pacific Avenue South "strip" near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, will be attributed to the same killer. After a years-long investigation, on November 30, 2001, police will arrest suspect Gary Leon Ridgway, whose DNA is linked to the bodies of four of the victims. This essay contains a list of the women killed. 041b061a72


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