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D.Keppel? Male Serial Killers: Gary Ridgeway In the summer of 1982, one of the nation’s worst and deadliest serial killers would start a killing spree that would last for almost 2 decades. This killer was known as the “Green River Killer,” but his real name was Gary Leon Ridgway. Ridgeway would murder numerous women in and around the Seattle, Washington area during the 1980s and the 1990s.
When he was captured in 2001, Ridgway had admitted to killing 48 plus women. (Rule, 2004) Though, it is still believed that there are other victims that have not been identified.
In the following, I will describe who Ridgway is, how he committed his crimes, what makes him unique, and how he was finally caught. I will also describe the mistakes the investigators made and how future investigators can learn from this case.
Ridgway was 5’10” tall and weighed 155 pounds when he was arrested. (Burns, 2006) He read the Bible and had many interest and hobbies that included; hunting, fishing, working in the yard, and traveling with his wife. (Burns, 2006) He also liked to tell filthy jokes and shared tips on how to pick up prostitutes. Burns, 2006) Ridgway grew up in the Seattle, Washington area. He was a D student and graduated high school in 1969, when he was 20 years old. (Burns, 2006) Ridgway was not known as a student that would stand out.
Rather, he was someone who was known to always be in trouble. After high school, Ridgway went on to marry three different times. During his second marriage, his wife gave birth to a son, Matthew in 1975. (Burns, 2006) Neither Ridgway’s wives, nor his neighbors knew that he liked to pick up prostitutes, but some coworkers joked about his fondness for prostitutes. Burns, 2006) Ridgway seemed to have everyone fooled, but it all caught up with him just weeks after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in 2001. In the summer of 1982, one of the first victims of the “Green River Killer” was found on the bank of the Green River. The body was identified as Wendy Coffield. (Rule, 2004)
Four weeks later, another body was found a quarter mile away from where Coffield’s body was found. (Rule, 2004) The second victim was identified as Debra Lynn Bonner. Within the next several weeks, ore victims were found which showed to be the beginning of a horrific serial killers pattern. The next victims found included Marcia Faye Chapman, Cynthia Hinds, and Opal Charmaine Mills. (Rule, 2004) All three victims were held down in the river with large boulders and were killed by strangulation. (Rule, 2004) They also were raped and had rocks inserted into their vaginas. (Rule, 2004) The first four victims lived on the streets and were known prostitutes, but Mills was a sixteen-year-old who lived at home with her parents. Rule, 2004) Throughout the next several years, many other victims were found. These victims included: (Rule, 2004) •Giselle Lovvorn •Debra Lorraine Estes •Linda Rule •Linda Jane •Denise Darcel Bush •Shawnda Leea Summers •Shirley Marie Sherrill •Becky Marrero •Colleen Renee Brockman There was never an “official” list made of all the missing women in the area. The investigators never knew how many victims there were or how many they had to look for. Over the next several years, the number of missing persons grew and more remains of victims were found.
In August of 1982, a Green River Task Force was formed. It was made up of twenty-five investigators from King County, the Seattle Police Department, the Tacoma Police Department, and the Kent Police Department. (Rule, 2004) They investigated into the Green River killings and questioned the first suspect, Max Tackley. (Rule, 2004) Though, nothing was found to connect Tackley to the murders. The task force would go on to interview several other suspects, including an unemployed cab driver named Melvin Wayne Foster. Rule, 2004) Foster, just like Tackley, had no connection to the murders. All the suspects investigated during the fall of 1982 showed no connection to the Green River murders. The first real evidence came in February 1984. Mike Barber, a reporter for the Post-Intelligencer, received a letter that contained information about the Green River murders that was not released to the public. (Rule, 2004) The letter was written with no spaces between the words and was intended to help the investigators learn who the killer was. Rule, 2004) The letter never did lead investigators in the right direction, but it did give them insight into how he thought. The investigators also spoke with Ted Bundy. (Rule, 2004) Though, the information given by Bundy did not help, nor did it have any real impact on the investigation at all. In the late 1980s, the Green River Task Force had no leads or suspects wanted in connection with the Green River murders. The investigation started to slow and many investigators started to lose interest into finding who the killer was.
Though, the investigators did take one last look at suspects, which Ridgway caught their eye. Ridgway was someone who liked to have sex with prostitutes and the investigators searched his home, work locker, and three vehicles he owned at the time. (Rule, 2004) The investigators eventually ruled out Ridgway, because there was no useable evidence found connecting him to the murders. (Rule, 2004) DNA testing was not used at this time, but the investigators did keep his DNA on file. Eventually, the investigation would slow down and only two officers were left on the task force.
It was not until 2001, when the investigation was reopened that Ridgway’s DNA was tested and found to be a match. Ridgway was finally arrested in November 2001. After Ridgway was arrested, the State agreed not to seek the death penalty as long as he pleads guilty to the murders and helped the task force find all his victims. (Rule, 2004) Ridgway agreed to the plea and was moved to the Green River Task Force building, where he would stay and be interviewed everyday to find out the information needed to find the rest of the missing women’s remains.
He took them to all the grave sites he could remember, but he did not remember which women he put into those graves. (Rule, 2004) He also showed the investigators the different personalities he had. Ridgway never showed remorse for killing any of the prostitutes and stated that the “real” Ridgway was weak and too nice. In December 2003, Ridgway was finally convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Rule, 2004) When investigators came upon the first Green River victim, they thought that it would be a simple murder investigation.
They had no idea that it would lead to an investigation that would span over the next two decades. In the 1980s, testing evidence, especially DNA, was not even thought of. Investigators only had to go on hard evidence and blood typing to convict a suspect. This was a major downfall in the investigation into the Green River killings. The investigators also lacked the resources needed to help keep the investigation open and to investigate all leads. Future investigations can learn that keeping all leads open and investigating all leads will help them narrow down a suspect.
They can also learn that DNA testing is an important investigative tool for today’s investigators. Keeping these thoughts in mind will help investigators investigate future serial killing sprees.?
Resources Burns, K. S. (2006). Gary Leonay Ridgway. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from Rule, A. (2004). Green River, Running Red; The Real Story of the Green River Killer-America’s Deadliest Serial Murderer. New York, NY: Free Press.