''I've lost count of how many women I have killed. Killing women was my career.'' - Gary Ridgway: The Green River Killer | Serial Killers of The 70s, 805 & 90s | GRAPHIC DETAILS

 (Gary Ridgway. Picture credit: seattletimes)

*Please be aware that disturbing details are shared in this post. I have tried to be as sensitive as possible without shying away from the facts of this case. The contents of this blog are not suitable for anyone under the age of 18*

The guys at work used to call him 'Green River Gary' as a joke because nobody could believe that quiet, mousy Gary Ridgway could possibly be one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. The guy they had known for decades (in a working capacity) was always a great guy, just quiet and pretty much kept himself to himself so when they found out that he'd been taken in by police investigators to be questioned over the horrifying Green River murders, they all assumed that it was a mistake and made a joke about it. Unknown to them and to his third wife, Gary was a real dark horse of the most unimaginable kind. He was indeed the elusive Green River Killer who had managed to evade justice for 2 decades.

It was a case that many people believed would never be solved but thanks to the tireless efforts of the dedicated investigative team and advances in DNA technology, Gary Ridgway's reign of terror was finally brought to an end and some of his victim's families finally got the answers they had been waiting years for. 

Depending on who you ask, some people believe the Green River Killer to be the most prolific serial killer in American history, but if we look back at some of the serial killer cases I have covered in the past, that horrific title is debatable. There are the numbers of victims he had confessed to murdering and the ones he has been convicted of murdering. We know that in many cases we will never know the true number of victims that a serial killer has been responsible for. Gary told investigators that he killed as many as 71 women but then claimed that he had lost count because at his most active time during his murder spree (which was the early 1980s) he was murdering up to two women per week. He was eventually convicted and confessed to murdering 49 women and teenage girls. He was originally convicted of the 48 murders but another conviction was added which brought the total to 49. 

Ridgway's choice of victims were female runaways and sex workers aged 14 to 38. He preferred his victims to be teenagers as he claimed they were easy to control and manipulate. His crimes reportedly began in 1982 well up until the 1990s. He was mostly active in 1982/83. He claimed that he hated sex workers (or in his words 'prostitutes') but wanted to have sexual intercourse without payment. His method of killing was strangulation and this would occur with him either tricking or forcing the victim into a position where he could be behind them as if about to have intercourse. He would move his arm around the victim's throat to crush their windpipe and in occasions where the victim struggled, he would wrap his legs around them. 

So this monster who was stalking the SeaTac strip (which is along the highway 99 south of Seattle, Washington in the USA) in the early 1980s and the 1990s was not only murdering innocent women and dumping them in various woodland areas (some were buried in the same locations and he'd call these burial spots 'clusters') near to landmarks so that he could know exactly where they were. He was also able to carry on working full time and go through three marriages as well as having a son. People who have watched footage of Gary Ridgway and investigators who have had to deal with him in person have all spoken of how 'ordinary' he seems, not a shred of remorse or feeling. Just straight face and he talked about his crimes very matter-of-factly. When he was eventually caught in November of 2001 he didn't seem to be bothered. There's so much to unpack with this case that it's hard to know where to begin. 

We'll take a brief journey into Gary Ridgway's background and you won't be surprised to read that there were red flags from the very beginning. Gary Leon Ridgway was born on the 18th of February 1949 in Salt Lake City, Utah (USA). He struggled at school and his homelife wasn't any better. With a strict father and mother and brothers who seemed to be more athletic, academically gifted and sociable, he already felt out of the loop. He enjoyed indulging in animal cruelty whenever he felt frustrated or angry and even killed the family cat by locking it in a cooler box until it suffocated. He hated his mother with a passion and her behaviour was deemed by others to be highly inappropriate. She would walk around in lingerie and dress provocatively when attending Gary's school parents evening. Gary was embarrassed by his mother's behaviour and also hated the way that she spoke to him, constantly putting him down in front of other people. 

(Gary Ridgway. Picture credit: murderpedia)

Gary always had an issue with urinating in his bed and this would further enrage his mother. She would often put him in a bath and either force him to wash himself or she would do it for him. On one occasion he was in the bath tub and his mother was washing his penis when her robe fell open (she was completely nude underneath) and Gary became aroused. He began having sexually explicit thoughts about his own mother and often thought about killing her too. As well as this horrendous stuff going on the situation with his father was no better. Gary would often run errands with his father and go for long drives. On some of these occasions, his father would rant and rave about sex workers (in his words 'prostitutes') and how he considered them to be vermin and wanted the streets to be rid of them. At the same time his father would pick up a sex worker whilst Gary was present and Gary would either wait in the car or go for a walk whilst his father would indulge in sex acts with this particular working girl. 

So Gary was exposed to a lot of confusing behaviour from his parents in his childhood especially when it came to things like sex. He was already a bad seed with his horrible behaviour towards animals and wanting to kill his own mother as well as have sex with her. It was all really disturbing and as time went on it just got worse. When he was 16 years old, Gary decided that killing animals was no longer giving him the stress relief that it had done previously, he wanted to try something on a human being. He lured a 6 year old child into some woods and stabbed the poor boy before using the boy's shirt to wipe off the excess blood from the knife. Without missing a beat and without a care in the world he then said to the frightened and bleeding child ''I always wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone''. Gary was just 16 years old at the time and luckily the young boy survived but it was a horrific sign of more disturbing things to come in the life of Gary Ridgway. 

Having been brought up by his father to hate sex workers (in their words 'prostitutes' and 'whores') and see them as inhuman, he viewed them as vile but he still wanted to have sex with them. Despite his low IQ and difficulty with his school work, he managed to graduate and strangely enough, get married at a young age. Gary was able to split himself into different characters, he would behave differently depending on the situation and the person he was with. He had a stint in the US Navy and noticed that a lot of his friends were paying sex workers for their services and he joined in. He still hated them but not enough at that point to want to kill them. It was only when he discovered that he'd picked up some sexually transmitted diseases from the ladies that he had slept with that the rage in him reached boiling point. The marriage to his first wife was a disaster and fizzled out within a year. He managed to find himself a second wife and he would be quite aggressive when it came to sex and would try and force his wife to partake in rough sex but she didn't feel comfortable. As part of his split personalities, Gary became religious and passionate about reading the bible. He even began going to people's houses to help spread the word. His second wife became pregnant and they had a baby boy. With the marriage, the new baby and his devotion to religion you would have thought that Gary would have turned over a new leaf but no, he was regularly seeing sex workers. 

All three of Gary's wives said that he was a sex addict and would hound them for sex several times a day. The sex had to be rough and would often involve choking. He would enjoy having sex in public places (some of these places turned out to be where a few of his victims had been found) and in his car. In some cases it seemed like he was practicing for what he wanted to do to the sex workers that he planned to murder. 

(Gary Ridgway. Picture credit: oxygen)

When Gary began his killing spree he would manipulate the working girls into thinking he was a family man. He would make sure that the girls saw a picture of his son if he was attempting to get them into his car. He would have sex with the girls in his car or he would take them home with him. Sometimes he would pick up sex workers, have intercourse, pay them and let them go. He said he did this because he knew it was either going to be difficult to kill them for whatever reason or that he didn't have time and planned to kill them at a later date. Plus, he thought that it would look good for him if anyone asked around about him, he wanted to give off the reputation as a nice customer who let the girls go. With the ones he didn't have time to kill, he knew that being nice to them and letting them go on that occasion would make it easier for him to get them into the car the next time. 

His marriage to his second wife ended in 1981 and it was 1982 that the murders began. 1982 to 1984 was said to have been Gary's most active time although he continued to kill innocent women and girls right up to the 90s. When he began his horrendous crimes, he would not only sexually assault and murder his victims, he would also dump their remains in a very undignified manner. This is one of those cases where you think it's bad enough and too much to stomach but then it just keeps getting worse. So Gary would dump the victims either singularly in an area near to a landmark or a well known location to him or he would dump several of the victims in the same locations as I mentioned earlier which he called 'Clusters'. Gary would return to the victims remains and commit necrophilia even with the maggots and flies all over and inside the corpses. He would force the victim's legs open so that he could return on various occasions and his words, it would be easier for him to penetrate the corpses. 

On a side note (after that disturbing paragraph) Ted Bundy had an unusual part to play in the capture of Gary Ridgway. Bundy contacted the cops in the 1980s and said that he wanted to help investigators catch The Green River Killer. This wasn't done out of the goodness of Bundy's cold heart, he was just trying to buy himself some time and try and make himself out to be some sort of valuable asset to the police for future investigations so it would be worthwhile keeping him alive. The cops knew what he was up to but listened to what he had to say because they thought that he might opened up about his own murders. It was Ted Bundy who told the police that The Green River Killer would return to the bodies to commit necrophilia and advised them to keep their eyes on locations where victims were found as he might return. 

Gary later told investigators that he was ashamed of the necrophilia but thought this would stop him killing someone else plus he didn't want to pay for sex. He said that he started to bury the victims in an attempt to stop him committing such acts. 

With numerous victims being discovered in or near the Green River in Washington the police realised that they were looking for a serial killer which they nicknamed 'The Green River Killer'. Investigators set up a task force that were sorely devoted to the case. 

{The Green River. Picture credit: wikipedia)

Gary had been involved in an altercation with a sex worker in the early 1980s and had been arrested when the lady reported him for trying to strangle her. He came up with some fake story and claimed that she had bit him. The police took the matter no further. Investigators did question Gary in their hunt for The Green River Killer and this led his friends at work to think it was all some sort of joke because they saw him as a bit of a pip-squeak.

The cops had their eye on Gary but he managed to pass a lie detector test and this was also due to the fact that he really was a cold blooded killer who felt nothing for his victims.

When Gary knew the cops were on the hunt he tried to trick them by doing different things with the bodies like random locations and in one case he put fish on top of the deceased victim's body. 

Gary met his third wife in 1985 and they got married in 1988, this was said to have been the happiest time in Gary's life so the killings had somewhat gone down significantly. His wife Judith was more open minded when it came to sex and the pair seemed to be devoted to each other. Again with Gary Ridgway, he could be a totally different person depending on who he was with. With Judith he was said to have been her prince charming, the perfect gentleman who was a family man. He would bring her flowers and cook her dinner. The year before he and Judith married, the police had still kept their eyes on Gary and he'd given some samples of his saliva and hair however the case was slow moving and shockingly, it wasn't until 2001 that Gary Ridgway was finally arrested. 

(Gary Ridgway with his third wife Judith. Picture credit: imdb)

Gary was still in the same job as a paint sprayer for a truck factory and he had just finished his shift when he was arrested. At first he claimed that he was innocent and pleaded his case to Judith but it was no good, the evidence against him was overwhelming, The police had finally got The Green River Killer. Judith divorced him in 2002 and the whole ordeal had a profound effect on her wellbeing as it would do. Gary fooled her like he fooled everybody. 

In 2003, Gary Ridgway stood in a courtroom filled with his victim's relatives and pled guilty to 48 murders (another conviction was later added). Each of the families had a chance to have their say after years of torture and not knowing what happened to their loved ones. Gary just sat there without any emotion until Linda Rule's father stood before him and said ''Mr Ridgway, there are many people here today that hate you, I'm not one of them. I forgive you'', and with that, Gary Ridgway suddenly broke with emotion. 

The Judge who oversaw proceedings was none other than Richard A. Jones who was/is the brother of legendary music producer Quincy Jones (clearly a talented family). 

Gary Ridgway made his final statement in court after pleading guilty to the 48 murders (soon to be 49) and hearing from the victim's families. He said:

''I'm sorry for killing all those young ladies I have tried to remember as much as I could to help the detectives to find and recover the ladies. I'm sorry for the scare I put into the communities. I want to thank the police, the prosecuting attorneys, my lawyers and all others that had the patience to work with me and to help me remember all of the tragic things that I did and be able to talk about them. I know the horrible things my acts were. I have tried for a long time to get these things out of my mind. I tried for a long time to keep from killing any ladies I'm sorry I put my wife, my son, my brothers and my family through this hell. I hope they can find a way to forgive me. I'm very sorry for the ladies that were not found. May they rest in peace. They need a better place than where I gave them. I'm sorry for killing these ladies. They had their whole lives ahead of them. I'm sorry for causing so much pain to so many families.'' - Gary Ridgway (2003)

(The Green River. Picture credit: washingtonminerals)

Gary Ridgway is still alive today, he is currently 74 years old and serving his time in prison as part of his deal for not being given the death penalty in exchange for locations and information on his victims. Another chilling fact about this case is that Gary was able to remember so many locations where he had disposed of some of his victims. As I mentioned before, he always aimed to place the victim's remains near to a landmark or specific area well known to him that is how he was able to recall certain details so many years later. 

It was a huge sigh of relief when the Green River Killer was finally caught and so many families were able to have some sort of closure on what happened to their relatives but there are still so many victims and families who have never had justice. We know he's responsible for so many more deaths but the exact number, the personal details and locations of the victims is still unknown. 

(Some of the known victims of Gary Ridgway. Picture credit: quora)

I would like to take a moment to remember the victims's whos names that we know and to also think about the many victims who are still out there unidentified:

Wendy Lee Coffield

Gisele Ann Lovvom

Debra Lynn Bonner

Marcia Faye Chapman

Cynthia Jean Hinds

Opal Charmaine Mills

Terry Rene Milligan

Mary Bridget Meehan

Debra Lorraine Estes

Linda Jane Rule

Denise Darcel Bush

Shawnda Leea Summers

Shirley Marie Sherill 

Rebecca ''Becky'' Marrero

Colleen Renee Brockman

Sandra Denise Major

Wendy Stephens

Alma Ann Smith 

Delores LaVerne Williams 

Gail Lynn Matthews 

Andrea Marion Childers

Sandra Kay Gabbert

Kimi-Kai Pitsor

Marie M. Malvar

Carol Ann Christensen 

Martina Theresa Authorlee 

Cheryl Lee Wims 

Yvonne ''Shelly'' Antosh

Carrie Ann Rois

Constance Elizabeth Naon 

Kelly Marie Ware

Tina Marie Thompson

April Dawn Buttram

Debbie May Abernathy 

Tracy Ann Winston

Maureen Sue Feeney

Mary Sue Bello

Pammy Annette Avent

Delise Louise Plager

Kimberly L. Nelson

Lisa Yates

Mary Exzetta West 

Cindy Ann Smith

Patricia Michelle Barczak

Roberta Joseph Hayes

Marta Reeves

Patricia Yellowrobe 

Unidentified white woman known as 'Jane Doe B-17'

Unidentified white woman known as 'Jane Doe B-20' 

May they all rest in peace and prayers for strength and healing for their families. 

Further Reading & Sources:

Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of The Green River Killer | Book by Ann Rule

The Riverman: Ted Bundy & I Hunt For The Green River Killer | Book by Robert Keppel

The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers | Book by Michael Newton

The Big Book of Serial Killers | Book by Jack Rosewood

Gary Ridgway | Wikipedia

6 Terrifying Facts About The Green River Killer | Article by Crime & Investigation UK

Gary Ridgway | Article by NBC News

Gary Ridgway | Murderpedia

Gary Ridgway | Article by The Washington Post

Gary Ridgway | Article by A&E

Gary Ridgway | Documentary: Real Crime/Born To Kill?

20 Year Hunt For The Green River Killer | Documentary: A&E

Gary Ridgway | Courtroom Footage

Gary Ridgway | Documentary | Professor David Wilson

The SeaTac Strip | The Seattle Times

Washington State Route 99 | Wikipedia

SeaTec, Washington | Wikipedia

(Gary Ridgway. Picture credit: fox13seattle)

I appreciate that I have readers from all over the world who visit my blog every week and I know that a lot of you are based in America, maybe some of you are from Seattle and knew what it was like going through that fear of knowing The Green River Killer was on the loose, maybe you might have some information you're thinking about passing on to the police about this case? If you do have any information, however small, please contact 206-263-2130 (call between 7am  and 3pm to arrange to speak to a Detective. If you call after hours, please leave a voicemail so that someone can get back in touch with you). If you prefer to email you can send any information to greenrivertips@metrokc.gov 

Please have a look at this US government website for information on the case plus information about the unidentified victims. 

Check out my previous posts in my Serial Killers of The 70s, 80s & 90s Series:

The Dating Game Killer

He Murdered Over 90 Women

The Killer Clown

The Monster of The Andes

The Many Faces of Ted Bundy

The Butcher of Rostov

BTK: Bind. Torture. Kill

Child Killer: Robert Black

The Grim Sleeper

Serial Killer Groupies

5 British Serial Killers Deemed Too Dangerous To Ever Be Released From Prison

Thank you or taking the time to get through this case with me which was another tough one. I am now moving on to the decade of the 1990s and the first installment of that decade will be posted next Sunday. 

[For all of my links, click here / To help support my work by buying me a coffee, click here, Thank you]

Stay safe x 

1 comment:

  1. Good evening Jo,

    I read your latest True Crime case about Gary Ridgway, The Green River killer.
    You closed the 80’s decade with one of the most disturbing serials killer of all time.

    To call this guy a monster would be an understatement. He was able to do his things, have three marriages and even had a son. He was living his double life whilst he was killing all these innocent women.

    I always thought that he was looking so creepy and scary but he could have been my neighbor too. Not only that he killed all these innocent women but he was also inflicting pain to animals. He is such a heartless calculated monstrous murderer. His parent’s actions and behaviours were also terrible. All his thoughts about his mother were quite disturbing to read as well.

    He is a horrible person; I can’t put it into word. All the vicious crimes that he has done, and also what he has done to this young 6 years old boy. I feel for the boys, he survived but I’m sure that his life wasn’t the same after what he has been through.

    Everything that he has done with the corpses of his victims, I had to take a break because it couldn’t have been more disgusting. No human can do that !

    Linda Rule’s father quote into the Court room to Ridgway was emotional to read. It must have took a lot of courage and strength to tell him that.

    To think that he has been escaping justice for decades doing all these horrendous murders couldn’t be scarier. Thank God, he was finally caught in 2001.

    I hope that The Green River Killer will die in pain in prison and as soon as possible.

    My thoughts are with the victims and with all the families that has suffering because of this monster horrendous crimes.

    Thank you so much Jo for your brilliant work and masterful Serial Killers series.