Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Green River Killer: River of Death

The Big Break

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.

Gary Leon Ridgway
Gary Leon Ridgway
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?


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