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Gary Ridgway

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Real World Bio
Gary Ridgway
Name Gary Leon Ridgway
Alias The Green River Killer
The Green River Strangler
Green River Gary
The Riverman
callmefred
G.R.
Gender Male
Birth Date February 18, 1949
Place of Birth Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Job Truck factory worker
Pathology Serial Killer
Necrophiliac
Modus Operandi Manual strangulation (originally)
Ligature strangulation (later)
Type Mostly organized
No. of Victims 49+
Status Incarcerated

"I'm not a serial rapist, I'm a serial killer."

Gary Leon Ridgway, a.k.a. "The Green River Killer" or "The Green River Strangler", is a necrophilic serial killer responsible for the murders of at least 49 women. He is considered the most prolific American serial killer in terms of confirmed body count.

BackgroundEdit

Ridgway was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 18, 1949 and raised in SeaTac, Washington. His father, Thomas Newton Ridgway, worked as a bus driver who often complained about the prostitutes who frequented the streets on his route. His mother, Mary Rita Ridgway (née Steinman), ruled the household and was physically and mentally abusive towards Gary and also to his two brothers, Gregory and Thomas Jr., and even her husband. Gary was a frequent bed-wetter and also tortured animals, locking a cat into a refrigerator until it died on one occasion. He would also shoot birds with a BB gun with his brothers. Having an estimated IQ of 82, he did poorly in school; he even had to redo a single school year twice before he could get passing grades. In 1963, aged 14, Gary attempted to kill a six-year-old boy by stabbing him, but wasn't caught. He claimed to have committed his first murder when he was a teenager, drowning a young boy by wrapping his legs around him while swimming and holding him underwater until he drowned. At the age of 18, Gary enlisted with the Navy and served on board of a supply ship in Vietnam. Shortly after graduating high school and before being shipped off, he married a girlfriend named Claudia Barrows, but they divorced within only a year because both had extramarital affairs. Ridgway applied for a job as a police officer, but failed. Instead, he found work as a car painter at a truck factory in Bellingham, Washington.

Ridgway married for the second time in December, 1973, to one Marcia Winslow. Their union was also brief and ended for the same reason, though they conceived a son, Matthew, together. He was born in 1975 and maintained a relationship with his father, who was granted visitation rights after the divorce. Winslow later claimed that Gary once placed her in a choke-hold. During his second marriage, Ridgway became highly religious and spent a lot of time reading the Bible, sometimes aloud and at work, and was sometimes moved to tears by church sermons. He would also go door to door for his Pentecostal church. In a rather sharp contrast to this, he often solicited sexual favors from prostitutes and had a near-insatiable sex drive, demanding sex from his girlfriends and wives several times a day. Shortly after Winslow left him, he was arrested for trying to choke a prostitute near an airport. In April of 1982, he was also arrested for soliciting an undercover officer posing as a prostitute. Around 1985, Ridgway began dating one Judith Mawson and married her in 1988. They were still married at the time of his final arrest and shared a loving, intimate relationship; he stated in an interview that he felt less of an urge to kill while they were together, which would explain why he killed so few women after they started dating. In 1998, Thomas Ridgway passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. Mary Ridgway died of cancer three years later.

Killings, Arrest and IncarcerationEdit

Green river

View of the Green River near where several victims were found.

Ridgway committed his first confirmed serial murders in the 1980s, most of them in 1982 and 1983. He was brought in for questioning as a person of interest when the first bodies were found and took a polygraph test twice, once in 1982 and once in 1986, passing both times, and was a suspect during the entire investigation. He came close to being arrested a few times; in 1985, a woman accused him of grabbing her in a choke-hold in 1982, and in 1983, a witness saw victim Marie M. Malvar get into his car. In October of 1984, Ted Bundy, who was on death row in Florida at the time, contacted the Green River Task Force and offered his personal insights on the case and the area. He was interviewed a few times, though nothing useful came of it besides more confessions of his own murders. 
Ridgway Victim Map

Maps denoting the locations of where Ridgway's victims were discovered.

The police learned from several prostitutes in the Green River Killer's usual area that they had seen him driving on that strip, which was the route he took to get to work. It was also noted that he had been reported as absent from work on every single occasion that a victim had disappeared. In 1987, the police searched his house and took samples of his hair and saliva. Because there wasn't enough evidence to make an arrest, he was released. Ridgway's involvement in the investigation led his coworkers to nickname him "Green River Gary". As the years went by, more remains of his victims were found; the most recent finding was on December 21, 2010. In 1991, the Green River Task Force was reduced to a single person, Tom Jensen. For a decade afterwards, the case remained completely dormant. During that time, Ridgway is only confirmed to have committed a single murder.
Ridgway Statement

Ridgway's court statement.

It wasn't until 2001 that the big break in the case finally came when the murders were re-investigated with a task force consisting of 30 people, including forensic and DNA experts. A DNA comparison of semen found on the victims' bodies and the samples taken from Ridgway in 1987 was made using more recent technology and came back a match. Ridgway was consequently arrested, charged with the murders of Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman, Carol Christensen and Cynthia Hinds; the first three were connected to him by DNA evidence and the fourth by circumstantial evidence. Three more charges, those of Wendy Coffield, Debra Bonner and Debra Estes, were added when the investigators found traces of a kind of spray paint Ridgway used at work on their remains. In 2003, Ridgway made a plea bargain with the prosecution, agreeing to make a full confession and help the authorities find the remains of his victims in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. In total, he was convicted of 49 murders. He confessed to a total of 71, though some estimate that he may have killed more than 90 women. At one point during the legal proceedings when the victims' families gave testimonies, Ridgway broke into tears and told them he was sorry. As part of his plea bargain, the investigators began driving him between dump sites, where he would direct them to bodies which hadn't previously been found. He is currently serving his sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington.

Modus OperandiEdit

"I would talk to her ... and get her mind off of the, uh, anything she was nervous about. And think, you know, she thinks, 'Oh, this guy cares,' and which I, I didn't. I just want to, uh, get her in the vehicle and eventually kill her."

Ridgway's victims were prostitutes, vagrants or women he thought they were so. He would pick them up, take them somewhere secluded, have sex with them, often from behind in order to get the drop on them, and then kill them by strangling them, usually with his arm, though he later started using various ligatures such as rope, fishing line, belts, extension cords, socks, or even T-shirts when he realized that the victims could potentially leave conspicuous defensive injuries on him. Some were killed in his home or in his truck. The bodies were then dumped in the wilderness, usually nude and sometimes posed. He had a habit of dumping them in "clusters" in different locations over a period of time, usually near some nearby landmark or in the water. He would return to the bodies to watch them decompose and change color and to engage in sexual acts with them. As a forensic counter-measure, he would scatter random trash around the crime scenes and carry some victims across the state line into Oregon to confuse the investigators.

Known VictimsEdit

Ridgway's Victims

Ridgway's identified victims.

Notes: Ridgway had confessed to a total of 71 murders, although authorities suspect he might be responsible for as many as over 90. A majority of the dates denote when the victims disappeared.

ConfirmedEdit

"I killed so many women I have a hard time keeping them straight."

  • Unspecified date in 1963: Unnamed six-year-old boy (attempted, but survived; was stabbed)
  • 1982:
    • July 8: Wendy Lee Coffield, 16 (her body was found a week later)
    • July 17: Gisele Ann Lovvorn, 17 (strangled with a men's sock; her body was found on September 25, 1982)
    • July 25: Debra Lynn Bonner, 23 (her body was found on August 12, 1982)
    • August 1: Marcia Fay Chapman, 31 (her body was found two weeks later)
    • August 11: Cynthia Jean Hinds, 17 (her body was found four days later)
    • August 12: Opal Charmaine Mills, 16 (strangled with a pair of blue pants; her body was found three days later)
    • August 29: Terry Rene Milligan, 17 (her body was found on April 1, 1984)
    • September 15: Mary Bridget Meehan, 18 (her body was found on November 13, 1983)
    • September 20: Debra Lorraine Estes, 15 (her body was found on May 30, 1988)
    • September 26: Linda Jane Rule, 16 (her body was found on January 31, 1983)
    • October 8: Denise Darcel Bush, 23 (her body was found on June 12, 1985)
    • October 9: Shawnda Leea Summers, 16 (her body was found on August 11, 1983)
    • October 20-22: Shirley Marie Sherrill, 18 (her body was found on June 1985)
    • December 3: Rebecca Marrero, 20 (her body was found on December 21, 2010)
    • December 24:
      • Colleen Renee Brockman, 15 (her body was found on May 26, 1984)
      • Sandra Denise Major (her body was found on December 30, 1985)
  • 1983:
    • March 3: Alma Ann Smith, 18 (her body was found on April 2, 1984)
    • March 8-14: Delores LaVerne Williams, 17 (her body was found on March 31, 1984)
    • April 10: Gail Lynn Matthews, 23 (her body was found on September 18, 1983)
    • April 14: Andrea M. Childers, 19 (her body was found on October 11, 1989)
    • April 17:
      • Sandra Kay Gabbert, 17 (her body was found on April 1, 1984)
      • Kimi-Kai Pitsor, 16 (her body was found on December 15, 1983)
    • April 30: Marie M. Malvar, 18 (her body was found on September 26, 2003)
    • May 3: Carol Ann Christensen, 21 (strangled with a cord; her body was found five days later)
    • May 22: Martina Theresa Authorlee, 18 (her body was found on November 14, 1984)
    • May 23: Cheryl Lee Wims, 18 (her body was found on March 22, 1984)
    • May 31: Yvonne "Shelly" Antosh, 19 (her body was found on October 15, 1983)
    • May 31-June 13: Carrie Ann Rois, 15 (her body was found on March 10, 1985)
    • June 8: Constance Elizabeth Naon, 19 (her body was found on October 27, 1983)
    • July 18: Kelly Marie Ware, 22 (her body was found on October 29, 1983)
    • July 25: Tina Marie Thompson, 21 (her body was found on April 20, 1984)
    • August 18: April Dawn Buttram, 16 (her body was found on August 30, 2003)
    • September 5: Debbie May Abernathy, 26 (her body was found on March 31, 1984)
    • September 12: Tracy Ann Winston, 19 (her body was found on March 27, 1986)
    • September 28: Maureen Sue Feeney, 19 (her body was found on May 2, 1986)
    • October 11: Mary Sue Bello, 25 (her body was found on October 12, 1984)
    • October 26: Pammy Annette Avent, 15 (her body was found on August 26, 2003)
    • October 30: Delise Louise Plager, 22 (her body was found on February 14, 1984)
    • Late October-Early November: "Marisa" (pseudonym; attempted; she escaped)
    • November 1: Kimberly L. Nelson, 21 (her body was found on June 14, 1986)
    • December 23: Lisa Yates, 19 (her body was found on March 13, 1984)
  • 1984:
    • February 6: Mary Exzetta West, 16 (her body was found on September 5, 1985)
    • March 21: Cindy Anne Smith, 17 (her body was found on March 27, 1987)
  • October 17, 1986: Patricia Michelle Barczak, 19 (her body was found on February 1993)
  • February 7, 1987: Roberta Joseph Hayes, 21 (her body was found on September 11, 1991)
  • March 5, 1990: Marta Reeves, 36 (her body was found on September 20, 1990)
  • January 1998: Patricia Yellowrobe, 38 (her body was found on August 6, 1998)
  • Three additional unidentified women:
    • A white female who died prior to May 1983, aged 12-17 (her body was found on March 21, 1984)
    • A white female killed sometime between December 1980 and January 1984, aged 14-18 (her body was found on January 2, 1986)
    • A woman killed sometime between 1973 and 1993, aged 13-24 (her body was found on August 2003)

Possible/SuspectedEdit

The following victims were suspected by authorities to have been killed by Ridgway, but unconfirmed in the end due to an absence of reliable evidence

  • Unspecified date: Unnamed boy (unconfirmed; was drowned)
  • August 1979: Tammy Vincent, 17 (was stabbed and shot; her body was found on September 26, 1979)
  • 1982:
    • July 7: Amina Agisheff, 35 (her body was found on April 18, 1984)
    • August 28: Kase Ann Lee, 16 (alleged by Ridgway; her body was never found)
    • October 31: Kristi Lynn Vorak, 13 (her body was never found)
  • 1983:
    • June 9: Tammie Liles, 16 (her body was found on April 1985)
    • June 28: Keli Kay McGinness, 18 (alleged by Ridgway; her body was never found)
    • July: Angela Marie Girdner, 16 (her body was found on April 22, 1985)
    • August 12: Patricia Ann Leblanc, 15 (her body was never found)
    • October 20 (possible date of death): Patricia Osborn, 19 (her body was never found)
  • Unspecified date from 1982 to 1984 (estimated date of death): An unidentified black female victim, aged 18-27 (date of discovery unknown)
  • April 24, 1990: Darci Warde, 16 (her body was never found)
  • July 12, 1991: Cora McGuirk, 22 (her body was never found)
  • Note: Ridgway was also suspected of the 1987 murder of Rose Marie Kurran, who disappeared on August 26 and was later found dead five days later, but was recently ruled out.

On Criminal MindsEdit

Ridgway has been mentioned a few times on Criminal Minds. The first mention was in Unfinished Business when the team goes through a letter from the unsub which mentions several crime scene details, even what the victims were wearing, and Morgan remarks that Ridgway couldn't even remember where most of his victims were dumped, much less what they were wearing. He is mentioned again in The Perfect Storm as an example of serial killers who go from manual strangulation to ligature strangulation; Gideon also states Ridgway would take clothing or jewelry from his victims and give them to female coworkers, as seeing them wear the trophies sexually aroused him. In About Face, Rossi and Reid bring up Ridgway's habit of dumping his bodies in the water when they visit a pond in which a victim was dumped by being weighed down. They remark that Ridgway didn't weigh his victims down because he had no personal connection to any of them, leading them to realize that the unsub did so with his victim.

Ridgway was mentioned again in Catching Out when Hotch learns that the local investigators have nicknamed the unsub "The Highway 99 Killer" after the highway near which the victims were killed. He remarks that part of the reason why the Green River case took so long to solve was that the investigators focused their investigation on the Green River area because the first cluster of bodies was found there and ignored other possible areas. Ridgway was mentioned again in ...A Thousand Words as an example of serial killers who have children. Ridgway was mentioned again in The Silencer by Alex Blake, who had worked another serial killer case in Seattle and described Ridgway as a "saint" compared to the unsub. He was fleetingly mentioned in The Replicator when it turned out that the aforementioned serial killer was used as the basis for a copycat killer's first murder.

SourcesEdit

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