This week Investigation Discovery profiles Gary Ridgway, aka The Green River killer, who is one of America’s most prolific serial killers. His murderous rampage in Washington state spanned the and left up to 80 women and teenage girls dead.
It was not until 2001 that he was finally brought to justice and convicted of 49 murders. The judge sentenced Ridgway to 48 consecutive life terms.
Early in the 1980s, Ridgway had a couple of run-ins with the law, including an instance when a sex worker accused him of choking her. Police dropped the charges when he claimed the woman had bitten him. He was also arrested for solicitation.
Gary Ridgway first murdered in 1982
It’s thought he first turned his hand to murder in July 1982 when he encountered a 16-year-old girl who’d run away from her foster home, he killed her and dumped her remains in the Green River. Over the next two years, he raped and murdered over 40 women, most of whom were prostitutes or runaways.
He was less prolific after 1984, but investigators confirmed that the murders continued until at least 1998.
In most cases, Ridgway would pick up a prostitute in his truck, and after having sex with them, he would strangle them from behind. Initially, he strangled with his bare hands, but after many of his victims caused him injury while defending themselves, he switched to using ligatures.
Ridgway mostly dumped his victim’s remains in or around the Green River, hence the nickname of the Green River killer. He often left the bodies in clusters, and he often posed them, usually nude. He transported a few victims across the state line into Oregon, hoping to confuse investigators.
Gary Ridgway was a suspect from early on
In 1982 police formed a task force to deal with the mounting murders. Ridgway had been a suspect early on and was interviewed on numerous occasions by investigators, but there was always a lack of evidence against him. In 1984 he passed a polygraph test.
A few years later in 1987 police obtained a search warrant for his home, but unfortunately, the search revealed no clues. They took a DNA sample from him, but the technology was not sophisticated enough to match it with semen recovered from the victims.
However, technological advances moved forward and eventually caught up to Ridgway. Investigators matched his DNA to the crimes and he was arrested in 2001. He confessed to murdering up to 80 women claiming that he had lost count of the exact number. In 2003 he was finally convicted of murdering 49.
Other serial killers on ID
Follow the links to read about other serial killers profiled on Investigation Discovery. Bernard Eugene Giles went on a murderous rampage in the 1970s, Florida, where he raped and murdered five women. Then there’s the case of Robert Lee Yates, aka the Spokane Killer who killed at least thirteen people.
Watch The Green River Killer: Mind of a Monster at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.