Gary Ridgway

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Gary Ridgway

1982 mugshot of Gary Ridgway
Background information
Birth nameGary Leon Ridgway
Also known asGreen River Gary
The Green River Killer
The Riverman
Born(1949-02-18) February 18, 1949 (age 63)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
SentenceLife imprisonment without parole
Number of victimsConvicted of 48, confessed to at least 71, presumed to be 90+
CountryUnited States
Date apprehendedNovember 30, 2001
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Gary Ridgway

1982 mugshot of Gary Ridgway
Background information
Birth nameGary Leon Ridgway
Also known asGreen River Gary
The Green River Killer
The Riverman
Born(1949-02-18) February 18, 1949 (age 63)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
SentenceLife imprisonment without parole
Number of victimsConvicted of 48, confessed to at least 71, presumed to be 90+
CountryUnited States
Date apprehendedNovember 30, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway (born February 18, 1949) is an American serial killer known as the Green River Killer, convicted of 49 separate murders and confessed to nearly double that number. He murdered numerous women and girls, most of whom were also alleged prostitutes, in Washington during the 1980s and 1990s, earning his nickname when the first five victims were found in the Green River.[1] He strangled them, usually with his arm but sometimes using ligatures. After strangling the women, he would dump their bodies throughout forested and overgrown areas in King County, often returning to the dead bodies to have sexual intercourse with them.[2]

On November 30, 2001, as he was leaving the Renton, Washington Kenworth Truck factory where he worked, he was arrested for the murders of four women whose cases were linked to him through DNA evidence.[2] As part of a plea bargain wherein he agreed to disclose the whereabouts of still-missing women, he was spared the death penalty and received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.


Early life

Ridgway was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Mary Rita Steinman and Thomas Newton Ridgway.[3] He has two brothers, Gregory Leon and Thomas Edward.

Ridgway's homelife was somewhat troubled; relatives have described his mother as domineering and have said that young Ridgway witnessed more than one violent argument between his parents.[4] As a boy, Ridgway had a habit of wetting the bed. His mother would often be the one to discover the accidents and would bathe him immediately. She would also belittle and embarrass him in front of his family. From a young age, Ridgway had conflicting feelings of sexual attraction and anger toward her.[5]

As a young child, Ridgway was tested with an I.Q. of 82, signifying low intelligence, and his academic performance in school was so poor that at one point in high school he had to repeat a year in order to pass. His classmates at Tyee High School describe him as congenial but largely forgettable. His teenage years, however, were troubled; when he was 16, he stabbed a six-year-old boy, who survived the attack. He had led the boy into the woods and then stabbed him through the ribs into his liver.[3] According to the victim and Ridgway himself, Ridgway walked away laughing and saying, "I always wondered what it would be like to kill someone."

Adult life

At age 20, after graduating from high school, Ridgway married his high school girlfriend Claudia Barrows. He joined the Navy[3] and was sent to Vietnam, where he served on board a supply ship[6] and saw combat.[4] During his time in the military, Ridgway began spending a lot of time with prostitutes and contracted gonorrhea. This angered him, but he continued to have unprotected sex with prostitutes. Meanwhile, his wife Claudia, alone and 19 years old, had an extramarital affair, and the marriage quickly ended within a year.[3]

When questioned about Ridgway after his arrest, friends and family described him as friendly but strange. His first two marriages resulted in divorce because of infidelities by both partners. His second wife, Marcia Winslow, claimed that he had placed her in a chokehold.[4] Ridgway had become religious during his second marriage, proselytizing door-to-door, reading the Bible aloud at work and at home, and insisting that Marcia follow the strict teachings of their church pastor.[3] Ridgway would also frequently cry after sermons or reading the Bible.[7] Ridgway continued to solicit the services of prostitutes during this marriage; he also wanted Marcia to participate in sex in public and inappropriate places, sometimes even in areas where his victims' bodies were later discovered.[3]

According to women in his life, Ridgway had an insatiable sexual appetite. His three ex-wives and several old girlfriends reported that Ridgway demanded sex from them several times a day.[7] Often, he would want to have sex in a public area or in the woods.[3] Ridgway, himself admitted to having a fixation with prostitutes,[8] with whom he had a love–hate relationship. He frequently complained about their presence in his neighborhood, but he also took advantage of their services regularly. It has been speculated that Ridgway was torn between his uncontrollable lusts and his staunch religious beliefs.[7]

In 1975, his second wife gave birth to Ridgway's son, Matthew.[9]


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ridgway is believed to have murdered at least 71 women (according to Ridgway, in an interview with Sheriff Reichert 2001) near Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. His court statements later reported that he had killed so many, he lost count. A majority of the murders occurred between 1982 and 1984. The victims were believed to be either prostitutes or runaways picked up along Pacific Highway South (International Blvd. 99), whom he strangled. Most of their bodies were dumped in wooded areas around the Green River, except for two confirmed and another two suspected victims found in the Portland, Oregon area. The bodies were often left in clusters, sometimes posed, usually nude. He would sometimes return to the victims' bodies and have intercourse with them (an act of necrophilia). Because most of the bodies were not discovered until only the skeletons remained, three victims are still unidentified. Ridgway occasionally contaminated the dump sites with gum, cigarettes, and written materials belonging to others, and he even transported a few victims' remains across state lines into Oregon to confuse the police.

Ridgway began each murder by picking up a woman, usually a prostitute. He sometimes showed the woman a picture of his son, to help her trust him. After having sex with her, Ridgway strangled her from behind. He initially strangled them manually. However, many victims inflicted wounds and bruises on his arm while trying to defend themselves. Concerned these wounds and bruises would draw attention, Ridgway began using ligatures to strangle his victims. Most victims were killed in his home, his truck, or a secluded area.[2]

In the early 1980s, the King County Sheriff's Office formed the Green River Task Force to investigate the murders. The most notable members of the task force were Robert Keppel and Dave Reichert, who periodically interviewed incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy from 1984. Their interviews with Bundy were of little help in the Green River investigations but elicited confessions from Bundy on unsolved cases. Also contributing was John E. Douglas, who has since written much on the subject of the Green River Killer.

Ridgway was arrested in 1982 and 2001 on charges related to prostitution. He became a suspect in 1983 in the Green River killings. In 1984, Ridgway took and passed a polygraph test, and on April 7, 1987, police took hair and saliva samples from Ridgway.

Around 1985, Ridgway began dating Judith Mawson, who became his third wife in 1988. Mawson claimed in a 2010 television interview that when she moved into his house while they were dating, there was no carpet. Detectives later told her he had probably wrapped a body in the carpet.[10] In the same interview, she described how he would leave for work early in the morning some days, ostensibly for the overtime pay. Mawson speculated that he must have committed some of the murders while supposedly working these early morning shifts. She claimed that she had not suspected Ridgway's crimes before she was contacted by authorities in 1987, and in fact had not even heard of the Green River Killer before that time because she didn't watch the news.[10]

Author Pennie Morehead interviewed Ridgway in prison and she said while he was in the relationship with Mawson his kill rate went down, and that he truly loved her.[10] Mawson told a local television reporter, "I feel I have saved lives ... by being his wife and making him happy."[11]

The samples collected in 1987 were later subjected to a DNA analysis, providing the evidence for his arrest warrant. On November 30, 2001, Ridgway was at the Kenworth Truck factory, where he worked as a spray painter, when police arrived to arrest him. Ridgway was arrested on suspicion of murdering four women nearly 20 years after first being identified as a potential suspect, when DNA evidence conclusively linked semen left in the victims to the saliva swab taken by the police. The four victims named in the original indictment were Marcia Chapman, Opal Mills, Cynthia Hinds, and Carol Ann Christensen. Three more victims—Wendy Coffield, Debra Bonner, and Debra Estes—were added to the indictment after a forensic scientist identified microscopic spray paint spheres as a specific brand and composition of paint used at the Kenworth factory during the specific time frame when these victims were killed.[10]

Plea bargain, confessions, sentencing

Early in August 2003, Seattle television news reported that Ridgway had been moved from a maximum security cell at King County Jail to an undisclosed location. Other news reports stated that his lawyers, led by Anthony Savage, were closing a plea bargain that would spare him the death penalty in return for his confession to a number of the Green River murders.

On November 5, 2003, Ridgway entered a guilty plea to 48 charges of aggravated first degree murder as part of a plea bargain, agreed to in June, that would spare him execution in exchange for his cooperation in locating the remains of his victims and providing other details. In his statement accompanying his guilty plea, Ridgway explained that all of his victims had been killed inside King County, Washington, and that he had transported and dumped the remains of the two women near Portland to confuse the police.

Deputy prosecutor Jeffrey Baird noted in court that the deal contained "the names of 41 victims who would not be the subject of State v. Ridgway if it were not for the plea agreement." King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng explained his decision to make the deal:

We could have gone forward with seven counts, but that is all we could have ever hoped to solve. At the end of that trial, whatever the outcome, there would have been lingering doubts about the rest of these crimes. This agreement was the avenue to the truth. And in the end, the search for the truth is still why we have a criminal justice system ... Gary Ridgway does not deserve our mercy. He does not deserve to live. The mercy provided by today's resolution is directed not at Ridgway, but toward the families who have suffered so much ...[12]

On December 18, 2003, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Jones sentenced Ridgway to 48 life sentences with no possibility of parole and one life sentence, to be served consecutively. He was also sentenced to an additional 10 years for tampering with evidence for each of the 48 victims, adding 480 years to his 48 life sentences.

Ridgway led prosecutors to three bodies in 2003. On August 16 of that year, the remains of a 16-year-old female found near Enumclaw, Washington, 40 feet from State Route 410, were pronounced as belonging to Pammy Annette Avent, who had been believed to be a victim of the Green River Killer. The remains of Marie Malvar and April Buttram were found in September. On November 23, 2005, The Associated Press reported that a weekend hiker found the skull of one of the 48 women Ridgway admitted murdering in his 2003 plea bargain with King County prosecutors. The skull of Tracy Winston, who was 19 when she disappeared from Northgate Mall on September 12, 1983, was found by a man hiking in a wooded area near Highway 18 near Issaquah, southeast of Seattle.

Ridgway confessed to more confirmed murders than any other American serial killer. Over a period of five months of police and prosecutor interviews, he confessed to 48 murders—42 of which were on the police's list of probable Green River Killer victims.[13] On February 9, 2004, county prosecutors began to release the videotape records of Ridgway's confessions. In one taped interview, he told investigators initially that he was responsible for the deaths of 65 women, but in another taped interview with Reichert on December 31, 2003, Ridgway claimed to have murdered 71 victims and confessed to having had sex with them prior to killing them, a detail which he did not reveal until after his sentencing.[14] In his confession, he acknowledged that he targeted prostitutes because they were "easy to pick up" and that he "hated most of them."[15] He also confessed that he had sex with his victims' bodies after he murdered them, but claimed he began burying the later victims so that he could resist the urge to commit necrophilia.[16]

Ridgway talked to and tried to make his victims comfortable before he committed the murders. In his own words, "I would talk to her... and get her mind off of the, sex, anything she was nervous about. And think, you know, she thinks, 'Oh, this guy cares'... which I didn't. I just want to, uh, get her in the vehicle and eventually kill her."[14]

Later in a statement Ridgway said that murdering young women was his "career".[17]

Ridgway is incarcerated at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington.


Before Ridgway's confession, authorities had attributed 49 murders to the Green River Killer.[18] As mentioned above, Ridgway confessed to murdering at least 71 victims.


At the time of his December 18, 2003 sentencing, authorities had been able to find at least 48 sets of remains, including victims not originally attributed to the Green River Killer. Ridgway was sentenced for the deaths of each of these 48 victims, with a plea agreement that he would "plead guilty to any and all future cases (in King County) where his confession could be corroborated by reliable evidence."[19]

1Wendy Lee Coffield16July 8, 1982July 15, 1982
2Gisele Ann Lovvorn17July 17, 1982September 25, 1982
3Debra Lynn Bonner23July 25, 1982August 12, 1982
4Marcia Fay Chapman31August 1, 1982August 15, 1982
5Cynthia Jean Hinds17August 11, 1982August 15, 1982
6Opal Charmaine Mills16August 12, 1982August 15, 1982
7Terry Rene Milligan16August 29, 1982April 1, 1984
8Mary Bridget Meehan18September 15, 1982November 13, 1983
9Debra Lorraine Estes15September 20, 1982May 30, 1988
10Linda Jane Rule16September 26, 1982January 31, 1983
11Denise Darcel Bush23October 8, 1982June 12, 1985
12Shawnda Leea Summers16October 9, 1982August 11, 1983
13Shirley Marie Sherrill18October 20–22, 1982June 1985
14Rebecca "Becky" Marrero20December 3, 1982December 21, 2010
15Colleen Renee Brockman15December 24, 1982May 26, 1984
16Alma Ann Smith18March 3, 1983April 2, 1984
17Delores LaVerne Williams17March 8–14, 1983March 31, 1984
18Gail Lynn Mathews23April 10, 1983September 18, 1983
19Andrea M. Childers19April 14, 1983October 11, 1989
20Sandra Kay Gabbert17April 17, 1983April 1, 1984
21Kimi-Kai Pitsor16April 17, 1983December 15, 1983
22Marie M. Malvar18April 30, 1983September 26, 2003
23Carol Ann Christensen21May 3, 1983May 8, 1983
24Martina Theresa Authorlee18May 22, 1983November 14, 1984
25Cheryl Lee Wims18May 23, 1983March 22, 1984
26Yvonne "Shelly" Antosh19May 31, 1983October 15, 1983
27Carrie Ann Rois15May 31 – June 13, 1983March 10, 1985
28Constance Elizabeth Naon19June 8, 1983October 27, 1983
29Kelly Marie Ware22July 18, 1983October 29, 1983
30Tina Marie Thompson21July 25, 1983April 20, 1984
31April Dawn Buttram16August 18, 1983August 30, 2003
32Debbie May Abernathy26September 5, 1983March 31, 1984
33Tracy Ann Winston19September 12, 1983March 27, 1986
34Maureen Sue Feeney19September 28, 1983May 2, 1986
35Mary Sue Bello25October 11, 1983October 12, 1984
36Pammy Annette Avent15October 26, 1983August 16, 2003
37Delise Louise Plager22October 30, 1983February 14, 1984
38Kimberly L. Nelson21November 1, 1983June 14, 1986
39Lisa Yates19December 23, 1983March 13, 1984
40Mary Exzetta West16February 6, 1984September 8, 1985
41Cindy Anne Smith17March 21, 1984June 27, 1987
42Patricia Michelle Barczak19October 17, 1986February 1993
43Roberta Joseph Hayes21Last seen leaving a Portland, Oregon jail on February 7, 1987September 11, 1991
44Marta Reeves36March 5, 1990September 20, 1990
45Patricia Yellowrobe38January 1998August 6, 1998
46Unidentified White Female12–17Died prior to May 1983March 21, 1984
47Sandra Denise Major20December 24, 1982December 30, 1985
48Unidentified White Female14–18December 1980 – January 1984January 2, 1986
49Unidentified Female13–241973–1993August 2003

Task force victims list

Ridgway is suspected of—but not charged with—murdering the remaining six victims of the original list attributed to the Green River Killer.[18] In each case, either Ridgway did not confess to the victim's death, or authorities have not been able to corroborate their suspicion with reliable evidence.

Amina Agisheff35July 7, 1982April 18, 1984
Kasee Ann Lee (Woods)16August 28, 1982not yet found
Tammie Liles16June 9, 1983April 1985
Keli Kay McGinness18June 28, 1983not yet found
Angela Marie Girdner16July 1983April 22, 1985
Patricia Osborn19?October 20, 1983?not yet found


Ridgway has been considered a suspect in the disappearances/murders of five other women not attributed at the time to the Green River Killer. No charges have been filed.

Kristi Lynn Vorak13October 31, 1982not yet found
Patricia Ann Leblanc15August 12, 1983not yet found
Rose Marie Kurran[28]16August 26, 1987August 31, 1987
Darci Warde16April 24, 1990not yet found
Cora McGuirk22July 12, 1991not yet found

Popular culture

Many non-fiction books and novels have been written about the Green River murders and Gary Ridgway himself. Examples include:

Other notable mentions of Ridgway in popular media include:


  1. ^ Haglund, WD; Reichert, DG; Reay, DT (1990). "Recovery of decomposed and skeletal human remains in the "Green River Murder" Investigation. Implications for medical examiner/coroner and police". The American journal of forensic medicine and pathology : official publication of the National Association of Medical Examiners 11 (1): 35–43. PMID 2305751. edit
  2. ^ a b c Prothero, Mark; Carlton Smith (2006). Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-7879-9548-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Montaldo, Charles (2011-02-14). "Gary Ridgway: The Green River Killer". Retrieved 2011-07-01.
  4. ^ a b c McCarthy, Terry; Thornburgh, Nathan (3 June 2002). "River Of Death". Time.,9171,1002555,00.html#ixzz21E1TjGvD. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  5. ^ Guillen, Tomas. Serial Killers: Issues Explored Through the Green River Murders. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007, p. 130.
  6. ^ Prothero, Mark (2006). Defending Gary, p. 117. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. ISBN 0-7879-8106-0
  7. ^ a b c Bell, Rachael. "Green River Killer: River of Death". Turner Entertainment Networks. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
  8. ^ Keppel, Robert; Birnes, William J.; Rule, Ann (2004). The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7434-6395-1.
  9. ^ Ko, Michael (23 December 2003). "Local News | Ridgway gave no hint he was a killer, son said". The Seattle Times ( Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  10. ^ a b c d "Married to a Monster". Who the (BLEEP) Did I Marry?. episode 9. season 1. 2010-10-13. Investigation Discovery.
  11. ^ "Wife of Nation's Worst Serial Killer Shares Her Story". KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  12. ^ Maleng, Norm (2003-11-05). "Statement of Norm Maleng on Ridgway Plea". Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  13. ^ "Anitra Mulwee". Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  14. ^ a b Cold Case Files Episode 56: "Obsession: Dave Reichert and the Green River Killer", A&E, original airdate: 15 December 2005.
  15. ^ Hickey, Eric (2010). Serial Murderers and Their Victims. p. 25.
  16. ^ "Ridgway Reveals Gruesome Details In Chilling Confession". KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  17. ^ "Green River Killer". Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  18. ^ a b c Green River victims' list may grow by six
  19. ^ a b Javier, Liza. "Remains found in Auburn, Wash. possible Green River victim",, 23 December 2010.
  20. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (February 7, 2011). "Attorney: Ridgway will likely plead guilty to new murder charge". Seattle Times. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  21. ^ Castro, Hector. "Skull of Woman Killed by Ridgway Found but It Turned Up Miles from the Rest of Her Remains", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 23 November 2005, p. B1. LexisNexis. accessed 10 August 2010.
  22. ^ "Victim of Green River killer identified 30 years later after relative sees TV movie". Fox News. June 19, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  23. ^ "Like minds: Bundy figured Ridgway out". The News Tribune. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  24. ^ Parrish, Linda W. Y. (11 April 1990). "Cleaning Up Sea-Tac Strip -- Officials Target Prostitution, Dance Clubs". Seattle Times. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  25. ^ Guillen, T. (2007). Serial Killers: Issues Explored Through the Green River Murders. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson. p. 145.
  26. ^ a b "Police identify remains, look for link to 'Green River Killer'". CNN. December 16, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  27. ^ Prothero, M.; Smith, C. (2006). Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer. Hoboken, New Jersey: Jossey-Bass. p. 376.
  28. ^ Guillen, Tomas; Smith, Carlton (6 November 2003). "Could killer strike again? Probably yes — despite 46 murders, little has changed". The Seattle Times.
  29. ^ "PLU’s Conti plays an old-school style". The News Tribune. 10 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  30. ^ Matos, Michaelangelo (14 October 2002). "Neko Case: Thrice All American". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  31. ^ Hansen, Phil. "48 Women".

External links