Discuss the Green River Killings (Gary Ridgeway). When did Ridgway first come to the attention of the police? Why was in a suspect? Did they interview him? What information did he give them? Did the police ever give Ridgway a polygraph? What evidence linked Ridgway to the Green River killings? What was the plea agreement […]
In 1982, the police department in Salt Lake City, Utah, received a call claiming that there was a dead body floating in the Green River. Five more female corpses were found around the vicinity of the river, granting the case the title of the Green River Killings. The body count started mounting, prompting the police department to investigate the mass murder. Though suspicion soon landed on the killer, it took many years and technological advances before investigators could convict him and discover the full extent of his crimes.
In 1983, Gary Leon Ridgway came under suspicion after witnesses claimed to have seen a truck similar to his on the night a victim by the name of Marie Malvar disappeared. Ridgway was taken in for questioning, but his answers to the police were convincing, so they let him go (Murray, 2009). However, in 1984, he was arrested again while soliciting sex from a prostitute. The police department administered a polygraph, which he passed, prompting the police to release him again (Snow, 2014). However, Ridgway was still on the Green River Killings suspect list, and the team eventually served a search warrant on his home. The raid did not find anything of interest, and Ridgway was released for the third time due to lack of evidence. Critically, however, investigators took a saliva sample from Ridgway.
DNA technology was gaining traction at the time as a viable way of solving hard cases. Several months after the raid on Ridgway’s home, the task force took advantage of this technology and sent semen samples from some of the victims to a lab for analysis (Snow, 2014). The semen sample matched the saliva, and the task force knew they had found the Green River Killer (Snow, 2014). Although the prosecutor sought the death penalty, Ridgway’s lawyers negotiated with the prosecution to drop the death penalty on the condition that Ridgway would confess to the killings and aid investigators in locating the missing bodies. Ridgway admitted to committing 48 murders between the years 1982 and 1998. As a result, he received 48 life sentences for his crimes without any possibility of parole (Murray, 2009). Finally, almost 20 years after a young woman’s body was found floating in a river; the killer was convicted.
The killer exhibited certain signature behaviors that aided in creating a psychological profile. He targeted middle-aged women. Evidence of strangulation while engaged in sexual activities showed that the murderer gained gratification through performing sadomasochistic acts (Snow, 2014 ). His approach included picking up local prostitutes or vulnerable women, strangling them while ejaculating, and dumping their bodies in the vicinity of the Green River. Additionally, he would visit the corpses and have sexual relations with them until they were no longer functional. His strategy evolved with experience, as he started dumping the bodies further from his locale to confuse investigators; this made the FBI profiler conclude that there was more than one killer.
Ridgway used his home to murder most of his victims. He often gained their trust by showing them a picture of his son and taking them into his room. He also offered to become a regular customer and helped victims get food, jobs, and hired vehicles (Keppel, 2010). Ridgway’s actions derived from deep psychological issues he faced in his early years with his authoritative mother, and he chose victims who reminded him of his mother (Keppel, 2010). Ridgway avoided detection by continually changing his mode of operation, ranging from how he killed the victims to corpse distribution. He was only caught through technological advances in forensic science.
It took investigators years to prove that Ridgway was the Green River Killer. Psychological profiles and other evidence were not enough; it was not until DNA science advanced that they were able to catch Ridgway. The effort was long and intense, but with DNA, investigators were finally able to end the killer’s threat.
Keppel, R. D. (2010). The Riverman Ted Bundy and I hunt for the Green River Killer. New York: NY. Pocket Book.
Murray, W. (2009). Serial Killers. Eastbourne: ES. Canary Press.
Snow, R. L. (2014). Murder 101: Homicide and Its Investigation. Westport: CT. Praeger.
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Published On: 01-01-1970