saying is we have not caught the Green River killer.
What we're saying is we've arrested a suspect in the deaths of 4 women who happen to be on the list of Green River victims.
We don't know who killed those other 45 women. Period. We just don't know." -- John Urquhart King County Sheriff spokesman
Homicide has no statute of limitations, there are many cases back in property rooms where the case has been closed and not reopened, said John Turner with the Washington state attorney generals office. Yet technology today really encourages us as we encourage other agencies to take a re-look at those cases.
2 of 4 women Ridgway is accused of killing were missing items of jewelry when their bodies were found. If DNA from a ring or a necklace found in Ridgway's residences or vehicles were to match a victim's, the coincidence would be hard to explain to a jury.
Why wasn't it a priority?
Ridgway was suspect for years -- Investigators feared that if they tried Ridgway without enough evidence he could be acquitted, he would then be free under double jeopardy laws. So they waited. Evidence including semen samples, was circumstantial. Semen samples were only used to determine blood types. Test results could only narrow down to one in millions, not identify a specific individual. Ridgway was arrested for soliciting a prostitute just a couple weeks prior to his arrest for serial killing.
Ridgway never fit the FBI profile, but he was considered among prime suspects in the killings, he was cleared in 1985 after passing a lie detector test. When his file was reopened the next year, it was dropped by the FBI after Ridgway's lawyer complained.
An unacceptable amount of time elapsed between when the DNA testing technology used became widely available and when the county decided to use it to solve this investigation. Dispatching evidence to a private lab, as other counties do, "just wasn't on our radar" until the state crime lab received a federal grant to reinvestigate old cases. DNA testing exonerates the falsely accused and makes an almost indestructible case against the guilty. Perhaps it should have been in their radar.
Attributing this time lapse to a heavy caseload at the under funded state crime lab and that in the weight of solving current crimes and handling court cases, these unsolved crimes of almost two decades were not a top priority.
Aside from the DNA evidence Ridgway was been a prime suspect for years. There were eye witness accounts of his truck and the surviving victim. Ridgway was not at work at the time 27 Green River victims disappeared, including the 4 he is charged with killing. Law enforcement has known this since 1984.
Capt. Bruce Kalin, a member of the original Green River Task Force from 1984 to 1987, will command the team of 14 officials working full time to investigate more than 90 women missing or dead, including 45 Green River cases and 40 women in the Puget Sound region. Reichert said the team will look at ties Ridgway has to 45 murders attributed to the Green River killer.
"This has always been a quest for fact and truth," Kalin said. "We don't want to put ourselves in an adversarial position with anyone."
``Our first order of business will be to continue our investigation of the Ridgway case,'' Kalin said in a press release. ``But we will also begin to reexamine the deaths of the other women on the Green River list, as well as numerous others.'' Kalin has been a King County cop since 1977, promoted to captain in 1999. "Obviously, I feel a sense of responsibility to not only the former commanders, but to the surviving friends and family of the victims. .. This has always been a quest for fact and truth," Kalin said. The defense is free to make comments," Kalin said. "If we did the same thing, we would be considered prejudicial, or that would damage his right to a fair trial. We don't want to do that."
Detectives are interested in information that might clear a suspect, he said.
Early next year, the 14 detectives and others working on the Green River investigation will move from their current small space at the Regional Justice Center in Kent to a new location, not yet selected, to be closer to the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle.
Over a decade of police reports fill binders in bookshelves from floor to ceiling. The Prosecutor's Office is seeking bids to scan the documents onto compact discs. With advances in computer technology, the organized information could help determine if the Green River killings ended in 1984. "I don't know the answer to that question," Kalin said. "That's one of the things we will be looking at."
Sheriff Dave Reichert has put together a team to investigate the cases. Members of the team include:
The New Search for Evidence - Now we can focus on a single person. At the time, there were many suspects. "There were always people coming up," Matthews said. "We had to work on each one." A thorough search of 4 residences from Ridgway's parents home to his current residence, and 3 vehicles, provided boxes of evidence that needs to be analyzed but no obvious "smoking guns."
The Body Count of Possible Victims Grows - 151 cases statewide share at least one factor with the Green River killings from body locations to lifestyle according to Homicide Information Tips Systems.
Green River Killer or Not? - Police believed the Green River killings stopped in 1984, but unsolved cases in the early 1990s have led some to cast doubt on that timing.
The Signature of a Serial Killer - A killer's signature, consists of actions above and beyond the modus operandi. A killer may arrange, pose or degrade the body after death for his own gratification and fantasies.
The Early Investigation - FBI profilers deducted the killer was "a white man 30 - 40s who had issues with women and was familiar with the woods of the Pacific Northwest." A task force produced the above profile, composite drawings which "could" be the killer with a tip he drove a primer splotched pickup truck.
Law Enforcement's History with Ridgway - In 1980, he was accused of choking a prostitute. The woman escaped and called police from a nearby house. Ridgway claimed she bit him. The police let him go.
Ex-wife Helps Detectives - In 1987, Ridgway's former wife, Marcia, provided information that he liked to search out places where people had dumped things to scavenge for old auto parts. She said he liked to have sex with her in these places. At one time she sought a protection order against him.
The Falsely Accused - "My refusal to bow, now they know why."
The Medical Examiner with foresight - Knowing technology would advance, examiner instituted procedures to retain evidence samples indefinitely.
Task Force Challenges - "People around the case felt it was solvable. In this case, the science had to catch up." Jim Montgomery former King County sheriff.
The Arrest - Arrested at work on 11-30-01 at 3:00 PM
In the Courts - The Prosecution and Defense - Ridgway, remains jailed without bail, was calm though "clearly stressed" when he met with a team of three court-appointed lawyers to discuss his situation.
Investigation, DNA and Trial Expenses - The $15 million dollars spent since 1982 investigating 49 Green River killer related deaths was just the beginning of what will be a costly case to prosecute.
Timeline of key dates in the life of Gary Ridgway, with a map of his homes since childhood.
A Public Call To Help! - Authorities are asking for the public's help with any more information about Ridgway and his activities for the past 19 years. Anyone who knows anything about him or these crimes, or any crimes that involve him, should call the King County Sheriff's Office at 206-296-7530.
Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006