News

Green River search turns up animal bones

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Search and rescue volunteers spent the Oct. 5 weekend searching an area near the Green River in Kent for remains of women possibly murdered by the Green River Killer, but all they found were animal bones.

About 75 search and rescue volunteers combed the area, carefully looking for any signs of human remains in the growth at the search site, located in north Kent about a mile from where victim Wendy Lee Coffield, 16, was found in July 1982 and less than two miles from where Marcia Chapman, 31, Opal Mills, 16, and Cynthia Hinds, 17, were found in August 1982.

Federal Way-area resident Gary Leon Ridgway, 53, was charged last December with aggravated murder in the deaths of Chapman, Hinds, Mills and Carol Ann Christensen, 21, whose body was found near Maple Valley in May 1983.

Ridgway is in his 11th month at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle, where he is being held without bail. A status hearing in his case is scheduled for this Friday.

King County medical examiner investigators determined the bone fragments that volunteers found belonged to animals.

Det. Kathleen Larson, spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff’s Office Green River Task Force, said the they decided to search the section of woods off Frager Road near the Green River after a review of the 20-year serial murder investigation revealed the area had never been searched.

The search was not based on new information, she said.

Rather, a review of the old investigation led task force members to go back and take a look at the area because of its proximity to where victims’ bodies were found and because the landscape matches the type in which the Green River Killer dumped the victims.

“We decided that particular area had never been searched,” Larson said. “Rather than have questions unanswered, we wanted to be proactive and answer those questions.”

Mills, Hinds and Chapman were found in the 25000 block of Frager Road South. Hinds and Chapman were discovered underwater in the Green River by a man who was rafting down the river. Police found Mills on the riverbank while they were processing the scene.

Christensen was found in the underbrush on Southeast 242nd Street and 248th Avenue Southeast near Maple Valley in May 1983. Her body was left with different marks and symbolism not seen on the other victims. She was found with a paper bag covering her head, two dead fish on her upper torso, a wine bottle on her stomach and a mound of sausage on her hands, according to papers charging Ridgway with her murder.

DNA evidence links Ridgway to Mills, Christensen and Chapman and circumstantial evidence links him to Hinds, according to charging papers.

Larson said the task force doesn’t have another search scheduled. Future searches will be based on need as the team continues going through the review process.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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