News

Three more GR Killer victims tied to Ridgway

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng filed three additional murder charges against Gary Leon Ridgway, 54, in connection with the Green River murders in the early 1980s, saying microscopic bits of paint link Ridgway to the murdered girls.

In the charges filed March 27, Maleng accused Ridgway of killing Wendy Lee Coffield, 16, the first Green River victim, Debra Bonner, 23, and Debra Estes, 15, whose body was discovered in May 1988 in Federal Way.

In previous murder charges, Ridgway was accused of killing Marcia Chapman, 31, Cynthia Hinds, 17, Opal Mills, 16, and Carol Ann Christiansen, 21.

The bodies of Coffield, Bonner, Chapman, Hinds and Mills were found in or near the Green River in August 1982. Christiansen’s remains were found in a wooded area in Maple Valley in May 1983.

Since the murders, detectives sent several pieces of evidence to a forensic lab called Microtrace that specializes in analysis of trace evidence with technology that wasn’t available 20 years ago.

Last month, Microtrace told the King County Prosecutor’s Office that tiny paint spheres were found on the jeans used to strangle Coffield, jeans and a purple shirt found on the riverbank near Hinds and Chapman, and on the black knit sweater Estes was wearing the night she disappeared and which was found buried with her remains, according to charging papers.

When sprayed, paint takes the form of tiny spheres and can become embedded in the fibers of clothing, according to charging papers. Those dried spheres can be transferred elsewhere by movement.

“They’re so microscopic, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t see it,” said Det. Kathleen Larson, spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff’s Office Green River Task Force.

During the early 1980s, Ridgway worked in the paint shop at the Kenworth Truck Company in Renton, where he used a “highly specialized, high-end coating” by DuPont called Imron to spraypaint the cabs of the trucks, according to charging papers.

According to Microtrace labs’ analysis, the paint found in the clothing on or near the murder victims had the same chemical composition as the DuPont Imron used at the Kenworth plant in 1982.

Ridgway, who was arraigned on the new charges last Wednesday, remains in custody at the King County Jail. His trial is scheduled for March 16, 2004.

Last year, Maleng filed a notice of his intent to seek the death penalty if Ridgway is convicted.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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