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Ridgway on Ridgway

Mirror staff

Investigators’ discussions with Gary Ridgway revealed how the Green River Killer went about murdering 48 women.

Ridgway told police he spent considerable time choosing his victims and made sure no one saw the young women get into his truck. He chose prostitutes, he said, because he believed police wouldn’t try very hard to find them when they disappeared. Prostitutes also are more transient, and it sometimes took several days for friends or relatives to file missing-persons reports.

During his most active, prolific period of killing, he would sleep just a few hours a night, spending hours hunting for his victims, killing them and then disposing of the bodies, he said. He told police disposing of the bodies was a burden to him, and if he could have found a foolproof dump site, he would have killed a lot more.

Once he found a victim, Ridgway, who stands 5 feet 10 and weighs 155 pounds, curried their confidence by relying on his small stature. Other confidence-building tricks included showing them a wallet photo of his son or planting the boy’s toys in his truck. He offered victims rides, food and jobs, and said he’d become a regular customer if they’d get in the truck.

“He didn’t have to worry about keeping these promises,” according to court documents, “because, as he said, ‘They (victims) were already dead.’”

He said 50 women probably asked him if he was the Green River Killer and he always said no, though he admitted he sometimes told them he was going to kill them as he strangled them.

He told police he killed several of the women at his house, where they’d grown more comfortable after seeing his son’s bedroom.

Sometimes he’d kill his victims in the back of his canopied pickup truck or he’d take them to a remote, wooded area for the “date,” where’d he later kill them. He said he sometimes carried a spare tire in the front seat as an excuse for leaving the cab of the truck to continue the sexual encounter in the woods or in the back.

He told police that as they were finishing, Ridgway, positioned behind his victim, who was on her knees, would wrap his arm around her throat to strangle her. He said he’d wrap his legs around her to keep her from squirming away. Sometimes he’d stand on his victim’s throat, he said.

He said he’d tell them he’d let go if they’d stop struggling in order to get them to be still, which made them easier to kill. He told police he didn’t get any particular gratification from his victims trying to get away.

Ridgway never used a gun or knife because of the mess, but he also took pride in strangling his victims to death. He told police it was “more personal and more rewarding than to shoot (them).”

“Choking is what I did and I was pretty good at it,” he said.

He switched to using ligatures when some of his victims scratched him, he said.

When he killed at home, he would slide the woman’s body off the bed and drag her into the living room. He’d back his pickup to the front door and load her body into the truck to dispose of it.

During interviews with Ridgway, police learned that on several occasions, Ridgway returned to the dump sites to have sex with his victims’ corpses, at least until more advanced stages of decomposition set in. On one occasion, he visited the corpse of one of his victims while his son was asleep in the truck, he said.

He told police he had sex with the bodies out of convenience, because they were close to home and because it was free. “I didn’t have to pay for it. I killed her,” court documents quoted him. He eventually stopped having sex with the corpses because it became less satisfying.

Ridgway told police he felt the undiscovered bodies of his victims were his possessions and it bothered him when police would find them and take them. He said he viewed a victim as “a beautiful person that was my property ... my possession. It felt like they were taking something of mine that I put there.”

Ridgway came to the attention of the Des Moines Police in 1983, when Marie Malvar’s boyfriend told police he’d seen her get into the truck he’d later tracked down in Ridgway’s driveway.

Police interviewed Ridgway and let him go because there wasn’t enough evidence or probable cause to arrest him. Reichert said that in the early 1980s, police had as many as 15,000 suspects in the Green River case.

For years after his initial contact with police, Ridgway continued to elude investigators because his lifestyle didn’t bring attention to his activities.

He had no juvenile criminal history, and with the exception of some trouble from picking up prostitutes, which he never denied frequenting, his criminal record was clean.

He always had either a wife or a steady girlfriend. His wife said they had an excellent relationship, and he maintained a steady job at the Kenworth trucking company in Auburn for 30 years, authorities said.

Ridgway also capitalized on the attributes that made him appear non-threatening and harmless, which worked on police as well as his victims.

While he was a prolific killer, Ridgway never took souvenirs of his victims. On several searches of his home and cars, police came up emptyhanded. He passed a polygraph test in 1984, after he’d already been killing for years.

Ridgway told police the last murder he recalled committing was in 1998, but said he might have killed again in 2001; he told police he jcouldn’t — or didn’t want to — recall the details.

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