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Ridgway says his victims 'deserved better'

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

At a sentencing hearing Thursday attended by dozens of family members of young women murdered more than 20 years ago, Gary Leon Ridgway, the 54-year-old former Federal Way-area resident and confessed Green River Killer, finally cried.

After hearing testimony from the parents, siblings and children of his victims, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Jones sentenced Ridgway to 48 consecutive life sentences and a $480,000 fine. Ridgway is ineligible for parole.

Twenty-six families attended the hearing, with 33 family members addressing the court. Some condemned Ridgway to hell, saying they would suffer pain, loss and anger for the rest of their lives. Others told Ridgway they had forgiven him.

“It was really an opportunity for victims’ families to address the court,” said Dan Donohoe, spoksman for the King County prosecuting attorney.

When the families were finished, Ridgway read his own statement, sniffling and wiping tears from his eyes. He apologized for the “scare (he) put in the community” and expressed remorse at the pain he caused, saying the young women “deserved better” than to die at his hands.

The hearing lasted about four hours, with Jones handing down a sentence about 10 minutes after noon. Before he did, he told Ridgway to stand and face the families and friends of the women whose lives he considered worthless and whom he referred to as objects and garbage.

Ridgway was arrested in November 2001 after DNA and circumstantial evidence linked him to four of the Green River victims whose bodies were found in the early 1980s. In April 2002, Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng announced he would seek the death penalty against Ridgway.

In March 2003, microscopic paint spheres connected Ridgway to three more victims, and Maleng amended the charges to seven counts of aggravated murder.

The next month, Ridgway’s defense team offered to work with the prosecutor’s office and detectives to assist them in locating the remains of several missing women believed to be victims of the Green River Killer, but wanted Maleng not to seek the death penalty.

In June, Maleng agreed, saying the benefit to the families to know the truth outweighed seeking capital punishment against Ridgway.

Now that Ridgway has been convicted and sentenced, he’ll be transferred into the custody of the state Department of Corrections, which will assign him to a state prison.

The Green River Task Force, formed 20 years ago to investigate the serial murders, will dissolve and task force members will return to the Sheriff Department’s detective pool over the next four to six months, department spokesman John Urquhart said.

Some detectives will tie up a few loose ends and investigate some still-unsolved cases, while also preparing documents for public disclosure requests.

And while some detectives aren’t convinced Ridgway took them to every site he knew of, they’re no longer interviewing Ridgway on a daily basis.

“If he wants to talk to us, the door is open,” Urquhart said, but Ridgway’s back in the county jail and detectives don’t intend to interview him anymore.

“It’s over,” Urquhart said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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