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Police eye U.S. suspect in B.C. killings

Kim Bolan and Chad Skelton
Calgary Herald

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

Investigators from Vancouver's missing women task force intend to go to Seattle this week to talk to police there about Gary Ridgway, the man expected to be charged today with four of the murders linked to the Green River killer.

RCMP Sgt. Wayne Clary said he expects two task force members will go to see what they can learn about Ridgway and any links he may have to British Columbia's Lower Mainland, where 45 women, most of whom worked in the sex trade in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, have disappeared since 1984. "We want to get the information as soon as we can, but I also don't want to tread all over them because I'm sure they are busy," he said. "So we will have to temper it with when they can help us."

Like the missing Vancouver women, as well as 44 unsolved murders in San Diego, Calif., the 49 victims of the Green River killer, who struck in Washington and Oregon between 1982 and 1984, were mostly prostitutes. Clary noted that it is difficult to know whether Ridgway could be a suspect in the Vancouver cases, or any of the 40 unsolved prostitute murders in British Columbia that date back 20 years.

"Obviously, if his horses are pulling the wagon for three or four murders, I mean, he is somebody who needs to be looked at," Clary said.

Before Clary's team actually investigates Ridgway's movements, it will see what police with the King County sheriff's office have on the 52-year-old married father who worked as a truck painter at Paccar's Kenworth plant. Canadian investigators also are prepared to compare Ridgway's DNA sample with anything collected here in similar crimes.

Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County sheriff's office, said Monday investigators still have not determined whether Ridgway has visited British Columbia.

"We are certainly going to be looking at investigating all of his movements since 1985," Urquhart said. "He travels in his motor home, he and his wife do, but we don't know where he goes at this point."

He said investigators there will focus on collecting evidence in the four murders being linked to Ridgway before trying to link him with other Green River cases, let alone cases outside King County. Detectives said DNA and other evidence linked Ridgway to the four victims, whose bodies were found in 1982 in or near the Green River in Kent.

King County police have been talking to Ridgway's current wife, Judith, and on Monday continued thorough searches of houses where he has lived over the past 20 years.

"We are really at the point now of searching these houses and taking out what might or might not be evidence," Urquhart said. "There is nothing flashy about that at all."

Ridgway will not appear in court this week to be formally charged in the murders of Marcia Fay Chapman, Cynthia Jean Hinds, Opal Mills and Carol Ann Christensen. Instead, the charges will be laid while he remains in King County jail. He will appear for his arraignment in about two weeks.

© Copyright 2001 Calgary Herald

www.canada.com/calgary 

Man charged with four Green River deaths

By The Associated Press

Thursday, December 6, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

SEATTLE (AP) - Authorities charged a 52-year-old truck company worker with murder yesterday in the deaths of four women blamed on the Green River serial killer.

Gary Leon Ridgway, who was arrested last week, was charged with four counts of aggravated murder after authorities said they had linked him to three of the victims with DNA evidence.

The victims were killed during the early 1980s.

King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said: "Justice is a concept that never gets old. For the victim, the loss is ultimate. For the family, the grief is permanent and for the community the harm and danger do not diminish for the passage of time," he said.

Maleng said he has not decided whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

Public defender Mark Prothero declined immediate comment on the charges.

The case has baffled investigators since 1982, when authorities began finding women’s bodies in or near the Green River, south of Seattle. Forty-nine women — most of them prostitutes or runaways — were believed to be victims of the Green River killer in Washington and Oregon. Sheriff Dave Reichert has proposed a regional task force to investigate all 49 deaths, plus more than 40 unsolved deaths of women in the region. The arrest has also prompted investigators in San Diego and Vancouver to review files on scores of slain women for possible links.

© Copyright2001 The Associated Press

www.ap.org 

Ridgeway charged in deaths of four women in Green River killings

Canadian Press

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

SEATTLE (AP) - Authorities charged a 52-year-old truck company worker with murder Wednesday in the deaths of four women blamed on the Green River serial killer. Gary Leon Ridgway, who was arrested last week, was charged with four counts of aggravated murder after authorities said they had linked him to three of the victims with DNA evidence.

The victims were killed in the early 1980s.

King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said: "Justice is a concept that never gets old."

"For the victim, the loss is ultimate. For the family, the grief is permanent and for the community the harm and danger do not diminish for the passage of time," he said.

Maleng said he has not decided whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

Public defender Mark Prothero declined immediate comment on the charges.

The case has baffled investigators since 1982, when authorities began finding women's bodies in or near the Green River, south of Seattle. Forty-nine women - most of them prostitutes or runaways - were believed to be victims of the Green River killer in Washington and Oregon.

Sheriff Dave Reichert has proposed a regional task force to investigate all 49 deaths, plus more than 40 unsolved deaths of women in the region. The arrest has also prompted investigators in San Diego and Vancouver to review files on scores of slain women for possible links.

Ridgway is accused of killing Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Cynthia Hinds, whose bodies were found in the river Aug. 15, 1982, and Carol Christensen, whose body was found May 8, 1983, in woods in nearby Maple Valley. Hinds and Mills were teenagers. Christensen was 21 and Chapman was 31.

Ridgway was identified as a suspect in 1984 and questioned after witnesses identified his pickup truck and said he had been seen with two of the victims, court documents showed.

In 1987, Ridgway complied with a court order to chew on a piece of gauze to collect a saliva sample.

The saliva was tested again in March. The results came back two months ago and detectives put Ridgway under surveillance. Ridgway, an employee of Kenworth Truck Co. in Renton for 32 years, was arrested Friday as he was leaving work.

He is married and has an adult son. He had been arrested twice in the last 19 years - in 1982 for soliciting prostitution and earlier this month, when he was arrested for loitering for the purpose of soliciting prostitution. He pleaded guilty in the recent case and was convicted in the earlier case.

Authorities said they were finally able to link Ridgway to the crimes by using new DNA technology to match the saliva to fluids found on three of the victims.

The fourth victim, Hinds, was linked to Ridgway through circumstantial evidence, investigators said.

© Copyright 2001 The Canadian Press

www.cp.org 

Ridgway charged with four U.S. murders

Canadian Press

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

SEATTLE -- Gary Ridgway has been charged with aggravated murder in four of the Green River killings in Washington state.

The 52-year-old Auburn man will be arraigned December 18th in Seattle to enter a plea.

Prosecutor Norm Maleng will have 30 days after that to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Maleng says he won't make a deal with Ridgway for a guilty plea in return for not seeking the death penalty.

The Green River killings took the lives of 49 prostitutes and runaways between 1982 and '84.

Newer DNA testing led to Ridgway's arrest last Friday.

Ridgway has been questioned in the past about the

Green River killings and has maintained he is innocent.

Police in Vancouver are trying to determine if there is any link between Ridgway and the disappearance of up to 45 women in British Columbia.

Most of those women were prostitutes.

Previous Stories:

· Police raise tally of missing women

© Copyright 2001 The Canadian Press

www.cp.org 

Vancouver police seek link to Green River

Missing-women task force will go to Seattle this week

Kim Bolan and Chad Skelton

Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

Investigators from Vancouver's missing women task force intend to go to Seattle this week to talk to police there about Gary Ridgway, the man expected to be charged Wednesday with four of the murders linked to the Green River killer.

RCMP Sergeant Wayne Clary said he expects two task force members will go to see what they can learn about Ridgway and any links he may have to the Lower Mainland, where 45 women, most of whom worked in the sex trade in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, have disappeared in recent years.

"We want to get the information as soon as we can but I also don't want to tread all over them because I'm sure they are busy," Clary said. "So we will have to temper it with when they can help us."

Clary said it is difficult to know whether Ridgway could be a suspect in the Vancouver cases, or any of 40 unsolved prostitute murders in B.C. dating back 20 years.

The 49 victims of the Green River killer, who struck between 1982 and 1984, were mostly prostitutes, some of them drug-addicted like many of the Vancouver women.

"Obviously if his horses are pulling the wagon for three or four murders, I mean he is somebody who needs to be looked at," Clary said. "But we are going to get as much information as we can and then try to include him up here and if we can't, I would suggest he go on the backburner."

Clary said task force members are already looking at what records are kept of cross-border visitors.

"He's been free down there for a long time," Clary said. "There are all kinds of records we can look at."

Clary said before his team actually investigates Ridgway's movements it will see what police with the King County sheriff's office have on the 52-year-old married father.

"I would hope they have profiled him fairly extensively considering what potentially he could be," Clary said.

"We understand the importance of it, but we also know that he's in jail and he's not going anywhere. So whatever information is available is not going to change. It may be to our advantage to wait until they get organized."

Clary said Canadian investigators would be prepared to compare Ridgway's DNA sample with anything collected here in similar crimes.

"If somebody's DNA is available and they are viable, then we will look at it. Why wouldn't we? For any sexual assault. Especially if it is in the data bank and can be searched."

Sergeant John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County sheriff's office, told The Vancouver Sun Monday that investigators have still not determined whether Ridgway has visited B.C.

"We are certainly going to be looking at investigating all of his movements since 1985," Urquhart said. "He travels in his motor home, he and his wife do, but we don't know where he goes at this point."

But he said investigators there will focus on collecting evidence in the four murders being linked to Ridgway before trying to link him with other Green River cases, let alone cases outside King County.

"We'll exchange information with them, but we are not going to be investigating their cases for them," Urquhart said of other police agencies. "We are not going to impede their investigation, but we are not going to drop everything because somebody happens to be in town."

King County police have been talking to Ridgway's current wife and continued thorough searches Monday of houses where the truck painter has lived over the past 20 years.

"We are really at the point now of searching these houses and taking out what might or might not be evidence," Urquhart said. "There is nothing flashy about that at all."

Ridgway will not appear in court this week to be formally charged in the murders of Marcia Fay Chapman, Cynthia Jean Hinds, Opal Mills and Carol Ann Christensen. Instead, the charges will be laid while he remains in the King County jail and he will appear for his arraignment in about two weeks, Urquhart said.

Neighbour Brenda Robinson said the Ridgways would often travel on weekends in their motor home, but usually told her they were going to campsites near Seattle.

"It was a big motorhome -- like a second home," Robinson said.

Robinson said she met the Ridgways about a year ago at a garage sale. She and Judith Ridgway became close friends and Judith would often stop by her place for lunch.

Last summer, Robinson looked after their place while they took a two-week camping trip in their motorhome.

She said the house -- a large Victorian home with a beautiful garden -- was very clean and she didn't notice anything unusual.

"Gary is a real nice man. ... He's very soft-spoken," she said. "Judith always said good things about him. She really loved him a lot. ... They were a very loving couple -- very compatible. I never saw anything that wasn't normal."

The pair could often be seen in their front yard gardening. They both had grown children from previous marriages -- Gary a son in California and Judith two daughters.

Robinson said Judith once told her that one of her daughters had a drug problem but was trying to get clean.

Robinson said Judith and Gary spent most weekends hunting around garage sales -- filling up their basement with all sorts of contraptions that he would repair and sell at huge garage sales.

She said she's still shocked at the news Ridgway is a suspect in the Green River killings.

"None of this makes sense to me," she said. "I can't imagine him being the one."

kbolan@pacpress.southam.ca

© Copyright2001 Vancouver Sun

www.canada.com/vancouver 

BC police to interview suspected prostitute killer

By The Canadian Press

Monday, December 3, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver police are anxious to interview a 52-year old man arrested Friday near Seattle.

Police hope Gary Leon Ridgway holds the key to the disappearance of 45 Vancouver-area women in BC.

He was arrested in connection with the killings of four women among the 49 victims of the so-called Green River killer.

All the women were murdered between 1982 and 1984 in what is the United States' worst unsolved serial killing case.

A joint RCMP-Vancouver police team is probing the disappearances of women dating back to 1983.

Officers from that task force will meet this week with Seattle counterparts investigating the Green River killings.

Most of the missing women in the Vancouver cases were prostitutes or runaways, as in the Green River case.

© Copyright 2001 Canadian Press

www.cp.org 

Police team checking suspect's B.C. visits

Salim Jiwa
T
he Province

Monday, December 3, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

A joint police task force probing the disappearance of 45 Vancouver-area women is tracking the B.C. movements of Seattle's Green River murders suspect Gary Leon Ridgway, The Province has learned.

Among other things, police are looking for any traffic or parking infractions in B.C. of the 52-year-old suspect.

The truck-manufacturing plant painter, who lived in Auburn, 30 kilometres south of Seattle, was arrested on Friday afternoon by the Green River task force in connection with their 19-year investigation of a murder spree which cost the lives of 49 women between 1982 and 1984.

"We've got some people this weekend running down whatever we can find in any database . . . we have also been in contact with people down in Seattle," said Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Wayne Clary, who is in-charge of the missing womens' file on the 16-member RCMP-Vancouver police team probing the disappearances here dating back to 1983.

"This is the beginning of a long journey, unless something falls in our laps," said Clary.

Most of the missing women in Vancouver share a similar profile to those who were killed and dumped in the Green River or heavily wooded areas surrounding the Sea-Tac Airport. Most of the Seattle women who were murdered were either hookers or street women.

The first three bodies were found in the Green River -- hence the name Green River Killer.

Clary said police are hoping to put together a timeline on Ridgway's travels in B.C.

Ridgway's neighbours said he and wife Judith constantly travelled in their motor-home in the three years they have lived in the middle-class neighbourhood near Geneva Lake.

One neighbour said Ridgway has travelled many times to B.C. and Oregon.

The suspect "has preyed on the kinds of girls that we are investigating as missing," Clary said.

Three of the four women to whom Ridgway has so far been linked in Seattle were the first ones to be found floating in the Green River, which snakes around the area south of Seattle. Most of the victims worked on the so-called Sea-Tac strip near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, which in 1982 was lined with bars and massage parlors as well as cheap motels.

Ridgway emerged as a suspect at the height of the investigation in 1984. He was known to police as a man who picked up prostitutes, but it was a new DNA technique that police say finally nailed him.

The Vancouver task force also plans to test DNA and compare notes with what Seattle police have.

DNA samples from four women who were found dumped in 1995 near Agassiz and Mission will have to be in a form consistent with the samples created by the Green River task force, said Clary.

sjiwa@pacpress.southam.ca

© Copyright2001 The Province

www.canada.com/province 

The 17-year hunt for the Green River killer

Seattle police fought their bosses to keep case open

Gary Dimmock
The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, December 2, 2001

Gary Leon Ridgway

The first time detectives came calling for Gary Ridgway was in 1984, two years after a prostitute turned up dead in Seattle's Green River. Detectives figured he was the killer, but for the next 17 years, they had only suspicion to go on.

In that time, some 49 women, mostly prostitutes and runaways aged 13 to 36, were found strangled or went missing.

Police had no evidence linking him to the deaths, and no matter how many times they questioned him, nothing came of it.

They kept tailing him, yet while police patrolled close by, more and more women were slain in the city's seedy strip.

In their 1991 book, The Search for the Green River Killer, reporters Carlton Smith and Thomas Guillen give a comprehensive account of a police investigation gone wrong.

The vice officers rarely worked weekends, even though each of the first six victims were last seen on a Saturday or Sunday night. Early in the probe, detectives failed to even jot down licence plates of johns trolling the area.

And police spent too much time focusing on the wrong man, a cabbie who happened to fit an FBI profile.

In 1987, the King County Sheriff's Office won a court order forcing Mr. Ridgway to submit a saliva sample. It would take 14 years for DNA technology to improve enough to test the sample.

Forensic scientists at the Washington State crime lab this week declared they had "conclusively" linked the Ridgway sample to three victims.

"This whole case can be summed up in one word: science. Without it, we would not have got to this point," Sgt. John Urquhart told the Citizen.

At 3 p.m. Friday, Mr. Ridgway called it a day at the Kenworth Truck assembly line like he had for the past 30 years. Only this time, he would leave in handcuffs as the accused in the worst unsolved serial killings case in U.S. history.

"This has got to be one of the most exciting days of my career," said King County Sheriff Reichert, one of the original detectives on the nearly 20-year-old case.

Detectives firmly believe Mr. Ridgway, a 52-year-old married father of an adult son, is responsible for the deaths of four women. Three of the bodies were found in the Green River on Aug. 15, 1982; the fourth corpse was discovered in the woods a year later.

"We believe he is responsible for the fourth victim's death due to certain factors that tie him to the two others found in the river," Sheriff Reichert said.

"We expect Ridgway to be charged with four counts of homicide next week. We do not know if Ridgway is responsible for the deaths of any more women. However, we will continue to investigate all unsolved homicides that may be linked to him," the sheriff said.

That investigation will reach Canada, with RCMP detectives now pursuing Mr. Ridgway as a possible suspect in the disappearance of 45 women, mostly prostitutes who vanished from Vancouver in the last 17 years.

Almost 100 women missing or dead, across two countries, with nothing to go on until this week.

"I cannot say with certainty that Gary Ridgway is responsible for all those deaths ... but boy, have we made one giant step forward," the sheriff said.

Two weeks ago, an RCMP missing-women task force met with Seattle investigators about the serial killer case. They had no idea the U.S. detectives were "on the brink of solving the case."

The Seattle investigators had good reason to keep new leads to themselves. This was one case the detectives didn't want to mess up.

They had worked on it too long, and the Citizen has learned that they had to fight to keep it from being shelved.

There was a time, when senior police officers told detectives to scrap the case, saying it couldn't be solved.

"They told us to forget about it and said we wouldn't crack the case. They wanted us to throw out all the evidence -- 10,000 exhibits too. These were high-ranking police officers that had made it to the administration level. These were the people advocating this. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed," Sgt. John Urquhart told the Citizen.

But the detectives never gave up on the case. There was too much to lose. Forty-nine victims had been linked to the Green River Killer.

Fourteen years after Mr. Ridgway was first arrested on prostitution-related charges, he was still prowling the streets. Two weeks ago, Mr. Ridgway was arrested by vice officers on charges of loitering for the purpose of soliciting for prostitution.

Incredibly, the homicide detectives that were supposed to be watching his every move, had no idea that he was once again cruising for sex.

News of the arrest left families of victims in tears, the same for Sheriff Reichert the day he got the DNA test results.

The Green River Killer case began on July 15, 1982 when two boys spotted something in the river. It was the body of Wendy Coffield, a 16-year-old high school drop out turned prostitute. She had been raped, strangled and dumped in the river.

There would be 48 more slayings in a case the police wanted off the books so bad they were willing to simply drop it. But not the sheriff.

"You can never give up hope, because the victims' families never give up hope," Sheriff Reichert said.

© Copyright 2001 The Ottawa Citizen

www.ottawacitizen.com 

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016