The Green River Killer
Serial killer Gary Leon Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, murdered at least 48 women in Washington state before he was caught in 2001.
During the time he committed his murders, bodies of many of his victims were found near Green River in Washington. This earned the then unknown assailant the title of “the Green River Killer.” It took nearly 20 years for Ridgway to be caught and brought to justice.
Below, are 48 women known to have been killed by Ridgway, although he is more than likely to have committed close to 90 murders.
Remains of five of the women pictured below were found in or near the Green River.
Wendy Lee Coffield was 16 years of age and last seen on July 8th, 1982 in the Tacoma, Washington area. Her body was found in the Green River under the Peck Bridge. The Peck Bridge is located where the Frager Road and Kent-Des Moines Road intersect in Kent, Washington.
Debra Lynn Bonner was 23 years of age. She had been missing since July 15th, 1982 from South 216th Street and Pacific Highway South, south of the SeaTac Airport.
Her body was found on August 12th, 1982 in the Green River near Kent, Washington.
Marcia Faye Chapman was 31 years of age. She was last seen leaving her home near South 188th Street and Pacific Highway South on August 1st, 1982.
Her body was found in the Green River on August 15th, 1982.
Cynthia Jean Hinds was 17 years of age and last seen on August 11th, 1982 in the area of South 200th Street and Pacific Highway South.
Her body was recovered in the Green River near Kent, Washington on August 15th, 1982.
Opal Charmaine Mills was 16 years of age. She last spoke with her family on August 12th, 1982 when she made a collect call home from South 194th Street and Pacific Highway South.
Her body was recovered next to the Green River near Kent, Washington on August 15th, 1982.
Tracy Winston was 19 years of age. She was last seen on September 12th, 1983 at 6 p.m. at the Northgate Mall.
Her body was found on March 27th, 1986 in Cottonwood Park at South 238th Street and Frager Road, one mile from the Peck Bridge.
Remains of the women pictured below were all found along Star Lake Road in south King County.
Gail Matthews was 23 years of age and last seen on April 10th, 1983 around 6 p.m. near South 216th Street and Pacific Highway South.
Delores Lavern Williams was 17 years of age. She was last seen in March of 1983 at a bus stop outside the Red Lion Inn on Pacific Highway South.
Her body was found on April 1st, 1984 near Star Lake Road.
Sandra K. Gabbert was 17 years of age and last seen on April 17th, 1983 near South 142nd Street and Pacific Highway South.
Her body was found on April 2nd, 1984 at Star Lake Road and 55th Avenue South.
Alma Smith was 18 years of age. She was last seen on March 3rd, 1983 near South 188th Street and Pacific Highway South.
Her body was found on April 2nd, 1984 at South 277th Street and Star Lake Road.
Carrie Ann Rois was 15 years of age. She was last seen between May 13th, 1983 and June 13th, 1983.
Her body was found March 10th, 1985 in a swampy area off the Star Lake Road.
Highway 18 / I-90
Remains of the women pictured below were all found near where Highway 18 intersects with I-90in eastern King County.
Her body was found on April 20th, 1984 near Highway 18 and Southeast 104th Street, south of the Highway 18/I-90 interchange.
Her body was found on May 2nd, 1986 on the east side of Highway 18 near Southeast 104th Street.
Exit 38 / I-90
Remains of the women pictured below were all found near Exit 38 off I-90.
Her body was found February 14th, 1984 near Exit 38 off I-90.
Her body was found March 13th, 1984 near Exit 38 off I-90.
Her body was found on June 13th, 1986 on Garcia Road, approximately three miles from Exit 38 off I-90.
Remains of the women pictured below were all found near Highway 410, east of Enumclaw, Washington.
Her body was found on March 31st, 1984 on a logging road of Highway 410 near Milepost 37.
Her body was found on October 12th, 1984 near Milepost 34 on Highway 410.
Her body was found November 14th, 1984 near Milepost 36 on Highway 410.
Her body was found September 20th, 1990 on Highway 410 between mileposts 33 and 34.
Her body was found on September 11th, 1991 near Milepost 36.5 on Highway 410.
Her body was found on August 16th, 2003 near Milepost 26 on Highway 410.
South Airport / Tyee Golf Course
Remains of the women listed below were all found near the sound end of SeaTac Airport & Tyee Golf Course.
Her body was found September 25th, 1982 in a wooded area near South 200th Street and 18th Avenue South.
Her body was found October 27th, 1983 in a vacant lot near South 192nd Street and 28th Avenue South.
Her body was found October 29th, 1983 in the 2500 block of South 192nd Street.
Her body was found on November 13th, 1983 at South 192nd Street and 27th Avenue South.
Her body was found October 19th, 1989 in a wooded area near South 190th Street and 24th Avenue South.
Remains of the women pictured below were found in Tigard, Oregon.
Her skull was found in Tigard, Oregon on June 12th, 1985.
Her body was found on June 14th, 1985 in Tigard, Oregon.
North Airport / Ballpark
Remains of the women listed below were all found north of SeaTac Airport near a ballfield.
Her body was found on August 12th, 1983 in a vacant lot near South 146th Street and 22nd Avenue South.
Her body was found in a wooded area near South 146th Street and 16th Avenue South on March 22nd, 1984.
The remains of a white female, between 14 and 18 years of age were found on March 21st, 1984 behind the ballpark at South146th Street and 16th Avenue South.
Remains of the women listed below were all found near Highway 18 in south King County.
Her body was found on June 29th, 1987 near Green River Community College.
Her body was found off Highway 18 near Seattle International Raceway on February.
Other King County Sites
Remains of the women pictured below were found in various sites in King County.
Her body was found on the campus of Northwest Hospital on January 31st, 1983.
Her remains were recovered on May 8th, 1983 in a wooded area near Southeast 242nd Street and 248th Avenue Southeast in the Maple Valley area of King County.
Her body was found on October 15th, 1983 at Southest 316th Street and the Auburn-Black Diamond Road.
Her body was found on Jovita Boulevard in Pierce County, Washington on May 26th, 1984.
Her body was found on September 8th, 1985 in a wooded area of Seward Park at the base of a tree.
Her remains were recovered on May 30th, 1988 in the 200 block of South 346th Street.
Her body was found in Seattle on August 16th, 1998 in the 9400 block of Des Moines Memorial Drive South in King County.
Her body was found August 30, 2003 on Southeast 96th Street just east of Snoqualmie Parkway.
Her body was found September 27th, 2003 in the 29200 block of 65th Avenue South.
These four women are listed on the official Green River Homicides list. They remain missing today.
Kelly Kay McGinnis was 18 years of age and was last seen on June 28th, 1983 at South 216h Street and Pacific Highway South.
Patricia Ann Osborn was 19 years of age and last seen on October 28th, 1983 when she left an area at North 115th Street and Aurora Avenue North in the City of Seattle to walk to a nearby restaurant.
Ridgway was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Mary Rita Steinman and Thomas Newton Ridgway. He has two brothers – Gregory Leon and Thomas Edward. He was raised in the McMicken Heights neighbourhood of SeaTac, Washington.
Ridgway’s homelife was somewhat troubled; relatives have described his mother as domineering and have said that young Ridgway witnessed more than one violent argument between his parents. As a boy Ridgway had a habit of wetting the bed. His mother would often be the one to discover the accidents and would bathe him immediately. She would often belittle him and embarrass him in front of his family. From a young age, Ridgway had conflicting feelings of sexual attraction and anger toward her.
As a young child, Ridgway was tested with an I.Q. of 82, signifying low intelligence, and his academic performance in school was so poor that at one point in high school he had to repeat a single school year twice in order to attain grades decent enough to pass. His classmates at Tyee High School describe him as ‘congenial but largely forgettable.’
His teenage years, however, were extremely troubled; when he was 16, he stabbed a six-year-old boy, who survived the attack. He had led the boy into the woods and then stabbed him through the ribs into his liver. According to the victim and Ridgway himself, Ridgway walked away laughing and saying, “I always wondered what it would be like to kill.” someone.
Meanwhile, his wife Claudia, alone and 19-years-old, began dating again, and the marriage quickly ended within a year.
Friends and family, questioned about Ridgway after his arrest, described him as friendly but strange. His first two marriages resulted in divorce because of infidelities by both partners. His second wife, Marcia Winslow, claimed that he had ‘placed her in a chokehold.’ Ridgway had become fanatically religious during his second marriage, proselytising door-to-door, reading the Bible aloud at work and at home, and insisting that Marcia follow the strict teachings of their church pastor.
Ridgway would also frequently cry after sermons or reading the Bible; though Ridgway continued to solicit the services of prostitutes during this marriage and also wanted Marcia to participate in sex in public and inappropriate places, sometimes even in areas where his victims’ bodies had been discovered. #Gross
According to Time Magazine writer Terry McCarthy, Ridgway had an insatiable sexual appetite. His three ex-wives and several old girlfriends reported that Ridgway demanded sex from them several times a day. Often times, he would want to have sex in a public area or in the woods. Ridgeway himself admitted to having a fixation with prostitutes, with whom he had a love-hate relationship. He frequently complained about their presence in his neighbourhood, but he also took advantage of their services regularly. It’s possible that Ridgway was torn between his uncontrollable lusts and his staunch religious beliefs.
In 1975 his second wife gave birth to his son, Matthew.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ridgway is believed to have murdered at least 71 women (according to Ridgway, in an interview with Sheriff Reichert in 2001) near Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. His court statements later reported that he had killed so many, he lost count.
A majority of the murders occurred between 1982 to 1984.
The victims were believed to be either prostitutes or runaways picked up along Pacific Highway South (International Blvd. 99) whom he strangled. Most of their bodies were dumped in wooded areas around the Green River except for two confirmed and another two suspected victims found in the Portland, Oregon area. The bodies were often left in clusters, sometimes posed, usually nude. He also sometimes later would return to the victims’ bodies and have intercourse with them (an act of necrophilia).
Because most of the bodies were not discovered until only the skeletons remained, four victims are still unidentified. Ridgway occasionally contaminated the dump sites with gum, cigarettes, and written materials belonging to others, and he even transported a few victims’ remains across state lines into Oregon to confuse the police.
After picking up his victim, Ridgway would sometimes show the woman a picture of his son, to help her trust him. After having sex with her, he strangled her from behind; he initially strangled them manually, however, many victims inflicted wounds and bruises on his arm while trying to defend themselves. Concerned these wounds and bruises would draw attention, Ridgway began using ligatures to strangle his victims. Most victims were killed in his home, his truck, or a secluded area.
In the early 1980s, the King County Sheriff’s Office formed the Green River Task Force to investigate the murders. The most notable members of the task force were Robert Keppel and Dave Reichert, who periodically interviewed incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy from 1984. Their interviews with Bundy were of little help in the Green River investigations but did elicit confessions from Bundy on other unsolved cases. Also contributing was John E. Douglas, who has since written much on the subject of the Green River Killer.
Ridgway was arrested in 1982 and 2001 on charges related to prostitution. He became a suspect in 1983 in the Green River killings and then in 1984; Ridgway took and passed a polygraph test. On April 7th, 1987, police took hair and saliva samples from Ridgway.
Around 1985, Ridgway began dating Judith Mawson, who became his third wife in 1988. Mawson claimed in a 2010 television interview that when she moved into his house while they were dating, there was no carpet. Detectives later told her he had probably wrapped a body in the carpet.
In the same interview, she described how he would leave for work early in the morning some days, ‘apparently’ for the overtime pay. Mawson speculated that he must have committed some of the murders while supposedly working these early morning shifts. She claimed that she had not suspected Ridgway’s crimes before he was contacted by authorities in 1987, and in fact had not even heard of the Green River Killer before that time because she didn’t watch the news.
Author Pennie Morehead says that when she interviewed Ridgway in prison. He said his urge to kill was reduced while he was in a relationship with Mawson, causing him to commit fewer murders than he otherwise would have, and that he truly loved her.
Mawson told a local television reporter, “I feel I have saved lives … by being his wife and making him happy.”
Alright, love. Stay humble 🤚🏻
The samples collected in 1987 were later subjected to a DNA analysis, providing the evidence for his arrest warrant. On November 30th, 2001, Ridgway was at the Kenworth Truck factory, where he worked as a spray painter, when police arrived to arrest him.
Ridgway was arrested on suspicion of murder of four women nearly 20 years after first being identified as a potential suspect when DNA evidence conclusively linked semen left in the victims to the saliva swab taken by the police.
The four victims named in the original indictment were Marcia Chapman, Opal Mills, Cynthia Hinds, and Carol Ann Christensen. Three more victims – Wendy Coffield, Debra Bonner, and Debra Estes were added to the indictment after a forensic scientist identified microscopic spray paint spheres as a specific brand and composition of paint used at the Kenworth factory during the specific time frame when these victims were killed.
His DNA was also found inside one of the prostitutes he had killed, because after killing her and having sex with her, he inserted a stone into her vagina… 👀
This preserved his sperm.
On November 5, 2003, Ridgway entered a guilty plea to 48 charges of aggravated first degree murder as part of a plea bargain, agreed to in June, that would spare him execution in exchange for his cooperation in locating the remains of his victims and providing other details. In his statement accompanying his guilty plea, Ridgway explained that all of his victims had been killed inside King County, Washington, and that he had transported and dumped the remains of the two women near Portland to confuse the police.
On December 18, 2003, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Jones sentenced Ridgway to 48 life sentences with no possibility of parole and one life sentence, to be served consecutively. He was also sentenced to an additional 10 years for tampering with evidence for each of the 48 victims, adding 480 years to his 48 life sentences.
Ridgway led prosecutors to three bodies in 2003. On August 16th of that year, remains of a 16-year-old female found near Enumclaw, Washington, 40 feet from State Route 410, were pronounced as belonging to Pammy Annette Avent, who had been believed to be a victim of the Green River Killer. The remains of Marie Malvar and April Buttram were found in September.
On November 23rd, 2005, The Associated Press reported that a weekend hiker found the skull of one of the 48 women Ridgway admitted murdering in his 2003 plea bargain with King County prosecutors. The skull of Tracy Winston, who was 19 when she disappeared from Northgate Mall on September 12th, 1983, was found by a man hiking in a wooded area near Highway 18 near Issaquah, southeast of Seattle.
In a taped confession, Ridgeway confessed to killing 71 victims.
Also in his confession, he acknowledged that he targeted prostitutes because they were “easy to pick up and that he hated most of them.” He also confessed that he had sex with his victims’ bodies after he murdered them, but claimed he began burying the later victims so that he could resist the urge to commit necrophilia.
Ridgway talked to and tried to make his victims comfortable before he committed the murders. In his own words, “I would talk to her… and get her mind off of the, sex, anything she was nervous about. And think, you know, she thinks, ‘Oh, this guy cares’… which I didn’t. I just want to, uh, get her in the vehicle and eventually kill her.”
Later in a statement Ridgway said that murdering young women was his “career”.
He was spared the death penalty and received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. He currently resides in Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla as of 2015.