“I hate most prostitutes. I did not want to pay them for sex. I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away, and might never be reported missing.” These were the words of one of the worst slayers in American history, who was said to have killed more women than any other serial killer — Gary Ridgway.
The Green River Killer tragedy unfolded at Aurora Avenue on the banks of the Green River where hundreds of prostitutes hung around, and where on July 15, 1982 the body of a 16-year-old prostitute was found. She was the first victim of the infamous ‘Green River Killer’, which earned him his nickname. She was raped and strangled to death.
Ridgway usually effected strangulation with his arm but sometimes using ligatures. After strangling the women, he would dump their bodies throughout forested and overgrown areas, often returning to the dead bodies later to have sexual intercourse with them.
Ridgway was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 18, 1949. He had two brothers, Gregory Leon and Thomas Edward, and a domineering mother who constantly yelled at their father and controlled her sons completely. She was never pleased with what they did.
Ridgway’s IQ was 80, which signified a slight mental deficiency. He had a troubled adolescence and stabbed a six-year-old kid when he was 16. He always had an obsession with prostitutes.
At age 20, after graduating from high school, Ridgway married his high school girlfriend Claudia Barrows. He joined the Navy and was sent to Vietnam, where he served on board a supply ship and saw combat. During his time in the military, Ridgway began spending a lot of time with prostitutes and contracted gonorrhoea for the second time, as well as other sexual diseases. His first marriage quickly ended within a year.
Ridgway continued to solicit the services of prostitutes during his marriage; he also wanted his second wife, Marcia, to participate in sex in public and inappropriate places, sometimes even in areas where his victims' bodies were later discovered. In 1975, Marcia gave birth to Ridgway's son, Matthew.
Around 1985, Ridgway began dating Judith Mawson, who became his third wife in 1988. She stated 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.
Ridgway was arrested twice, in 1982 and 2001, on charges related to prostitution. He became a suspect in 1983 in the Green River killings. In 1984, Ridgway took and passed a polygraph test, and on April 7, 1987, police took hair and saliva samples from Ridgway.
The Green River Killer caused mayhem for two and half years during the 1980s. Then, on November 30, 2001, as Ridgway was leaving the Renton Washington Kenworth Truck factory where he worked, he was arrested for the murders of four women whose cases were linked to him through DNA evidence on the basis of the samples taken from him in 1987.
Ridgway confessed to more confirmed murders than any other American serial killer. He pleaded guilty to 48 charges in 2003, but claimed to have killed 71 women. A controversial plea bargain he entered into spared him execution in exchange for helping to locate the remains of all of those women by providing details. This created a lot of controversy as many people believed that a person who murdered so many people should not be spared the death sentence.