Gary Ridgway, Part 2: The Victims and the Investigation

The Women

The majority of his forty-nine confirmed victims were either runaways or sex workers, and all were women; the youngest victims were fifteen years old at the time of their disappearances and the oldest was his last victim, as far as we know. Her name was Patricia Yellowrobe and she was thirty-eight years old when she disappeared in January of 1998.

The first of Ridgway’s confirmed victims, Wendy Coffield, disappeared from her foster home in July 1982 and her remains were discovered a week later, in the Green River. The bodies of many of his early victims were discovered near or in the river, which is why he was given the moniker “The Green River Killer” after the fifth victim was found in August of 1982.

Forty-two of Ridgway’s confirmed killings took place between 1982 and 1984. Three of his victims were never identified (They are known as Jane Doe B-10, and Jane Doe B-17, and Jane Doe B-20) below are computer-generated likenesses of two of the women that were created by authorities to help with their identification.

Do you know these women? Jane Doe B-10 (left) and Jane Doe B-17

The Method

After minutes of intercourse from behind, Ridgway would wrap his forearm around the front of their necks and use the other arm to pull back as tightly as he could, strangling them.

Ridgway went for women and girls who were in a vulnerable state, and typically his victims were prostitutes. It has been noted that he would sometimes show these women a photo of his son, Matthew, in order to earn their trust.

He initially strangled his victims manually, but later used ligatures. He told authorities that he made this change because many of his victims would bite and scratch the arm that he was using to strangle them, and he was concerned that the marks that they left would lead to unwanted attention.

The remains of the majority of his victims were located in Washington on the Green River or in nearby woods. However, he took the remains of at least two of the women into Oregon to dispose of them to confuse authorities. He also told authorities that he would sometimes contaminate his own crime scenes with items such as cigarette butts, gum, and handwriting samples of other men in order to further confuse police.

Unlike many serial killers Ridgway killed indiscriminately both within, and outside his race.

The Investigation

As I mentioned earlier Ridgway killed his first victim (Wendy Coffield) on July 8th, 1982 and her body was found a week after her disappearance. His next four victims were killed between July 25th and August 12th of that same year. The remains of the second victim, Debra Bonner, were found on August 12th; the next three (Marcia Chapman, Cynthia Hinds, and Opal Mills) were found three days later on August 15th.

Eventually, in 1983-1984, the King’s County Sherriff’s Office formed the “Green River Task Force” to investigate the murders.

Two of the members of the task force were Robert Keppel and Dave Reichert. These men were contacted by Ted Bundy in 1984, and the notorious serial killer provided these men with his opinions on the psychology and motivations of the Green River Killer. During one of these conversations, Bundy suggested that the perpetrator was returning to where he disposed of the bodies in order to perform sexual acts with the remains.

This turned out to be true, and when Ridgway confessed to the killings he told authorities that he had returned to many of his victims to perform necrophilic acts with them.

Ridgway became a suspect in 1983, but there was a lack of evidence linking him to the killings. He passed a polygraph in 1984 and in 1987 samples of hair and saliva were taken for police records. The samples were later linked to four of the murders (Marcia Chapman, Opal Mills, Cynthia Hinds, and Carol Christensen).

Although he was named as a potential suspect in 1983, Ridgway wasn’t arrested until twenty-two years later in 2001.

In Remembrance of Ridgway’s Victims

Gary Ridgway’s Victims

Wendy Lee Coffield | Gisele Ann Lovvorn | Debra Lynn Bonner
Marcia Fay Chapman | Opal Charmaine Mills | Terry Rene Milligan
Mary Bridget Meehan | Debra Lorraine Estes | Linda Jane Rule
Denise Darcel Bush | Shawnda Leea Summers | Shirley Marie Sherrill
Colleen Renee Brockman | Alma Ann Smith | Delores LaVerne Williams
Gail Lynn Mathews | Andrea M. Childers | Sandra Kay Gabbert
Kimi-Kai Pitsor | Marie M. Malvar | Carol Ann Christensen
Martina Theresa Authorlee | Cheryl Lee Wims | Yvonne Shelly Antosh
Carrie A. Rois | Constance Elizabeth Naon | Kelly Marie Ware
Tina Marie Thompson | April Dawn Buttram | Debbie May Abernathy
Tracy Ann Winston | Maureen Sue Feeney | Mary Sue Bello
Pammy Avent | Delise Louise Plager | Kimberly L. Nelson
Lisa Yates | Mary Exzetta West | Cindy Anne Smith
Patricia Michelle Barczak | Roberta Joseph Hayes | Marta Reeves
Patricia Yellowrobe | Rebecca Marrero
Unidentified White Female | Unidentified White Female
Unidentified Black Female | Unidentified White Female

To read about Gary Ridgway’s childhood and personal life, click here: Gary Ridgway, Part 1: The Green River Killer
To finish the story, you can read the last post in my three-part series here: Gary Ridgway, Part 3: Confessions and Imprisonment

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