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Gary Ridgway: the Green River Killer

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Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer, was born February 18, 1949, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gary Ridgway held a steady job for 30 years, but was married three times through his life. Gary Ridgway got his nickname “The Green River Killer” before they even knew who was doing the killings. In 1982, when Ridgway was 33 years old, he began killing women, prostitutes and runaways, which were his main targets. Gary was one of the suspects when the case was first opened, however they had no proof to legally tie Gary to the crimes; Gary even took a polygraph test and passed (Gary Ridgway Biography, 2012, para.1). They were having so much trouble with this case that, in 1985, serial killer Ted Bundy decided to offer his assistance to the officers working the case (Gary Leon Ridgway: Green River Killer, n.a., p. 1-7).

The officers took Gary’s DNA and stored it, waiting for the day it would come that they could use it against him. It wasn’t until the year 2001 that his victims would see justice. King County sheriff Dave Reichert, who was the first officer assigned to the case was the man that brought the cold case out of storage in 2001. They tested the DNA and Gary matched three of the victims, although he would later admit to killing more than 60 women (Prosecutor’s Summary of the Evidence, n.a., p. 16). This is more confirmed killings than any other serial killer in the history of the United States. He was sentenced to life in prison. In this paper we will walk through his early stages of life, social behavior, and criminal history. EARLY STAGES OF LIFE

Gary’s parents would move him and his two brothers, Tom and Greg, from Utah and Idaho frequently throughout their young lives. It wasn’t until Gary was nine his parents found a place in Washington to settle in for years and call home. Gary and his brothers grew up poor. The family lived in a 600 square foot house off the Pacific Highway (McCarthy & Thornburgh, 2002, para. 2-4). Their father drove truck when he was able to find work while their mother stayed at home raising the three boys. The boys shared a room and because there was not much room to play inside, they spent much of their childhood outdoors. Their father was not home very often, so the boys spent most of their childhood being raised by their mother. Gary’s brother, Greg, when later interviewed described their mother as a strong woman. She was very dominant and very controlling. Gary once witnessed his mother break a plate over his father’s head (McCarthy & Thornburgh, 2002, para. 2-4). Gary was a very disturbed young boy.

He was known to have a very low IQ and to have had dyslexia. He also had many thoughts that were alarming. If we had seen inside his head as a young child we could have prevented him from murdering so many women. The way his brain worked, it was clear that he would become a serial killer in years to come. As a young boy, Gary would fantasize about his mother in sexual ways. She would be outside sunbathing and Gary would look at her out a window and daydream about her (Guillen, 2007). Although Gary thought this way about his mother, he thought about ways of killing her as well.

One of the fantasies he had about hurting her was setting the house on fire with her inside; in another he would take a knife to her body and deform her because she cherished her body so much (Guillen, 2007, p. 131). Gary also had disturbing thoughts of a young boy that splashed him when swimming. He is said to have contemplated drowning the young boy for simply splashing Gary with water (Guillen, 2007, p. 14). It is rumored he once did try to drown this boy, but there is no solid proof to this rumor. When Gary was a teenager he had tried to kill a six year old boy (Guillen, 2007, p. 131). Gary took this boy in the woods and stabbed him; the boy ran away and survived. Gary was never punished for this. Whether it was the boy being too scared to say anything or Gary sounding more believable than the boy, either way nothing came from this. SOCIAL BEHAVIOR

Employment History
At the age of twenty, Gary Ridgway found employment at Kenworth trucking as a paint laborer. Four months after his employment he enlists in the Navy. At the age of twenty-two, Gary is discharged from the Navy and he returned to Kenworth. There is a pattern of short-term responsibility in his job history here, however after returning to Kenworth the second time he stays employed there for years. He will be picked up by officers at his Kenworth job in 2001 at the age of fifty-two. Ridgway’s responsibilities at work included using masking tape on the cabs; while his partner painted them. He had two fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch break. During his lunch break he would eat and browse the local paper for deals on random things. During his fifteen minute breaks he would get his Bible out and study it, sometimes reading aloud quotes. He was described as “social, a friendly guy who knew everyone enough to say hello” (Robinson, 2008, para. 5). Although social, many women did not feel comfortable around him because he would always go up behind them and insist on rubbing their shoulders. Mental Health/Psychological History

Gary Ridgway was a very disturbed young boy and teenager. He showed early signs of conduct disorder. This is when you would see “a pattern of disruptive and violent behavior and have problems following rules” and this child will show signs of aggressive behavior, destructive behavior, deceitful behavior, and violations of rules (Mental Health and Conduct Disorder, 2012, para.1-3). Here is a list of the disturbing things Ridgway did as a young child and adolescent: * Suffocated the family pet cat in a cooler overnight because he was mad * Enjoyed killing birds

* Committed arson
* Stabbed a six year old boy
* Paid a young girl to let him molest her
* Was always angry and sexually attracted toward his mother Besides this disturbing list, Ridgway also showed early signs of being a serial killer. As stated above he committed arson and liked hurting animals, but he also wet the bed most of his childhood, peeped on girls in his neighborhood, always carried a knife with him, was a poor student and slow learner, and had a domineering mother (Weatherby, Buller, & McGinnis, 2009). Although all this was happening there was no intervention to get Ridgway help as a child or teen. In his parents defense however, this was back in 1950-60’s. Criminal profiling, more so serial killer profiling did not truly come into focus until John Douglas of the FBI started the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) at the FBI in 1977. This in when the training of serial killers really starts to stand out. Therefore, they did not know their son had conduct disorder and was showing signs of being a potential future serial killer. Chemical Dependency/Abuse History

Gary Ridgway did not have a chemical dependency problem. The main thing he was “addicted” to was religion. He was obsessed with the Bible. He would quote it at work on breaks and go door to door trying to preach to people. He would even cry after sermons or after reading the Bible himself. However, his mother did have a chemical dependency problem and ironically the woman Gary went after were prostitutes with drug problems. To him they were garbage. The only thing I can say was wrong in the chemical department with Gary is he more than likely had a chemical imbalance in his brain. “Research hints that brain chemistry and structure may play a central role [in serial killers], but environment and upbringing are undoubtedly crucial as well” (Doughton, 2003, para.7). CRIMINAL HISTORY

Gary was a man that was comfortable killing within his own community. Aside from only a few of his victims, the majority were found near the Green River in King County, Washington. From a sociological standpoint, Gary Ridgway would be known as a local killer. A local killer is known to “commit their crimes in their own neighborhoods and communities” (Helfgott, 2008, p. 103). Gary would also be considered a habitual criminal, one “who engaged in crime for diverse, more inherent reasons” (Helfgott, 2008, p. 102). Gary had a violent personality from childhood. Although there are only a couple recorded intense incidents, trying to stab a six year old boy when he was sixteen and fantasizing about his mother in sexual ways as a young boy both showed alarming concern for his demeanor as a person. Although these incidents shown as warning signs to anyone with a knowledge of basic psychology, Gary would become one of the most profound serial killers in our nations recorded history.

Gary started the killings he is known for when he was 33 years old in 1982. The first recorded case was the body of Wendy Lee Coffield, age 16 from Puyallup, Washington. Wendy would serve as a beginning to a pattern of selected women Gary would murder. Wendy had a wild life. She argued with her mom to the point that she ended up in a foster home. The foster mother did not care for Wendy’s well being. Wendy would leave when she wanted and had no means to structure in a home setting. Wendy was known to use drugs, steal, and occasionally get money through prostitution. She was the perfect victim for Gary Ridgway. Gary was obsessed with prostitutes. He had a controversial outlook on their way of living. Gary was very religious and thought prostitutes to be extremely appalling; however he would have sex with prostitutes constantly.

When asked why he chose prostitutes as his main victims Gary simply stated, “Because they were prostitutes and I killed them because I wanted to kill them” (Leung, 2007, para. 49). “To me, women are something to have sex with — kill and take the money back…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. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught” (Fernandez, 2011, para. 9). “My plan was I wanted to kill as many women I thought were prostitutes as I possibly could. I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex” (Green River Killer confesses, 2003, para. 4) In 1983, Gary killed at least 24 women- all being prostitutes; this averages to one woman every two weeks (Opfer, 2012, para. 4). 1983 was his most active year. By the time Gary was caught in 2003 he had confessed to 48 murders; however updated information in 2011 suggests Gary may have been responsible for up to 60 murders (Prosecutor’s Summary of the Evidence, n.a., p. 16). CONCLUSION

Gary Ridgway was not born to kill, however from early stages in his life to the time he started to commit murder he shown signs of being a very disturbed person and it is no surprise that he would become a killer. When he was little the signs were clear in the combination of the classic bedwetting, enjoying the suffering of animals and killing them, and committing arson (Mental Health and Conduct Disorder, 2012, para.1-3). Although we are educated on these three things being classic signs of future serial killers we could not have known this young boy would grow to be one. No one could imagine the thoughts he had about his mother, the thoughts he held about killing as a young child or the anger he held towards women in general.

Unfortunately, Ridgway lived in a time that lacked DNA evidence so although officers did everything they could at the time; he was able to get away with these killings. Officers did everything in their power to bring the Green River Killer to justice, but it wasn’t until 2001, nearly 20 years later the criminal justice forensic field would catch this monster. In 2001, Ridgway was arrested for three of the murders he committed- all linking him through DNA he left at the scene. In 2003, Ridgway plead guilty to 48 murders (later he would admit to 60) and sentenced to life in prison. Ridgway was originally looking at the death penalty for these crimes; however he took a deal that saved his life. By giving him this deal officers were able to confirm many deaths that could not be scientifically linked to Ridgway and let the families of the victims finally know the truth. Gary Ridgway presently resides in the Washington State Penitentiary with no possibility of parole.


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