This time around in our wrongful death serial series, we’re going to be talking about Gary Ridgway, otherwise known as, “the Green River Killer.” Out of all of the serial killers that we’ve covered throughout the span of this series, Ridgway has the highest number of victims. From his upbringing to his arrest, this blog is going to cover his entire story.
Childhood and Origins
Gary Leon Ridgway was born on February 18th of 1949 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Throughout his childhood, Ridgway witnessed violent arguments between his parents, which made growing up difficult. To add to an already troubled upbringing, Ridgway’s mother would wash him after every one of his bed-wetting episodes, which happened regularly until he was 13. He later told psychologists that as an adolescent, he had conflicting feelings of anger and sexual attraction toward his mother and even fantasized about killing her.
At the age of 16, Ridgway conducted his first assault, stabbing a six-year-old boy who survived the attack.
Life After High School and the Army
Despite the attack, Ridgway graduated high school in 1969 and married his high school girlfriend. Shortly after, he joined the U.S. Navy and was sent to Vietnam, where he had frequent sexual encounters with prostitutes and contracted gonorrhea. Though he took part in adulterous activities, his wife also had an affair while he was away. The couple divorced within a year and Ridgway married two other times — both marriages ended in divorce.
Ridgway is believed to have murdered at least 71 women throughout the 1980s and 1990s, most of which were prostitutes or runaways that he picked up along the highway. He dumped most of the bodies in. wooded areas around the Green River, which earned him his nickname as, “the Green River Killer.”
As for the wrongful death acts, he would show all his victims a picture of his son to trick them into trusting him. After this bit of deception, he would sexually assault them and then go on to strangle them to death. To make matters worse, Ridgway would often re-visit his victims’ corpses and perform neophiliac acts with them.
He had a system to help avoid detection, which included contaminating the dump sites with gum, cigarettes and other waste materials.
Suspicion and Arrest
In 1983, Ridgway became a prime suspect in the Green River killings. However, prior to any serious accusations towards Ridgway, he was arrested and released in 1982. It wasn’t until 2001 that Ridgway was arrested again and charged guilty of any of his murders. Investigators were able to find through DNA analysis that Ridgway matched with pieces of evidence from the murder cases. He pleaded guilty to 48 charges of first-degree murder in November of 2003, but escaped execution by providing information on the location of many of the victims.
Ridgway claimed to have murdered 71 victims in a taped interview which was conducted in 2003.
The mother of one of the victims filed a wrongful death suit against Ridgway’s ex-wife out of concern that she would profit from selling her story. Ridgway’s ex-wife said that she had no plans of selling her story, and the lawsuit was dismissed.
Out of the several murders we have discussed in this series, Ridgway claimed to have murdered an astonishing 71 victims, making his case one of the largest counts of wrongful death to date.