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The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer
by Robert Keppel
July 15, 1982: 3 woman's strangled body was filed, caught on the pilings of Washington state's Green River. Before long, the "Green River Killer" would be suspected in at least 49 homicides, with no end in sight. Then authorities received a letter from Bundy -- on death row -- offering to help catch the Green River Killer. But he would only talk to Robert Keppel, the former homicide detective who helped track Bundy's cross-county killing spree.

The Search for the Green River Killer by Carlton Smith, Tomas Guillen
This reckoning of the deaths of almost 50 women in Seattle is distressing not only for the gruesomeness of the crimes but also for reasons probably not intended by Smith and Guillen, who reported on the murders for the Seattle Times. The descriptions of decomposed corpses are nauseating, and the blundering and so far unsuccessful police attempts to find the murderer are irksome. Readers are likely to be equally angered by accounts of how the media hampered the investigation by meddling in it and exploiting it, and by a nagging sense that this book is just one more example of that exploitation.


Gary Leon Ridgway, 52, of Auburn, WA was arrested on 11-30-01 for the murder of 4 females, believed slain by the Green River Killer. He is 5' 10" tall, 155 pounds. He wore a baseball cap.

He read the Bible at work, drank beer and solicited prostitutes for over 20 years

Ridgway was set in his ways, meticulous, overbearing and friendly. He could talk about anything for any length of time. He never said much about himself. He was good-natured when others poked fun at him.

His interests and hobbies were hunting, fishing, working in the yard, chopping wood and getting away with his wife in their RV. He scavenged for junk to sell at garage sales.

He read the Bible at work and tried to save others by continually talking about church and the savior. He went door to door for a Pentecostal church and got angry when people closed their doors on him. According to his second wife, he "would sit at night watching TV with an open Bible in his lap (and) would frequently cry after, or during, the church service."

He repeated filthy jokes or shared tips on how to pick up streetwalkers.

Ridgway's Life

He has lived in the same area all his life, in several different homes. He was meticulous, his current marriage was a happy one.

His mother and father stayed together, but an ex-wife told police his mother dominated the household.

Ridgway was D student at Tyee High School in SeaTac, WA, he graduated class of 1969, at the age of 20. A high-school friend of Gary Ridgway's in the mid 1960s, Terry Rochelle, recalled going to school dances with Ridgway and his older brother, Greg. Greg was active in school but Gary "was the one that was always just the opposite ... he wasn't someone that would really stand out." Ridgway had a mischievous streak, "The guy in class that's going to always be in trouble, that'd be Gary. Not a bad guy, just always in trouble. All he had to do was open his mouth and he'd be in trouble." In school.

As a young adult, he was repeatedly involved with prostitutes.

Ridgway served 2 years in the Navy, stationed in San Diego for 1 year in the early 1970s. This is when he married his first wife.

He met one of his ex-wives when he pulled her over in what she described as a "police like stop."

After a failed attempt to join a local police department, Ridgway started working in the paint department at Kenworth Truck Co., where he worked for 32 years. He made $21 an hour, as a journeyman painter. He applied designs to trucks before they entered the paint booths. He was a reliable worker.

He fathered son with his second wife in 1975. His son, Matthew, is now living in the San Diego area.

After his son was born in 1975, they became active in first a Baptist, then a Pentecostal church. That stopped by the time Ridgway and his second wife divorced in 1981, but coworkers remember Ridgway carried a Bible, flirted with the females, told filthy jokes, offered to fix a coworker up with a prostitute, joked around about his own fondness of prostitutes and seemed preoccupied with his appearance.

At 33, Ridgway was single, paying $275 a month in child Support , and visiting his son every other weekend. He was also soliciting prostitutes.

Ridgway was known to drive a succession of pickups. "One of those things we learned about him is he always drove in an erratic manner we learned this in the mid '80s always looking for anybody who might be following him," King County Sheriff Dave Reichert said. He frequently detailed and washed his truck.

Opinions of him by neighbors, coworkers, and former loves vary widely. One common theme is he did seem a little different. Some people claim he was socially withdrawn while others claim he was so outgoing, it was difficult to get past him.

At 52, he seemed happily married to his 3rd wife, Judith, by all accounts. Ridgway's wife, Judith, "a very nice, bewildered lady," according to Savage, has hired her own attorney, Rebecca Wiess. "She expressed herself to me, to be entirely behind her husband," Savage said. "But I wouldn't fault her for being concerned about where she stands and her assets stand."

Just a couple weeks prior to his arrest for 4 murders. Ridgway was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

3:30 p.m., Nov. 16, 2001, a 1992 red Ford Ranger pickup driven by Ridgway stopped on International Boulevard in SeaTac. Ridgway waved cash out the window. A woman, in a motel parking lot across the street, saw him. Ridgway pulled into the parking lot and got out. "I walked over to him and asked if he was getting a room," the woman said. "He said no and then asked me if I was 'dating.' I said that I was and was he interested? He said he was, but there was a cop watching ... " the woman said. Ridgway told her he'd meet her down the road at a bank. The woman, a decoy in a prostitution sting, working for a King County sheriff's deputy signaled to back up officers to make an arrest.

He was arrested on suspicion of loitering to pick up a prostitute and booked into the Regional Justice Center in Kent. He later pleaded not guilty. SeaTac Municipal Judge Paul Codd found him guilty and sentenced him to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The entire jail sentence and $300 of the fine. He was arrested for the murder of 4 women several days later.

He was charged with the murder of 4 women within a few weeks.

"He thought the whole thing was over with. He thought the whole thing was given a run through in 1987," his Attorney Anthony Savage said. "He went through lie detectors, searches, you name it. "He seems like an innocent man who's in a lot of trouble," Savage said.

Ridgway is being held in the King County Jail's "ultrahigh security" unit, without bail. His attorney, Tony Savage said. "I think Gary's holding up pretty well under the circumstances. I don't know if you or I would hold up as well under the same conditions." He is allowed to have visitors but it is not known if anyone had been into see him other than his attorneys. "He's not despondent. He's not in tears," Savage said. Ridgway's family is "behind him 100 %," Savage added. Members of Ridgway's family did not attend. "They're not anxious to be TV stars," Savage said after the hearing. "You're not going to see them in court for a long, long time."

Ridgway was suspect for years -- Investigators feared that if they tried Ridgway without enough evidence he could be acquitted, he would then be free under double jeopardy laws. So they waited. He was cleared in 1985 after passing a lie detector test. When his file was reopened the following year, it was dropped by the FBI after Ridgway's lawyer complained. Evidence including semen samples, was circumstantial. Semen samples were only used to determine blood types. Test results could only narrow down to one in millions, not identify a specific individual.

Timeline of key dates in the life of Gary Ridgway, with a map of his homes since childhood.

Growing Up - Devoted Son - Friendly Neighbor - He was considered a dutiful son. He was "very close" to his mother but not to his father.

His Marriages and Love Lives - A prostitute and a former wife were choked by him, he placed both in a police-type choke hold in 1982.

His Homes & Neighbors - "We are searching the house, the property and the yard. We are interested in every square inch of every place he's lived," said King County Sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart. The search, digging, canvassing and cadaver dogs extended to his previous residences including the home where his late mother lived for over 30 years.

At Work - Male coworkers ignored him while female workers were fending off unwanted advances.

Hobbies - The Bible, Hunting, Swap Meets, dirty jokes, Beer & Prostitution - He read the Bible at work, drank beer in cans and picked up prostitutes.

His Links to the Green River Crimes - See Investigations

  • In 1980 he was accused of choking a prostitute but the police let him go.
  • In 1982, he was interviewed by Port of Seattle police while parked in a car with a prostitute, Kelli McGinness, 18. (McGinness disappeared in June 1983.)
  • 1982 Ridgway pleaded guilty to soliciting a policewoman posing as a prostitute.
  • In 1983 he was a prime suspect in the disappearance of Maria Malvar. She was last seen in his truck struggling with him.
  • 1984 Ridgway contacted the task force about a prostitute he knew. Detectives learned he had contact with at least 3 of the victims.
  • Ridgway became the Green River Killer suspect in 1984, after he was interviewed by police, his workplace was searched.
  • 1986 he took another lie detector test and passed.
  • 1987 his home was searched and he was told to chew a piece of gauze, so they would have a sample of saliva.
  • Currently he has been arrested because DNA has linked him to three murders and circumstantial evidence in another.

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Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006


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Gary Leon Ridgway
Growing Up
Wives & Lovers
His Homes & Vehicles
Job History
Law Enforcement Relationship
Ex-wife Helps Detectives
The Arrest
Civil Suit

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