"We don't have any idea what the motive is."
-- King County Detective Tom Jensen
Detective Sue Peters, 45, is a 21-year member of the King County Sheriff's Office. Almost from the start, she's helped track Ridgway. She continues to do so. As part of the plea agreement that spared his life, Ridgway continues to work with Peters and the other detectives -- who, in turn, continue to search for women he killed. -- November 15, 2003
In 1980 he was accused of choking a prostitute. The woman escaped and called police from a nearby house. Ridgway claimed the woman bit him. 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, near a Little League baseball field. (The same field is where the skeleton of Cheryl Wims would be found in 1984.) McGinness disappeared in June 1983 and has never been found.
In 1982, Ridgway was arrested on prostitution solicitation charges, he pleaded guilty to soliciting a police woman posing as a prostitute. He was questioned and released.
Three years after Ridgway was accused of trying to strangle a prostitute in 1980, he admitted to detectives he had a "compulsive fixation" with them, saying they affected him as strongly as alcohol affects an alcoholic.
1983 he was a prime suspect in the disappearance of Maria Malvar, 18 years. A friend of Malvar's saw the truck pick her up, but lost it in traffic. The next day the friend and Malvar's father found the truck parked outside Ridgway's Sea-Tac house. Police spoke to Ridgway at his house but he denied knowing anything about it. Police had no evidence so no charges followed. Malvar has never been found.
The following year, a prostitute told investigators she was assaulted by Ridgway on "a $20 car date" in 1982. She escaped death. Ridgway led her into the woods and during sex he put her in a "police like choke hold." The woman managed to escape to a nearby trailer park.
1984, Ridgway drew police suspicion when he contacted the task-force to tell them about a prostitute he knew. He told police met one of the victims in fall 1983. He man didn't know her name but her and a friend along The Strip. He was shown victim photographs and identified Kim Nelson, who investigators knew as Tina Tomson.
A number of prostitutes identified his photograph as a man they had contact with on The Strip in 1982 - 1983.
Eyewitnesses who had seen pickup trucks associated with the disappearances were compared to Ridgways vehicles. The trucks could have been the same.
Ridgway first became the Green River Killer suspect in 1984, after he was interviewed by police.
On May 7, 1984, he took a lie detector test. Initially the results cleared him, until 2 experts reexamined the results and concluded it did not clear him.
1984 - Shift records obtained from his employer under a inquiry subpoena showed that when a victim disappeared he was not at work. When victims had last been seen, he called in sick.
1985, Matt Haney, King County police detective joined the task force, and took a hard look at Ridgway. Haney reviewed Ridgway's 1984 lie detector test. Experts later called it "incomplete."
Haney had Ridgway take another lie detector test in 1986. Ridgway passed this test, too.
Detectives made a list of all the vehicles the killer used in the murders. The list totaled 9 cars or pickup trucks, several with campers.
When interviewed again in 1987, they searched his home but didn't find a trace of any physical evidence not a hair, not a fiber to tie him to a crime in his house and numerous vehicles. He was directed by detectives to chew a piece of gauze. The saliva sample provided evidence for the future DNA test results linking Ridgway to the case.
Two years ago, 16 years after her initial disappearance, investigators identified the remains of Tracy Ann Winston, 19. The only thing left were skeletal remains.
Green River Detective Tom Jensen submitted DNA samples to the state crime lab in March 2001, and received the first positive results on Sept. 4, 2001.
Urquhart said they watched Ridgway from that week "we were aware of his movements." They didn't arrest him immediately because the detectives were sure he was not onto them and confident he wouldn't leave the area. Detectives worked with the prosecutor's office to build a strong case. "We had to get our ducks in a row so we could keep him in jail once we put him there," Urquhart said.
According to court documents they discovered Ridgway used out-of-the-way routes to erratically drive home from work along Pacific Highway South. The same behavior they saw when they watched him in the mid 80s.
"Rubber necking as if he were looking for someone to pick up," says Sheriff Dave Reichert, "pulling over and stopping, pulling U-turns, pulling into alleyways, just very bizarre behavior."
Then on November 16, 2001 King County undercover vice officers conducted a "john sting" on Pacific Highway South to keep down prostitution in the area. They arrested Ridgway. Court documents show he plead guilty of loitering for the purpose of prostitution.
Vice Officers had no way of knowing he was linked him to the Green River killings. Street Vice Officers do not carry lists of Green River suspects. "His name was not in any databases that would pop up if he was arrested," Urquhart said.
Detectives didn't realize that on Nov. 16, 2001, Ridgway was arrested on charges of loitering for prostitution, booked and released without bail on personal recognizance. His court date, was 3 days before he was arrested for murder. He was sentence to 90 days in jail which was suspended and $300 of his $1,000 fine was suspended on the condition he stay out of areas of prostitution and no similar violations for 2 years. Ridgway chose to make monthly payments over time on the $700 fine.
In 1989, King County Detective Matt Haney left the Green River task force after spending years on one suspect with no arrest. Currently a Bainbridge Island police lieutenant on loan to King County Detectives.
Sue Peters, homicide detective, was on the task force from 1987 to 1989. She asked Haney in October to meet with her and detective, Randy Mullinax, to break the news: "We're focusing on Gary."
Peters and Haney joined the team a few days later.
Tom Jensen spent over 9 of the last 17 years as the sole investigator after a task force formed in 1984 slowly dwindled and wound down in 1990. They will work together in to resolve the mysteries surrounding the Green River Killers.
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert says up to 50 detectives are working the case. He plans on meeting with the FBI and local agencies later to discuss their participation in the Task Force reviewing evidence in three of the victims' cases.
Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006