Robert Keppel, retired WA State Investigator, cautioned against thinking of the Green River killings as only 49 slain or missing women. "Those 49 are news media victims," he said. "They are what the news media put together. The police have a different set of numbers." If only 49 women were killed, that means the slayings stopped, which may be unlikely. "The likelihood of stopping is real small," Keppel said.
Being on the Green River list, is not proof all victims were murdered by the same killer. Sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart said Ridgway's arrest has not caused detectives to rule out any other suspects or persons of interest.
Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that copycat killers may be responsible slayings attributed to the Green River Killer.
Evidence surrounding the deaths of Mills, Chapman and Hinds suggests 2 people could have been involved in the slayings. In 1982, the man who found Hinds and Chapman in the river was a collector floating down the river to look for junk, saw 2 men with a pickup near the bodies. The men left right before the bodies were discovered. The 2 women whose bodies who were found in the Green River were Wendy Lee Coffield and Debra Lynn Bonner. Coffield's body was found July 15, 1982. Bonner's was found Aug. 12, 1982. Three days later, Mills, Chapman and Hinds were discovered by detectives 150 yards up river. Investigators deducted the killer was there, putting Mills in the river when he noticed the police downstream, he left quickly leaving Mills onshore, which preserved DNA evidence.
Police believed the Green River killings stopped in 1984, but unsolved cases in the early 1990s have led some to cast doubt on that timing.
Police don't know if Ridgway will be linked to murders after 1983.
He knew "everybody was looking over his shoulder and he obviously knew that the police knew he was a suspect," Keppel said.
Experts say a pause in a string of slayings does not mean a serial killer stopped on his own. It could mean the killer died, been imprisoned for an unrelated crime, or may have moved.
Homicide has no statute of limitations, there are many cases back in property rooms where the case has been closed and not reopened, said John Turner with the Washington state attorney generals office. Yet technology today really encourages us as we encourage other agencies to take a re-look at those cases.
The Sheriff's Office is compiling a list of every slain or missing woman in King County since 1982, Urquhart said.
John Urquhart said decisions on whether to link certain homicide victims to the Green River cases were controversial but the current investigation will look at all unsolved killings of prostitutes in King County.
Because of the placement of some bodies, rough terrain, off the beaten path, some investigators believe that Ridgway might have had help dumping the corpses.
1985 in Portland a 15-year-old girl gave a sketch of a man she said tried to rape and kill her. Investigators see similarities compared to a 1982, photo of Ridgway. "There was not a suspect determined, and it has some similarities to some of the Green River cases, said Sally Gilpin, Oregon State Patrol. The victim taken from a section of Portland where prostitutes worked, was taken to the woods and choked.
Investigators with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been in contact with King County detectives regarding the investigations of the disappearances of as many as 45 women from Vancouver area. King County investigators are checking border records to find out if and when Ridgway had crossed the border.
Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006