There is not too much known about Gary Leon Ridgeway’s past. He was born on February 18, 1949 to Tom and Mary Ridgway. Gary was the middle child, his brother Greg was one year older and his brother Thomas was two years younger. They lived in Utah at the time Gary was born and in 1960 the family moved to McMicken Heights, Washington. The family lived by a highway.
They called it the “Night of the Living Dead”, a procession of streetwalkers, johns, drug dealers, and runaways. This is where Gary Leon Ridgway grew up, and where he always returned. Gary’s father, Tom Ridgway, was a Metro Transit bus driver. Gary’s parents and family were generally very reserved people. They kept to themselves and did not associate with their neighbors often.
In one account, it was said that Gary’s mother, Mary Ridgway, was “frequently yelling at his father”. It was also reported that Gary’s mother once, “got so angry at his father that she broke a dinner plate over her husband’s head while he was sitting at the dinner table. Ridgway’s father didn’t retaliate; he simply got up from the table and left”. Conspicuously enough, was the way that Gary’s mother dressed, “She wore tight clothes and excessive makeupÐ’…She looked like a prostitute”. Gary’s prime suspects in his killings were prostitutes.
It would be decades later that Ridgway would tell detectives of his real relationship with his mother, of his sexual attraction to her, of his sexual attraction to her, of his feelings of lust and humiliation. After Gary got married, his mother remained an influence in his life. His wives, all three, often said that Gary’s mother was very overbearing and far too controlling. His father died in 1998 and his mother died in 2001. (Horvitz)
In the early years of his life, Gary never exhibited the usual characteristics of a serial killer. He was a nice reserved boy who was rather slow when it came to learning. He did not graduate from high school until the age of 20. A generally typical teenager, neighbors and classmates describe Gary in the following ways:
– “He didn’t strike me as somebody who had a lot of anger.”
– “I never ever imagined that (he would become a killer)Ð’…He was just kind of there like the rest of us. There were few standouts, but he wasn’t one of them”.
– “There was nothing that would draw your attention to Gary as being different form anybody else.”
– “He was just a normal guy who was quick to smile. He was just one of the kids trying to make it through school”. (Horvitz)
After Ridgway was taken into custody, he did admit to several things that are characteristics of a serial killer. He told a psychologist, “about wetting the bed until his early teens and that he had vivid memories of his mother washing his genitals afterward”. (Harden) The issue with his mother was the only thing that psychologists say was a quality or characteristic of serial killers. Ridgway
also thought of killing his mother on several occasions because of his feelings for her. One psychologist said, “With humiliation would come rage toward the mother. That is very common in serial murderersÐ’–displaced matricide. Unconsciously, he is killing his mother over and over again”. (Harden)
Aside from his problems with his mother, Gary never was a typical serial killer. He was very self-disciplined and never told anyone about his killings. “To have strong feelings of pride in one’s career as a serial murderer and then not communicate that to anyone for 21 years is a measure of remarkable discipline”. This said by Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego. (Harden) Prosecutors from Ridgway’s case said that he suffered from no mental illness that would absolve him of responsibility for these heinous crimesÐ’…In five months of interviews, he displayed no empathy for his victims and expressed no genuine remorse. He killed because he wanted to. He killed because he could. He killed to satisfy his evil and unfathomable desires. (Harden)
However, according to Ridgway’s lawyer, Michele Shaw, he was very remorseful. By her account, Gary frequently broke down in tears. He worried about whether news of his crimes would ruin his elder brother’s marriage. He thanked God that his mother (who had died three months before his arrest) was not around to learn the truth. He talked about how any profits from a book or movie about the crimes should go to the families of his victims. (Harden)
The Green River murders took place between the years 1982-1984. The entire ordeal started out with women, mainly young prostitutes, in the Seattle, Washington area going missing. Bodies all over the Green River area started to turn up. At first the bodies were found whole. Then after increased publicity, the bodies started showing up in “clusters”. There were no big breaks in the case for years. Throughout the investigation, dozens of bodies kept turning up. After the case came to a close, a total of around 49 bodies were found.
At one time during the early investigation, Ted Bundy was called upon to aid in the investigation. He gave detectives a greater insight into the profile of the Green River killer. Even after all of the help, and evidence, a killer was not found. Then at one point during the search, Gary Ridgway became a suspect. One of the victim’s boyfriends had last seen her get into Ridgway’s car.
The police thoroughly searched Ridgway’s car and home but found nothing to hold him on. Gary was released and left the police with the one thing that broke the case about a dozen years later, a saliva sample. In July, 1991, the investigation came to a close due to lack of moral support and suspects. Ten years later, in 2001, Detective Dave Reichert decided to reopen the case. New technology assisted the newly formed team in matching Ridgway’s DNA to DNA found on some of the victims. (Bell)
On September 10, 2001, Reichert received news from the labs that reduced the hardened detective to tears. There was a match found between the semen samples taken from the victims and Ridgway. On November 30, 2001, Ridgway was intercepted by investigators on his way home from work and arrested on four counts of aggravated murder. (Bell)
On November 5, 2003, Gary Leon Ridgway confessed to murdering 48 women. He plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. Some of his most recognized comments during the trial were:
“They don’t mean anything to me.”
“And once I’ve killed Ð”em, I didn’t keep it in memory. I just knew where I dumped themÐ’…These women’s faces don’t mean anything to me.”
“I would talk to herÐ’…and get her mind off of the, uh, anything she was nervous about. And think, you know, she thinks, Ð”Oh, this guy cares’, and which, I didn’t. I just want to, uh, get her in the vehicle and eventually kill her.”
“I’m good at one thingÐ’…and that’s killing prostitutes.”
“You can put her on the list of mine. But I’m not going to say I killed her because I didn’t kill herÐ’…Why? If it isn’t mine? Because I have pride in, in what I do. I don’t wanna take it from anybody else.”
“Uh, the reason why I put ”em (the bodies) so far apart is because if I wanted to go back, there wouldn’t be any smell’…I had to take them all the way out there. Waste of my time and gas.”
“Choking is what I did, and I was pretty good at it”. (Horvitz)
Gary Ridgway has also been noted as saying:
“I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex. I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being notices. 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.” (Bell)
Gary Leon Ridgway is now the top convicted serial killer in American history and he has also confessed to more confirmed murders than any other American serial killer. It is highly believed that Ridgway killed many more women than he confessed to and is likely to be prosecuted for more murders in the future.
On December 18, 2003, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Jones sentenced Ridgway to 48 life sentences with no possibility of parole and one life sentence, to be served consecutively. He is currently serving his sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. (Burns)