Victim Studies 001: Gary Ridgwayon September 29, 2011 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by Heather Whitney
Gary Ridgway, otherwise known as the Green River Killer, is a serial killer whose serial series spanned from 1982 until 2001. He is thought to have murdered at least 71 women but had been arrested and charged with the murders of 48 women in King County, Washington.
Ridgway only chose females as his victims, however, he did not only chose members of his own race or ethnicity, as most serial killers do. He would choose to murder a woman of any shape, size or ethnicity. Ridgway did not seem to concern himself with the physical features of his victims, but instead focused on the convenience of the crime. The majority of woman who Ridgway would see as vulnerable or easy to get alone, would be his next victim.
The convenience of his crimes were also shown through his treatment of the victims postmortem. Ridgway was known to revisit his undiscovered victims’ bodies to have intercourse with them if he did not want the inconvenience of hunting for another victim. During his confession, Ridgway claimed that he would bury some of his victims to resist the urge of committing necrophilia. His insatiable sexual appetite was noted by all of his ex-wives and ex-girlfriends. According to records, Ridgway would often demand sex from his partners multiple times per day. All of his partners also stated that they were often forced to have intercourse in public places, often in the woods or areas where his victim’s bodies would later be discovered.
Almost all of Ridgway’s victims were prostitutes or runaways that he would pick up on the Pacific Highway South. As with most serial killers who choose prostitutes as his victims, Ridgway found that prostitutes and runaways were easy to get alone, and he assumed that no one would care or notice their absence. Ridgway was said to have complained constantly about the prostitutes that were around his neighborhood, sometimes becoming a religious fanatic, quoting parables and readings from the bible. It is believed that due to the conflict between his insatiable sex drive and religious beliefs concerning prostitutes that he began to take his frustrations on the local prostitutes. Ridgway assumed that because prostitutes were viewed so poorly in his neighborhood that he would be helping to “clean” the neighborhood through their murders.
This being said, Ridgway and most serial killers believe that law enforcement will not make a large effort to find the missing girls if they were thought to be involved in prostitution. There was one exception in his list of suspected victims, Amina Agisheff, who was not a prostitute or a runaway, but is believed to have been murdered by Ridgway. Amina was involved in a stable relationship, worked in a restaurant and was also a mother or two at the time of her murder. All of these characteristics do not seem to match the Ridgway’s taste in women, but because of the method of murder and the location of her body it was difficult to rule Ridgway out.
In order to lure most of his victims into his car Ridgway would show women a picture of his son to earn their trust. He assumed that these women would not suspect a father to cause them any harm. Ridgway claimed that all of his victims were murdered in his home, in his truck or in the woods. He preferred to murder and rape women under the age of twenty. Ridgway would have sex with the prostitutes that he would lure into his car or home, insisting on payment afterwards so that he could murder them later. Most of the runaways Ridgway chose to kidnap were raped prior to their murder.
At the beginning of Ridgway’s serial series he would manually strangle his victims with his hands. According to records, Ridgway would receive cuts and bruises from his victims as they fought for their lives, so he began to strangle his victims with their clothing. This method of murder left virtually no physical evidence on Ridgway to prove he committed the crimes. During the time of his confession, Ridgway had stated that although he did consider using guns and knives to murder, he had decided that not only would those methods be too messy, but also that he believed choking to be a more personal and rewarding way to murder. Ridgway considered murdering women a career, and so he continued to perfect his method of murder.
At the locations where police began to find bodies they began to find planted evidence. After committing a murder, Ridgway began to place evidence, such as gum, coffee cups, cigarettes, and even notes written by other people around his victims. This is believed to be an attempt to confuse police. Ridgway was also known to transport a few of his victims over state borders to create confusion as to the state in which the serial killer was located. Some serial killers have been known to write letters to the police or the media, drawing attention to themselves and their crimes, Ridgway preferred to remain unknown to the police.
With only a few exceptions, Ridgway had creating dumping grounds for his victims. He would usually leave a number of victims uncovered in the same wooded areas, off isolated roads. The police were able to find a number of dumping grounds believed to have been created by Ridgway. The criminal profilers who were investing this case supposed that because Ridgway had chosen to dispose of the bodies in this manner, he believed the victims were easily discarded, like human garbage.
It was not until 1985 that a notable smaller amount of victims were being found. According to Ridgway his desire to rape and murder decreased significantly while being married to Judith Mawson. Ridgway also claimed that he truly loved her, and it was only because of this happiness that he did not murder as much as he would have probably would have otherwise. Despite this decrease in murdering, Ridgway is believed to have murdered over 33 women while being happily married to Mawson.
Although Ridgway was formally charged for 48 counts of murder, there is no way to determine how many women he actually murdered. While on trail Ridgway claimed that he had a difficult time remembering and keeping track of how many people he had killed. Ridgway never learned their names, instead he would gain their trust and dispose of them. It is believed that because Ridgway did not have an ideal victim type and cared little for his victims from the start, that he found it so easy to select and murder his victims. Many of Ridgway’s suspected victims have still not been discovered, and so his victim list may continue to grow.
Editor’s Note: Gary Ridgway pled guilty to a 49th murder in February 2011. He had confessed to her murder in 2003, but could not be charged until her remains were located and identified.