|GREEN RIVER GARY
|IS GARY RIDGWAY THE GREEN RIVER KILLER?
December 17, 2001 - The defense team for suspected Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, was awarded $290,000 in public funds by Superior Court Judge Brian Gain for independent DNA testing and hiring a forensic pathologist and a computer specialist. The judge also moved the case from suburban Kent to the King County Courthouse in Seattle. Authorities used a saliva sample from Ridgway to link him to the original Green River killings.
December 12, 2001 - Witnesses told police that Green River Killer suspect, Gary Leon Ridgway, spent time in and around Vancouver where 45 women have disappeared. Ridgway's neighbors said he and his wife Judith constantly traveled in their motor-home to British Columbia and Oregon. Following Ridgeway's arrest, Canadian investigators visited authorities in Seattle to gather information about the suspect. Vancouver Detective Jim McKnight said police and RCMP have taken statements from Vancouver prostitutes who said they recognized Ridgway. "There's some indication that he was in B.C.," McKnight told Seattle's KING-TV. "I can't be too specific because I don't know for sure yet." The Vancouver disappearances began in 1984, at about the same time that the Green River killings ended.
December 6, 2001 - Authorities have found bone fragments and other evidence in the homes of suspected Green River Killer, Gary Leon Ridgway. According to court documents, detectives took envelopes containing bone fragments, boxes of latex gloves and a copy of the book "The Search for the Green River Killer" from four homes where Green River Gary -- as he was known by co-workers -- lived. Authorities wouldn't provide details about the bones, including whether they were from humans. The documents also offers graphic details of Ridgway's sex life, as described by two ex-wives, girlfriends and prostitutes. They also recount alleged incidents of past violence toward women.
November 30, 2001 - As of last summer, there was only one King County sheriff's Detective working the Green River Killer case file. Tom Jensen, the lone investigator, hoped to use tissue samples from the five initial bodies found in 1982 to identify the suspect. Nearly twenty years after the first victims were discovered, Seattle police officers arrested longtime suspect Gary Leon Ridgway for the homicide of four early victims in the Green River case. Ridgway, 52, an employee of Kenworth Truck Co. in Renton for 32 years, was arrested as he was leaving work. He is married and has an adult son.
Ridgeway now stands accused of killing Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Cynthia Hinds, whose bodies were found in the Green River on August 15, 1982, and Carol Christensen, whose body was found May 8, 1983, in woods in nearby Maple Valley. Mills, Chapman and Hinds were among the initial killings linked to the elusive Green River Killer. Eventually, 49 murders would be attributed to the unknown suspect.
In 1984 Ridgway had a brush with a Seattle policewoman posing as a hooker but was released. He was again questioned by the Green River task force after witnesses identified his pickup truck and said he had been seen with two of the victims. Fortunately, he was never taken off the suspect list. In 1987, Ridgway complied with a court order to chew on a piece of gauze to collect a saliva sample. Using cutting DNA techniques, the saliva was tested again in March and the results matched him the three of the 1982 crimes scenes.
|THE GREEN RIVER KILLER - KOTL
The Green River Killer case has been the longest, costliest and most frustrating investigation in U.S. history. For 15 years, detectives in the Seattle-Tacoma area have been trying to track down the killer, an unidentified man believed to be responsible for the murders of 49 women in King County between 1982 and 1984. A Task Force, formed in January 1984 to investigate the killings, was originally made up of two lieutenants, four sergeants, a dozen detectives and 22 plainclothes officers from Seattle, Tacoma and King County. At its peak in 1985, the number of officers involved in the investigation was 56. At the time, with only one-percent of evidence processed, investigators realized it would take 50 years to examine everything they had. As the investigation itself became buried under a mountain of files, the Task Force itself came under fire for their lack of results. "We were confident that the whole thing would be over in a few months," one of the original Task Force members recalled. "No of us believed it would take any longer than that."
By November 1986, after a series of frustrating high-profile missteps and an incoming new police administration, the Task Force was drastically cut. Two years after the last killing even politically correct Seattle residents began to forget a killer remained on the loose. By 1989, seven and a half years after the first known victim was fished out of the Green River, the case had all but vanished from the fickle public mind. Now, after spending $15 million dollars, compiling more than a room full of evidence and files on more than half million people, only one officer, King County Police Major Crimes Division Detective Tom Jensen, is left searching for the elusive killer.
In retrospect, some say, the only good things to come to come out of the Green River investigation was the experience Seattle police department gained as it became the top police department in the U.S. evaluating forensic evidence and crime scenes. Now detectives in Spokane, Portland, Vancouver and New Bedford have sought the help of their Seattle counterparts as they try to unravel data patterns in their own serial killer investigations.
The horror was first uncovered July 15, 1982, when two young boys riding their bicycles across a bridge over the Green River -- a mere stream in southeastern King County, south of the Seattle-Tacoma Airport -- discovered a woman's naked body in the water. The victim, identified as 16-year-old Wendy Lee Coffield, had been strangled with her own jeans which were still tightly knotted around her neck. Coffield, a known prostitute, was last seen a week before in the Tacoma area, fifteen miles to the south of the Green River.
Less than a month later, on August 12, a worker on his afternoon break at a meatpacking company just south of the Coffield crime scene found the nude body of 23-year-old Debra Bonner on the riverbank. Three days later a man rafting down the Green River in search of bottles and cans found two more bodies submerged in the water. The two corpses, identified as 31 year-old Marcia Chapman and 17-year-old Cynthia Hinds, were weighted underwater with rocks. By sunset investigators had found a third corpse hidden in the grass 30 feet away from the two submerged victims. The victim in the grass, 16-year-old Opal Mills, also had her pants wrapped tightly around the neck.
With five victims found within a quarter-mile from each other King County police, suffering from what law enforcement officers call "linkage blindness," said they saw no obvious connections between the killings. Instead, they suggested the deaths were the result of a "pimp war." But the links between the murders could not be ignored: the victims were all about the same age, they were killed within a month of each other, they were found in close proximity, they were strangled, two still had their pants wrapped around their necks, three had prostitution arrests, and two -- the coroner's office discovered -- had pyramid-like rocks inserted in their vaginas.
Serial killer expert Bob Keppel was the first to officially voice his concerns that thy had a serial killer on the loose. "I can tell you one thing," he said at an August 16 meeting with investigators from Seattle, Tacoma and King County. "This probably isn't the first time this guy has killed, and not only that, he's not going to stop until he is caught or dies." Keppel, a special investigator for the Washington State Attorney General's Office, was instrumental in the case against Seattle's "other" serial killer, Ted Bundy. Backing Keppel's claims Seattle police had a number of missing persons reports from a known prostitute area called The Strip, just south of the Sea-Tac Airport.
Keppel couldn't have been more right. For the next five years King County Police Officers found themselves recovering the remains of young women in isolated spots to an unfathomable total of 49 victims. The women were all of similar ages and backgrounds. Many of them disappeared from The Strip. Their bodies were found with frightening regularity in logging trails, behind Little League fields, in water, up mountains and down ravines. With each find new patterns evidence emerged, new clues in an endless jigsaw puzzle that would form a clear picture of the killer without ever revealing his identity.
The most telling signifier of the killer was his choice of dumpsites, which he tended to use repeatedly. In all he gravitated towards four prominent clusters around Seattle: North and South of the Sea-Tac Airport, the Green River, and the Star Lake area. Most dump sites showed evidence of illegal dumping of household garbage, suggesting the killer could be involved in garbage disposal. At times the killer used more than one site simultaneously. In general the killer used wooded areas next to isolated roads with good views in both directions. The victims were usually naked or had little clothes on. Some of the victims were buried in shallow graves, some covered with branches, and some were theatrically displayed. Sometimes he would leave the victims close to homes or well-traveled areas, which suggest that he wanted them found.
The locations of many of the bodies were found are connected by a network of secondary state highways to Highway 18. Evidence at the crime sites suggest the killings involved only one person. Details from the various dumpsites paint a picture of a man playing a cat and mouse game with the law. For instance there are the theatrically placed bodies found in the river. Also, 21-year-old Carol Christensen, who was found with two skinned fishes draped on her body, and a sausage and a bottle of wine carefully laid out next to her. Another victim, Sandra Gabbert was found next to a large dead dog. Another victim was eight months pregnant. She was one of the first found buried, suggesting the killer felt remorse for killing the baby. At least two women who he picked up in Seattle and traveled to Portland to dump their remains. In the case of Denise Bush, the killer left some of her remains outside Portland, and some near Sea-Tac Airport.
According to retired LA detective Pierce Brooks the bodies of the victims were valuable to the killer. In August 1985 Brooks, famous for his work in the Atlanta Child Killer Investigation and Chicago's Tylenol Murders, was contracted to review the investigation. Facing the mountains of data accumulated, Brooks suggested that the killer's name was already in the records. "The odds are that his name is in there, probably more than once," said Brooks. "You just have to dig it out." Brooks profiled the killer as a sexual psychopath with a deep hatred towards women who he considered nothing more than trash. The roots to his rage, Brooks believes, lie somewhere in his childhood psyche, when he might have been abused by mother. "Control is a big thing with him," Brooks told People Magazine. "He's got to have control. Serial killers are the biggest cowards in the criminal subculture. These victims are teenagers, some of them 15 or 16 years old. He's got to be physically stronger than his victims." Brooks believed the killer previously visited the dumpsites for other reasons before using them t hide his victims. The remoteness of the spots indicated that the killer was intimately familiar with the area.
Using a library of missing person's dental charts, the King County Police Department was able to identify 40 of the 49 sets of human remains they recovered. All the slain women were young, some in their early teens. Racially they were white, black and Native American. Many were runaways, some hitchhikers, but mostly they were involved in prostitution and drugs and worked the Sea-Tac Strip. Since the women abducted by the killer were so mobile and were not in regular contact with relatives and friends, sometimes the exact times of their disappearances are hard to pin down.
By most accounts, the last woman slain by the killer was 17-year-old Cindy Anne Smith, who disappeared from the Sea-Tac Strip area March 21, 1984. Her remains were never found. After that, investigators have said, the killer may have been imprisoned for some other crime, died, fallen ill, or moved somewhere else where he continued with his lust for blood. "Why did the guy stop killing people?" asked Detective Tom Jensen in an interview for APB Online. "Who knows? And we may never find out." At the time of the last murder the total number of victims was at 40. Today the number stands at 49.
Jensen, who has spent more than a decade trying to solve the cases of the murdered prostitutes and is the remaining officer on the case, does not believe there's any evidence connecting the Green River slayings with other more recent slayings. "I was aware of these cases," the detective said. "If we have multiple victims at some dump site then we could safely say the same person was responsible for all these cases." Others are not be as sure.
According to author Tomas Guillen: "Officially, King County police took the position that the Green River killer stopped killing in early 1984. Investigators in the 1990s revealed it was very possible and maybe likely that he killed into the late '80s." The Task Force, at its investigative peak, reviewed 38 other unsolved murders from between 1973 and 1982 in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties with identical traits to the Green River killings. However, these cases were never included in the "official" Green River victim list. King County Police Captain Frank Adamson said, "I don't believe for a minute that these crimes started with the bodies found in the river in 1982."
From the start of the investigation, interagency rivalry between the different police departments from different jurisdictions and the Task Force severely crippled the progress of the investigation. Airport officers, who literally had their precinct handed over to the Task Force, accused the investigating agents of being secretive and clannish. Looking at the Green River investigation with the advantage of time, one cannot help to think that the rivalry and stubbornness of several departments and agencies greatly contributed to the killer's escape from justice.
Vice officers, who resented the attention and funding given to Task Force members, refused to lend any help and made a point of not sharing information with them. Instead, they passively sabotaged the investigation by never recording the license plate numbers of johns seen leaving The Strip and refusing to interview arrested prostitutes about the murders. At one point the Task Force raised the suspicion that the killer could be working in the Vice Squad. Of the 46 disappearance dates known, Vice Squad officers had not arrested anyone on 41 of them. Otherwise, the squad rarely went for two days without making an arrest.
Also, once the Task Force started keeping The Strip under surveillance the killings stopped, suggesting the killer might have had inside information from the department. The Vice Squad theory was quickly scraped when no officer was unaccounted for all dates of the disappearance. The only way Vice officers could be involved would be if they formed a deadly cadre, which would be a next to impossible feat to get away with.
Adding to the investigative chaos, serial confessor Henry Lee Lucas told authorities in Texas that he committed some of the Green River killings. The claim was quickly dismissed when it was noted that Lucas and his cannibal partner, Ottis Toole, also confessed to several murders in the Easy Coast that took place around the same time as the King County killings. From jail in Florida, Ted Bundy, Seattle's most infamous serial killer, implied that he knew the identity of the killer. In an attempt to delay his execution, Bundy wrote to special investigator Bob Keppel suggesting he had pertinent information about the case. Bundy thought authorities should keep the known dumpsites under surveillance since most killers enjoyed returning to them for kicks. Keppel believes Bundy was cynically motivated to offer his help because he wanted the Green River suspect caught before he passed his own record-setting number of 22 kills.
By the time the murders stopped in Seattle police said the killer might have moved to Portland, Oregon, -- three-hours away -- where they had seven unsolved prostitutes murders, four of which had striking similarities to the Green River killings. Oregon police officer were skeptical about the Seattle officer's assertion that the killer had relocated there. Proving that the killer did indeed have connections to Portland, two of his victims abducted from the Sea-Tac Strip in 1982 were found south of Portland in 1985. Then an attack on a 15-year-old Portland prostitute September 6, 1985, was also linked to the Green River suspect. Like the other victims she was young, was picked of the street, and was taken to a remote area where she was raped and left dying in a ditch. But this time the victim survived and provided police with a description of her attacker which was used to make what is believed to be the most accurate composite picture of the Green River fiend.
The Green River composite describes a white male in his late twenties and early thirties, about five-feet-nine to six-feet tall, with a corpulent build, short curly blond hair, moustache, ruddy complexion, roundish face and acne scars all around it. The 15-year-old said her attacker drove a blue station wagon with the name of a taxi company stenciled on the door and a taxi sign on top. Other composites of the suspected killer had described him thinner, younger and with straight blond or reddish hair. Conveniently the two most widely circulated composite pictures match two of the three most prominent "persons of interest" identified by investigators.
Many of the complications that arose from not having access to cross jurisdictional information during the Green River investigation led to the development and creation of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) program. With the VICAP computer database, unsolved violent crimes from different parts of the country could be analyzed together to search for possible correlation. The VICAP system, which is now 15 years old, has become a standard tool in serial crime investigation, helping officer nationwide solve hat previously were unsolvable crimes. Using the VICAP system, officers input a multi-page event sheet highlighting all aspects of the crime, which then becomes part of the national database that might correlate the information with other similar crimes pointing at the possibility of an emerging serial killer.
In 1984 the Task Force spent $200,000 on a VAX minicomputer and, for the next two years, entered more than a million bits of information about the case into a database. Using software customized by the CIA detectives, in an attempt to find new leads in the investigation, were able to wade through enormous amounts of data about evidence and similar homicides across country. "The computer is the heart of the investigation," said Crime Analysis Supervisor Chuck Winters. "But it's old-fashioned police work that will solve this case." In 1998 the investigation reached a high-tech plateau when scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNL) ran all data collected from the case through a powerful Cray computer developed for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command. The software, called Starlight, searched for word similarities extracts data patterns from the millions of documents accumulated in the investigation. Still, no new results pointed at the identity of the killer.
In an attempt to figure out what happened to their killer, Task Force members theorized he might have resurfaced down the western coast in the San Diego where, since 1984, there was a marked upsurge of prostitute killing. San Diego, a Southern California city with a population of 900,000, is in many ways a sunnier version of Seattle. Like Seattle San Diego has an extensive aerospace industry, a sizable fishing and merchant fleets, and nearby military bases, which might have provided a job base for relocated killer.
Between 1984 and 1988 up to 25 bodies were found outside San Diego city limits in isolated areas of unincorporated sections of the county. Most of the dumpsites were easily accessible from the I-80 Freeway. San Diego Police, wishing that the Seattle Task Force kept their problems up North, chose to ignore the increase of violence surrounding prostitutes, noting that prostitution was a dangerous job and violence came with it. In 1988 the Metropolitan Homicide Task Force -- consisting of up to 32 investigators from the San Diego's Police Department, district attorney's office, Sheriff's Department and the California attorney general's office was formed to solve a growing list of 45 vagrant and prostitute-related murders starting in 1984.
At first investigators focused on the possibility of two separate multiple serial killers operating in the area. Both killers were suspected of hunting prostitutes, particularly those working the El Cajon Boulevard strip. One killer, police noted, was dumping his victims in trash containers near the downtown area, two of which he had set ablaze. The other, not unlike the Green River Killer, was murdering the women in his vehicle and dumping them in rural areas outside the city. "You have bodies dumped in the county that take weeks or months to find, and you can't even identify some of the victims. To try and identify a suspect is difficult, and to establish a case and try to prove someone did it is a monumental task," said Gary Schons, a deputy state attorney general from the San Diego office who became part of the Metropolitan Task Force.
In 1990 investigators announced they were considering possible police involvement in the prostitute slayings. In the first press conference ever given by the task force, authorities disclosed that one of the three divisions of the force would look into possible police misconduct, specifically allegations of officers' involvement in the death of 22-year-old Donna Gentile. Gentile, an alleged prostitute, was found in 1985 off Sunrise Highway in East County with her mouth had been stuffed with stones. She had recently testified at a police civil service hearing against two officers who were disciplined for engaging in improper conduct with a prostitute. One officer, Larry Avrech was fired and the other, Lt. Carl Black, demoted. According to Gentile Avrech provided her with confidential police information in return for sexual favors. Some investigators interpreted the stones in her mouth as meaning she had been killed in retaliation for her testimony.
Four months before her death, Gentile tape-recorded a message in the Las Colinas women's jail, where she was serving a prostitution conviction. "In case I disappear somewhere or is missing, I want my lawyer to give this to the press," she said on the tape. "I have no intention of disappearing or going out of town without letting my lawyer know first. Because of the publicity that I have given a police scandal, this is the reason why I'm making this... I feel someone in a uniform with a badge can still be a serious criminal." Eventually the Gentile murder was pinned on Ronald Elliott Porter, who was convicted of one murder and is suspected of 14 others, and no police misconduct was found leading to her untimely death.
Porter, an ex-Marine and former Escondido auto mechanic, was first arrested in 1988 on rape and battery charges. By September 1991 -- when he was a week away from his parole hearing -- he was charged with the killings of Sandra Cwik, 43, a transient from Florida, and Carol Gushrowski, 26, an El Cajon mother of two. Deputy District Attorney Dick Lewis, who led the task force, said Porter was linked to as many as 14 crimes by fibers, bloodstains, possessions and at least two witnesses. But prosecutors were only able to convict him of one charge of second-degree murder. "He was working in a tire store when he was doing the murders," said San Diego's Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek. "He liked to drive, especially in the back country and he would drive back roads."
Many of the women died of neck fractures that were possibly inflicted by a kind of hand-to-hand combat strangulation technique that was regularly taught in the Marine Corps. "When we got (arrested) Porter in October 1988, we didn't have a killing or attack after that," Lewis said. "There are no bodies showing up on Interstate 8. There were no more ladies showing up at El Cajon Hospital begging for treatment." Several prostitutes who survived Porter's attacks described him as a pleasant looking individual. One victim said he reminded her of a minister. Another thought he was a soldier. According to a surviving witnesses Porter, who was friendly an unthreatening, would invite them to go to Arizona. Once they reached the desert, he would pull off the road and turn violent. On October 26, 1992, Porter was sentenced to 27 years-to-life. Because there was no solid link establishing a connection between Porter and the Green River killings, he was never considered a viable suspect up in Seattle.
In a separate case Brian Maurice Jones was charged with four of the San Diego killings and given the death penalty for two. He was charged with the killings on June 25, 1992, while he was serving a 22-year sentence for sexual assault at Corcoran State Prison. The suspected serial killer was returned to San Diego where he was arraigned on four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and single counts of rape and sodomy. Jones is believed to have left his four victims in dumpsters within a two-block area in East San Diego.
Another suspected multiple San Diego killer was identified as Blake Raymond Taylor, 27, of Lemon Grove. Taylor, who is already serving nine years to life in prison for the attempted murder of a prostitute, is believed to have killed three more prostitutes, although authorities lack evidence to successfully charge him with any of the killings. In addition to the 16 murders attributed by Lewis to Porter and Taylor, 10 other murders have resulted in 14 more arrests.
The task force also obtained a successful murder conviction for Allan Michael Stevens, 48, who was charged with killing 26-year-old Cynthia. The nude and beaten body of McVey was found hog-tied in a remote area on the Pala Indian Reservation on November 29, 1988. Stevens, known as "Buzzard" by his biker buddies, is believed to be responsible for three more killings. The lethal biker was linked to the strangulation murder of McVey by fingerprints, fibers and an eyewitness. She was discovered with a folded sock in her mouth held in place by masking tape which had three fingerprints belonging to Stevens. Some 40 fingerprints and three palm prints belonging to McVey were found on a mirror in a San Marcos storage space that Stevens was renting.
One final suspect, Richard Allen Sanders, was posthumously linked to both the San Diego and Green River cases. Sanders was killed in March, 1989, by two close-range shotgun blasts to the back. While detectives investigated his murder, he himself became a suspect in several of the San Diego killings. Not Mr. Nice, Sanders was allegedly involved in making "snuff" films and dealing narcotics. His name also appears as a low-priority suspect in early files of the Green River investigation.
After a five-year investigation at an additional cost of nearly one-million dollars, San Diego's Metropolitan Homicide Task Force was disbanded with the satisfactory resolution of 26 murders. The task force, called "the most successful serial killer task force in U.S. history," incarcerated three, perhaps four, suspected serial killers. All in all, no real evidence linked the killings in San Diego with the Green River cases. Authorities no longer consider his relocation to Southern California a viable option.
Considering that most large cities in the U.S. have ongoing prostitute killings, the Green River Task Force was not hard pressed to locate other emerging serial patterns that might reflect the killer's new playground. Another series of killings that looked promising to Seattle detectives was in Honolulu. Between 1985 and 1987 seven women had been strangled in what is considered Hawaii's first case of serial murder. Most of the victims were young. Several were found in or near water. Some were raped. Others had their hands tied behind their back. Because the victims were not prostitutes, investigators thought it was highly unlikely that the perpetrator was the Seattle killer. Other serial patterns in Oakland, Vancouver, Spokane and Los Angeles were reviewed by the Task Force and dismissed. "Most every big town has prostitutes being killed, it's a dangerous profession," said Jeff Dusek of the San Diego's District Attorney.
Haunted by failure, Task Force officers made several costly high-profile mistakes that marred the public perception of the investigation. Because its failure to quickly wrap up the case, the Task Force itself became the victim of a fickle public. Three times in three years the Task Force focused the investigation on three individuals -- raiding their homes, taking car paint and clothing fiber samples, bringing them in for questioning -- and, in the end, the three were let go.
First person of interest named by the Task Force was Melvyn Foster, a Seattle cabdriver. Foster brought the Task Force's attention onto himself in September 1982 when he contacted detectives to discuss his theory that the killer was, like himself, cab driver. Officers, knowing that serial killers like to inject themselves into the investigation, decided to investigate him instead. Soon detectives became intrigued by his close relationship to one of the victims found in the river. In February 1985 undercover agents surreptitiously bought Foster's aging sedan, then had it dismantled and processed in search of usable evidence. The high tech analysis of his car yielded no matching fibers, paint chips or fingerprints linking him to any of the known victims.
Foster was kept under surveillance for a large portion of the killings. Not all investigators believe there was only one killer responsible for the Green River cases. Former FBI agent and true crime author John Douglas suggested there could be two distinctive killers; one killer responsible for the victims found in the river which were elaborately staged, and another who went to great length to conceal his victims in the woods. If one were to consider this scenario, then Foster would be a viable suspect in the five river killings. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for Foster to commit so many murders while under surveillance.
The second high-profile suspect was a fur trapper. He became a person of interest after he was suspected by park and game officials of trapping illegally near many of the dumpsites. The trapper, who had an arrest history for burglary, was put under surveillance weeks before he was taken in for questioning. On February 6, 1986, when he was taken into custody, the suspect asked officers: "What took you so long?" Following his arrest, in a typical media feeding frenzy the Seattle Post-Intelligencer decided to print his name and a package of articles portraying him as the worst serial killer in U.S. history. After several hours of questioning it became apparent the trapper was not the feared killer. He was released the next morning as the local papers, taking an enormous hit in credibility, came out with screaming headlines heralding his guilt.
For obvious reasons the trapper, furious with the Task Force and with the media, claimed his rights were violated and his privacy invaded, and filed suit against several newspapers. His wife was even angrier. She had been taken to FBI headquarters in Seattle and asked to give blood and hair samples. All the lawsuits resulting from his unfortunate bungled arrest were settled out of court. Following the embarrassing turn of events, one local editorial cartoonist dubbed the investigation the "Task Farce."
The last "viable suspect," William Jay Stevens II, was arrested by Spokane police at his parents house January, 1989, following a series of phone tips resulting from the airing of the TV program "Manhunt Live: A Chance to End a Nightmare!" Eerily reminiscent of Ted Bundy, Stevens was in his last year at Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane at the time of his arrest. The president of the student's Bar Association, Stevens promptly issued a statement denying any wrongdoing. "I am not the Green River killer. They have made me out to be a very bad person, and I am not," he declared.
Because a series of alibis placed him on trips with his parents out of the Seattle area at the time of some of the murders, Stevens was released and taken off the list of suspects. Stevens died of cancer September 30, 1991. Nearly ten years later, his adoptive brother, Robert Stevens, has been managing a web site claiming that his older brother was indeed the elusive Green River Killer. In the web site the younger Stevens states that his older brother would disappear for a couple of days during the family trips, then would rejoining the family before they returned to Seattle. During these disappearances, the younger brother believes Stevens would return to Seattle where, with one or two accomplices, he would murder the women. According to the web site, the accomplices' are still living in the Seattle area and, in effect, have gotten away with the killings.
In any case, with or without accomplices, Stevens was a "great suspect." Police searching his parents' home where he lived found a box full of driver's licenses with his picture and credit cards issued to different names. In fact, Stevens used up to 30 different aliases. Some of them were of dead family friends, others were from stolen wallets or simply made up. The search also yielded 29 firearms, 100 police badges -- three from the Spokane Police Department -- and 50 Polaroid pictures of naked women. Some of the women were Spokane-area prostitutes. Police also found about 1,800 videotapes -- many of them pornographic.
Detectives found receipts showing that Stevens was an avid police paraphernalia collector and had spent a large amount of money buying police equipment. Among his toys that piqued the Task Force's interest was a fully equipped Washington State Patrol motorcycle, an ambulance, and a customized police cruiser with radio, radar unit, and blue emergency grill light. Authorities in Spokane discovered that Stevens had applied for a government-authorized license plate for his police cruiser saying that he was the Emergency Services Director of the city of Spangle, which does not exist. Tellingly, the Task Force often described the killer as someone who could be a law officer or was posing as one, which seemed to be one of Stevens' favorite pastimes.
In 1979 Stevens and another man were charged with burglarizing a uniform store in Spokane. At the time Stevens was a pharmacological student at University of Washington where, during his freshman year, he coincided with Ted Bundy. Stevens also had a degree in psychology and, when he was in the military service, had been an MP. Coincidentally, the investigating officer in the burglary charge was Task Force member Tom Jensen. At the time of the arrest Stevens said he wanted to join the Seattle Police Department but was rejected for having a bad driving record. In 1981, two years after being convicted of robbery, Stevens somehow managed to walk out of the King County jail work release program and was never seen or heard of again.
Stevens was brought back to the attention of Detective Tom Jensen when an investigator in the Veteran's Administration Fraud Detection Unit called asking about the 1979 burglary charge. According to the VA officer the former burglary partner tried to open a VA claim under Stevens' name, but Stevens himself had already opened his own claim while he was at Gonzaga.
A 40-page affidavit prepared by the Task Force to obtain a search warrant of his home traced Stevens' whereabouts following the prison escape. Police had him to living around the Portland area until May 1985, when he moved back to Spokane to attend Gonzaga University Law School. A trail of credit-card receipts under four aliases showed that between 1981 and 1985 he traveled extensively between Seattle, Portland, Spokane and Vancouver, placing him in proximity to 17 of the Green River crime scenes. The affidavit also suggests that, as well as the Green River killings, Stevens may have been responsible for at least a dozen other murders in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma.
Stevens, according to informants, frequently talked "about serial killer Ted Bundy and appeared to be quite knowledgeable of Bundy's methods and victims." A source quoted in the affidavit said that the suspect claimed to work "undercover" with Seattle vice detectives. His duties, he told acquaintances, "often was involved in the torture of prostitutes." Stevens also reportedly said he would like to have a videotape of "cutting up prostitutes." Informants added that Stevens insinuated he worked for a secret government agency and went on secret "missions." According to friends Stevens knew an inordinate amount of information about the Green River killings. He once told an acquaintance he was part of the Task Force and was investigating links between the killings and snuff films.
Sirena Caruso, a tenant who lived in Stevens' house between 1981 and 1985, said her neighbor "was very bizarre." Caruso moved out when she discovered bullet holes in Stevens' room. According to Caruso, Stevens had a collection of mannequins, videotaping equipment and a secret room hidden behind a moving bookcase. She allegedly told police she and her boyfriend used to joke about Stevens being the Green River Killer. One day she asked him about it to which he reportedly answered: "Don't start that rumor, people around here think I'm weird enough."
One of the guns in Steven's possession was traced back to a former law school classmate Dale Wells. According to the police affidavit, Stevens told Wells that he blamed prostitutes for the rapid spread of AIDS. Spokane police discovered that in 1986, days before the strangled body of a prostitute was found in a field, Wells had been searching for the woman. Wells killed himself while Stevens was in custody. In his home police found a letter addressed to crime writer Anne Rule in which he talked about an unnamed friend who was like Ted Bundy. In fact, the similarities between Stevens and Bundy are uncanny. Both attended the University of Washington, both were law students, both were obsessed with pornography and both collected police badges. Whether like Bundy, Stevens also killed numerous women, is merely speculative.
As profiled by then FBI agent John Douglas, the Green River Killer was a combination of a organized and disorganized serial killer. On the one hand, the suspect was able to think in an organized manner during his post-offense behavior as reflected by the amount of time he spent at the crime scenes. He also organized himself before entering his fantasy murder construct by scouting dumpsites. The weighing down of the river victims showed that the killer was comfortable at the dumping site and was capable of thinking clearly. His simultaneous use of several dumpsites at once showed his probable awareness and tracking of police surveillance at the locations. On the other hand his disorganized behavior was demonstrated by the random way he picked victims and used items found at the crime scenes as murder weapons.
Douglas described the killer was an opportunistic killer, someone who's murderous mechanism might be triggered by something like a conversation with the victim. At first the victim might feel she had the suspect under control, then somehow he would gain control of the situation and enter in his fantasy construct that would lead to murder. "Serial murderers commit a series of murders for the same reasons," said Les Davis, a spokesman for the FBI's behavioral science unit. "It may be hatred, it may be sexual gratification, they may hear voices inside their head... They are harder to track because of motive and the patterns might not be so quickly recognizable."
The killer, Douglas believes, might feel locked in competition with the police. In a sense the killer could be making a statement, showing the world that he was in control of the situation. "He's a very angry person," Douglas told detectives. "He enjoys the power he has over the victims and all the publicity he's getting." Douglas theorized the killer relished humiliating the women. He dumped them like trash because of the inadequacy of his own relationships with them. Like other prostitute killers, the Green River suspect believed he was somehow justified in killing, as if the victims brought it on to themselves and he was ridding the world of their corruption.
Typically serial killers are unemployed or underemployed, especially after reaching such a feverish pitch of murdering. Studies show that the fantasy life of serial killers tends to grow with each killing, leaving less and less time for actual working and normal living. Each time he passes by a location that related to any of the crimes, the suspect would relive his murderous fantasies prompting him to perhaps search for a new victim.
Ed Schau, a clinical psychologist from Bellevue, said at the American Psychological Association annual conference in Boston that the pattern of clues left by the Green River killer revealed he was a religious fanatic. A psychologist that holds a doctorate from the University of Washington, Schau believes the killer focused on prostitutes because he thought they were evil. The killer also left signs indicating some sort of religious ritual in at least eight of the crime scenes.
According to Schau the five bodies found in the Green River indicated the killer's wish to give them some sort of postmortem baptism. The triangular rocks found in two victims represented symbols of the trinity placed inside them. Another of his "posed" victims, Carol Christensen, exemplified the killer's religious convictions. She was found with two cleaned fish on her body, and a bottle of wine and sausage next to her. Schau interprets the staging of the props as symbols for the Eucharist. Detective Jensen, who's heard it all, dismissed Schau's theory suggesting that Christensen was coming from the store when she was abducted. According to the detective, every nut has a theory about who is the killer. And Schau's theory is no different than many other ones.
With seemingly all investigative avenues explored, there seems to be no new tracks for Detective Tom Jensen to search for the killer. Though, not surprisingly new tidbits of evidence keep surfacing surrounding the investigation. For instance, nearly 16 years after her death, Jensen was able to conclusively identify the bones of one of the victims. Using a type of DNA test only used by the military, he was able to genetically match the bones of 19-year-old Tracy Ann Winston to her mother's Mitochondrial DNA, making her the 42nd Green River victim accounted for. As of this writing there are still four more sets of unidentified human remains in the King County Medical Examiner's Office.
To identify the Winston remains Detective Jensen used a process called mtDNA Testing, which uses Mitochondrial parts of the cell rather than the nucleus to examine remains where there's a limited amount of nuclear DNA. The technique is commonly used to identify the remains of MIA soldiers brought back from Southeast Asia. MtDNA is only passed on from mothers to their children. Though testing it is considered less conclusive than testing nuclear DNA, it is done as a last resort. In the fall of 1999 Jensen collected blood samples from 11 mothers of missing area women and the daughter of another missing woman. Eight of the daughters of the women were on the Green River Killer victim list.
The FBI's forensic lab positively connected the blood from one of the samples to the Winston skeletal remains at the King County morgue. No other matches were made between the 10 remaining blood samples and the other sets of bones. Jensen believes the identification of other sets of remains would provide a "tremendous sense of closure" for the victim's families but would not significantly advance the investigation. "It's still a fulltime job. Lots of tips are still coming in," he told the APB.News. "As long as the calls come in, you need someone to listen to them and follow up on them. You don't want to miss what could be the big one."
Now, nearly 16 years after the last known murder, the only things known about the killer are that he wears size 10 or 11 shoes, drives a pickup truck with a camper shell, is probably now in his forties or fifties and has curly hair. He might have been involved in garbage disposal, or worked as a security guard or a police officer. He is familiar with the outskirts of Seattle and Tacoma and works occasionally with fiberglass. He probably worked at or near the Sea-Tac airport around 1982-83. Since 1983 he's been dead, in prison for an unrelated offense, or has moved elsewhere were he has continued killing. And, of course, he has a deep, psychopathic hate for women and especially those working the streets. Perhaps we will never know for certain who the infamous Green River Killer turned out to be. Or if in fact there ever was only one single killer. Detective Tom Jensen, the last investigator on the case, hopes one day the puzzle will be solved, and someone will be brought to justice for the grizzly murders of 49 innocent women.