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Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Authorities arrest suspect in Green River serial killings

December 1, 2001

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— A man was arrested Friday in connection with the slayings of four women whose deaths were believed to be part of the nation's worst unsolved serial killer sprees.

Police had blamed the four women's deaths on the so-called Green River Killer, who authorities have said was responsible for the slayings of 49 women in the Pacific Northwest. The killer has been sought since 1982, when the first victims were found near the river.

While authorities have questioned other suspects and made at least one arrest, in 1982, no one has ever been charged in the slayings.

On Friday, police arrested Gary Ridgway, 52, of suburban Auburn, for investigation of homicide. He was taken into custody as he left his job at Kenworth Truck Co., where he worked as a truck painter for 30 years. He was not immediately charged.

"I cannot say with certainty that Gary Ridgway is responsible for all of those deaths ... but boy, have we made one giant step forward," said Sheriff Dave Reichert, who was one of the original detectives on the serial killer task force.

Ridgway, who is married and has an adult son, was jailed pending an initial court appearance, which was set for today. There was no answer at a number listed for a Gary Ridgway in Auburn. It wasn't immediately known if he had a lawyer

The sheriff said forensic scientists were able to link Ridgway's DNA to three of the women. He would only say "certain factors" tie Ridgway to the fourth woman.

Ridgway was first interviewed in the case in 1984, and a saliva sample was obtained by court order in 1987. He was the subject of intensive background investigation during that period, but he was not arrested in the case.

The first DNA test results linking Ridgway to the case came back two months ago, and authorities said they have had him under surveillance since then.

No decision on charges against Ridgway will be made until early next week, said a spokesman in the prosecutor's office.

Ridgway was being investigated in the deaths of Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Cynthia Hinds, whose bodies were found in the river on Aug. 15, 1982, and Carol Christensen, found May 8, 1983, in woods in nearby Maple Valley.

Before Friday, the sheriff said Ridgway had been arrested twice in the past 19 years in 1982 during a prostitution sting and earlier this month for loitering for the purpose of prostitution. He was found guilty or pleaded guilty in both cases, Reichert said.

The Green River Killer abducted and strangled most of his victims mostly prostitutes and runaways in a red-light district south of Seattle. Their bodies were found in or next to the nearby Green River, and in densely wooded areas near Seattle and Portland, Ore. from 1982 to 1984.

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