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Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sheriff recounts long hunt for Green River killer

August 22, 2004

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The Green River killings haunted the Seattle area for two decades, affecting nearly everyone in some way. But probably no one other than victims' families were as affected as the investigators who followed a long trail of bodies until they finally led to Gary Ridgway.

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert is one of those people who felt the case deeply -- from seeing maggot-infested bodies to looking Ridgway in the eye and telling him he was evil.

Reichert tells a true-crime story from the inside in his book "Chasing the Devil: My Twenty Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer" (Little, Brown, $24.95).

He writes, "I had been held hostage by the Green River case, imprisoned by my own obsession with catching a killer and bringing justice to his victims."

Reichert was called in August 1982 to investigate two decaying bodies found weighed down with rocks in the Green River in Kent, Wash.

It was a long and tortuous investigation, dealing with other suspects, victims' families and the media. It even involved asking the advice of another notorious Northwest killer, Ted Bundy, who had charmed college women to their deaths.

"Ted looked down on the Green River killer's choice of victim, because it didn't take much effort to capture and isolate a prostitute," Reichert writes.

The sheriff says Bundy's analysis of the case was unimpressive, but he did confirm investigators' suspicion that the killer was revisiting the bodies to have sex.

Unfortunately it took 20 years to catch Ridgway -- 14 after he had first been identified as a suspect. His list of victims had grown to four dozen before he was finally identified through DNA evidence. He confessed in 2003 to save his life.

Although he worked with a ghostwriter, Reichert uses a strong voice throughout the book. He shares credit on the case with other officers and says it was a team effort, but the book is told largely from Reichert's point of view and filled with his personal feelings -- from disgust to religious faith.

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