|Image attribution: By King County Sheriff's Office
(http://thegreenriverkiller.tumblr.com/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
Gary Leon Ridgway was born on February 18, 1949 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was an unremarkable child who was once tested as having an IQ of only 82 (100 being the average score), and he was held back two grades in high school. He married at the age of 21 and joined the navy shortly afterwards. It was here that he first started using prostitutes, contracting gonorrhea from one of them. This experience may well have contributed to his later hatred for women of this profession. But he continued to pay for sex.
Returning from sea, Ridgway discovered that his wife had also been sleeping around. The couple filed for divorce. It is interesting to note that Ridgway's second marriage would go a very similar way.
After his arrest, Ridgway's wives were interviewed. They described a man who was torn between staunch religious beliefs and an unusually strong sexual appetite, which would cause him to demand sex several times a day. But all in all he seemed like a fairly regular guy. He wasn't a loner, he was always in employment, and he had several romantic relationships over the course of his life. He didn't really fit the stereotype of a serial killer. But he was one of the worst in American history.
In 2001, Gary Ridgway was arrested after new advances in DNA profiling allowed law enforcement to match his saliva to DNA recovered from semen found on the bodies of women who were believed to have fallen victim to the infamous Green River Killer (the name comes from the river in which the first bodies were dumped). When this was combined with other (circumstantial) evidence, it allowed law enforcement to charge Ridgway with 7 counts of murder. He would later confess to a further 42 murders as part of a plea bargain that saw him avoid the death penalty. Some experts believe that the true number of victims could be higher still, though this has never been conclusively proven.
The majority of Ridgway's confirmed victims were found naked in or near the Green River. All had been strangled; some had been posed. Most of the victims were young female prostitutes or runaways.
Ridgway would spend hours driving around his local area looking for potential victims. Once he had found one, he would approach her and try to put her at ease. Sometimes he would offer to pay her more than the going rate or to help her find a better job. On other occasions he would show her a picture of his son, in an attempt to make her see him as a harmless and caring father, a good man. Next, he would have sex with the woman, before strangling her from behind and disposing of the body. Sometimes he would return to the dump site to check on decomposition and perform sexual acts with the corpse. On one occasion, he had sex with the corpse whilst his young son was only a very short distance away, sleeping in Ridgway's truck.
For someone in possession of an IQ that was 18 points below average, Ridgway showed a remarkable amount of talent for forensics. He left very little evidence behind (and would sometimes scatter false evidence to confuse the crime scene). If one of the victims managed to scratch him, he would cut her fingernails. He moved from manual strangulation to ligature strangulation after realizing that the former gave the victim ample opportunity to scratch and bruise his arm, something that would surely have drawn attention from family and coworkers. So, perhaps IQ and academic performance aren't everything as far as intelligence testing is concerned.
Gary Ridgway is currently incarcerated in Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. He will never be released.
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