In July 1982, the body of Wendy Lee Coffield was found in the Green River in Washington State. Within a month, the bodies of four other women were found in the area. It started what would become one of the longest serial murder investigations in United States history. Finally, in 2001, police made a surprising arrest...
‘He made me smile every day. I had the perfect husband, perfect life…’ That’s how Judith Mawson described her marriage to Gary Ridgway. After meeting in Seattle in 1985, Ridgway had wooed Judith, appearing handsome, polite with a steady job painting trucks. Over the next 13 years, the couple lived what appeared to be normal, content life. But little did she know, Judith was sharing her life with one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
Known to the police as the Green River Killer, Ridgway’s murder spree began in 1982 when he murdered Wendy Lee Coffield. Her body was found in the Green River area. The bodies of more victims turned up close by. Escaping police detection, Ridgway continued targeting vulnerable victims – teen runaways, sex workers and drug users. He was eventually arrested thanks to advances in DNA testing in 2001. But by then there were dozens more innocent women dead.
Telling his wife he had early jobs, or was working late, Ridgway picked up victims, having sex with them then strangling them to death and dumping their bodies in remote areas. Horrifically, he’d sometimes return to rape their corpses.
With the death toll rising, detectives were desperate to catch their killer. Police even turned to serial killer Ted Bundy to help draw up a profile of the man terrorising the vulnerable local women. But even then, Ridgway was able to continue his killing spree for 20 years before he was finally arrested.
In custody, Gary Ridgway, 54, confessed to 49 murders in a plea deal that spared him the death penalty. He was given 49 life terms by the judge who said he hoped Ridgway would be haunted by the women he killed. From his prison cell he’s since confessed to reporters that his real victim count was closer to 80.
But can he be believed? After all, Ridgway is a master of deception. A man who hid his true evil behind a veil of respectability for two decades, when even his wife had no idea that she was sharing her bed with a monster.