Dave Reichert began tracking the Green River Killer two decades ago as a young detective. He helped recover bodies of victims and gather evidence. Now Reichert, as sheriff of King County, Wash., has returned to some of those sites accompanied by the killer himself, USA Today reports.
Gary Leon Ridgway pleaded guilty Wednesday to strangling 48 young women, the most extensive list of serial killings in U.S. history.
Reichert says that the victims and their families kept him and other investigators going: “It was the young girls and young women who were losing their lives in our neighborhood.” Reichert, white-haired at 53, bristles at remarks that the deaths of prostitutes weren’t worth a multimillion-dollar investigation. “These are somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother,” he says. “They did nothing to deserve this.”
The sheriff has met with most families to explain why authorities accepted Ridgway’s guilty plea and let him escape the death penalty. Investigators had connected him to seven killings through DNA evidence. Under the plea deal, Ridgway helped close the other 41 cases so that families could get answers.
Ridgway cooperated with investigators after the plea agreement. The sheriff, other investigators, and Ridgway visited the site of one of the murders Reichert investigated long ago.
When the killer pointed out “the exact spot” where the body was found, Reichert says he knew for certain: “It sent chills up my spine.”