Gary Ridgway chose his victims carefully, spending hours “patrolling” places known for prostitution. The Seattle Times says that he would watch “the traffic,” waiting for young women who looked easy to kill and wouldn’t be missed. He preferred to strangle them. Choking was “more personal and more rewarding” than guns and knives, he said. He hid the evidence well. “For a man who barely graduated high school,” prosecutors said in documents released yesterday, “Ridgway had what appeared to be an innate understanding of forensic evidence.”
Ridgway, 54, pleaded guilty yesterday to killing 48 women between 1982 and 1998 as part of a deal to spare his life. He has said that number was only a portion of the total he murdered in a spree that may have spanned the 1970s until November 2001.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that Ridgway “probably killed about 60 women — so many that he couldn’t keep track of faces, names or sometimes even where he discarded their bodies.” He told investigators: “I thought I was doing you guys a favor, killing, killing prostitutes. Here you guys can’t control them, but I can.”
Prosecutors called him “a man devoid of human sentiment. He preyed upon a community’s most vulnerable members, and he attributes their deaths to fate.”
The case may make it harder for prosecutors to win a death sentence in Washington state, USA Today says. Under “proportionality” rules, how can the state execute someone who kills fewer than 48 people? “If the most heinous murderer in the history of Washington state doesn’t qualify, who does?” asks Phil Talmadge, a former state supreme court justice and now running for governor. “I think it’s a good decision. You have to reach out to the families who have lived with this for years.”
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng had said that he would not plea-bargain the case because of the magnitude of the crimes. Maleng said he heard other arguments that changed his mind. There was the long list of victims, mostly prostitutes or runaway teenage girls. Most of their families might never know how they died, or if they were Ridgway’s victims, unless he cooperated. “If any case screams out for consideration of the death penalty, this was it,” Maleng said. “But this case presented another principle of our justice system: to seek and know the truth.”