Why would a man kill 48 women? That was the question in the minds of many when the deadliest serial killer in American history confessed in a courtroom. In many cases, he had sex with his victim and then strangled her. Many bodies were dumped in the Green River, earning him the name “The Green River Killer.” A CNN story said that Gary Ridgway was driven to kill by “hatred and arrogance.” But why did he hate women?
Most of his victims were teenage prostitutes, and the prosecutor’s summary of the case says that Ridgway first started using prostitutes when he was stationed by the military in the Philippines. He had a bad first marriage, claiming that his first wife had affairs with other men. He considered her a prostitute for that reason. His second wife reported that he was interested in sexual bondage.
The prosecutor’s summary of the evidence doesn’t mention this, and we have seen nothing about it in the dozens of stories about Ridgway’s confession, but reporters for the King County Journal alluded to another factor in a story they filed two years ago. This is a paper that covers Seattle, the area where Ridgway committed his murders. Their story noted that sheriff’s detectives had searched Ridgway’s home and found pornography. Specifically, three pornographic magazines were found. The link between pornography and violence against women has been a subject of much controversy. In this case, there may be a link.
Books found at his home included The Blooding, the story of two British sex murders and the police hunt for the killer, and a book titled Bondage. Illegal drugs could be another factor. Ridgway admitted to prosecutors that he was a marijuana smoker, but claimed to use the drug “rarely.” Another book discovered in his home was Robert Johnson’s Death Work, a polemic against the death penalty. Alan Kocevic of Halmstead University in Sweden said it is “an attempt to convince the reader that capital punishment is inhumane, gruesome and unjustified. Paradoxically, Johnson makes no mention of all innocent people who have been brutally murdered, raped, molested or tortured.”
Ridgway evaded police for years and actually contacted the King County sheriff’s Green River task force ostensibly to offer information about the case. He passed a polygraph test. The summary of the evidence says that, despite the fact that he barely graduated high school, he had an understanding of forensic evidence. It says, “He took precautions to leave no evidence at a scene. If one of his victims scratched him, he would cut her fingernails before disposing of the body.”
When caught, however, he tried desperately to avoid the death penalty. His confession and guilty plea came in a deal with prosecutors that allows him to avoid capital punishment. Opponents of the death penalty are ecstatic, saying that that if a serial killer like Ridgway could be spared, it may spell the end of all executions in Washington state. As for Ridgway, he told police that he believes a popular author will write a book about him.