- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

SEATTLE (AP) — A slight man with thick glasses is to stand this week before a judge who will ask him at least 48 times how he pleads to separate charges of murder.

Each time, Gary Leon Ridgway will respond “guilty,” sources involved with the case have told the Associated Press. When it’s over Wednesday, he will have more murders on his record than any other serial killer in the nation’s history and a mystery that confounded detectives for two decades will come to a close.

Ridgway, 54, a longtime painter at Kenworth Truck Co., is expected to admit being the Green River Killer, named for the river south of Seattle where the first victims were found.

The plea would spare him the death penalty in King County, instead assuring him life in prison without parole, the sources said. However, two of the bodies on the official list of Green River victims were found in Oregon, which has capital punishment, and it is still not clear whether Ridgway will plead to those.

The remains of scores of women, mainly runaways and prostitutes, turned up near ravines, rivers, airports and freeways in the 1980s. Of them, investigators officially listed 49 women as probable victims of the Green River Killer.

Ridgway had been a suspect ever since 1984, when Marie Malvar’s boyfriend reported that he last saw her getting into a pickup truck identified as Ridgway’s.

But Ridgway told police he didn’t know Miss Malvar, and a police investigator in Des Moines, midway between Seattle and Tacoma, who knew him cleared him as a suspect. Later that year, Ridgway contacted the King County Sheriff’s Green River task force — ostensibly to offer information about the case — and passed a polygraph test.

Detectives continued to suspect him, however, and in 1987 they searched his house and took a saliva sample. It was 13 years before DNA technology caught up with their suspicions and they could link that sample to DNA taken from the bodies of three of the earliest victims.

Ridgway was arrested as he left work Nov. 30, 2001, and later pleaded not guilty to seven killings. But facing DNA evidence and the prospect of the death penalty, he began cooperating.

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