By Gene Johnson, The Associated Press
SEATTLE -- Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer who terrorized
Seattle in the early 1980s, tearfully apologized for his crimes
Thursday, but the judge said he found little to believe in the
remorse as he sentenced him to life in prison without the chance of
"I'm sorry for killing all those young ladies," said Ridgway, who
lowered his head and cried. "I have tried to remember as much as I
could to help the detectives find and recover the ladies. I'm sorry
for the scare I put into the community."
"I have tried for a long time to keep from killing any ladies,"
Ridgway said. "I'm very sorry for the ladies that were not found. May
they rest in peace. They need a better place than where I gave them.
I'm sorry for killing these ladies. They had their whole lives ahead
of them. I'm sorry for causing so much pain to so many families."
After blistering Ridgway for his lack of compassion and the horror he
brought to his victims, their families and the community, King County
Superior Court Judge Richard Jones ordered Ridgway to serve 48
consecutive life sentences.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to spare Ridgway the death
penalty in exchange for his helping investigators find four
previously undiscovered sets of remains and confessing to the
murders, the most recent in 1998. He pleaded guilty to the 48 murders
In his confession, Ridgway, 54, said he killed because he hated
prostitutes and didn't want to pay them for sex; that he dumped their
bodies in the Green River and other inconspicuous parts of King
County; that he took pleasure in keeping the secret of where they
were hidden; and that he killed so many women he had a hard time
keeping them straight.
"The time has come for the final chapter of your reign of terror in
our community," Jones said. "It is now time for our community to have
peace from the Green River murders."
After a moment of silence for the victims, Jones offered words of
comfort to the their families then turned to Ridgway, convicted of
the most murders in U.S. history.
"The remarkable thing about you is your remarkable Teflon-coated
emotions and complete absence of compassion for the young women you
murdered," Jones said.
Earlier in the hearing, relatives of the victims had their chance to
confront Ridgway and decades of pain, anger and loss poured forth.
"Jesus knows you have broken my heart," a sobbing Joan Mackie, mother
of victim Cindy Smith, told Ridgway as he faced her and listened
Most wept, some shook with anger as they tried to describe the
inexpressible grief of having a mother, daughter or sister disappear.
"It was not your right to decide who lived and who died," said Tim
Meehan, the brother of Mary Meehan, whose body was found Nov. 13,
1983. "Mary was no less a human being than your mother or your son,
or as trash as you have classified all the victims."
"I'm done with you, Gary, finished," he said. "It's my turn to put
you, the garbage, out, and throw away the key. It's garbage like you,
not these victims that you took their lives, that doesn't deserve to
"I can only hope that someday, someone, gets the opportunity to choke
you unconscious 48 times. So you can live through the horror that you
put our mothers and our daughters through ... To me you are already
Ridgway maintained a blank stare as each family member spoke of their
sadness and rage, though he sometimes nodded at their comments and a
few times, dabbed away a tear that slipped out beneath his
Kathy Mills, the mother of victim Opal Mills, 16, whose body was
found Aug. 15, 1982, was able to offer Ridgway her forgiveness.
"We wanted to see you die, but it's all going to be over now," she
said. "Gary Leon Ridgway, I forgive you. I forgive you. You can't
hold me anymore. I'm through with you. I have a peace that is beyond
Some relatives of the victims lashed out at prosecutors,
investigators and the news media.
"I believe we've been sold by the prosecutor for not giving us the
justice that we could expect," said Helen Dexter, whose daughter
Constance Elizabeth Naon was killed in 1983.
"I believe we still are victimized by some very politically ambitious
careers," she said. "The self-proclaimed heroes have put the victims
and their families on a shelf."
J. Norman, the mother of Shawnda Leea Summers, whose body was found
Aug. 11, 1983, said prosecutors should not have bargained with the
death penalty to get Ridgway's guilty plea.
"The politicians, if they cared about this heinous crime, it would
have been solved 20 years ago," Norman said. "There shouldn't have
been no plea bargain."
"Come to Seattle, commit a crime and you can bargain if you want to
live or die," she said. "Shame on Seattle."
Ridgway was arrested Nov. 30, 2001, after detectives linked his DNA
to sperm found in three of the earliest victims. By spring 2002,
prosecutors had charged him with seven murders, but they had all but
given up hope of linking him to the dozens of other women, most of
whom disappeared during a terrifying stretch from 1982-84.
Last spring, defense attorneys offered King County Prosecutor Norm
Maleng a deal: If Maleng would not seek the death penalty, Ridgway
would help solve those other cases. Though Maleng had previously said
he would not bargain with the death penalty, he changed his mind,
saying that a strong principle of justice is to know the truth.
What the killer had to say
Gary Ridgway said he left some of his victims in "clusters" and
sometimes stopped by to have sex with the bodies.
The statement he read in court
"I'm sorry for killing all those young ladies. I have tried to
remember as much as I could to help the detectives find and recover
the ladies. I'm sorry for the scare I put into the community. I want
to thank the police, the prosecuting attorneys, my lawyers and all
others that had the patience to work with me and to help me remember
all the tragic things that I did and to be able to talk about them.
"I know the horrible things my acts were. I have tried for a long
time to get these things out of my mind.
"I have tried for a long time to keep from killing any ladies. I'm
sorry that I put my wife, my son, my brothers and my family through
this hell. I hope that they can find a way to forgive me.
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"I'm very sorry for the ladies that were not found. May they rest in
peace. They need a better place than where I gave them. I'm sorry for
killing these ladies. They had their whole lives ahead of them. I'm
sorry for causing so much pain to so many families."