Green River Killer Gets Life Sentence


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 release.

"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 Nov. 5.

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 silently.

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 live on."

"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 dead."

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 dark-rimmed glasses.

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 human understanding."

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 AP

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.

"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."

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