New Green River Killer Victim?

08 Feb

One of the most notorious and frightening serial killers in history was known as The Green River Killer, a moniker derived from his dumping his victims, mostly prostitutes, along the Green River near Seattle, Washington. Between 1982 and 1991, nearly 50 murders were attributed to the killer. The task force assigned to the cases developed a long suspect list but had no conclusive evidence that implicated any of the men.

One of the intriguing things about this case is that it parallels the advances in DNA technology and is proof positive that if DNA samples are properly collected and stored, they can remain useful for decades.

On April 8, 1987, police executed a search warrant on the premises of one of the suspects, Gary Ridgeway. After obtaining evidence items from his house they requested that he undergo a polygraph, but Ridgeway refused. They then asked for a saliva sample and Ridgeway complied by biting on a small, square surgical gauze.

Unfortunately, the semen samples taken from some of the victims were too small for the then available testing procedures. Using them would have consumed the entire sample, and if no match was found, there would be no crime scene material remaining if another suspect was later identified. So, the samples, as well as Ridgeway’s saliva, were stored.

In the mid-1990s, DNA testing made a quantum leap when the combination of STR and PCR analysis appeared. This new technique allowed for testing very small samples and by 2001 it had become a proven and widely available technique.

In that year, the lab tested Ridgeway’s saliva sample, obtained in 1987, with semen samples taken from Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman, and Carol Christensen, all killed in 1982 or 1983. Using the new PCR/STR technique, the samples were amplified and compared. A match was made. Gary Ridgeway was arrested and charged with four of the Green River killings. The case took a dramatic and controversial turn on November 5, 2003, when Ridgeway pleaded guilty to 48 murders in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, thus sparing himself a possible death sentence. Many involved in the case felt that Ridgeway’s victim list was much longer.

Now a new victim might have turned up. A skull was found in a ravine near Auburn, 25 miles south of Seattle, an area where the remains of Marie Malvar, another Ridgeway victim, were also found. Dental records revealed the skull was that of Rebecca Marrero who disappeared in 1982. Many involved in the case felt that Marrero was probably a victim of The Green River Killer, but Ridgeway could never supply enough information to prove that one way or the other.

Since Rebecca Marrero was not included in the original plea bargain, will we see Ridgeway charged and tried for her murder? Could he get the death penalty he avoided in 2003 after all? One can hope. We’ll see.


9 responses to “New Green River Killer Victim?

  1. Ashley

    February 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I believe I have seen a news report in the last couple of days that says that under the original plea agreement, he will plead guilty to all additional murders in which there seems to be a preponderance of evidence against him, and he’ll get yet another consecutive life sentence. See's-unlike-anybody-I've-ever-seen%22/ . So unless he’s crazy enough to plead not guilty, nothing will change, except that one more victim will have been identified and her family will be able to say they know what happened. (Which is not a small thing in itself.)


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      February 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      You might be right but I suspect the legal folks will hash this out. Yes the important thing is that this victim was identified and the family now knows. It would still be nice if this guy got the death penalty.


  2. Brenda

    February 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    How interesting!


  3. Maureen

    February 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    This case is horrible, and fascinating. I hadn’t heard about the new victim. I hope they do bring him to trial for Ms. Marrero and that she, along with so many others, gets the justice she deserves.


  4. Fiona

    February 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    I live in Auburn. The Seattle Times newspaper reports today that Ridgeway will probably plead guilty as per his previous agreement when convicted of the other murders.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      February 9, 2011 at 6:50 am

      Thanks for adding this. Don’t blame him for pleading guilty, just hoped he’d do something stupid like fight it. Still, he’s locked away and that works.


  5. Digital Dame

    February 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

    There ought to be some kind of limit, where plea bargains go out the window, like more than 2 victims and the option is off the table. Forty-eight known victims? Possibly more, and this piece of filth still has options? This is a situation where the old saying “Hanging’s too good for him” really applies.


  6. Jean Verno

    February 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Yes it is scary. In her 2005 book, “The Sociopath Next Door : the ruthless versus the rest of us.” Martha Stout estimated that 1 in every 25 people lacks “that caring thing” to some extent. They are not all serial killers but they are fully capable of wreaking havoc in the lives of anyone who interacts with them.

    Here are 2 good indicators of such a person, they are compulsive liars and they are incapable of accepting responsibility for their actions.

    I think this is rich ground for mystery writers and see sociopathic behaviors portrayed quite well in the works of many authors of the more complex crime novels.


  7. Digital Dame

    February 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm


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