How Many Victims Did The Green River Killer Actually Have?

Gary Ridgway, more famously known as the Green River Killer, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up in Washington State, where his violent streak emerged early in life. According to ThoughtCo, at the age of 16, he lured a 6-year-old boy into the woods and stabbed him with a knife. Fortunately, the boy survived, but Ridgway did not express any remorse for the incident.

With little money, few job prospects, and a recorded IQ of just 82, Ridgway enlisted in the United States Navy after graduating high school in 1969. He was sent to Vietnam. Although he frequented the services of sex workers there and even contracted gonorrhea after an unprotected visit, there are no reports that he acted violently towards them. However, after his return home from Vietnam just two years later, Ridgway became deeply religious, reading the Bible out loud and frequently complaining about the presence of sex workers in his neighborhood. But despite his newfound fanaticism, he continued to pay for sex, as well as demand sex from his wife multiple times a day, per ThoughtCo.

Ridgway was convicted on 49 counts of murder, but may have been responsible for dozens more

In 1982, Ridgway took the life of his first victim, strangling a teenage runaway named Wendy Lee Coffield and dumping her body in the Green River, according to About. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he continued to commit murders along Route 99 in King County, Washington State, targeting sex workers and young runaways. He disposed of the bodies of many of his victims along the banks of the Green River, thus earning his infamous nickname, while others he buried in remote areas of the woods, per Britannica. Although a task force was launched in the late 1980s and over $15 million dollars was spent trying to capture the Green River Killer, Ridgway managed to elude the authorities until 2001, per Crime Library. The King County sheriff, Dave Reicher, used modern DNA analysis that had not been available in the 1980s to reexamine old strands of Ridgway's hair that were still in police custody, and Ridgway was finally arrested on November 30, 2001.

In 2003, Ridgway was convicted on 49 counts of murder, but he is believed to have been connected to the deaths of as many as 80 women, according to Biography; Seattle's KIRO-7 News puts the number at "more than 90." He avoided the death penalty for his crimes by making a plea bargain, in which he agreed to tell prosecutors the location of the remains of other victims in exchange for life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty, per Crime Museum.