The second half of summer, 1982. Five women were found strangled to death at the Green river banks in King County, Washington. During the investigation, the detectives found out that all they were prostitutes. They were working nearby. All the women were announced to be lost for some time already. This was only the beginning. In the next several years, more and more girls have been found along the Green River banks and in the woods nearby. If the first five murders made investigators suspect a serial killer in the King County, now there was no doubt about that. Sometimes it was difficult to identify victims because only bones were found. In other cases, it took months to identify a victim. In total, there were 49 victims in the list of the Green River killer. It took him only two years.
Green River task force, consisting of detectives from all over the country, has been formed. It took many years for investigators to collect tips, evidence and find new victims of the serial killer. The more victims were found; the larger Green River task force became. However, one problem occurred: the budget was reduced. There were no longer Green River task force. In 1992, there was only one detective to investigate the case – Tom Jensen. Tom Jensen was working hard to find at least one more evidence. In 2001, with the development of modern technologies of investigation, some progress in the case became possible. Tom Jensen decided to send some evidence to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory to conduct a DNA test. The test showed that Gary Leon Ridgeway was the Green River serial killer.
Gary Leon Ridgeway was born in 1949 in Salt Lake City, Utah. When he was eleven, his family moved to King County, where he finished school. It is remarkable to mention that his IQ was 83, which made him one of the worst students at school. He finished school at the age of 20, because he was held back two grades. After finishing school, Gary Ridgeway worked at Kenworth Motor truck Company. He worked there for a short period. In July 1969, Gary became a soldier. The next year, he married his first wife, Claudia Barrows, whom he has been dating for several years. He was serving in the Navy and while visiting Philippines he used a prostitute for the first time. During his service in Navy, he used many prostitutes and got gonorrhea. The next year, 1971, he returned home. He found out that his wife had an adultery while he was serving. Moreover, she initiated divorce while Gary was serving. The next year, in 1972, Gary met his second wife, Marcia Winslow. In 1973, they married.
The second wife’s testimony was significant during the investigation. She said that he loved having sex outdoors. When she was asked to show the places where he liked to have sex, she pointed to the places, where victims had been found before. Besides, Gary Ridgeway liked to have long walks late in the evening. According to his wife’s testimony, after such walks he returned home dirty and wet. In some time, he did not even bother himself to find excuses for such behavior.
After their divorce in 1981, Gary Leon Ridgeway bought a house, which was several blocks away from the place, where prostitutes work. In 2003, Gary Ridgeway confessed to have killed most of the victims in this mansion (Maleng N., p. 5) After the divorce, he had a relationship with one woman, however, she found someone else. In 1985, he met his third wife, Judith Mawson, and in 1988 they got married. It is worth to mention that all the time Gary Ridgeway was moving within King County.
His mother was dominant in their family. His neighbors witnessed that they used to hear shouts and sounds of spanking from Gary’s house. His school friends said that he was a nice person at school, just an average teenager. His mother influenced greatly on what he became. She was trying to control all his life. Moreover, Gary was trying to please her, although he could not do that.
There are several external factors, which influenced such behavior. First, Gary Ridgeway was not smart. Hence, he could not get a normal job. I suppose, it started from school, where Gary had to spend more time than his peers had. Obviously, his peers mocked at him not only because of his age, but of his mental abilities, as well. When he was serving, he used the prostitute for the first time. Although, he has been dating his first wife for quite some time already, the prostitute, most likely, became the first woman to satisfy him sexually. When Gary was describing how he killed women, he said that he asked them to have sex. Moreover, he asked a woman to visit the bathroom before the sex act. During the sex act, he preferred “doggie” style to have the opportunity to kill the woman. Gary Ridgway explained:
“And after I got behind them, penis/vagina, I would climax and usually the woman would raise her head because, you know, the guy’s through, I can get dressed. Usually when she raised her head up, I would wrap my arm around her or put something around her neck and choke her.” Another technique was:
“I’d tell ‘em “here’s a car coming” so guess what, she lifts up her head like thatShe’s not thinking anything of it. Her hands are down normal and it’s my time to wrap my arm around her neck and to choke her and not haveget in the way of her mouth. I got bit in the hand with a mouth one timeBut it’s my idea to get her head up so I could get a clear shot of her neck to kill her.” (Maleng citing Ridgway, p. 22)
Summing it up, Gary had one prostitute in his life and several wives. I suppose that he decided to kill women because earlier in his life women hurt him much. Society around him has become the major external factor in forming Gary Ridgway as a serial killer. However, there are internal factors that supported such development of Gary.
Gary killed the first person when he was sixteen. He stabbed a six years old boy. However, he was not sentenced, even though there was an eye witness who could have identified him. Hence, his such mental problems started long ago. Perhaps, he killed the little boy because it made him feel some supremacy. As I have already mentioned in the previous part, Gary Leon Ridgway was not smart, and children used to bully him. He needed to feel that supremacy. Later, he felt the supremacy for the second time in the Navy. He used the prostitute, who, obviously, satisfied all his wishes.
He was married for several times. It is known what he divorced with the first wife because she cheated on him. The second wife could not stand his long walks. He could not live with these women. He used to be alone since his childhood. That is why he needed long evening walks. I suggest that he could not find understanding with his wives: he could not explain how eagerly he needed such walks to spend the time with himself. It was natural to him to spend much time alone. His wives could not understand that, as well as he could not understand his wives.
Many serial killers live in their own small worlds. I suggest that Gary Leon Ridgway had the same small world, where he was smart, he was admired by people around him, especially by women.
When confessing, Gary Leon Ridgway was calm and did not seem really to regret about what he had done. He was even proud of himself. Although, he was not smart, he thought all the murders carefully over. He had four cars; he knew how to avoid chasing; he knew where to hide bodies. However, unlike many several killers, Gary Leon Ridgway did not write down the plans. He had all plans in his mind.
The factors outlined above show that external factors, the society surrounding Gary Leon Ridgway influenced him more than his internal state. There are no theories that explain all the crimes. As well as there is almost no crime, which can be explained with one theory. In this case, the Eysenck’s theory of personality and crime. Eysenck explained that a person commits a crime because of compilation of environment and features of nervous system of an individual. In this case, environment has played a significant role. People around Gary Leon Ridgway, the society around him, made a large contribute in his establishment as a serial killer.
Researchers, who prefer this theory to explain criminal behavior, state that every person have one’s particular state of mind, neuropsychological state. Together with certain environment, this state makes people commit crimes. Such theory may be supported by the knowledge that every crime has mens rea and actus reus. Mens rea is the guilty state of mind. In every crime, an offender should realize that his or her action would result in death or damage to human life or property.
The theory does not state that some human beings are born criminals. Instead, the main idea of the theory is that the society together with person’s state of mind makes a person criminal. When analyzing Green River serial killer applying to the theory, it is worth to remember several facts about Gary Ridgway:
- He was not smart;
- He was a weirdo in the society around him, especially at school;
- When reading his biography, we see that his mother was dominant (Rule A., p. 37);
- Later, he had problems with all his partners: with his wives and girlfriends, whom he dated;
- He was dominating only when having sex with prostitutes.
Gary’s mother was dominating him all his life long. This contributed in forming his nervous system. People around him, his partners did not resemble him mother in dominating. On the contrary, they were demanding something from him all the time. For example, his second wife demanded him to excuse where he had been and why he had come back home wet and dirty. The society pressed him and made him live its rules. However, prostitutes were the only women who did everything he wanted and did not ask anything. He wanted to dominate. The reasons why he began to kill prostitutes became clear in the light of this theory: he wanted to dominate so much that ruling someone’s life was what he desired.
Social process theory is another theory that applies in this case. Social process theory states that people commit crimes because they interact in the society. (Garland, Sparks, p. 28) The learning theory is one of the most popular approaches in this theory. This very approach can be applied in the case of Green River serial killer. The experiments, conducted by Albert Bandura, showed that animals could learn something simply from watching others doing that. (Bandura, p. 94) We know that his mother dominated him. Gary Leon Ridgway learned his behavior from his mother. Later, he applied his knowledge toward his victims. Hence, I suggest that two theories of criminal behavior may be applied in this case.
Axes I – depression (because of his mother’s behavior);
Axes II – erotophonophilia (Bartol A., Bartol C., p. 197), necrophilia;
Axes III – none;
Axes IV – his relationships with women;
Axes V – none.
This case study was devoted to the case of Green River serial killer – Gary Leon Ridgway. In two years, he killed 49 women-prostitutes. The peculiarity of the case is that the killer has been found in 2001, seventeen years after the murders stopped. In the paper, I have studied the case, serial killer’s background, internal and external factors that influenced his behavior. It is difficult to outline psychological theory that can explain criminal behavior of Gary Ridgway. Hence, I suggested that two theories might be applied in this case: the social process theory and the Eysenck’s theory of personality and crime. Both theories are based on the conclusion that not only a person is guilty in committing a crime, but the society, as well.
Bandura A. (1976) Social learning theory. Pearsons
Bartol A., Bartol C. (2013) Criminal Behavior: a psychological approach: 10th edition. Prentice Hall
Eysenck H. (1947) Dimensions of personality. Transactions Publishers
Garland D., Sparks R. (2000) Criminology and social theory. Oxford University Press
Maleng N. (n.d.) Prosecutor’s summary of evidence. King Country Courthouse
Rule A. (2005) Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer - America's Deadliest Serial Murderer. Pocket Star