SEATTLE — The sister of Gary Ridgway’s 49th victim said Monday that she is disgusted with the Washington State Department of Corrections for agreeing to move the Green River killer to an out-of-state prison where he will have more freedom and social contacts.
Speaking at her sister’s gravesite at Riverton Crest Cemetery in Tukwila, Mary Marrero called Ridgway a “heartless psychopath who took pleasure in strangling women.” Someone, she says, who does not deserve new opportunities at a Colorado prison.
“Why is the Department of Corrections giving this notorious serial killer special treatment?” she said. “Shame on the Department of Corrections.”
Marrero’s sister, Rebecca “Becky” Marrero, 20, was killed by Ridgway in December 1982, leaving behind a 2-year-old daughter. Ridgway admitted to killing Marrero years ago, but her remains weren’t found until December 2010 in an Auburn ravine.
“This beautiful girl had to grow up without her mother,” said Mary Marrero, referring to her sister’s daughter.
Ridgway was transferred in May from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla to a federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo. Ridgway, who was convicted in 2004, had lived in virtual isolation at the Washington prison, serving life without parole after confessing to a string of sex slayings that spanned nearly 20 years.
Also speaking during Monday’s news conference was U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, who as a King County sheriff’s detective spent years investigating the Green River killings. Reichert criticized the transfer of Ridgway, which came without notifying the families of the dozens of victims.
Reichert, repeatedly referring to Ridgway as a “monster,” said he has asked the state Department of Corrections to explain the transfer and why the serial killer was deemed deserving.
“I don’t think he should be allowed to be socialized,” Reichert said. “He took 49 lives . his days of socializing are over.”
Reichert added that “the visions” of seeing Ridgway “playing shuffleboard or poker with his buddies in a (prison) day room are offensive.”
Ridgway, an Auburn truck painter, was arrested in 2001 based on DNA evidence. He agreed to an unprecedented plea bargain with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, in which he agreed to detail his crimes in exchange for no death penalty. Reichert on Monday called the unusual agreement a “deal with the devil.”
Prosecutors were eventually able to charge him with 48 murders between 1982 and 1998.
He pleaded guilty in 2011 to the 49th murder in the death of Becky Marrero. By Ridgway’s own count, the number of victims is closer to 70.
The intent of the move to a maximum-security facility in Colorado was to provide Ridgway with an opportunity to live in a prison’s general population, according to documents obtained by The Seattle Times through a public-records request.
In Washington, Ridgway’s notoriety would be a virtual death sentence in general population. Prison documents on his transfer indicate he was easily recognizable and a target of other inmates.
In Colorado, where Ridgway is less well known, he was to be placed in the general population, where presumably he could mingle with other inmates and have access to a job and other privileges, according to state Department of Corrections (DOC) documents and the Bureau of Prisons inmate manual for the Florence facility.
Washington prison records show Ridgway was a model inmate while housed in the Intensive Management Unit at Walla Walla. He cooperated with his captors and never broke prison rules, according to the documents obtained by The Times.
However, documents tracking his imprisonment indicate that in recent years Ridgway has complained of unspecified mental problems and has been on medication.
The Washington State Department of Corrections declined to discuss the transfer or the reasons behind it.
Reichert said his office has filed a public disclosure request with the Department of Corrections to find out what made officials believe Ridgway qualified for release from his solitary cell and why the prison transfer wasn’t discussed with anyone who handled the case or with Gov. Jay Inslee.
“The public should have known this was in the works,” Reichert said Monday. “There’s something wrong in the Department of Corrections. We have a lot of questions.”