Tammie Liles (King County Sheriff’s Office)

Tammie Liles (King County Sheriff’s Office)

Final remains in Green River Killer case identified as Everett teen

Tammie Liles, 16, was finally linked to the bones and teeth long known as “Bones 20.” Advances in DNA technology led to the breakthrough.

EVERETT — When Tammie Liles’ family buried her in the 1980s, they had to use a baby casket “because we couldn’t find all the parts of her body,” her brother recalled years ago.

Through advances in DNA testing, King County remains were identified as belonging to the Everett teenager — the final unidentified remains tied to serial killer Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer.

The King County Sheriff’s Office announced the breakthrough Monday.

Liles disappeared from downtown Seattle on June 9, 1983.

She was 16.

Liles had been linked to the Green River Killer case in the late 1980s, when other remnants of her body were uncovered in Oregon.

In 2003, as part of his bargain with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, Gary Ridgway led investigators to another site on Kent Des Moines Road in south King County, where he recalled leaving a body, the sheriff’s office reported. A search of the area, near the killer’s namesake river, turned up 23 human bones and teeth. Those remains were long known only as “Bones 20.”

Ridgway has been convicted of murdering 49 women and girls, including Liles, that he preyed on in the 1980s and 1990s in Western Washington. In a plea deal, he received dozens of consecutive life sentences and agreed to lead investigators to the graves of his victims.

For two decades, laboratories were unsuccessful in identifying Bones 20. In fall 2022, investigators submitted the skeletal remains to Othram Inc., a forensic laboratory specializing in difficult DNA cases.

Othram has helped Snohomish County investigators with several other cold cases in the past, extracting genetic profiles for upload to ancestry databases, using the same technique as the Golden State Killer case. This way, they can build the unnamed person’s genetic family tree, find their family — and ultimately identify the unknown person, whether that’s a suspect or a victim.

Othram scientists finally managed to extract DNA from Bones 20.

In August of last year, Othram reported to King County Sheriff’s Office investigators that those remains were “tentatively” identified as Liles. Authorities contacted Liles’ mother, and using her reference sample, scientists were able to identify Liles through traditional STR and mitochondrial DNA testing, according to DNASolves.com, an advocacy group and database that funds Othram’s work.

49 victims

In 1985, the remains of two girls were found near the Tualatin Golf Course near Tigard, Oregon. In June of that year, two more sets of remains were found nearby off Bull Mountain Road in Tigard. Soon afterward, the Bull Mountain remains were identified as Denise Bush and Shirley Sherrill, but the first two near the golf course remained unknown for years.

In 1988, remains from the golf course were identified as Liles through her dental records. It took decades for investigators to identify the other woman at that site as Angela Girdner. Ridgway was never convicted of killing Girdner.

Meanwhile, in 2002 and 2003, investigators interviewed Ridgway about the cases. He admitted to murdering Bush and Sherrill in King County and moving their bodies to the site in Tigard, but denied murdering Liles and Girdner, according to the sheriff’s office.

In November 2003, Ridgway pleaded guilty to the murder of Sherrill, Bush and 46 other victims, including the unidentified Bones 20. Ridgway was sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 18 of that year.

At the time, investigators found he was not “particularly accurate in associating dumpsites with the victims that he placed there,” according to Ridgway’s case file in 2003. “… To date, he has led the Task Force to the remains of three other victims, and he was incorrect about the identity of two of the three victims.”

In 2011, Ridgway pleaded guilty to killing a 49th victim, Rebecca Marrero. She was 20.

In late 2023, authorities identified remains known as “Bones 17” in the Green River Killer case. She was Lori Anne Razpotnik, who was 15 years old when she ran away from home, never to be seen again.

‘You live with this’

Liles was not Ridgway’s only victim from Everett.

In 1982, Ridgway killed Linda Jane Rule, known as Janey to her parents. Ridgway admitted to the killing in 2003. The Everett couple had to wait 21 years to find out who took their daughter away from them.

“The justice is he is off the street and can’t hurt anyone else, or their families,” Robert Rule told The Daily Herald in 2003.

Liles’ family dealt with pain and uncertainty, too. Ridgway never admitted to killing Tammie Liles by name, despite pleading guilty to the killing of then-unidentified Bones 20.

“You live with this for 20 years, wondering what happened. I can’t see myself ever finding closure,” her brother, Jason Liles, said in 2003. “But I think it would settle a lot better if the guy would say, ‘Yeah, I did it.’”

Since Bones 20 is now identified, Ridgway was officially convicted and sentenced for killing Liles in 2003, King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Casey McNerthney said.

Liles’ family did not wish to be contacted by the media for further questions this week, the sheriff’s office said.

As of Monday, Ridgway was serving 49 consecutive life sentences at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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