At least four unsolved slayings in Snohomish County share enough similarities with the Green River killings that detectives here believe they need to take a hard look at confessed serial murderer Gary Leon Ridgway as a potential suspect, Sheriff Rick Bart said Monday.
"I think we owe it to the families to find some kind of resolution, at least as to what happened to their family members. That said, with an opportunity like this with Mr. Ridgway, we can’t pass it up," Bart said.
Ridgway, 54, last week admitted he is the Green River killer, pleading guilty to 48 King County murders between 1982 and 1998. Under an agreement reached with prosecutors, he submitted to extensive interviews with detectives and provided details about his crimes, his methods and his motivations.
Bart spent more than a decade working as a sheriff’s homicide detective, starting in the late 1970s. He personally investigated some of the local cases he thinks should be screened for potential links to Ridgway.
Bart said that all of the cases in the past were examined for links to the Green River series, but investigators at the time concluded they didn’t easily fit with what was then known about the killer. He’s since reviewed legal papers spelling out Ridgway’s admissions, and says there now are stronger reasons to suspect potential links.
Most of the victims were similar to the women Ridgway has admitted stalking, their bodies, for the most part, were found dumped in "clusters" in steep areas, and most were last seen alive in King County, the sheriff said.
Bart said he’s struck by Ridgway’s admissions that he continued to kill long after the Green River Task Force believed he’d stopped, and also the killer’s acknowledgment that he changed his methods and was willing to travel considerable distances to place false clues designed to throw investigators off his trail.
"Did he try to do it again by bringing some of his victims up to Snohomish County?" Bart asked.
The sheriff said detectives hope to meet soon with the investigators who have been closest to Ridgway’s arrest to learn if they have any information that could be helpful.
Bart said it is too soon to identify which cases he believes could be linked to Ridgway. He said the families of local homicide victims should not expect to hear from detectives unless something materializes.
This isn’t the first time Snohomish County investigators have publicly aired their suspicions that some of the killings here could be linked to the Green River series.
In 1991, detectives openly discussed the possibility that the 1988 deaths of Jennifer Anne Burnetto, 32 and Robin Maria Kenworthy, 20, whose bodies were found near Index, could be the work of a King County’s most-prolific serial killer. Both were last seen alive in the Seattle area.
Suspicions about those murders became public after the 1991 discovery of human remains in a roadside dumping area of High Bridge Road south of Monroe. Tests later showed that a skull found there belonged to Sun Nyo Lee, 36, of Bothell, who disappeared in June 1990. The other remains belonged to a long-haired man, as yet unidentified, who had been dismembered after death.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or email@example.com.