Ridgway to plead guilty

SEATTLE — In a deal that will spare him from execution, Gary Leon Ridgway is set to plead guilty next week to killing dozens of women listed as victims of the Green River killer, as well as some other women not on the investigation’s official victims’ list, two sources told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Ridgway is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to 48 killings, said the sources involved with the case. Forty-two of the women were on the official list of 49 victims of the Green River killer, and six were not on the list.

The numbers of killings he pleads to "could change between now and Wednesday, but that’s where it stands," said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Instead of death, Ridgway, 54, would face life in prison without parole, the only other possible penalty in Washington for aggravated murder. In exchange, King County prosecutors can finally close what was once the biggest and oldest unsolved serial killings case in the country.

And they will save millions of dollars at a time when financial concerns have forced the county to make significant budget cuts. The county has spent well over $12 million on the case since Ridgway’s 2001 arrest, and the projected cost of a trial was even higher.

"He deserves the death penalty, but what would be the point?" said Tim Meehan, whose pregnant sister Mary was found dead in 1983. "Twenty years from now, when he’d actually be put to death, he’d be in his mid-70s. At least now the families have an opportunity to have answers. Closure is well worth the trade-off."

One of the women Ridgway is expected to admit killing died in 1990, and another died in 1998. The last victim listed on the official Green River list died in February 1984.

Contrary to some reports, Ridgway has neither confessed to nor denied responsibility for the seven other victims on the official list, one source said.

Reports that Ridgway would plead next week have been circulating for days in Seattle newspapers and on television, but prosecution and defense lawyers have refused to publicly discuss the reports or say whether Ridgway has been cooperating with the county sheriff’s Green River Task Force.

Ridgway, who was arrested in November 2001 after DNA evidence linked him to the case, is only charged with aggravated murder in seven deaths, and has pleaded innocent to those. But he began cooperating with authorities months ago, one source confirmed Thursday, leading them to four sets of remains over the summer.

The women Ridgway will admit killing who were not on the list include Patricia Ann Yellow Robe, 38, of Seattle, a nurse’s aide who was found dead on Aug. 6, 1998; and Marta Reeves, 36, whose remains were found Sept. 20, 1990, the source said.

Yellow Robe’s body was found in Seattle by a wrecking crew. Her death certificate said she died of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose, but investigators told relatives Wednesday she was one of the last Green River victims.

The body of Reeves, 37, was found along Highway 410 near Enumclaw in March 1990, not far from where three Green River victims were found in 1983.

Copyright ©2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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