Victim’s family had led police to Ridgway’s door

SEATTLE — Jose Malvar Jr. watched the man who murdered his sister and 47 other women receive a sentence that guarantees he will die behind bars, but Malvar still seethes with rage forged over two decades of frustration.

Marie Malvar, 18, disappeared in 1982 after getting into a pickup with Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River Killer. Shortly afterward, Malvar’s family and boyfriend led police to Ridgway’s doorstep. Still, there would be many years and at least 19 other deaths before advances in forensic technology provided the evidence that brought the serial killer to justice.

"I’m just angry about the whole thing — that they didn’t arrest him when my dad brought the police over there," Jose Malvar told The Associated Press. "They should have done more follow-through. More lives could have been saved."

Ridgway pleaded guilty last month to strangling 48 women since 1982 — more convictions than any serial killer in U.S. history. He was sentenced Dec. 18 to 48 consecutive life terms without chance for release and fined $480,000. The name of the case comes from the Green River where some of the early victims were found.

Marie, who had been working as a prostitute, was listed in charging papers as victim No. 29.

At the sentencing, Jose Malvar cursed Ridgway and called for his death.

"You’re a loser, you’re a coward, you’re a nobody. You’re an animal," he said. "Thank God I have these police officers in front of me. You should be dead."

Watching Ridgway sent to prison didn’t end Malvar’s pain.

"I’ll never have closure because I’m not going to see my sister no more," Jose Malvar said. "I’m not going to be satisfied till he’s dead."

Marie was the fourth of six children, Jose, now 42, the oldest.

"There are days … I start thinking back to our childhood," Jose Malvar said. "I remember the things we used to do, argue and fight … go out to clubs. She loved everybody. She was very outgoing."

It was April 30, 1983, when Marie Malvar’s boyfriend, Robert Woods, watched her get into Ridgway’s truck, noticing its patches of primer. Woods followed them to a motel parking lot and out again. He lost them at a traffic signal, when Ridgway turned east on South 216th in south Des Moines.

On May 3, Woods reported Marie missing, eventually conceding that he knew she was a prostitute. He said he’d last seen her getting into a black pickup with a dark-haired man 30 to 40 years old. Ridgway was then 34.

Led by Marie’s father, Jose Malvar Sr., the men of the family began scouring the neighborhood. They spotted the truck, a maroon pickup, parked in front of Ridgway’s home, one block off 216th. It was there, Ridgway would later confess, that Marie — and many others — were killed.

A Des Moines police detective stopped at the house to question Ridgway, who denied knowing Malvar.

Ridgway told Green River task force investigators this year that he stood against a fence in his yard during the questioning to conceal scratches Marie Malvar left on his inner left arm as she fought for her life. When the detective was gone, Ridgway burned the gouges with battery acid to disguise them then returned to the nearby woods where he had dumped Malvar’s body and buried her.

The scars on Ridgway’s arm are still visible, according to charging documents, which brings Marie’s brother some comfort.

"I know every time he looks at that scar, he remembers my sister," Jose Jr. said. "At least she got that," he said. "At least she didn’t go down without a fight."

Marie’s family kept looking for her. Her ID was found at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, feeding their desperate hope. Ridgway acknowledged last summer he planted it there.

Marie’s father, especially, couldn’t give up, Jose Jr. said. "There were days he didn’t come home, he’d just keep driving and driving." Some days he’d drive by Ridgway’s and "wait to see if my sister came out of that house," he said.

Pretty, vivacious Marie was never seen again. A handful of her bones was found this fall with the serial killer’s help as part of a plea deal that spared him from execution.

But Malvar’s disappearance brought Ridgway to official attention and kept him there, even after he passed a 1984 polygraph denying any knowledge of the killings.

In 1987, the Malvar connection prompted police to take a saliva sample from Ridgway. He was arrested in 2001 when technology advanced enough to allow a DNA match from the saliva sample to trace evidence from three early victims.

"I saw in the newspaper about the arrest, and I said, ‘That’s the guy we found. That’s the truck,’ " Malvar’s father told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a few weeks later.

Marie’s disappearance broke up the family. Most returned to the Philippines or moved to California. The two years since Ridgway’s arrest have reopened old wounds, Jose Jr. said, but he’s working now to get his life on track.

"She’s always going to be part of my life," he said of his sister. "Even though she’s not here any more."

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

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