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« Green River killings




Wednesday, November 5, 2003 - 11:15 a.m. Pacific

Timeline of a manhunt  |  Friday's arrest of Gary Ridgway came 19 years after the discovery of the first victim.


RICHARD S. HEYZA / THE SEATTLE TIMES, 1986
Members of the Green River Task Force carry remains out of the woods on Jan. 3, 1986.
May 1982: Gary Ridgway, unknown to police as anyone other than a potential "john," is arrested in prostitution sting.

July 15, 1982: Children playing near Kent find the strangled body of Wendy Lee Coffield, 16, of Puyallup, floating in the Green River. She is the first victim found in what becomes the largest unsolved serial murder case in the country.

Aug. 13-15, 1982: The bodies of four more young women are found in the Green River. They include Cynthia Hinds, Opal Mills, and Marcia Chapman, three of the four cases police suspect are the work of a serial killer.

Aug. 16, 1982: King County police establish the biggest police task force since the Ted Bundy murders.

Aug. 20, 1982: Police announce the arrest of a "potential suspect" in the slayings; he is later released.

Oct. 4, 1982: Melvin Wayne Foster, 44, an unemployed cabdriver from Lacey, Thurston County, says he’s a prime suspect in the Green River killings but that he’s innocent.


BRYAN MONROE / THE SEATTLE TIMES, 1987
The first victim was found in 1982 in the Green River near a Kent meat-packing plant.
April 27, 1983: The Green River killer becomes target of largest murder investigation in the country. Estimated cost for 1983 is $2 million, Sheriff Vern Thomas says.

April 30, 1983: First apparent police attention to Ridgway occurs when victim Marie Malvar disappears. Boyfriend follows a pickup suspected in the disappearance. Pickup identified as Ridgway’s. Des Moines police respond. Ridgway denies any contact with Malvar.

May 3, 1983: Carol Christensen disappears from Pacific Highway South. She later was one of four victims police connected to Ridgway.

Nov. 20, 1983: Police say the same man killed 11 young women found murdered in the south county area since the summer of 1982.

Dec. 30, 1983: The Green River investigation team has been increased sixfold because of fears that more victims may be found.

April 2, 1984: The discovery of five more sets of skeletal remains could bring the total now attributed to the killer to more than 30. Official number of victims is 20. Police say killer may have used a number of locations during the same period to dispose of victims.


DALE BLINDHEIM / THE SEATTLE TIMES, 1984
This bus stop, on Pacific Highway South north of the airport, is the last place where a number of victims were seen..
April 20, 1984: Two more sets of remains are found near North Bend, including those of Amina Agisheff, 36, who was last seen in Seattle in 1982. She eventually is listed as the killer’s first victim.

May 1984: Ridgway contacts the Green River task force, ostensibly to offer information. He is given a polygraph and passes.

Aug. 22, 1984: The investigation is now in its third year, and while police have gathered enormous amounts of evidence, they can’t say they are any closer to capturing the killer.

Dec. 9, 1984: The suspected toll rises to 42 - 28 identified bodies and 14 other women missing.

Feb. 6, 1986: The home of a Riverton Heights man described by police as a "person of interest’’ in the serial murder case is searched by police; he is questioned by the task force.

May 1986: Taskforce officials say none of the material taken from the home and nothing in the interrogation link the man to the case.

April 8, 1987: Police search the home and vehicles of a Kent-area man who two witnesses say was seen with at least two of the victims, now thought to number 46. Police take "bodily samples" from the man but there is insufficient evidence to arrest him. The man was Gary Ridgway.


MATT MCVAY / THE SEATTLE TIMES, 1984
King County police Detective Bruce Peterson removes debris from bones in April 1984.
July 1991: Green River Task Force is essentially down to one investigator, Tom Jensen. The killer has not been found despite years of investigative work, the creation of the task force, the expenditure of more than $15 million, the use of a $200,000 computer, the accumulation of thousands of suspects and the filling of more than 750 three-ring binders with millions of facts.

Nov. 2, 1999: The remains of a victim found near the Green River in Kent in 1986 are identified as Tracy Ann Winston, 19, last seen near Northgate in Seattle in 1983. Police use the new DNA process to identify the remains as Winston’s.

Feb. 2000: The state crime lab begins using a sophisticated new DNA testing method.

March 2001: Crime lab begins using the new process to test Green River killer evidence.

Nov. 30, 2001: King County Sheriff Dave Reichert announces the arrest of Gary Leon Ridgway, 52, of Auburn in connection with the slayings of four of the early victims of the Green River killer. Ridgway’s DNA is linked to three of those victims.

Dec. 5, 2001: King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng files aggravated first-degree murder charges against Ridgway in deaths of Marcia Chapman, Cynthia Hinds, Opal Mills and Carol Christensen.

Dec. 18, 2001: Ridgway pleads innocent to those four murder counts.

Sept. 22, 2002: Prosecutors recommend a March 2004 trial date for Ridgway. More than 375,000 documents received by defense from prosecutors in past few months.

Oct. 5-6, 2002: Crews search wetland in Kent for more remains, nothing found.

Oct. 18, 2002: Trial date set for March 16, 2004.

March 27, 2003: Ridgway charged with three more counts of aggravated first-degree murder in deaths of Wendy Lee Coffield, Debra Estes and Debra Bonner. A total of 49 women are listed as victims of the serial killer.

April 3, 2003: Ridgway pleads innocent to Coffield, Estes and Bonner murder counts.

May 13, 2003: Trial date delayed to July 14, 2004.

Mid-June 2003: Ridgway secretly transferred out of King County Jail to an undisclosed location in custody of sheriff’s office.

Aug. 16, 2003: Detectives and search crews find human skeletal remains in a wooded area near Washington 410 east of Enumclaw. Authorities will not confirm reports that Ridgway is cooperating with investigators in hopes of avoiding the death penalty.

Aug. 18, 2003: Remains found near Enumclaw identified as Pammy Annette Avent, 16, Seattle, who disappeared in October 1983.

Aug. 21-23, 2003: Detectives find human bones in wooded area in Kent.

Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, 2003: Detectives find human bones in wooded area near Snoqualmie, in east King County.

Sept. 4, 2003: Task force searches site near North Bend, nothing found.

Sept. 6, 2003: Task force searches three locations east of Enumclaw, nothing found.

Sept. 26, 2003: Remains found near Snoqualmie identified as April Dawn Buttram, 17, last seen in 1983.

Sept. 28-29, 2003: Skeletal remains, including skull, found in wooded area near Auburn.

Oct. 1, 2003:: Bones found near Auburn identified as Marie M. Malvar, 18, who disappeared April 30, 1983.




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