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Thursday, November 6, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
Timeline: DNA testing helped lead investigators to Green River killer

July 15, 1982: Children playing near Kent find strangled body of Wendy Coffield, 16, of Puyallup, in Green River.

Aug. 13-15, 1982: Bodies of four more young women found in or near Green River. Police suspect serial killer at work.

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

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

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

May 3, 1983: Victim Carol Christensen disappears from Pacific Highway South.

Nov. 20, 1983: Police say same man killed 11 women found in South King County since summer of 1982.

April 2, 1984: Five more sets of skeletal remains found. Official number of victims attributed to the serial killer is 20, but number could be as high as 30.

April 20, 1984: Two more sets of remains found near North Bend, including those of Amina Agisheff, 36, who was last seen in Seattle in 1982. Eventually listed as the killer's first victim.

May 1984: Ridgway contacts the Green River Task Force, ostensibly to offer information. Given a polygraph, he passes.

Dec. 9, 1984: Suspected toll rises to 42.

Feb. 6, 1986: Police search a home near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The occupant, described as a "person of interest," is questioned by the task force.

May 1986: Officials say nothing links the man to the case.

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

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 Winston, 19, last seen near Northgate in Seattle in 1983. Police use the new DNA process to identify the remains.

March 2001: State crime lab starts using the new DNA method to test Green River killer evidence.

Nov. 30, 2001: King County Sheriff Dave Reichert announces arrest of 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 them.

Dec. 15, 2001: Reichert assembles 11 investigators to work full time on building evidence against Ridgway.

Dec. 18, 2001: Ridgway enters "not guilty" plea to four counts of aggravated murder in deaths of Marcia Chapman, 31; Cynthia Hinds, 17; and Opal Mills, 16 — whose bodies were found in or near the Green River on Aug. 15, 1982 — and Carol Christensen, 21, whose remains were found outside Maple Valley on May 8, 1983.

March 27, 2003: Ridgway is charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the slayings of three more women: Coffield, 16; Debra Bonner, 23, and Debra Estes, 15. Police and prosecutors say microscopic paint dust on the clothing of three women ties Ridgway, a truck painter, to their deaths.

April 3, 2003: Ridgway pleads not guilty in King County Superior Court to the three most recent charges of aggravated first-degree murder.

July 26, 2003: Ridgway is moved from the King County Jail in Seattle to an undisclosed location amid reports he may want to cooperate with authorities in return for taking the death penalty off the table.

Aug. 19, 2003: 16-year-old Pammy Avent's remains, found east of Enumclaw, are identified, after reports that Ridgway is trading information for his life.

Aug. 24, 2003: Seven more bones are found by detectives investigating the Green River serial killings. An investigator from the King County Medical Examiner's Office says the bones appear to be human.

Sept. 27, 2003: The bones of 17-year-old April Buttram are identified. The Green River Task Force announces that two bones found Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 near Snoqualmie match the DNA of Buttram, who vanished in late August 1983.

Oct. 2, 2003: Green River Task Force investigators identify remains found in a ravine outside Auburn as those of Malvar, who was 18 when she disappeared April 30, 1983.

October 2003: Ridgway provides details of at least two slayings that weren't on the official list: Patricia Yellow Robe, 38, who was found dead Aug. 6, 1998, and Marta Reeves, 36, who was killed in 1990.

Nov. 5, 2003: Ridgway pleads guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder, including 42 of the original 49 murders attributed to the Green River serial killer. The other counts involve Linda Rule, Roberta Hayes, Reeves, Patricia Barczak, Yellow Robe and an unidentified victim.

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