Gary Ridgway, America's Most Prolific Serial Killer, Out of Colorado

 Earlier this year, we told you about Gary Ridgway, widely thought to be America's most prolific serial killer, being moved from Washington state, where the so-called Green River Killer committed most of his known crimes, to Colorado; see our previous coverage below.

Now, Ridgway is back in Washington after complaints from the loved ones of his victims.

Meanwhile, an incident that recently involved Aurora theater shooter James Holmes hints at the reasons Ridgway was moved in the first place.

As noted last month by Washington's KIRO-TV, the person at the center of the protests against Ridgway's relocation was Mary Marrero, sister of Becky Marrero.

In 2011, Ridgway pleaded guilty to killing Becky, his 49th victim by the official law enforcement estimate.

Mary Marrero was particularly incensed after learning that Ridgway had been placed in the general population at a federal prison in Florence — something that wouldn't have been possible in Washington, since he's so well known there.

“They believe he should be able to socialize, to get a job," Mary said at a press conference at the center of a report on view below. "I believe they are full of it."

Costs in Washington, where Ridgway had to be accompanied by a security detail whenever he left his cell, were a key reason for the move, according to documents obtained by the Seattle Times.

And killers like Ridgway frequently become targets, especially if they're housed in areas associated with their lethal trade.

An example: Last week, we learned that Aurora theater killer Holmes was attacked at the Colorado prison where he's currently ensconced. Mark Daniels, the inmate in question, is said to have taken a couple of swings at Holmes, who wasn't injured in the exchange.

At last report, Daniels was expected to be charged with assaulting Holmes and the corrections officer with him at the time of the incident.

There's another factor at play in the Ridgway case, however. Although 49 murders have been tied to him, Ridgway has claimed to have killed as many as 71 women — and investigators looking into these other cases would presumably have greater access to him if he was behind bars in Washington.

Now, they'll get that chance. The Times reports that Ridgway was returned to a prison in Walla Walla on Saturday morning, October 24.

Look below to see a booking photo of Mark Daniels, the man accused of attacking James Holmes, followed by the September KIRO piece on the Mary Marrero press event and our previous coverage.

Original post, 8:02 a.m. June 29: Colorado is home to some of the most dangerous and notorious people in America owing to the presence of supermax facilities in the state.

Among them are "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid and "Underwear Bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Now, these high-profile criminals have reportedly been joined by Gary Ridgway, also known as the "Green River Killer."

Back in 2011, the Seattle Times referred to Ridgway as "the nation's most prolific serial killer," and there's plenty of evidence to back up this assertion. At that time, he pleaded guilty to murdering Rebecca "Becky" Marrero — officially his 49th victim.

And even that total may be low.

Here's an excerpt from the voluminous page about Ridgway:
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ridgway is believed to have murdered at least 71 women (according to Ridgway, in an interview with Sheriff Reichert 2001) near Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. His court statements later reported that he had killed so many, he lost count. A majority of the murders occurred between 1982 to 1984. The victims were believed to be either prostitutes or runaways picked up along Pacific Highway South (International Blvd. 99) whom he strangled. Most of their bodies were dumped in wooded areas around the Green River except for two confirmed and another two suspected victims found in the Portland, Oregon area. The bodies were often left in clusters, sometimes posed, usually nude. He also sometimes later would return to the victims' bodies and have intercourse with them (an act of necrophilia). Because most of the bodies were not discovered until only the skeletons remained, four victims are still unidentified. Ridgway occasionally contaminated the dump sites with gum, cigarettes, and written materials belonging to others, and he even transported a few victims' remains across state lines into Oregon to confuse the police.
Ridgway's memory issues, whether genuine or purposeful, have made it difficult for authorities to close every homicide case that may have been committed by him. But here's a look at some of his victims.

Ridgway was arrested in 1982 on a charge related to prostitution, resulting in this booking photo:

The following year, Murderpedia notes, he was questioned in relation to the Green River killings — and in 1984, he actually passed a polygraph test.

Afterward, however, authorities continued to see him as a suspect, and in 1987, they took hair and saliva samples from him.

Still, it wasn't until December 2001 when Ridgway finally faced murder charges — four of them, related to Marcia Chapman, 32; Cynthia Hinds, seventeen, Opal Mills, sixteen, and Carol Ann Christensen, 21, who died in 1982 and 1983.

Three more counts followed in 2003, and by year's end, he had pleaded guilty to 48 slayings.

He avoided the death penalty in the homicides because he cooperated with authorities, allowing them to finally resolve longstanding mysteries.

The horrifying events soon attracted the attention of fillmakers. Here's a poster associated with the 2005 movie Green River Killer.... well as DVD graphics for a 2008 Lifetime miniseries:

Today, questions remain about whether Ridgway was responsible for additional open homicides.

Meanwhile, according to KOMO-TV, Ridgway has been housed at a penitentiary near Florence since mid-May.

Andrew Garber, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Corrections, declined to say why Ridgway was moved. The statement he shared with the station reads, ""As part of standard correctional practice, the department constantly evaluates and reviews the overall safety and security of our operations, and makes decisions regarding the housing of offenders accordingly."

Whatever the rationale, Ridgway is undeniably among the most lethal people to call Colorado home.

Look below to see a pair of KOMO-TV reports about Ridgway, who's started speaking about his crimes in recent years, followed by a YouTube documentary.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts