I would have never known about this series if I hadn't been flipping through my cable TV listings - I watch the Discovery Channel frequently and can't even remember seeing it advertised. The Discovery website offers nothing extra about the series just the synopsis you can get from any TV listing. Why the short shrift? I was hooked when I managed to stumble upon the episode on Ivan Milat "The Backpacker Murderer" - I had never heard of this man and I thought I was pretty well schooled in notorious murderers. And just last night there was another ep "The Phoenix Strangler" about a South African serial killer, again I had never heard of these crimes.
It's so refreshing to see documentaries on famous murders that don't show the same cast of characters - Manson, Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, Gein - we've heard about these guys ad nauseum - there are other countries with serial killers people! and this brilliant series explores this.
I love it and want to purchase the series on DVD, unfortunately that's not an option.
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Most murder cases, it is said here in the beginning of this program, have about 200 pieces of evidence. The "Green River Killer" has over 10,000. It is the longest-running and most prolific case of a serial killer in the history of the United States.
The program, however, didn't out to be as dramatic or interesting as that opening statement was, although it wasn't boring, either. It just detailed the first few murders of this man who raped, strangled and then killed women in the Seattle area beginning in 1982.
Imagine that poor guy who saw the first victims. He thought they mannequins placed at the edge of a bank on the Green River. He went over to get a closer look.
Soon there were five dead bodies with the same MO. That included all of them being prostitutes. The police went to the area where these women hung out but couldn't get anyone to talk. They either didn't trust police enough or were too drugged out to remember seeing anyone suspicious.
The following month, The Green River started dumping bodies in waste grounds, instead. His eight victim was not a prostitute. He was trying to throw off the police. By the end of 1983, the body count was up to 15 and the next year, the task force to catch him had been increased to 40 detectives. Still, there was no evidence linking police to any one guy and, despite everyone in the Seattle area looking for him, the death toll kept climbing.
By 1987, police finally had a prime suspect, a guy named Melvyn Foster, but he turned out to be innocent, making the police really look stupid, and also making them more cautious by not wanting to make that kind of mistake again. All of this worked toward the killer's advantage.....although, finally, thanks to advances in DNA detection by the mid 1990s, the cops looked like they might have their man.
Each serial killer leaves his "signature," something he or she does that no one else does. In this case, the killer left a small stone in each dead woman's vagina. Thanks to that DNA work, and semen samples and minute speckles of spray paint on the victims, police finally arrested Gary Ridgway for the murder of four people. (I'm condensing the story, reporting the highlights of this TV program.) It is a shock to many people when they see what this prolific killer looks like, who later admitted he killed many more, even showing people were some of the graves were located. Of course, that was to aid his plea bargain to escape the death penalty. It is estimated, however, he might have killed up to 70 people. This case went on for slightly over two decades until this guy was sent to jail for life.
After watching this, I just shook my head in amazement wondering how this Ridgway could kill so many people without police catching him. He has more "confirmed" murders than anyone on record in the USA. Some people in Washington State don't understand why a mass murderer like this hasn't been executed, in a state that allows it. Ridgway resides in Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
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