King County sheriff's investigators logged 20,000 hours of overtime this year to guard confessed serial killer Gary Ridgway and search dozens of sites where he said he dumped bodies.
Detectives' overtime, combined with DNA analysis and the services of expert witnesses, add up to more than $1.3 million.
Sheriff Dave Reichert originally expected to spend about $52,000 in overtime in 2003 for the Green River case. That changed when Ridgway decided to cooperate with police in exchange for a plea deal that would spare him from execution.
Ridgway, 54, was arrested in late 2001 after DNA evidence linked him to the first victims, whose bodies were found in or near the Green River.
Last month he pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder in a two-decade-old rampage targeting runaways and prostitutes.
A former truck painter from Auburn, Ridgway led Green River Task Force detectives to 52 sites after he was moved from a high-security unit at the King County Jail in June. They found four sets of previously undiscovered remains, and Ridgway pleaded guilty in those deaths.
For months, he stayed in a 10-foot-by-12 foot room on the ground floor of the task force's headquarters, an office building in an industrial stretch of South Seattle. Detectives spent many hours interviewing him there.
"We think it's a highly prudent expenditure given the outcome of the case," said Bill Wilson, the chief financial officer for the King County Sheriff's Office. "We would be surprised if people questioned this."
Ridgway is scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without parole on Dec. 18.
Meanwhile, county continues incurring costs to provide 24-hour security while Ridgway is held at an undisclosed secure location outside the King County Jail, Wilson said.
The sheriff's office is expected to spend about $400,000 this year - nearly $125,000 more than expected - on DNA profiles and expert witnesses for the Ridgway case.
All told, the Ridgway investigation is expected to cost the sheriff's office at least $3.4 million this year. Last year's total was about $2.6 million.
Sheriff's officials plan to meet next week to discuss how much money is needed for 2004. Detectives are investigating a number of unsolved homicides for possible links to Ridgway, who has admitted to killing as many as 60 women.
Ridgway's 48 guilty pleas put more murders on his record than any other serial killer in U.S. history.