Judge urges families to remember victims, put aside hate

December 19, 2003 

Statement by King County Superior Court Judge Richard Jones:

Mr. Ridgway, the time has come for the final chapter of your reign of terror in this community.

Today has been a long time coming for the brutal murders you committed.

An English poet over 100 years ago by the name of John Dryden once wrote, "Murder may pass unpunish'd for a time, but tardy justice will o'ertake the crime."

Today, Mr. Ridgway, is the day of justice for all the young women that you murdered, and now time for our community to have peace from the Green River murders.

Normal protocol would dictate that I sentence you and address the victim family members. But I am not going to follow that process. I'm going to address the victims' family members first. I do this out of my deep respect for the pain they have endured and the loss they have experienced.

To the victims' family members and friends, a sentencing of this type can seem quite impersonal. If I had my choice, I'd speak to each family separately, but under these circumstances, I must speak to you as a whole.

And before I begin, I ask for a moment of silence in this courtroom, the city of Seattle, all of King County, for every person across the globe to whom this broadcast may reach. I ask this moment of silence in honor of all the young women who were victims in this case and cannot speak for themselves.

(48 seconds of silence)

Thank you. Your silence speaks volumes.

I want each family member and friend of the victims to know that I thought long and hard about the words I could share with you at this time. I know you have probably been told by scores of people that this sentencing will bring closure. To some degree that is true.

But, as you walk out of this courtroom at the end of the day, after Mr. Ridgway is sentenced and gone, I know your hearts will still be heavy with sorrow.

I think Jo Lesley best said it in a letter for Ms. Childress, the victim in count 16: "There is a hole in my heart, a vacancy that only my child can occupy, the emptiness is deep and it hurts."

Jo Lesley and every victim family member, please know, justice will be served today.

For the past 20 years each of the young women who died has been grouped, labeled and characterized as if the circumstances of their death was representative of their entire lives.

I ask every family member, friend and every member of our community to ignore such stigma.

I ask you to remember those 48 young women as people who had unexplored dreams, hopes, aspirations and families that loved them deeply. Hold on to those memories. Cherish those memories and try to abandon the others.

If you have moments of grief, I encourage you not to waste those occasions on thoughts of revenge, hatred or harm to Mr. Ridgway. Hatred and revenge are wasted emotions. Someone once said that "hatred is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat."

Rather than dwelling on such thoughts, I encourage you to remember your loved ones in other ways. There are hundreds of young women right now in our community that don't have such people as yourselves in their lives.

Find them. Seek them out. Know that for each minute you spend with that young woman, encouraging them and helping them to achieve greatness, you are putting a smile on the face of your loved one. In this way, you give their life true meaning and dignity.

I'll close my comments to the victim family members and friends by sharing with you words of comfort from a sympathy card that I received when I suffered the loss of my brother:

"May the love of you, God, give you peace,

"May the love of friends give you comfort,

"May the love of your dear one remain in your heart

"And give you strength through the difficult days ahead."

And, now, Mr. Ridgway, you have my undivided attention.

I have read as much as possible about you as this case progressed. The remarkable thing about you is your Teflon-coated emotions and complete absence of genuine compassion for the young women you murdered.

I don't need to remind you of the calloused indifference you exhibited in your lifestyle for the past 20 years or even in the statements you provided to the prosecutors and investigators.

In looking at your life, it comes as no surprise that you had such little disregard for the lives of your victims.

You violated the sanctity of every relationship in your life, including you own son. When he was of tender age, you even used his existence and presence as a means to gain the confidence of your victims.

There was nothing in your life that was of significance other than your own demented, calculating, lustful passion of being the emissary of death.

I mention your family, Mr. Ridgway, because they, too, are innocent victims. You used them to create the facade of being an average, hard-working family man in the community. Your family supported you and believe in you, and you deceived them greatly.

Mr. Ridgway, I trust that your lawyers have shared with you the letters written by the victim families.

I hope you read those letters and heard the message of their family as they poured out their emotions describing the young victims as real persons. Real persons who were loved and had lives in front of them.

Yes, Mr. Ridgway, remember them as portrayed by their families and not the faceless bodies that you didn't have the courage to face when you were busy bring about their deaths.

Those are the family and friends of the people you killed.

As you spend the balance of your life in your cell in prison, much of which will probably be in solitary confinement, I truly hope that the last thought you have of the free world are the faces of the people in this courtroom.

As you spend the balance of your life in that tiny cell, surrounded only by your thoughts, please know the women you killed were not throwaways or pieces of candy in a dish placed upon this planet for the sole purpose of satisfying your murderous desires.

While you could not face them as you took their lives, if you have a drop of emotion anywhere in your existence, you will face those young women in your dreams and private thoughts of your grisly deeds. If you have that drop of emotion, you will be haunted for the balance of you life.

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