One-on-one with Ridgway

February 12, 2004 

To loosen the mental bolts Gary Leon Ridgway fastened over his deepest secrets, his interrogators used everything from threats of death to the promise of fish and chips.

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert invoked heaven, hell, God and Jesus Christ. During one stage of the 5 1/2 months of interviews, the Green River Killer quoted the Bible.

Reichert, a religious man himself, seized the moment and tried to shake more information from Ridgway's internal scrapbook.

"When you say give up, give unto Caesar's what is Caesar's, and give unto God what is God's, guess what?! I represent Caesar, don't I?" the sheriff said.

"Yeah," Ridgway said.

"Really. I mean that's what the Bible says."

"Yeah."

"See, Caesar is the government, I'm the government."

"Um-hm."

"Give up unto Caesar what is Caesar's," Reichert said. "Give up unto the sheriff what is the sheriff's."

The exchange is one of thousands between the killer and his hunters captured on tape between June and November, when Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 murders in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Records of the interviews were released this week.

Interrogators played many roles: Tough guys such as veteran detectives Tom Jensen and Randy Mullinax told Ridgway of their two decades logged on his case, and ripped into him when they felt he was lying.

"It was the strangest experience of 25 years in law enforcement," Mullinax told "60 Minutes II" in an interview to be aired Wednesday. "Gary Ridgway eating his breakfast and waving hello to me ... to have him say, 'Good morning' or 'Good night' to you for six-plus months was very strange."

Three psychologists interviewed Ridgway at various times. Some pushed him to admit to moments of bestiality, or mutilation of his victims. Ridgway denied it.

Reichert, in a series of intense one-on-one interviews, laughed with Ridgway, swore with him, promised to bring him into classes on criminal justice and pushed Ridgway to reveal secrets for the sake of his young son.

The struggle to reach truth, to wring details of the murders from Ridgway, was an agonizing process.

Frequently, he lied. At first, he claimed his last killing was in 1985. Confronted with evidence, he admitted to another in 1987, then 1990 and finally 1998. Detectives were pressing for evidence of a slaying in 2001 when the interviews ended in November. Ridgway admitted it, but the body has never been found.

His halting, piecemeal confessions seemed to fray the nerves of those who questioned him. His circular verbal style could be maddening.

"I had the chance to kill one down there," he said at one point, trying to describe his last murder. "And - and maybe I did, but I didn't - don't have a real good, uh, belief that I didn't."

Television and film, constrained by time, typically reduce interrogation to a cliché: good cop, bad cop. The Ridgway interviews reveal a far more exhausting process, and for one expert, the prospect of a new set of Green River victims, mentally wounded by daily contact with a serial killer.

Ridgway "could very easily destroy a lot of people," says Bob Keppel, an associate professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Texas.

"People who have been working on this case for a long time could end up very easily being mentally disturbed over this whole thing. Those people have experienced something that they'll never get out of their mind. Who's helping them, is what I want to know. Because they need help."

Keppel was a criminal investigator for the Washington state Attorney General's Office when the Green River slayings began.

He was already a veteran, having hunted another serial killer, Ted Bundy. Keppel, along with Reichert, interviewed Bundy in a death row prison cell in Florida, seeking information that might lead to the Green River Killer.

Those interviews with Bundy linger in Keppel's mind two decades later. Since then, he has interviewed many more murderers, becoming one of the nation's few experts in a horrific field.

This week, he ordered the videotaped records of the Ridgway interviews, which he plans to use in his classes. He might plan a semesterlong course around Ridgway alone.

"This guy's a singular individual," he says. "He is so far off the continuum. Not a whole lot of people have talked in this fashion to anybody."

Keppel has not had time to go over the interviews in detail, but has seen enough to worry over some techniques interrogators used.

Intimidation and accusations of dishonesty might not be productive with a personality like Ridgway's, he said.

"When you keep up with that kind of mental badgering with a guy like this, he has a tendency to freeze up and not say anything," Keppel said.

"You have to be very careful when interviewing these people not to get into the freeze-up mode. You've got to be patient."

And don't interrupt with too many questions, Keppel said. If a killer is giving one-word answers, that means interrogators are talking too much.

"Any time somebody wants to talk and they're talking about what you want them to talk about, you let them talk," he said.

At times, questioners suggested Ridgway kept "trophies" of his killings, citing the behavior of other killers. Reichert repeatedly insisted Ridgway kept a cache of "stuff" - maps and mementos of the murder.

Ridgway denied it repeatedly.

"When I read up on serial killers and stuff like that they always keep stuff and that's why I didn't keep stuff," he said.

From his office in Texas, Keppel argued that Ridgway might have been telling the truth.

"I think they're looking for the chamber of horrors," he said. "And they didn't have it because he didn't have it. Not all serial killers have it. Some do and some don't. He could be different without even trying. When they say serial killers do this, serial killers do that, what they've done is bought into the myth."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sean Robinson 253-597-8486
sean.robinson@mail.tribnet.com



SIDEBAR: Excerpts from the Green River Killer interrogation transcripts

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert: Maybe I can go help. Maybe I can do something. But you got to help, too. One thing, Gary. Man to man, one South King County guy to another. Right. We grew up here, the same parks, similar kind of, actually, backgrounds. Raised up in a family that really didn't have a whole lot of money.

Gary Leon Ridgway: Uh-huh.

Reichert: Yeah. And I went through the same thing. We bought our stuff at the Goodwill (laughs). I don't know if you shopped there or not, but we did.

Ridgway: Uh-huh.

Reichert: Wigwam.

Ridgway: Penney's, uh, Penney's usually.

Reichert: You know, I took the socks off her neck. I'm the guy that did that. I took the socks off (Gisele) Lovvorn's neck.

Ridgway: Uh-huh. Uh, yeah, the black socks.

Reichert: Yeah. Those were your socks.

Ridgway: Yes, they were.

Reichert: I picked up your stinky ... rotten socks.

Ridgway: Uh-huh.

Reichert: That's pretty funny, isn't it (laughs)?

Ridgway: Somebody had to do it, you know.

Reichert: Somebody had to do it. I did it.

Ridgway: Uh-huh.

Reichert: So do you understand my connection to this case? I am not leaving here. I'm not.

Reichert: Like I said the other day, uh, you know, you're one of the most accomplished, organized serial killers ever.

Ridgway: Um-hm (yes).

Reichert: And there's a certain degree of respect that goes with that. When you go to prison, there will be some respect attached to that. There will be.

Ridgway: Um-hm (yes).

Reichert: I don't believe you. So I guess you're going to have to come up with some stuff ("trophies" from victims) tomorrow.

Ridgway: We're gonna be going through the same session tomorrow as we did today because there is no stuff. To be honest with you I'm a 100 percent that there is no stuff.

Reichert: Why should I believe you?

Ridgway: Because every book says you gotta have stuff, well ...

Reichert: Yeah.

Ridgway: You don't have to have stuff if you know that there ... that is one reason a serial killer has stuff is trophies from the people. And like I said, I'm different from other people. I did not hide the stuff.

Reichert: Yes, you did. Yeah. You did.

Ridgway: I took it and I got rid of it. I took it and got rid of it.

Reichert: One thing, Gary. Let, let's just show me that you love Matt (Ridgway's son) enough to pull one thing out. Pull one thing. I'd like to see you do that. For Matt. Because you love him.

Ridgway: (Unintelligible).

Reichert: Because you don't love him.

Ridgway: I love him. I mean, that's...

Reichert: OK, then tell me one ...

Ridgway: (Unintelligible).

Reichert: If you love him, tell me one thing. I don't believe you can do it because you don't love him.

(Ridgway changes the subject.)

Reichert: But you are a liar.

Ridgway: I am a liar. Yes. But if I'm a liar, why am I holding all this stuff back when my life depends on it?

Reichert: Why are you?

Ridgway: There isn't ...

Reichert: Why are you?

Ridgway: Really any reason why I shouldn't tell you. Uh, everything should come out flowing like a, like music.

Reichert: Right.

Ridgway: Because my life's, I've, I've been, I've been, I've screwed up every, every week. No bodies, no bodies, I told you, and no bodies, no bodies. And that just, uh, tears my confidence down to zero, and, and it seems like, uh, I'm, I'm lying to you every time I get a chance. And I'm not.

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