Puget Sound’s most prolific serial killer is the subject of an HLN crime show Friday.
“Beyond Reasonable Doubt” profiles the hunt for Green River Killer Gary Ridgway.
The series, which airs 9 p.m. Friday on HLN, showcases the advances in forensic science and technology that solved high-profile criminal cases of the 1900s.
The Green River show opens with personnel removing a covered body from the banks of the river. Victims first appeared in 1982.
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“The Green River case is the most unusual case, I think, in the history of this country,” says U.S. Congressman Dave Reichert.
Reichert puts the number of Ridgway’s victims at between 60 and 80.
“It was like looking into the eyes of pure evil,” Reichert says of Ridgway.
Reichert served as the lead detective on the case when he worked for the King County Sheriff’s Office.
The Republican congressman is a big part of the show that uses recreations of the scenes where Ridgway placed his victims.
Retired detective Fae Brooks also provides commentary. She had met one of Ridgway’s future victims during her police work.
“It was hard,” Brooks says. “To know that someone that I had tried to help, ended up running across someone who killed her.”
Many of Ridgway’s victims were prostitutes.
When the Green River Killer task force was first organized DNA analysis didn’t exist. The task force didn’t even get its first computer until 1985.
There were missteps along the way but eventually the task force ran across Ridgway in 1983. He became the prime suspect in 1987.
Because no conclusive evidence could be tied to Ridgway the case was put on ice.
Ridgway was investigated again in 2001 after Reichert became sheriff and reopened the case. That’s also when advances in DNA analysis improved.
DNA likely belonging to the killer was found with the victims and police had samples of Ridgway’s saliva on file.
On Nov. 30, 2001 Puget Sound and the nation were stunned when a suspect in the Green River killings had been arrested. His name: Gary Ridgway, now 68.
“It was the like world’s weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” Reichert says.
Ridgway was sentenced to 48 life sentences in 2003. He was convicted of one more and has confessed to committing many more murders, as many as 71.
Other episodes of the show include the 1996 Atlanta Bombings and the Long Island body-in-a-barrel murder.
View a trailer for the show here.