Gary Leon Ridgway pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing 48 women in the past 30 years in King County, including 42 women originally listed as victims of the Green River Killer. He also pleaded guilty to killing six additional women, including one woman whose remains were found in August off Kent-Des Moines Road.
The historic hearing in a packed King County Courtroom brought an emotional end to the intense manhunt for a killer that preyed on women – mostly prostitutes – who worked along the "SeaTac Strip" south of Seattle.
Ridgway, a 54-year-old former truck painter, admitted he killed as many women as he could and that he did know many of their names. He was arrested in November 2001. In exchange for the plea, he will not face the death penalty. He faces life in prison without the possibility of release.
"I killed so many women I have a hard time keeping them straight," Ridgway wrote in a statement to the court. "I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex. They were easy to pick up without being noticed."
Ridgway answered a series of questions from King County deputy prosecutor Jeff Baird during the beginning of the court hearing. He said he was agreeing to the plea agreement "freely and voluntarily." Family members of many of the women sat in rows of benches behind Ridgway as he answered the prosecutor's questions and entered guilty pleas to each of the 48 counts.
Ridgway admitted to killing most of the women either outdoors or in his truck. He said he put the bodies in clusters and near landmarks so he could remember where he put his victims. He admitted taking the remains of Denise Bush and Shirley Sherrill to Tigard, Ore., to "throw off police investigators so I could continue to kill."
Ridgway, his defense team and prosecutors reached the plea deal in June but only announced it today.
Ridgway was arrested in November 2001 and originally charged with the deaths of four women once listed as victims of the prolific Green River Killer. He was charged with three additional murders earlier this year.
At Ridgway's sentencing next year, prosecutors will recommend that he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release and that he be ordered to pay restitution to his victims' families.