Special Reports

Ridgway's confessions took some coaxing

For the five months after he agreed to cooperate with detectives, confessed Green River Killer Gary Ridgway lived in a 10 foot-by-12 foot room on the ground floor of an office building in an industrial stretch of South Seattle.

There were no windows in his cell, just a camera, a motion detector, plain beige walls, blue carpeting and a mattress. A few feet away were the cubicles where a dozen detectives had worked feverishly since Sept. 11, 2001 - the day the sheriff reconvened the Green River Task Force - to link him to dozens of murders, most of them two decades old.

The slight 54-year-old with the sandy mustache was allowed to leave only to go to the bathroom, to be interviewed by detectives and to lead them on 24 "field trips" - visits to sites where he had left, and often molested, the remains of the prostitutes and runaways he had killed.

Ridgway pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing 48 women, giving him more murder convictions than any other serial killer in U.S. history. It was in this building where he first described to investigators how he wet his bed until age 13, how he had vivid memories of his mother washing his genitals and how he strangled victim after victim - so many, he said, he couldn't keep them straight.

Ridgway was kept on the 11th floor of the King County Jail from the time of his arrest in November 2001 until last June, when he signed the plea agreement that assured him life in prison instead of execution for the 48 deaths. He was then moved to task force headquarters, where detectives always kept the blinds closed to keep people from seeing inside. After the plea, he was moved again - but investigators won't say where.

A team of four detectives - Randy Mullinax, Tom Jensen, Sue Peters and Jon Mattsen - conducted most of the questioning, with some sessions lasting 13 hours or more.

When it was time for them to interview Ridgway, they would bring him to a larger room diagonally across the office. Two at a time, they would sit in black chairs at a small round table. Ridgway would sit in a blue chair, and two of his lawyers would sit at another table in the back, listening.

Microphones dangled from the ceiling - two recordings were made of each of the 85 interview sessions - and the detectives would use a slide projector to show Ridgway photographs of sites where bodies had been found, hoping they would jog his memory.

Other detectives would watch from another room and flash messages by computer to the interviewers, suggesting follow-up questions.

They varied the time and length of the sessions. They yelled at him, coaxed him and sometimes, when he was being unhelpful, ignored him.

Did Ridgway ever cry in front of them?

"Oh, yeah," Mullinax said. "There were lots of times. The tears could appear and disappear; it was very quick. But it was mostly for himself - 'Why did I do this, what about me,' that sort of thing.

"Were there times when he cried when he talked about his victims? Sure. But more often, we saw it when it was about him."