Special Reports

Judge rules Ridgway to be held without bail

A King County judge Saturday ordered Gary Leon Ridgway held without bail until his next court appearance Wednesday.

Pro tem Judge Anne Harper concluded there was enough evidence to allow King County prosecutors to file at least three charges of aggravated first-degree murder against the 52-year-old Federal Way area man. Police arrested him Friday in connection with four Green River killings.

Someone convicted of aggravated first-degree murder could face the death penalty.

Harper issued the ruling after reviewing a brief description of the state's case. The state's information was not released to the media.

Ridgway waived his right to attend the hearing. Dozens of reporters and photographers attended the afternoon hearing at the King County Jail, though, in hopes of getting their first sight of the man who may be linked to the nation's worst unsolved serial killings case.

Ridgway's attorney, Mark Prothero, did not comment in court on the evidence against his client. The court-appointed attorney left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.

King County senior deputy prosecutor Jeff Baird declined to answer questions, except to say the investigation is ongoing.

"We'll have to do most of our talking in the courtroom," he told reporters. Baird will be working on the case with senior deputy prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said.

Prosecutors have until Wednesday to file charges against Ridgway. If they do not file charges, he will have to be released.

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert has not said Ridgway is the Green River Killer, believed to have killed 49 women between 1982 and 1984. However, he said Ridgway is a key suspect in the slayings.

Detectives arrested Ridgway on Friday afternoon in Renton on suspicion of killing Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Cynthia Hinds, whose bodies were found in the Green River on Aug. 15, 1982, and Carol Christiansen, found May 8, 1983, in woods in nearby Maple Valley. All four killings had been attributed to the Green River Killer.

Ridgway has been among the top five suspects in the serial killings almost from the beginning, Reichert said. Police interviewed Ridgway twice before, in 1984 and 1987, but detectives didn't have enough evidence to link him to any of the killings until recently.

The break investigators needed came about two months ago when forensic scientists linked Ridgway's DNA, obtained in 1987, to three victims, the sheriff said. Circumstantial evidence links him to the fourth victim, he said.

Saturday, the sheriff's department continued searching Ridgway's Federal Way area house and other previous homes for more evidence, King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart said.

Investigators combed the properties with dogs and removed a recreational vehicle and car from Ridgway's current home.

"We're going to be out at those houses as long as it takes," Urquhart said. He added his office won't release any additional information this weekend.

Investigators also were using surveying equipment to plot the yard and home in SeaTac where Ridgway grew up.

The serial killer's first victims were found in and along the Green River. Many of the victims were young prostitutes and runaways taken from the South Seattle area.

No one knew why the killings stopped. For years, law enforcement officials speculated the killer was in prison for another crime or had died.

Staff writer Kim Eckart contributed to this report.

Staff writer Sarah Duran covers courts in Pierce County. Reach her at 253-597-8550 or sarah.duran@mail.tribnet.com.