Gary Ridgway, the Seattle-area truck painter who was unmasked as the Green River serial killer and went on to plead guilty to killing 49 women, now claims that he killed closer to 80 women over two decades.
In exclusive interviews with ABC News affiliate KOMO, Ridgway, who is currently serving 49 consecutive life sentences in a Washington State penitentiary, told reporter Charlie Harger that he is confessing to dozens more murders to help bring closure to the families of his unidentified victims.
"The total number [of victims] is 75 to 80," Ridgway said in a phone interview recorded by Harger and broadcast on KOMO.
Ridgway, who said he is a changed man who has found God, now says that while he was telling police of his crimes following his 2001 arrest and subsequent confession, there was more he could have said to help locate other victims. But Harger said he remains skeptical about Ridgway's motive and tendency to lie.
"The strange thing about Gary Ridgway is if you didn't know the depravity, if you didn't know the evil that this man committed, you would have no clue when you talked on the phone with him," said Harger, a reporter for KOMO Newsradio. "This man sounds like he would be a perfect neighbor."
Ridgway confessed that he picked up prostitutes and teen runaways throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Washington's King County, strangled them during sex and dumped their bodies in remote areas near King County's 65-mile long Green River.
|"Gary Ridgway is ... playing everybody when he talks," Harger said. "I don't think Gary Ridgway can even comprehend the truth." -- journalist Charlie Harger|
Ridgway had been a suspect in the killings for years, but it wasn't until 2001 that he was arrested, thanks to DNA testing advances. To avoid the death penalty, Ridgway confessed to 48 murders in 2003. In 2011 a 49th body was found, and he received an additional life sentence.
Now that he has admitted to dozens of other murders, the question remains whether he is now genuinely trying to help the families of supposed victims, or if he's trying to "up his count" for further notoriety.
Harger said that Ridgway is a sly, deceptive man.
"Gary Ridgway is absolutely playing me. He's playing everybody when he talks," Harger said. "I don't think Gary Ridgway can even comprehend the truth.
"I think he wants to show the world that, 'Here I am, Gary Ridgway, the truck painter from Kenworth, the guy who everybody thought was slow since elementary school, somebody who couldn't hold a candle to Ted Bundy. But, here I am, and I'm the best at something,'" Harger said.
Ridgway has been speaking with Air Force criminal investigator Rob Fitzgerald for years about his crimes, and for the past five years, Fitzgerald has hunted for unidentified victims of the Green River Killer. The two men speak multiple times per week, KOMO reports, and Ridgway even provides Fitzgerald with photos of supposed "dump sites" that he says should be searched.
Despite Ridgway's dubious motive for divulging these locations, Harger said he should still be heard, for a possible "nugget of truth" in what might be a web of lies.
"Maybe if we listen to the clues and cut through his lies, we will find a nugget of truth, the clue investigators have waited for," he said. "It's a chance we have to take."