'He Made Me Feel Like a Newlywed,' Says Wife of Green River Killer

Judith Ridgway never thought her husband was a killer.

ByABC News via logo

April 30, 2007 — -- It seemed like any other day for Judith Mawson Ridgway.

After her husband, Gary, a truck painter, left for work, Judith got up, had a cup of coffee and was cleaning out the garage when she was interrupted by two police detectives. They had staggering news -- her husband of 14 years had been arrested.

News cameras caught Judith's stunned face just moments after she learned that Gary was accused of being the notorious Green River killer, responsible for a killing spree that terrorized Seattle for more than 20 years.

Judith refused to believe the terrible accusations against Gary -- that he picked up prostitutes and teenage runaways on Highway 99, strangled them during sex and dumped their bodies in remote areas near the Green River.

"I was in such denial," she told ABC News' Seattle station KOMO-TV.

Until his confession, Judith stood by her husband, convinced that a mistake had been made. The Gary she knew was loving, gentle and considerate, and their life together was a full and happy one.

Gary gave no clues to his secret life -- there were no bursts of anger toward her or unexplained absences, Judith said.

"He was always happy, he had a smile that would never change. He made me feel like a newlywed everyday," Judith said.

Author Pennie Morehead has written a book called "Green River Serial Killer: Biography of an Unsuspecting Wife" that tells Judith's story.

Morehead said that while writing about Gary, she came to believe that a person can have two completely different lives.

In his everyday life, Gary was very orderly, disciplined and controlled, Morehead said.

He told Morehead that he wanted to stop the killing but couldn't -- killing was like beer to an alcoholic, and he tried to resist but simply couldn't.

"It turns out he was also a terrific husband and friend and lover to his wife for 14 years," Morehead said today on "Good Morning America." "And it just completely amazed me that he was able to move fluidly in and out of his killer life and his husband life without ever being detected."

Gary Ridgway had been a suspect in the murders long before he and Judith ever met, but police never had the evidence to prove the case.

He left behind little physical evidence, passed polygraph tests and scattered the bodies of his victims over several states. Then modern forensics caught up with the killer.

"It took so long to get to the bottom of this because the technology wasn't there to put us over the hump," Seattle Det. Tom Jensen said.

In 2001, the police were finally able to match Ridgway's DNA to evidence found on the victims' bodies. Gary continued to deny he killed the women until two years later, when he finally confessed and admitted to killing at least 48 women.

"I'm sorry for killing all those young ladies. I have tried to remember as much as I could to help the detectives," he said in court.

And Judith finally had to face the truth, including the fact that Gary killed at least four women during their marriage.

"It was like a brick wall dropped in front of me. It all stopped," Judith said.

Ridgway pleaded guilty to the murders of 48 women and was spared the death penalty in exchange for his cooperation with the police in locating the remains of some of his victims.

Shattered, Judith changed her name, her appearance and her life. Today, she still struggles to understand how the husband she adored could also be a vicious killer.

"I love the man I knew and hate the man who took him away," she said.

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