US: A 54-year-old truck painter pleaded guilty yesterday to being the infamous Green River killer and said in a chilling confession read in court that he murdered 48 women because they were prostitutes, he hated them and knew they would not be missed.
Gary Leon Ridgway, added in a confession read out by a prosecutor in open court, "I killed so many women I have a hard time keeping them straight." Ridgway pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors in which his life would be spared.
The agreement has come under fire from some legal experts who say it would make it difficult for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in other cases.
Dressed in red prison garb and without showing any emotion, Ridgway confirmed in questioning details of his plea agreement with prosecutor Mr Jeff Baird in which he admitted murdering 48 women, mostly prostitutes, in a spree that started in 1982.
The 48 convictions, or guilty pleas, are the most for any serial killer in US history. In his confession read to the court by Mr Baird, Ridgway said, "I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and did not want to pay them for sex.
"I chose prostitutes because I knew they would not be reported missing right away . . . I picked prostitutes because I found I could kill as many of them without being caught." Ridgway said he had placed the bodies in "clusters" so that he could keep track of where he had placed them. "I liked to drive by the clusters and think about the women I placed there. I usually used a landmark to remember a cluster." He said he had killed most of the women in his house, as well as in his truck.
The truck painter, who originally pleaded not guilty, has been steering police in recent weeks to sites where he dumped bodies of young women, beginning in the Green River south of Seattle in 1982. In return prosecutors agreed to forego the death penalty, despite King County Prosecuting Attorney Mr Norm Maleng's initial pledge not to cut a deal with Ridgway after his arrest in 2001 in the longest-running serial killer probe in US history.
Ridgway will serve consecutive terms of life in prison without parole after he is sentenced on a date still to be determined. He had initially been charged with seven killings, but was suspected in 49 murders that started in 1982 and ended abruptly in 1984.
Ridgway admitted yesterday to 46 murders that occurred during that period. In addition, Ridgway pleaded guilty to the murders of two women in 1990 and 1998 that police recently solved with Ridgway's help.
The pleas close one chapter in a long-running mystery that shocked Seattle and haunted the families of the women on whom he preyed.
Ridgway was considered a prime suspect in the case for years before a breakthrough DNA test linked him to several victims. The bodies of his initial victims were fished out of the Green River in 1982 and later bodies, typically naked and mutilated, showed up at various spots in western Washington.