Gary Leon Ridgway, aka “The Green River Killer,” stands officially as the most prolific serial murderer in U.S. history, having formally been convicted of 49 slayings.
Operating along Route 99 in Washington State between 1982 and 2001, Ridgway has actually confessed to killing between 75 to 80 females total, and maybe even more, as he says he’s “lost count.”
Ridgway focused on prostitutes, runaways, and other societal outcasts prone to “disappearing” without public fanfare. Typically, Ridgway picked up a victim for sex, strangled her to death, and then abandoned her body along the banks of the Green River. Occasionally, Ridgway also raped the corpses.Police first picked up Ridgway as a suspect in 1983. They even took hair and saliva samples from him in 1987. Still, he eluded conviction.
Weirdly, in the mid-’80s, notorious serial killer Ted Bundy offered to help the cops track down the Green River Killer. Esteemed detective Robert Keppel talked to Bundy at length, but the information did not lead directly to any arrests.
Finally, in 2001, DNA technology definitively connected Ridgway’s saliva to semen discovered in seven victims, as well as microscopic spray paint drops that matched material Ridgway worked with at the time of the murders.
Ridgway took a deal: multiple life sentences in exchange for guilty pleas on 49 open cases. He’s presently locked up at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
To date, no “serious” films have been made about the Green River Killer case. Still, we’ve got the three that follow.
THE RIVERMAN (2004)
Director: Bill Eagles
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, David Brown, Cary Elwes
Based on the book The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer by Robert Keppel, this slow-fuse thriller takes a quasi–Silence of the Lambs approach to its topic, with Cary Elwes as Ted Bundy acting as the Hannibal Lecter who provides insight into the mind of a killer on the loose.
That stated, Riverman is overly talky and neither good nor bad enough to make any seriously lasting impressions. The book, however, is highly recommended.
GREEN RIVER KILLER (2005)
Director: Uli Lommmel
Cast: George Kiseleff, Jaquelyn Aurora Horrell, Georgina Donovan
In 2005 alone, straight-to-video serial killer schlock specialist Uli Lommell wrote and directed B.T.K Killer, Zodiac Killer, and, indeed, Green River Killer, pumping out a perfectly terrible trio of quickie true-crime cash-in flicks in 12 short months.
The emphasis here falls on nude actresses pretending to get strangled. In his one and only film role to date. George Kiseleff stars as Gary Ridgway. He’s so dull, the movie just substitutes actual footage of the real Ridgway confessing at the end.
GREEN RIVER (2008)
Director: Sam Taybi
Cast: Bruce Peterson, Kristina Hughes, Danielle Frank
Rather than a straightforward retelling of Gary Ridgway’s crimes, the low-budget spooker Green River chronicles a pair of sisters who travel to the general area of the Green River killings to exorcise some personal demons.
Once there, they uncover all manner of other evils arising from those unholy grounds, including a killer cult, and one of the sisters suddenly goes psychotic. Even horror movies this chintzy should at least not be so dull.
Main image: Green River Killer (2005), DVD box cover image