JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Life for the Green River Killer

December 23rd, 2003 · 2 Comments

Reading Friday’s paper, my heart ached and tears came into my eyes. Earlier this fall Gary Ridgway confessed to 48 murders, identifying himself as the Green River Killer. On Thursday he was sentenced to life in prison and the paper included a page filled of testimony excerpts, from families missing murdered loved ones.

In the article
‘I forgive you,’ some families tell Ridgway; others wish him ‘long, suffering, cruel death’
families speak of their experience, their pain and the entire spectrum of emotions from forgiveness to hate is visible:

One victim’s father said, “Mr. Ridgway, there are people here who hate you. I’m not one of them. I forgive you for what you’ve done. You’ve made it difficult to live up to what I believe, and that is what God says to do, and that is forgive, and he doesn’t say to forgive just certain people, he says forgive all. So you are forgiven. ”

While the sister of another said, “He’s an animal. I don’t wish for him to die. I wish for him to have a long, suffering, cruel death. Hopefully terminal cancer. … This will not be the last time I will see you, because I will see you in hell.”

I ache for all the pain I read in these words. All the hurting. The stories of children who grew up motherless. Fathers who lost their daughters. Moms still in mourning. The thought of holidays and families destroyed by this man’s desire to murder. Missing places at the table, unwrapped presents beneath the tree, empty bedrooms.

I feel so sorry for their hurt. And I know I have no idea what that must be like. I can only imagine what it would be like if someone I love was murdered by a serial killer.

I feel though that the Green River Killer also impacted my life. Hearing that Gary Ridgway had confessed to 48 murders gave me sadness and relief. I felt that a door had been shut on part of my childhood, a door of healing.

When I say that I grew up with the Green River Killer, it’s not that he was one of my classmates in school. Or one of the neighborhood children. Not that kind of growing up with someone.

But I grew up with the Green River Killer in the same way that I grew up with Mount Rainier and the rain, with the lakes and floating bridges, with the Space Needle and Kingdome, with water and wilderness. He was to me as much a part of Puget Sound living as the forests and the beaches. The Killer was a fact of life. And he played a role in defining femininity for me. He helped make my identity, make me who I am – or at least who I was.

His first victim was discovered just as I entered adolescence. I’d watch the nightly news and learn how another young girl had been murdered by this man. The Green River area meant danger for me; I vowed I’d always avoid it.

Through my family situation, I didn’t have too many men in my life. But I knew about Ted Bundy. We lived near Lake Sammamish, where he had deceived one of his first victims. And I knew about the Green River Killer. As I read the newspaper, I’d see the names and faces of the girls he had murdered. It made me sad and scared.

The Killer haunted me. As I was growing out of girlhood, I learned that being a woman was dangerous. I learned from him, as well as from others, how vulnerable I was as a woman. I saw that femininity took away my freedom. It was dangerous to be a woman. I had to look out for myself in this world and protect myself from men. Young girls get raped and murdered. I learned to be suspicious. I learned to hide and fight. The world was not a safe place.

Through the years I’ve worked through many of my feelings and beliefs about womanhood, and about who I am. This summer became an intense time for me with counseling bringing healing to my heart. I’ve become more comfortable with who I am as a woman. The nightmares from my past are mostly gone. No more monsters haunt me.

So when Ridgway confessed, I felt that this too was part of my healing, this killer now forever caught and confined. This monster murderer found. That nightmare ended. Not just for me but so much more for the many families his murders destroyed. I can only imagine. And for those victims he had yet to find: Ridgway has said that he would have continued to murder if he had not been captured. We are all safer now that he will be in prison for life.

It is strange after all these years of hearing about a faceless nameless murderer to see the photo and name of this man, the Green River Killer, crying, about to spend the rest of his life behind bars. And I imagine for all the families so deeply hurt, the sentencing of Ridgway brings opportunity to find healing and peace, a closure to the case that for years was an open wound, a story without end.

My heart aching, I pray for these families. I pray they will find peace and hope. I pray they will find freedom and forgiveness. And for this murderer in prison, I pray he will find Life.

Tags: seattle

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 tami // Feb 4, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    I am writing a paper about The Green River for my Sociology class, but can not find out exactly how he was captured. Could you help me?
    Thank you

  • 2 Jessie // Mar 22, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    I am writing a paper for my Criminal Justice class,About The Green River Killer. And I cant seem to find any information about gary leon ridgway growing up. or what he was like when he was a kid. Do u think u could help me out?