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Crime News Criminal Confessions

Former FBI Profiler Explains How She Got 'Green River Killer' Gary Ridgway To Confess

Gary Ridgway ultimately confessed to murdering 49 women, making him the most prolific serial killer in US history.

By Aly Vander Hayden
Criminal Confessions 208: A New Lead in the Green River Killer Case

When Gary Ridgway was arrested in connection with the Green River killings in 2001, King County investigators consulted with FBI profiler Mary O'Toole to help secure Ridgway's confession. Though Ridgway initially signed a plea agreement that assured he would lead detectives to his victims' remains in exchange for being spared the death penalty, Ridgway was not exactly forthcoming with the details of his murders.

O'Toole told "Criminal Confessions," which airs Saturdays at 6/5c on Oxygen, "Certainly the priority is to find the victims and bring their bodies home to the families. But to be able to get to them, we have to understand more about how he committed his crimes and understand what made him tick."

To get Ridgway to open up about his dozens of murders, O'Toole said she began the interview process by building up her own persona and inflating the FBI's interest in Ridgway. During the interrogation, she told Ridgway the FBI does extensive studies on serial killers, but the profilers do not have the time "for every serial murder case in the country."

"A lot of them are simply not of interest to us. We have to prioritize," said O'Toole. 

O'Toole told "Criminal Confessions" that she hoped Ridgway would want to become part of the FBI research on serial killers and that her disclosure would motivate him to lead investigators to his victims. After believing he was of great interest to the FBI, Ridgway spoke about his traumatic childhood and how it shaped his future as the most prolific serial killers in US history. He also gave hints as to where certain victims had been buried, based on whether they were "special" or "not so special." Ridgway explained a "special" victim was one who fought back or did not die easily, and she deserved to be buried "by herself." The "not so special" victims were ones who died easily, and they were buried together in clusters.

Though it would take months before Ridgway gave investigators any solid leads, he eventually revealed the locations where he dumped four of his unknown victims, bringing the total number of murders to 48. Three were identified through DNA analysis, but the fourth victim remains unidentified to this day. In 2003, Ridgway was sentenced to life in prison, and he pleaded guilty to a 49th murder charge a few years later. He is currently incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary.

To hear more about how investigators captured Ridgway, watch "Criminal Confessions" on Oxygen. 

[Photo: "Criminal Confessions" Screengrab]

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