Who is the infamous Green River Killer?

Victims of the Green River Killer

The bodies were dumped in remote locations

CASE DETAILS

It was one of the largest serial murder cases in U.S. history. Two years, 48 victims, and all young women.  Most of them were prostitutes who operated along the Sea-Tac Strip near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport.  Nearly all of them were strangled and dumped in a remote area. Thousands of leads were investigated. Hundreds of suspects interrogated. One suspect stood out—William J. Stevens. Bill Stevens was a petty thief, in and out of trouble with the law for most of his life.  In 1981, he simply walked away from a minimum-security facility where he was serving time for burglary.

Was William Stevens the killer?

Over the next eight years, Stevens avoided arrest, dividing his time in the cities of Seattle, Spokane, and Portland. According to Roderick Thorp, an author who has written extensively on the Green River murders, Stevens was an alienated individual who never held a job:

“He fit all the FBI profiles of serial killers.  His poor relationships with women, a mother who throttled his personality in development.  He was raging to his friends about how the prostitutes of the Sea-Tac Strip were spreading the AIDS epidemic.”

Bob Stevens, Bill’s adopted brother, claimed his brother told several people how he wanted to murder women:

“He wanted to torture them.  He wanted to cut them up, dissect them. He wanted to fill them with rocks.  He wanted to fill them with concrete.  And he… still put all of this on tape.  He thought that would be neat.”

Evidence was found in Stevens’ home

Acting on several tips, police searched the house in Spokane where Stevens lived with his parents. They uncovered a cache of guns and police badges. They also found dozens of Polaroids of nude women, most of them prostitutes.  In another room, police discovered dozens of pornographic tapes and fraudulent credit card receipts from 1981 to 1989, the years of the Green River killings.  Investigators later searched a second house in Portland, where Stevens had lived until 1985.  According to Roderick Thorp, the basement held a secret room which could only be accessed by using a garage door opener:

“The secret room first came to the attention of a neighbor, who lived outside Portland at the same time Stevens did.  He invited her in to see this room, and, in the room, as I remember it, there was a bed, and on the bed was a mannequin.  A store dummy, that was dressed in women’s underwear, and was struck in an obscene pose. 

In January of 1989, Bill Stevens was arrested and charged with felony escape and a series of weapons violations. That summer, Stevens was also publicly named as a prime suspect in the Green River killings.  But within months, authorities had cleared Stevens, based on an alibi provided by his younger brother, Bob:

“I visited him in the King County Jail before he was transferred back to Spokane.  And he mentioned that he couldn’t have done the killings because he was on a trip in Connecticut, visiting me in 1982, when the killings first happened.”

Vacation receipts for alibi

After the 1982 visit, Bill Stevens then joined his parents on a cross-country trip.  Bob produced receipts which seemed to prove that his brother was still traveling with their parents when the first five victims were murdered. However, Bob now believes that his brother got away with murder—at least 48 times.  It was a surprising twist for Bob, the very person who provided his brother with an alibi:

“I really believe my brother is the Green River Killer. The police had the killer behind bars in 1989, and I helped get a killer away free.”

Bob Stevens now questions whether his brother was, in fact, with their parents when the first five murders were committed:

“My dad had told me that my brother didn’t always leave with them, he would always just… join them somewhere. Just appear on their trip.  And then leave again.  That was his way of providing a paper trail. He used my parents as his alibi.”

A suspect pleaded guilty to the killings

However, authorities did not re-interview William Stevens for the Green River murders. Roderick Thorp believed this was the case because Stevens was a police informant:

“The police are involved in misdirection here, because they don’t want the public looking too closely at the various roles Stevens played in his life.  Police are only as good as the information they get from people who live as Stevens did, on the edge of society. A guy like Stevens is constantly giving them information about more serious criminals, but at the same time he was indulging in his own little sport there, which was the murder of young girls.”

Bill Stevens died of cancer in 1991, but critics of the investigation still insist that he could have been the serial killer. Roderick Thorp even proposed a theory that suggested others may have been involved:

“It seems very clear that Stevens did not work alone.  Stevens’ phone bills were in the possession of the police and one of the detectives told me that they were puzzled about hours and hours of long-distance calls to a certain number.  What were they talking about? There have been killings since that are Green River type killing, suggesting that the person who was Stevens’ accomplice has continued.”

Update:

Gary Ridgway, an early suspect in the Green River killings, has been arrested. A lab matched his DNA to evidence found with a number of the victims.  Ridgway eventually pled guilty to murdering 48 women. In exchange for the plea, he was given life without the possibility of parole. Despite the evidence, Bob Stevens still insists his brother, Bill, was somehow involved with the Green River killings.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

5 Comments

  1. Johnny

    I remember studying this case in my CRMJ & Psyc classes. The Green River Killer always seemed to be one step ahead of the police. Gary Ridgway fooled many people. He has a soft-spoken voice, polite manner and was able to escape justice for over 20 years. The DNA evidence and dogged detective work helped solve the case. I saw a documentary on Ridgway and some other serial killers. Don’t understand what drove Ridgway to kill. Other than killing them. What a shock to his wife. They had a happy marriage.

    Reply

    • Random- but all the info i know

      Later investigations on Ridgways early life said that when he was younger, around 11 I believe is what they said, that he was a frequent bed wetter and for one reason or another his mother insisted on hand washing his genitals with a clothe. Ridgway later admitting having felt lust towards his mother and haveing sexual fantasies about her while she sunbathed, he said he felt enraged or embarassed about these thoughts and also taked about wishing to murder his mother. skip forward a couple of years, young Ridgway was able to lure a younger child from his street into the woods where proceeded to stab the young boy non-fatally with a pocket knife. Ridgway was never identified in this incident and had told the boy and later on detectives that he did it simply to ‘see what it was like to murder someone.’ Ridgway also claimed to have suffocated a cat in the surrounding years of that time period. After high school many years later Ridgway joined a military branch (navy i think) which included a tour of the Asian area and surrounding seas. at the Philippines or an area like it, it was recorded in his military papers that Ridgway had contracted gonorrhoea from one of the prostitutes he had had relations with while there. He stated to investigators that this fueled his hate for prostitutes. he also came home from overseas to find that his wife had cheated on him. he then thought of his own wife as a whore and soon they divorced. it is around this time that Ridgway started his rampage with one of the easiest, in a cruel sense of the word, victims any serial killer could find. prostitutes. Young woman, sometimes drugged up, willing to get in a car and go to his house for sex with the expectations of receiving money, only to be later strangled after having sex the first time. Their bodies dumped in the river at first completely nude, and often re-visited by Ridgway so he could fornicate with the dead bodies, normally until they started to show signs of rot. later bodies would be also dumped in secluded areas of the woods, post-mortem fornication would still occur. the clothes and jewellery or shoes were sold in Ridgway’s many garage and yard sales, his father had many too so it was no surprise to the neighbourhood for him to have them, or jewellery left around work for co-workers to find and wear. his little way of showing how he could get away.

      Reply

  2. Anonymous

    Is there any evidence that Ridgway and Stevens were working together?

    Reply

    • Barry Moore

      Yes. Two men at the river when Ainesworth came along and found the bodies. Two men at Ridgeways home when Det.Bob Fox, of The Des Moines PD went there looking for Marie Mulvar. There is so much more.

      Reply

  3. grahamclayton