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River of Blood: A Murder Spree Shakes Seattle

3 minute read

A murder spree shakes Seattle

Washington State’s Green River, which runs through the city of Kent, about 15 miles south of Seattle, is actually a murky grayish color. The forest near it has long served as a dumping ground for old auto parts, battered furniture, cans and bottles. On March 31 a hiker hunting for mushrooms stumbled upon a human skull. During the next two days police investigators found the rest of that skeleton, along with the remains of three other women. The grisly discoveries brought to 20 the number of women from the Seattle area presumed to be victims of a mysterious demon dubbed the Green River Killer.

Sixteen-year-old Sandra Gabbert was typical of the Green River Killer’s victims. Like eleven others, Sandra was a prostitute. She worked an area of the Pacific Highway South called Sea-Tac Strip where prostitutes did a brisk business. Three months after she began her career, Sandra disappeared. Her skeleton was one of those discovered last week. Nine of the killer’s 20 suspected victims since the summer of 1982 have been found in or near the Green River.

Washington’s King County police department has formed a 40-member Green River task force. Police officials have said that most of the women were asphyxiated, but refused to say whether the killer sexually molested his victims or left some gruesome signature of the crimes.

The secrecy surrounding the investigation has outraged several women’s organizations. Cookie Hunt, a spokeswoman for the Women’s Coalition to Stop the Green River Murders, says that her group is conducting its own investigation. An organization called the U.S. Prostitutes Collective accuses the police of being complacent because of the nature of the victims. Says Margaret Prescod: “We think the whole idea that it is O.K. to hunt down hookers is perpetuated by the police.”

Counters Police Captain Frank Adamson, who heads the task force: “The problem is not specifically that prostitutes don’t cooperate with us. It is that the lifestyle of the prostitutes is not structured. People close to them may be used to their being missing for periods of time.”

The case of the Green River Killer is part of a grim parade of so-called serial murderers. According to a Justice Department study released earlier this year, in more than 30 cases during the past decade, a lone murderer has killed at least half a dozen people, usually strangers, over a period of time. Robert Keppel, chief criminal investigator for the state attorney general’s office, sees common threads among serial killers: most are literate, charismatic and uncommonly familiar with police routines. The problem is finding the clues that even the most intelligent of murderers leave behind.

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