Monday 7 February 2011

Ridgway to be charged with 49th murder; could face death penalty - with update

The King County Prosecutor's Office plans to charge Green River killer Gary L. Ridgway with a new count of aggravated murder in connection with the slaying of a 20-year-old woman who vanished after leaving a SeaTac motel in 1982.
The woman, Becky Marrero, was long believed to be a victim of Ridgway, who confessed to her slaying when he agreed to plead guilty to 48 other murders eight years ago in a deal that likely spared his life. But it wasn't until December, after three teens stumbled upon her remains in an Auburn ravine, that prosecutors had the evidence they needed to charge Ridgway with her slaying.
Depending on how Ridgway pleads to the new charge, he could face the death penalty, according to the Prosecutor's Office.
Because Ridgway previously confessed to Marrero's killing, the charge falls under the terms of his controversial 2003 plea agreement, prosecutors said.
If Ridgway enters a guilty plea to Marrero's death he will maintain his current status of serving life in prison without the possibility of parole under the agreement, according to the Prosecutor's Office. If Ridgway pleads not guilty, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg could seek the death penalty for Marrero's slaying. In the coming weeks, Ridgway will be brought to King County from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla to face arraignment on the new murder charge. It will be the first time he has set foot in a Seattle courtroom since he was sentenced on Nov 5, 2003.
Since 2003, Ridgway has been in the ultra-secure Intensive Management Unit, or solitary confinement, at the Washington State Penitentiary, according to the state Department of Corrections (DOC). Every 30 days, a panel reviews his case to see if he is ready to be moved into general population, but because of his notoriety he has remained in his single-person cell, said DOC spokeswoman Maria Peterson.
Ridgway has never asked to be moved from the Intensive Management Unit to general population, Peterson said.
Marrero was last seen Dec. 3, 1982, leaving the Western Six Motel at South 168th Street and Pacific Highway South. She left her 3-year-old daughter with her mother, intending to be gone only a short time.
Marrero's mother, Rebecca, reported her missing on July 20, 1984. She had always been hopeful her daughter was still alive, said Jenny Wieland Ward, executive director of the Everett-based Families & Friends of Violent Crime Victims.
When Ridgway pleaded guilty to the 48 other murders in 2003, Becky Marrero's brother, Perfecto Marrero, was in attendance. He was disappointed that his sister's name was not listed among the victims read aloud in court.
"The detectives had told us that she was not on the list, but we thought that they were at least going to mention her name," he told The Seattle Times in 2003. "We thought that they were going to say something, or have some answers for us, but they did not."
Ridgway's guilty pleas gave investigators what they desperately wanted — confessions to almost 70 unsolved killings, King County prosecutors said. Though Ridgway admitted to nearly 70 slayings, prosecutors said they only had evidence linking him to 48 cases.
Cooperation with the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history came at a price. By taking the death penalty off the table, then-King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng came under fire from those who believed Ridgway should die for his crimes. Before Ridgway confessed and led authorities to the remains of his victims, most of whom were runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts, investigators could only directly link him with a handful of cases.
The confession and location of the remains also brought closure to the families of the four dozen victims.
In 2003, Ridgway told investigators the general location where he believed he disposed of Marrero's remains, but members of King County's Green River Task Force could not find her remains.
Marrero's remains were found in December in a ravine in the 6300 block of 296th Street, just west of West Valley Highway North, an area near where Ridgway disposed of the remains of murder victim Marie Malvar. Ridgway previously pleaded guilty to Malvar's killing.
The remains of three other Ridgway victims have been found but never identified. Ridgway implied that the three were killed in spring or summer 1983.
According to the Sheriff's Office, the remains belonged to:
• A white female, possibly as young as 12; found March 21, 1984, in the Burien area off Des Moines Memorial Drive South.
• An African-American or possibly mixed-race female; found Dec. 30, 1985, near Mountain View Cemetery in Auburn. She was likely between 18 and 24 when she died.
• A white female, between 14 and 18; found Jan. 2, 1986, near Mountain View Cemetery in Auburn.
Also in 2003, Ridgway claimed to have killed three other women: Kelly Kay McGinness, 18; Kassee Lee, 16; and Patricia Osborn, 19. But the women's remains have never been found, and he wasn't charged in their slayings because of a lack of sufficient evidence.
Jennifer Sullivan


Green River Killer Gary Ridgway has been charged in a 49th murder -- the 1982 slaying of Rebecca "Becky" Marrero -- and is expected to plead guilty.
Marrero's remains were found in December in an Auburn ravine known to have been a dump site used by Ridgway. Her family gave her a funeral Saturday, more than 28 years after she disappeared.
Ridgway, who'd previously pleaded guilty to 48 aggravated murder charges, will not face the death penalty in Marrero's death because of a contentious plea agreement struck in 2003.
In the deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek a death sentence so long as Ridgway confessed to all his killings in King County. Speaking Monday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Ridgway admitted to killing Marrero but was not charged because no evidence existed to corroborate his claim.
This charge "falls squarely within the agreement" that Ridgway made to avoid execution by admitting to dozens of slayings that would otherwise have gone unsolved, Satterberg said. Still, he said the expected guilty plea will secure "a degree of justice" for Marrero and her family.
Making the announcement, Satterberg said Ridgway is now charged with aggravated first-degree murder in Marrero's slaying. Ridgway is due in court Feb. 18 to be arraigned on the new charge.
If he does not plead guilty, he would be in violation of his plea agreement. That unlikely outcome would mean prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
Satterberg said the hearing will allow her family to face the killer in court.
Marrero was 20 when she went missing in December 1982. Her remains were found Dec. 21 in an Auburn ravine, about 100 feet from where a woman known to have been killed by Ridgway was found.
Detectives believed Marrero to be a victim of serial killer Ridgway, who targeted Seattle-area prostitutes during the two decades he was active. He was dubbedthe Green River Killer because he often left his victims in the Green River valley.
Charged in 48 slayings, Ridgway was not accused in Marrero's death because prosecutors did not believe the evidence available could support a murder charge. As part of a plea agreement that allowed him to dodge a death sentence, Ridgway agreed to confess to every murder he committed in King County.
Ridgway eventually led investigators to the remains of four missing women and pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder.
"I killed so many women, I have a hard time keeping them straight," Ridgway said in a statement he wrote for the court.
In December 2003, a judge sentenced him to 48 life terms. He is serving the sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Speaking Monday, Satterberg said Ridgway admitted to killing Marrero during the interviews related to his guilty plea. Still, prosecutors were hesitant to charge Ridgway with the slaying, largely because he had not been truthful with investigators.
"It was clear he wasn't the most reliable of witnesses," Satterberg said.
Satterberg noted that the plea deal aimed at helping the families of dozens of women thought to have been killed by Ridgway, but which had little evidence.
"Justice became a search for that truth for these families," Satterberg said.
"(Ridgway) deserved no mercy," the prosecutor continued. "He deserved the death penalty."
Marrero was last seen on Dec. 3, 1982, when she left a motel room at South 168th Street and Pacific Highway South. Her disappearance was ultimately investigated by the Green River Task Force; at the time, police said Marrero was friends with Debra Estes, one of the women whom Ridgway admitted to killing.
The remains of Marie Malvar were found on Sept. 28, 2003, in the same general area where Marrero was found. Ridgway was convicted in the Malvar homicide.
Marrero is one of six women who disappeared in the early '80s whom investigators long suspected were victims of the Green River Killer. But Ridgway was not charged in their deaths because prosecutors didn't believe there was enough evidence to make a charge, even in some cases in which Ridgway admitted guilt.
Ridgway told detectives he's certain he killed Keli McGinness, Kase Lee and Patricia Osborn, but their remains were never found to corroborate his claim.
Speaking following Ridgway's sentencing in 2003, Mary Marrero said she keeps a shrine to her older sister with a picture of her as a teenager, a cross, candles and flowers.
At the time, Mary Marrero said she wished she had the chance to tell Ridgway how much her family hurts. She also said wished she had a body to bury.
"We want to bury her where we want her, not where he left her, out in that cold weather, where he left her like a dog," she said in December 2003.
"We would have some kind of answer. It would have helped for my mom. She thinks Becky is still alive."
Mary Marrero told in December that she looked at her sister's photograph ever day and talked to it.
"I'd say 'They're gonna' find you, honey,'" Marrero said. "'Hang in there. It's just a matter of time.'"
She added: "Finally my sister's not out in the rain and the snow. She's somewhere warm now."
 Levi Pulkkinen

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