In the 1980s, residents of Washington State were terrorized by the so-called Green River Killer, whose first five victims’ bodies were discovered in or near the Green River in King County in the summer of 1982. The strangled bodies of more victims soon appeared around King County; all were women, most of them young and many of them prostitutes, runaways and drug users. Ridgway, became a suspect after one of the victims was spotted getting into his truck. However, when questioned by police, he denied any knowledge of the slayings and passed a 1984 polygraph test. In 2001, he was finally arrested after DNA evidence connected him to some of the killings.
In a controversial 2003 plea deal, Ridgway admitted to the murders of 48 women between 1982 and 1998, and prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against him if he cooperated with police in locating the remains of dozens of his victims. Ridgway reportedly claimed to have murdered more than 60 women in King County, although authorities at the time could only find sufficient evidence to link him to the 48 slayings. Ridgway told authorities he began murdering prostitutes “because he hated them, didn't want to pay them for sex, and because he knew he could kill as many as he wanted without getting caught.” The serial killer said he picked up women off the street, strangled them in his home or truck, and meticulously hid their bodies near natural landmarks in an attempt to keep track of them. At the time of his 49th conviction, Ridgway had been linked to more murders than any other convicted serial killer in U.S. history.