On July 15, 1982, a group of children discovered the body of Wendy Coffield floating in Seattle, Washington’s Green River. Coffield, who had disappeared July 8, had been strangled to death. Coffield, 16, would become notable as the first confirmed victim of one of the most prolific serial killers in history.
Over the next few weeks, four more bodies were pulled from the Green River and investigators said they knew they were looking for a serial killer. In 1983, they identified Gary Ridgway as a suspect and questioned him, but Ridgway would not be charged with a crime for another 20 years. In 1987, he gave police a DNA sample, which they matched to the victims in 2001. In 2003, Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 charges of aggravated first-degree murder as part of a plea bargain that spared him the death penalty. He was given one life sentence without the possibility of parole for each murder.
Ridgway confessed to killing as many as 71 women, with some believing the number is well above 90.