(AP) Green River killer Gary Leon Ridgway sent a bizarre anonymous letter to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer nearly 20 years ago in what the newspaper said Friday was a “brazen attempt to throw off investigators.”
Authorities at the time wrongly concluded it wasn’t from the real killer, the paper said.
Now, police say Ridgway admitted writing the letter when he began confessing this summer to killing 48 women. The paper said it had turned the letter over to investigators in 1984 and never reported on it, in part because of doubts about its authenticity.
“He brought up the letter during interviews,” Sheriff David G. Reichert told the newspaper. “He took credit for writing it and sending it. He went through and explained what each comment meant.”
Ridgway, a 54-year-old commercial truck painter, pleaded guilty Wednesday to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder in a deal that spares him from execution. Most of the killings were between 1982 and 1984. Ridgway’s pleas gave him more convictions than any serial killer in U.S. history.
The letter, which was sent to the paper in early 1984, was poorly typed and almost entirely without spaces between words.
It began: “whatyou eedtonoaboutthegreenriverman” and “dontthrowaway.” Typed at the bottom was “callmefred.”
Authorities at the time discounted it, saying the letter was probably crafted by someone involved in the investigation seeking undue attention.
The letter mentions real evidence, such as necrophilia and fingernails cut off some victims. There also are some red herrings, such as saying the killer smokes and chews gum. Ridegway did neither, but planted cigarette butts and gum where he buried his victims.
The letter landed on reporter Mike Barber’s desk in February 1984, two months after the King County sheriff’s office formed the Green River Task Force.
Concerned about preserving potential evidence, Barber made a photocopy and slipped the original into a plastic bag for authorities. But the note already had been opened and handled by several copy aides.
An FBI evaluation was a bust. The letter had been handled by too many people, and an FBI psychological profiler said it was probably the work of “someone inside the task force seeking undue attention.”
Still, Barber kept a copy of the letter in his files. And the P-I ran a classified ad asking “callmefred” to contact the paper, but nobody did.
“From his confessions released on Wednesday, it is now clear that the letter was Ridgway’s brazen attempt to throw off investigators,” Barber wrote Friday. “It was the only known time he surfaced to communicate through the news media.”
Barber said he still ponders the meaning of the last line, “Oehatkindofmanisthis,” apparently “What kind of man is this?”
If Ridgway wants to explain it, Barber said, “he knows where to find me.”