tv Chasing the Devil MSNBC February 27, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PST
"chasing the devil" continues. >> you're a loser, you're a coward. you're a nobody. you're an animal. >> mr. ridgway, i want you to look me in the face. >> families of gary ridgway's victims would get to confront him, but they would have to wait. while police conducted a videotaped interrogation that laid bare the mind of a monster. >> i killed her because i wanted to. going to go for a walk. i had her move around so i could get behind her. and in doing so, i needed to have -- to raise her head up to wrap my arm around her and kill her. i said oh, no, there's my son getting out of the car or something similar to that. so she raised her head up and that's when i put my arm around
her, my right arm and i started choking her. >> ridgway says he promised if she didn't make any noise, he would let her go. then he finished strangling her using his socks and calmly walked back to the truck and his son. >> did he ask where the lady was? >> i said she wanted to walk home. she doesn't live that far away. my urge to have sex and to kill her was more than for the safety of matthew. >> sheriff reichert had a lot riding on the interrogation. he wanted to make sure ridgway was pushed hard. and reichert couldn't resist coming face to face with the monster he had chased for years. so even though he was busy running a department with more than 1,000 employees, he carved out time to cup and confront ridgway himself. this day he asked ridgway what he would have done if matthew had seen him committing the murder. >> i would have killed him if he
was a witness, yes. >> isn't that something? kill your own son, if he was a witness? >> ridgway bragged that he used matthew to lure women into his truck, placing his son's toys on the seat. sometimes showing his picture to the women to trick them into believing he was a devoted dad, that he was a safe guy to go with. >> which one do you think this is, gary? >> this is the very last white woman. >> detectives wanted to revisit sites where he dumped bodies with ridgway along for two reasons. they hoped to find remains of victims that had never been recovered and they also used the trips as a kind of check, pushing for details to see whether he was telling the truth. >> there are certain details around some of those cases that he shared with us that only the killer would know. we never took him anywhere. he took us. >> at the green river site where
the bodies of cynthia hinds, marsha chapman and opal mills were discovered, ridgway admitted he shoved rocks into two of them. a detail never publicized. >> the people that found them would know that i put rocks in them and it's kind of like my secret and the task force's secret. >> ridgway confessed something the task force had long suspected, that he had had sex with some of the victims after they were dead. >> i was getting more twisted. >> that, he revealed, was why he had chosen new body dumping sites that were farther away from his home. detectives had long wondered about that and it gave them a glimpse into how the mind of this serial killer worked. >> i started leaving them out further so i wouldn't have sex with them. just kill another prostitute.
>> investigators had agonized over are whether they could have caught him earlier and perhaps saved the lives of dozens of young women. they were almost afraid of the answer. ridgway was about to tell them just how many times they had come close. >> and he tells of a victim who came close to getting away. >> she fought more than any of the other women and caused more damage than the other women. >> when "chasing the devil" returns.
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we return to "chasing the devil" with stone phillips. >> that's one of mine. >> to look back in the history of any serial killer, as sick as it sounds, to be proud of the work they did and they want to be known as the best serial killer. >> gary ridgway is no exception. >> i rate myself as number one. >> if that were true, and investigators suspected it was, they wanted to know why they had failed to capture him while he was in the midst of his murderous spree. in finding out what they did wrong, ridgway told them how close they had often been. one of the missing women detectives were especially curious about was marie malvar. you may remember in april of '83, her boyfriend saw her getting into ridgway's truck at a bus stop and then seemed to argue with him.
the boyfriend tried to follow them but lost the truck at a light. the boyfriend and marie's father, jose, searched the neighborhood the next day and located the truck in ridgway's driveway. apparently they didn't think about contacting the green river task force. they called local police in the seattle suburb of des moines. jose malvar had to be restrained from going in and looking for marie himself. >> i wanted to go in because she is my daughter and i love my kids. >> the officers who looked around ridgway's home found nothing. ridgway told investigators they would never have been quick enough to find malvar at his house. >> she had already been disposed of by then. i killed her and an hour after i killed her, she was dropped off. >> even if there was no body, should police have done a more thorough search, would they have turned up clues in his bedroom?
ridgway admitted there had been a struggle. >> i first picked her up, i thought she would be easy to kill and not a fighter. >> she was tiny, 5'2", only 105 pounds. >> i didn't notice her long fingernails and she fought and fought. she scratched me on my arms. that made me tighten my hold more to kill her as fast as i could. she fought more than any of the other women and caused me more damage than any of the other women. i had police coming to the door a couple days later about her being missing. >> ridgway said he was so worried that the officers would notice the scratches, that he hid his arm. but they apparently never checked him for cuts. later, he disfigured his arms by pouring battery acid on them. the suburban police did file a report, but it did not come to the task force's attention until
four years later. it showed up in a computer search the task force did when they brought ridgway in for questioning. because of his contacts with other missing prostitutes. sheriff reichert said if they had the information sooner, it might have made a difference. did they miss an opportunity to save dozens of lives? ridgway said one reason he dumped bodies in clusters was so he could remember where they all were. but he never took another one to where he put marie malvar's body because it was too risky. >> i just couldn't put anymore out there because of getting caught, because they find one body and there's three or four and i'm already a suspect for her. >> until 2003, marie remained one of the missing. ridgway finally led detectives to the place where he had thrown her body. and 20 years later, they were able to find her remains and turn them over to her family.
>> to me, my daughter is still alive. until now, we always celebrate her birthday. >> another time police narrowly missed gary ridgway was after the murder of carol christensen in may of '83. her case had always been the most puzzling to the task force. the rest of the victims were found nude but she was dressed and her body was posed. two trout were placed on her upper body, an empty bottle of wine on her stomach and sausage on her hand. at the time investigators wondered whether this could be religious symbolism. wondered why the killer had carefully chosen these items. wondered what he was trying to communicate. indeed, some wondered whether this was the work of the green river killer at all. the murder scene was so different, even her family thought someone else had killed her. >> at the time we really didn't connect it. >> i brought them out of the
fridge before we talked. >> when he started to talk, gary ridgway seemed mystified. the items were just stuff he had around the house, not carefully chosen at all. almost an afterthought, tossed in the back of his pickup. >> i was just going to put them on her to throw off the task force. make it stand out from the rest of them so they would have to think is this a green river case or is this not a green river case? >> jerking them around. >> ironically, in taking the time to trip up his pursuers, he almost got tripped up himself. just as he finished laying out the items on her body and got in his truck to leave, a police car drove by. >> they didn't go down that road. otherwise, he would have had her that day. >> it turns out that
christensen's posed body did ultimately play a role in catching ridgway. because he left her near a busy road where she could be found easily, his dna was still in tact. and 18 years later, that linked him to the murder. hers was one of the first four cases filed. >> he's on top of me, weights on top of me. i was just begging him to let me go. i'm still fighting. i was trying to live. >> remember rebecca guarde, the victim who got away? the prostitute who struggled and ran? ridgway, you recall, had shown her his kenworth i.d. in an attempt to make her believe he was not the green river killer. of course, he didn't intend to let her live to tell about it, but she did live and tell police, just not soon enough. >> i thought for many years that he was out still looking for me. >> he later admitted to
investigators that she was one of his biggest mistakes. >> she eventually told the task force and that was one of the reasons why they were investigating me. that was my downfall. of it. the detective says if you would have killed her, we wouldn't have found you like this. >> after hours and hours of tough questioning, task force interrogators could not resist rubbing it in. they taunted ridgway about getting caught literally with his pants down. >> if you were such an accomplished killer, gary, how did rebecca guarde get away from you? >> i had my pants down around my ankles and i couldn't get them around her waist to hold her. otherwise if i would have, i would have killed her, but they were down around my ankles and i couldn't get them loose. >> sheriff reichert and the other task force members wanted to learn not just the how of the
green river murders, but, also, the why. a career spent chasing the devil, as reichert's new book is called, recovering the mangled bodies of teenage girls creates a powerful incentive to understand what forces forge a serial killer. >> over those years, those visions are very fresh. those images are burned into your mind forever. >> it turns out there were other opportunities to stop gary ridgway from killing that had been missed. his violent acts began years before, way back in his teen years. could something have been done back then? weeks of questioning brought forth secrets from ridgway's childhood and the story of his first attack. in his first interview, gary ridgway's youngest victim tells "dateline" his story of encountering and surviving an assault by the teenager who would become the green river killer. >> a tale so horrifying, it would haunt the victim forever. and foreshadow a killer's
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to torture her. you can't torture a woman when she's dead. >> what turn as man into a serial killer? why would gary ridgway be driven to kill and kill again? no one knew. but everyone in law enforcement wanted to find out. how important do you think it is that we try, at least, to get some sense of why? of where does something this dark come from? >> one of the mothers said to me the other day, he didn't come from outer space. he's a member of our community. like it or not. >> so once ridgway signed the plea bargain, agreeing to tell all, psychologists who work with law enforcement and profilers from the fbi spent weeks questioning him about his childhood, searching for the key, the definitive experience that brought forth the killer within. they were hoping to learn something that might be useful when tracking murderers in the
future. because the profiles of the green river killer generated during the search in the '80s were either wrong or too general to be useful. ridgway described himself as slow in school, held back two grades. >> people knew where i lived and knew i wasn't that bright. >> a kid so dense he needed his older brother to help him find his way home. he said he never learned to read well and he was still wetting the bed when he was 13 or 14. he told the fbi psychologist that really upset his mother. >> what would your mother say to you, what were her words to you? >> why are you doing this to me? only babies wet the bed is what she said sometimes. >> by age 14, something a lot deeper than his mother's exacerbation with his bed wetting was driving gary ridgway. he was already honing his killer impulses. pushed by psychologists to talk
about early violence, he confessed this episode. >> i was down on the corner of chinook and 188. the boy was playing up there. >> how long had you known this boy? >> never seen him before. >> what caused you to approach him? >> he just looked vulnerable for some reason. >> jim davis was vulnerable, all right. he was only 6 years old and alone on the grounds of a junior high school near his home. >> we played cowboys and indians and my friends left to get some things to fix our fort up. >> for 40 years davis never knew the name of the teenager who walked up to him that day. until now, he had no reason to speak publicly about it. this was an unknown teenager? >> i had never seen him before. >> davis says the boy, he now knows as gary ridgway, pretended to show him where to get material for his fort.
>> he said across the street, a lot of tall grass over there. i said i wasn't allowed across that highway. he said, you know there's some kids around this neighborhood that like to kill little boys like you. and i said no, i didn't know that. >> at that point you had no reason to think he was a threat? >> not him. he was very nice. >> the two walked around school grounds, chatting. until ridgway whispered -- >> duck, here comes one of those kids. he ducked down beside me. >> jim davis says when he didn't see anyone coming, he told ridgway he wanted to get up. i. rolled over from my stomach on my side to my stomach facing him and he had the knife out and he put it through my liver. blood is pumping out running down into my pants and boots and i said, why did you kill me? and he said, i always wanted to know what it felt like to kill
somebody. and he took his knife and wiped it off on my left shoulder. >> wiped it on your shirt? >> wiped it on my shoulder, both sides of the blade. he said, you'll be dead in a little while. >> when he turned to you and said, i just wanted to see what it was like to kill somebody, what was in his eyes? what was in his face? >> he seemed to be real happy. >> seemed pleased with himself? >> that's a good way to put it. >> here's how gary ridgway remembered it. >> just a spur of the moment. it wasn't planned. he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. >> i don't even remember what i did. wiped the knife on my leg. it wasn't all the way in, just -- >> how far in did the knife go? >> probably an inch, i think. i don't know. >> ridgway told his interrogators that he ran home. but jim davis recalls he made a slow, cold, almost diabolical exit.
>> he walked away. he walked away laughing. he didn't run. he didn't have a care in the world. >> jim davis did run, trying to get home. luckily a teacher at the junior high school saw him and called an ambulance. he had lost so much blood he almost died. but transfusions from police and firefighters and emergency surgery saved his life. a few days later police brought yearbooks from high schools and junior highs in the area to jim's hospital room, hoping he could identify his assailant. >> i don't remember ever seeing him in the yearbooks that they showed. >> davis recalls when police were unable to come up with a suspect, his grandfather hired a private investigator. the p.i. told his grand father that police had identified the assailant. >> the father had some connections somewhere, had made a deal that he would get the boy some private help, and that he would guarantee this would never happen again. >> there's almost no way to tell whether this is true.
jim davis' grandfather is dead. jim cannot remember the private investigator's name and seattle police can find no records pertaining to the case. one thing is for certain, gary ridgway was never arrested or punished for the attempted murder. and he told his questioners that if he had been, it might have changed things. >> could you have been stopped at any point along the way? ever asked yourself that? >> either get counseling or go to jail could have stopped me. >> how often in the years before you found out who ridgway was did you find yourself thinking i wonder where that guy is? >> over the years i always wondered what happened to him, what kind of person he became, had he killed somebody else. i don't believe that he stopped after he tried to kill he and just started 20 years later to kill prostitutes. i believe that he killed people in all those years in between. >> police and psychologists believe that, too, but in the
hundreds of hours they spent interviewing gary ridgway, trying to get him to come clean, a process that generated more than 8,500 pages of transcripts, they were never able to get any definitive information about murders during those years. they did learn that gary ridgway's rage against women was so all-consuming that he wanted to kill his mother and all three of his wives. what stopped him? >> the answer to that and then, the sheriff himself faces down the man he hunted for 20 years. one on one, he'll stare him down. but can he get the truth out of the green river killer? when "chasing the devil" returns.
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>> despite his stabbing of 6-year-old jim davis, or maybe because of it, ridgway insisted that he chose to strangle women rather than stab or shoot them. because he didn't want blood all over the inside of his truck. >> tell me why you like killing people. >> just hated women. >> during the months of questioning by detectives and psychologists, ridgway confessed that the rage which ultimately drove him to murder dozens of prostitutes was first directed at the women in his life. profilers eager to understand how to spot serial killers tried to get specifics. he told them that as a teenager, when he was mad at his mother for bugging him about bed wetting and not being able to read, he indulged in fantasies about harming her. >> i thought about stabbing her in the chest or in the heart and cutting her up a little bit. >> how? >> just cut her face and her
chest. she really took good care of herself. so if you want to hurt somebody, you end up going for their beauty, i guess. >> he did not act on those gruesome impulses, transferring them instead to the next woman he was close to. the high school girlfriend who became his first wife. when she left him in 1971 after he got out of the navy, he thought about hurting her, too. >> just to kill her because i -- wanted her more than anybody else. >> but she was living in san diego and he says he didn't know how to find her. so he abandoned the idea. gary ridgway married for the second time in 1973. he claims he was immediately dissatisfied with his choice and avoided being seen in public with his new wife, marcia. >> she was overweight and not attractive. >> he told psychologists he thought he deserved better. >> thoughts of killing her.
i would like to va woman that -- you know, was nice looking. >> one night he acted on his impulse. >> i was just mad and choked her. >> he said after that, the choking became part of sex for him. he didn't kill marcia perhaps because she had told her family about the choking incident. >> i've already got in trouble from her dad. i couldn't even -- you know, i i couldn't set the house on fire, i couldn't arrange any kind of an accident or something like that. >> it was the fear of getting caught that stopped him from killing his wife. marcia divorced him in 1981. the green river murders began that next summer. >> maybe if i would have killed her, i wouldn't have killed the others. that was the cause of my pain. >> ridgway tried to lay the
blame for his murderous rampage on his failed second marriage, which sheriff reichert rejected. >> there's no reason that you can give that can justify what you did. >> the accepted theory on serial killers is they can't stop killing or even slow down. that's why when the bodies of young prostitutes were no longer being discovered in clusters around seattle in the late '80s, many thought the green river killer had moved on to another city, or had been put in prison for some other crime. gary ridgway had not moved on but he had changed. and the reason was surprising. in february of 1985, gary ridgway met the woman who would become his third wife, judith. at first he said the old fantasies returned. but as was the case with his first two wives, ridgway knew that he'd be the prime suspect. ridgway says his new wife was
loving and dependent and accepting. so he tried to stop killing. but he didn't even consider giving up prostitutes. >> you're looking for women every single day on your way to work, on your way home from work and on saturday, and on your day off? >> right. >> so what do you do on sundays? >> usually we're doing family things. >> that's right. on sundays he said he did family things. and only weeks before his arrest for the murders in 2001, gary ridgway, the self-described family man, was picked up for soliciting a prostitute again. >> i still had that problem. it's just like alcohol. it's just like alcohol. prostitution to me is like alcohol is to an alcoholic. >> exactly. but killing was your real addiction, gary, not prostitutes. >> and it turns out that although police thought the green river murders had ended in the mid '80s, they were wrong. >> i did kill after '85, yes.
>> okay. >> but contrary to all those beliefs about serial killers, he was able to slow down, and he changed his style. >> i didn't have that killer mode in my head. it was like starting all over again. the killing was much more of a frenzy in the ' 0s 80s, in the '90s, i was trying to cut back. >> he said he considered himself a semi retired serial killer in the '90s. and he remembered fewer details about the more recent murders. said he had become careless, panicky. he didn't bother to hide the bodies of the women he killed in the '90s, just left them where they fell. they were a blur, not at all like the women he strangled in the '80s. >> when they were dead, i had
power over them. i had power over where i put them. it brought back memories every time i would drive sometimes and see where i put the body. i would dream about a certain place i put a woman. >> ridgway wanted to hang on to that sense of power. detectives knew he loved the attention he got during the questioning. he relished the fact they had to be nice to him. one day a frustrated sheriff reichert tried unsuccessfully to pin him down about exactly how many women he had killed. >> my point is, gary, what are we supposed to believe? i mean, you've gone from 30 to 61, you've pled guilty to 48. we know there's more than 48, you know there's more than 48. you're an evil, murdering, monstrous, cowardly man. >> and even though he agreed to confess to save his life, he still lied and withheld information.
he failed to show detectives where he had left bodies that had not been found and misled them about the location of items like jewelry he had taken from his victims. >> i hate to tell you this again, but there's another spot, there i put some jewelry. >> sometimes their anger was hard to contain. >> [ bleep ]. take your [ bleep ] back and you want to start telling the truth, you let us know. >> on one occasion, sheriff reichert was so exacerbated with ridgway's stonewalling, he literally stared him down. watch the elapsed time here. >> more than five minutes pass. but staring was the worst they could do. >> in the interrogation of this guy, could you threaten him? >> no. >> in the end, the detectives knew they hadn't plumbed the
depths of the horror that gary ridgway wrought. although they use every ploy at their disposal, they believe he did not level with them about how many murders he committed or when he started and they never really came to understand what had triggered his rage in the first place. nonetheless, they felt their plea bargain with the devil has had been worth it. were there ten more victims, 20? they will never find them all. the passage of time and the elements have scattered their bones. the task force settled on the number 48. some victims were removed from the original green river list. some were added. some were not identified. the numbers, the names, the faces made no difference to gary ridgway. but each of those victims had a family who were about to try to make him feel their anguish, anger and hate.
count one for the death of wendy lee caufield? >> guilty. >> he repeated that guilty plea 48 times. families of the victims got their day in court several weeks later on december 18th, 2003, when ridgway was sentenced. some exploded, releasing 20 years' worth of anger. >> i can only hope that some day, someone gets the opportunity to choke you unconscious 48 times. so you can live through the horror that you put our daughters, our sisters, our mothers through, that they choke you till you're dead and stand on your throat. >> vickie ware, the sister of kelly ware, whose sister was dumped near the airport in july of '83. >> he's an animal. i don't wish for him to die. i wish for him to have a long,
suffering cruel death. hopefully terminal cancer. i know he feels no remorse. >> the brother of marie malvar, the woman who fought the hardest to live. >> i hope you rot in hell, you son of a bitch. >> others, like kathy mills, the mother of the first left bite river expressed a need to put an end to her anguish. >> i forgive you. you can't hold me anymore. i'm through with you. i have a peace that is beyond human understanding. >> the daughter of carol christensen, the woman whose body ridgway posed with the fish and wine, tried one last time to make him understand what he had taken from so many. >> i was only 5 when my mother died. there's nothing that anybody can say or ever do for me that will
bring my mother back. there's nothing that will ever change the things that she's missed. >> gary ridgway did offer his performa apology. >> i'm sorry for killing these ladies. they had their whole lives ahead of them. i'm sorry for causing so much pain to so many families. >> then the judge asked for 48 seconds of silence. one second for every woman gary ridgway admitted killing. >> and i ask this moment of silence in honor of all the young women who were victims in this case and cannot speak for themselves. >> and so 20 years of investigation, six months of interrogation finally came to an end. for sheriff dave reichert, it was a day he will always remember. his moment of triumph. >> the enormity of the whole thing hits you full face. >> a few months later, after two
terms as sheriff, reichert ran for congress and won. his reputation as a straight shooter who finally got his man precedes him. ridgway is now in the washington state penitentiary, serving his 48 consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole. he is considered the worst serial killer in the history of the united states.