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Serial Murders Suspect Charged

Authorities charged a 52-year-old truck company worker with murder Wednesday in the deaths of four women blamed on the Green River serial killer.

Gary Leon Ridgway, who was arrested last week, was charged with four counts of aggravated murder after authorities said they had linked him to three of the victims with DNA evidence.

The victims were killed in the early 1980s. King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said "justice is a concept that never gets old."

"For the victim, the loss is ultimate. For the family, the grief is permanent and for the community the harm and danger do not diminish for the passage of time," he said.

The case has baffled investigators since 1982, when authorities began finding women's bodies in or near the Green River, south of Seattle. Forty-nine women — most of them prostitutes or runaways — were believed to be victims of the Green River killer in Washington and Oregon.

Ridgway is accused of killing Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Cynthia Hinds, whose bodies were found in the river on Aug. 15, 1982, and Carol Christensen, whose body was found May 8, 1983, in woods in nearby Maple Valley. Hinds and Mills were teen-agers. Christensen was 21 and Chapman was 31.

Ridgway was identified as a suspect in 1984 and questioned after witnesses identified his pickup truck and said he had been seen with two of the victims, according to court documents.

In 1987, Ridgway complied with a court order to chew on a piece of gauze to collect a saliva sample.

The saliva was tested again in March. The results came back two months ago and detectives put Ridgway under surveillance. Ridgway, an employee of Kenworth Truck Co. in Renton for 32 years, was arrested Friday as he was leaving work.

He is married and has an adult son. He had been arrested twice in the past 19 years — in 1982 for soliciting prostitution and earlier this month, when he was arrested for loitering for the purpose of soliciting prostitution. He pleaded guilty in the recent case and was convicted in the earlier case.

Authorities said they were finally able to link Ridgway to the crimes by using new DNA technology to match the saliva to fluids found on three of the victims.

The fourth victim, Hinds, was linked to Ridgway through circumstantial evidence, investigators said.

Sheriff Dave Reichert has proposed a regional task force to investigate all 49 deaths, plus more than 40 unsolved deaths of women in the region. The arrest has also prompted investigators in San Diego and Vancouver, British Columbia, to review files on scores of slain women for possible links.

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