Kill and Let Live: Ending of the Green River Murders (an expository essay)

Essay by petmykittynow December 2003

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For the past 19 years the slayings of runaways and prostitutes in the Green River area of Washington State has been the largest unsolved serial murder case in the country. The first victim, Wendy Lee Coffield, 16, of Puyallup was found murdered and floating in the Green River in July of 1982. Within two months the bodies of four more women were found. By November 1983, policed figured that 11 women had been killed by the same man, a serial murderer that would be infamously known as the "Green River Killer".

Gary Ridgway, now known as the Green River Killer, plead guilty this fall to aggravated murder in the deaths of 42 of the 49 women that are missing. Ridgway has admitted to killing six other women that are not on the missing person's list. Officials are now faced with a powerful concern: should Ridgway be executed for his crimes or get life in prison without the chance of parole for the locations of the rest of his victims?

Since 1976, when the U.S.

Supreme Court cleared the way for capital punishment, the State of Washington has carried out four executions. But keep in mind the language of the law for the death penalty states that a death sentence must be proportionate to "similar cases". In this case, with Gary Ridgway, no one has led officials to the recovery of so many victims. The only other case that can even be considered remotely similar is that of Robert Yates. Yates was convicted and sentenced to death for the killings of two people in Pierce County but not convicted for killing 13 people in Spokane County. In an attempt to save his life his lawyer Roger Hunko plainly asked, "If Yates didn't get the death penalty for...