He may be in jail, but Gary Ridgway, the notorious and terrifying serial killer who stalked the Pacific Northwest for much of the early 1980s and 1990s before being caught in 2001, is still claiming victims. Just this week, the remains of Sandra Denise Major were finally identified 30 years after she went missing.
Her family asked police to do the research as the last postcard the Rochester, New York native sent to her family was postmarked from Seattle. Major was identified through DNA provided by a cousin who contacted authorities after she saw a TV movie about the Green River murders.
My heart breaks for her family who knew their family member had fallen into a dangerous lifestyle but obviously still loved and missed her. Thirty years is an awfully long time to wait.
The Green River Killer story is disturbing for so many reasons, not the least of which is how prolific he was. He has confessed to more than 70 murders, some of which seemed to happen once a week for a period of time in 1982. Ridgway is serving a life prison term without the possibility of parole at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
The case draws strong parallels to the current unsolved murders in Long Island where 10 bodies have been found, thought to be victims of one serial killer who has yet to be caught.
Of course, what this case has in common with Green River is the fact that most of the victims were sex workers and, in the case of Ridgway, also a number of teenage runaways.
The fact that this is always associated with the case is sad, indeed. Obviously it's relevant information, but I also wonder if there isn't something else at work, too. I wonder if people breathe a sigh of relief when they hear "sex worker" and if they think they would never be a victim.
There is no doubt that prostitutes are in a vulnerable position. But their deaths are no less tragic. When discussing the Green River case, most media people refer to the "young women" he killed. Sure he killed a lot of women in their late teens and 20s. But he also killed younger people, too. Since when are 12-, 13-, and 15-year-olds "young women"? Are they only children if they are pretty and kidnapped from their front yard?
It's a disturbing trend and as long as we continue to think this way, I wonder if these kinds of crimes will continue to happen. My heart breaks for the family of Major.
Do you think sex workers are viewed differently as victims?
Image via viëtor/Flickr