I’m in the middle of Ann Rule’s book, “Green River, Running Red” the topic of which is the “Green River Killer” who murdered young women in the 1980’s, in and around Seattle Washington. This is the third book I’ve read on the subject, and there is a lot to be learned about human behavior here.
The first is serial killers cannot be understood by average people. It can be explained how they murdered, where they murdered, and who they murdered, but the why of all this is a complicated and terrible issue not easily understood by even the most highly trained law enforcement people alive.
The next is serial killer do know what they are do is, at a minimum, something they can be jailed for if they get caught, which means they understand the rest of us believe what they are doing is wrong.
However, in killing prostitutes, Gary Ridgeway also understood these were people not valued as highly as other human beings were. He could, and he did, kill with near impunity, until multiple bodies surfaced, and the families of the dead women began to generate noise. Even then, even when there were multiple dead young women, bodies in various locations, even then, when money was being spent to find the killer, and no resolution was found, the task force was scaled back. Even at the cost of young women being murdered.
Ann Rule goes into much more detail of the lives of the murdered women. Most came from lower income families, further reducing their worth in American society, and invariably, most of the quotes from parents shade towards “I couldn’t stop her from doing what she wanted to do” type utterances. Jobs that were available for very young women paid very little, and some of the women preferred the life of prostitution over a minimum wage job that required long hours for little pay. In 1982, minimum wage was $3.35. A young woman working as a cashier could hope to make less than thirty dollars in an eight hour shift, but almost that much in a few minutes as a prostitute. On a good night, a week’s worth of pay could be had, and on a bad night, a woman could end up dead.
Another observation is in the books I’ve read, it’s rare to find a man who had been arrested for paying a woman for sex, and universally, all women who have been paid for sex have been arrested. A suspect early in the case was caught in bed with a sixteen year old prostitute, and he was not arrested. Another suspect admitted to having sex with underage prostitutes and was not arrested. Prostitution is a crime committed by women, not by men, in the eyes of the law, and of society.
One victim was thirteen when she began walking the streets. Another ran away from home at age fourteen, was murdered at age seventeen, but her body wasn’t identified for years because her family never reported her missing.
Finally, early in the book, “The Search for the Green River Killer” by Carlton Smith, the author notes one of the detectives, who had worked homicide for years was “shocked at the level of violence directed at women” once he started taking reports of battered prostitutes, girlfriends, wives, and just random women attacked by strangers. The hope of catching the killer by linking him to violence against women was thwarted by the sheer volume of suspects that would have been compiled.