The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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"Green River Killer, The"
America's most prolific unidentified killer is credited with 40 homicides around Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, in two years' time; another eight suspected victims are officially described as missing, since remains have not been found. Vaguely described as a white male in his late twenties or early thirties, the elusive killer draws his popular nickname from the fact that several victims were discarded in or near Washington's Green River. All of his victims were women, and many were prostitutes working the infamous "Sea-Tac Strip." At this writing, the slayer has claimed no new victims in Washington since autumn 1984, and authorities tend to believe that he has moved his hunting ground to Southern California.
The killer's first known victim, 16-year-old Leann Wilcox, from Tacoma, was found strangled in a field near Federal Way, eight miles south of Seattle, on January 21, 1982. The absence of a pattern in the case prevented homicide detectives from establishing connections with the string of later deaths, and nearly two years would elapse before Leann was finally acknowledged as a "Green River" victim, in November 1983. Likewise, number two, 36-year-old Amina Agisheff, was simply a missing person when she vanished on July 7, 1982, her skeletal remains recovered and identified in April 1984.
The first "official" victim, 16-year-old Wendy Coffield, was reported missing from her foster home on July 8, 1982, her body fished out of the Green River seven days later. On August 12, 23-year-old Deborah Bonner was dragged from the water, a half-mile upstream from where Coffield was found. Three days later, the Green River yielded three more victims, including 31-year-old Marcia Chapman, 17-year-old Cynthia Hinds, and 16-year-old Opal Mills.
Detectives realized they had a problem on their hands, and it was growing by the day. Two 17-year-olds, Karen Lee and Terri Milligan, went missing in late August (with Milligan's remains identified in April 1, 1984). Debra Estes, age 15, joined the missing list on September 14, followed by 19-year-old Mary Meehan a day later. (Their skeletal remains were found in May 1988 and November 1983, respectively.) Gisele Lovvorn, age 17, became "official" victim number six when she was found September 25, two months after running away from home.
According to police, the six known dead had all been working prostitutes, but the killer also showed a taste for runaways and hitchhikers. Shawndra Summers, 17, disappeared on October 7, 1982, her remains identified by authorities in mid-August 1982. Becky Marrero, a 20-year-old friend of Debra Estes, was last seen alive on December 2, 1982. Alma Smith, 19, picked up her last "john" in Seattle on March 3, 1983; her skeletal remains were found with Terri Milligan's on April 2, 1984. Two weeks later, 16-year-old Carrie Rois vanished from Seattle, her remains discovered almost two years later, on March 10, 1985. Kimi Pitsor, 16, joined the missing list on April 28.
The killer scored a double-header on May 8, 1983, picking off 21-year-old Carol Christenson in Seattle, dumping her body near Maple Valley, and then rebounding to snatch 16-year-old Joanne Hovland, shortly after her release from juvenile detention in the town of Everett. On May 5, he killed Martina Authorlee, 18, hiding her remains well enough that they would not be found until November 1984. Yvonne Antosh, a l9-year-old from Vancouver, British Columbia, vanished in Seattle on May 30, her decomposed remains identified October 18, 1983. On June 8, Constance Naon, a 20-year-old prostitute, was reported missing, her bones recovered in October. Four days later, on June 12, the killer found 27-year-old Kimberly Reames on the Sea-Tac Strip, her body discovered the next afternoon. April Buttram, 17, left home for the last time on August 4, 1983, and she remains among the missing.
Debbie Abernathy, 26, was the first victim in September, murdered on the fifth, her skeletal remains discovered on March 31,1984. Nineteen-year-old Tracy Wilson was reported missing one week later, on September 12, and Maureen Feeney, another 19-year-old disappeared on September 29. (Her remains were found on May 3, 1986). October's victims included Kelly Ware, a 24-year-old hooker, and 25-year-old Mary Bello, from Enumclaw, Washington. (Bello's remains were discovered a year and a day after her disappearance, on October 12, 1984.)
The killer took a break that autumn, returning to business as usual on February 6, 1984, with the murder of 16-year-old Mary West, abducted en route to the neighborhood market, her skull identified in September 1985. Patricia Osborn, a l9-year-old prostitute, had been reported missing by her family on January 24, and her name made the "Green River" victims list on February 11.
And the list kept growing, as investigators searched their files on missing women. Victims added with the benefit of hindsight included: Colleen Brockman, 15; Alma Smith, 18; Sandra Gabbert, 17; Cheryl Wyms, 18; Denise Bush, 24; Shirley Sherrill, 19; Marie Malvar, 18; Tammie Liles, 16; and Kelly McGuinness, 18. By April 1984, authorities had listed 24 known dead and 13 missing in the case, with 12 new skeletons unearthed since New Year's Day. By January 1986, the list of dead had grown to 34; it rose to 40 in the spring of 1988, with new discoveries, and there were still eight women unaccounted for.
If nothing else, police drew consolation from the fact their killer had apparently "retired," with no new victims missing in the past four years. Those hopes were dashed in August 1988, with the announcement of a link between the homicides in Washington and recent deaths in San Diego, California, dating back to June of 1985. Authorities could not agree upon the latest body-count -- no less than ten; perhaps as many as 18 -- but all agreed the killer's move was "common knowledge." Be that as it may, new cases have provided no new leads or suspects, and the acknowledged slayer of some 48 to 66 women remains at large today. (See also: San Diego -- Unsolved Murders)
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