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Skull found in Auburn ravine identified as possible victim of Green River Killer

Rebecca “Becky” Marrero was last seen on Dec. 3, 1982. A skull found in an Auburn ravine on Tuesday was positively identified as Marrero, a possible victim of the Green River Killer.   - Courtesy photo
Rebecca “Becky” Marrero was last seen on Dec. 3, 1982. A skull found in an Auburn ravine on Tuesday was positively identified as Marrero, a possible victim of the Green River Killer.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A forensic odontologist has positively identified a skull found in an Auburn ravine on Tuesday as Rebecca “Becky” Marrero, a likely victim of Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, detectives say.

Dr. Gary Bell, who performs forensic odontology for the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, made the identification.

Marrero, 20 at the time, was last seen on Dec. 3, 1982 when she left a motel room at South 168th and Pacific Highway South. She had left her 3 year-old daughter with her grandmother and was only to be gone a short while. Her family never heard from her again. Her mother reported her missing to the Sheriff's Office on July 20, 1984.

The Green River Task Force investigated her disappearance. Detectives have long believed Marrero to be a victim of Ridgway. Marrero was listed as one of several missing women on the original Green River Taskforce list of 49 possible victims in the 1980s.

King County deputies arrested Ridgway on Nov. 30, 2001 at his place of employment, Kenworth Truck Co., in Renton. Two years later, he pleaded guilty to the murder of 48 women and was sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms. Prosecutors did not charge him in the Marrero case.

The remains of Marie Malvar were found Sept. 28, 2003 in the same general area where Marrero was found. Malvar was last seen in 1983 at South 216th and Pacific Highway South. Ridgway was convicted in the Malvar homicide and was questioned extensively in 2003 about Marrero’s disappearance. The Sheriff's Office, however, says policy does not allow it to discuss what suspects say or don’t say during the investigation of open cases.

Three teenagers playing in a steep, wooded ravine on Auburn's West Hill Tuesday afternoon spotted the moss-covered skull under a log and notified police. Once the Auburn Police Department confirmed that the remains were human, it turned the investigation over to the more-resource-rich King County Sheriff’s Office.

King County Sgt. Anthony McNabb, who was at the find-site in the 6300 block of South 296th Wednesday morning with crime scene investigators, said the team found the skull and the maxilla or upper jaw.

"It was a complete skull. We also found about five vertebrae, which are most likely human. The skull was lying at the surface level with trash on top of it. We can't tell how long it has been there, a couple years at least," McNabb said.

Investigators found several long bones, too. At that time, however, they couldn't determine the sex of the victim or the manner or cause of death.

"We don't know if what we found was a pelvic (bone)," McNabb said. "It could have been a scapula."

McNabb said that in the case of reported missing persons whose dental records are on file, identification sometimes takes only an hour.

Eight detectives from the King County Major Crimes Unit worked the scene Wednesday, and two members of King County's Major Accident Response and Reconstruction Unit (MARR) plotted the site. The team included one photographer, two Auburn detectives and searchers from the police agencies.

McNabb commented on the rugged terrain at the site.

"You know where you see those road signs that say 'Steep grade 10 percent?' Well, they don't look anything like this. It's extremely steep on the way down there."

Police closed the road at 37th Street Northwest at West Valley Highway up the hill to 65th Avenue and reopened it at 2 p.m. Wednesday, when the team finished its work.

With the discovery of Marrero's remains, detectives and prosecutors will now review the investigation into her disappearance and death, Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's office said Thursday.

In 2001, prosecutors charged Ridgway with the aggravated murder of four young women who were thought to be early victims of the Green River Killer. After prosecutors and detectives exhausted their investigative leads on more than four dozen unsolved murder cases, Ridgway was charged with three additional counts of murder, for a total of seven homicides.

In a subsequent plea agreement, Ridgway agreed to confess to every murder he committed in King County. In exchange for his confession and for leading investigators to the remains of missing women, Ridgway did not face the death penalty. He eventually led investigators to the remains of four missing women. Marrero's remains were not among them. Ridgway ultimately entered guilty pleas to a total of 48 counts of murder. He was not charged for the murder of Marrero based upon the evidence available at the time.

Investigators will examine all aspects of the case including any potential involvement of Ridgway. Prosecutors will announce the results of the review at a later date.

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