Kent attorney describes Green River Killer Ridgway's 'bleak existence'
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
February 11, 2011 · 10:14 AM
Gary Ridgway spends all but four hours per week in solitary confinement at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla as he serves a life sentence without parole for the murders of 48 women.
"He's by himself in a small cell with no windows and no human contact," said Kent defense attorney Mark Prothero, who represents Ridgway and recently visited him in Walla Walla. "He has four days a week where he gets one hour out by himself. He can take a shower or make collect phone calls to his brother or whoever."
Ridgway, also known as The Green River Killer because several of his first victims were found along the river, soon will get a break from that cell. He will travel from Walla Walla to Kent to appear at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in King County Superior Court at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center. He will face a first-degree aggravated murder charge for the death of Becky Marrero, a 20-year-old woman whom detectives believed was one of Ridgway's early victims.
"We expect him to be transported in a windowless van surrounded by correction officers," Prothero said.
Prothero also was part of the defense team when Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 murders in 2003. Prothero recently visited with Ridgway to discuss the latest murder charge against the serial killer whose majority of victims were prostitutes.
"He's been very clear that he's responsible for the murder and plans to plead guilty," said Prothero, who was asked by the Washington State Office of Public Defense to represent Ridgway because of his previous connection to the case.
Prothero didn't notice much difference with the man he first met eight years ago.
"Remarkably, he hasn't changed much," Prothero said. "Going back to the discussions (about the case) is like a sense of deja vu. He's adapted to his bleak existence. He's very similar to how he was in 2003."
King County prosecutors plan to have the arraignment and sentencing on the same afternoon so officials will not have to transport Ridgway more than once to court. Prosecutors will seek another life sentence against Ridgway.
"We anticipate a plea and sentencing and Marrero's family will have an opportunity to speak at the sentencing," said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in an e-mail.
Marrero's remains were found in December by three teenagers exploring a steep ravine near Auburn.
"The Marreros have the right to face the man who killed Becky and the opportunity to remind us all about what was taken from them," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said at Monday press conference. "They finally have answers and with these charges and the anticipated guilty plea, they will have obtained the truth, accountability, and they will have achieved a degree of justice for Becky Marrero."
The plea agreement between Ridgway and prosecutors in 2003 allowed him to avoid the death penalty. But the agreement required Ridgway to plead guilty to the original seven charged counts and any and all future cases where his confession could be corroborated by reliable facts revealed by the investigation, according to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Ridgway also led King County Sheriff's Office investigators to numerous sites to help them find remains of his victims.
If Ridgway pleads not guilty Feb. 18, he could jeopardize the earlier plea agreement and could face the death penalty, according to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Ridgway confessed in 2003 to killing Marrero, but was unable to provide details of the crime. Prosecutors determined that there were not sufficient supporting facts to warrant a charge at that time. Marrero was last seen in 1982 when she left a motel room at South 168th and Pacific Highway South.
Prosectors filed the murder charge against Ridgway after the discovery of Marrero's remains.
"This was something that we didn't rule out at the time that this could happen," Prothero said of the 49th murder charge against his client. "It's a good thing because the family (now) knows the answers for sure."
Prothero said Ridgway might face more murder charges if remains of other victims are found. Ridgway led investigators to about 20 other sites, in addition to the 48 murders prosecutors charged him with.
"There are other victims' remains that have not been located," he said. "The sad fact is nature may have hidden the bones forever. Or like the Marrero case, maybe someone stumbles across them."
As for Ridgway's court date in Kent, Prothero expects the arraignment, plea and sentencing to go smoothly.
"Once it's done, it will back to the van and his cell," Prothero said.Contact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at email@example.com or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.