“Hiding the bodies was the hardest part, he complained to prosecutors. ‘I had to take them all the way out there, waste of my time and gas,’ he said. It ‘was a big burden. Took the time away from killing.’ ” –Gary Ridgeway, Green River killer. The question this blog addresses is: should this man be put to death for his crimes, or not? I am interested in your comments and thoughts, so please do leave them.
Facts of the case: Since childhood, Gary Rideway has had a fascination with hurting people and as a 15-year-old, out of the blue he stabbed a young boy in the liver. Since then Ridgeway has killed at least 48 women starting the early 1980’s, possibly more beginning in the 1970’s (he can’t specify when or how many); he has killed so many prostitutes, in fact, he cannot remember how many bodies he has hidden or where they are. Indeed, he is quoted in the Seattle Times as saying, “I killed so many women I have a hard time keeping them straight,” and in fact investigators are still not sure they have found all the bodies of his victims. He has “utilized” their skills before killing them, gaining confidence with the women by promising them various things – often higher rates than they asked. Then, after sex, he “methodically strangled them” because shooting or knives was too messy. Sometimes after he murdered and hid the bodies, he would return to copulate with the corpses. He assiduously honed his skills to the point of leaving false evidence for investigators, changing his car tires, clipping victims’ fingernails if they scratched him, and even pouring battery acid on his arm to cover fingernail cuts. Finally, he has felt quite proud of himself for going all this time uncaught: and he anticipated the day he would have the opportunity to tell the world about his exploits.
I have just listed a few of the facts that sprang out at me. I feel quite sure you can easily find more horrifying details if you so desired. The thing is, to obtain all these details, King County detectives bargained with Ridgeway’s life: namely, they allowed him to keep it in return for as much information as they could squeeze out of him. When all this came to light, families of his numerous victims had two responses: “Finally it’s over,” and “I want him to die.” The question is, what is actually the morally correct thing to do with a man as obviously evil as Ridgeway?
I am a woman, and I live in Worcester. I have a healthy respect for strange men, and a fairly high desire for self-preservation, as I would say is natural. No, I am not a prostitute, and I cannot condone prostitution. However, did those women deserve to die as they did just because of their occupation? Certainly not; after all, they desired only to earn a living somehow too. So now does Ridgeway deserve a fate similar to his victims’ despite his plea-bargain with the state? Frankly, I am divided on this issue. I abhor the idea of killing – most people do, and it is that that makes this case so terrible to us. Locking Ridegway away seems almost too nice for him, after all the suffering he has caused these women and their families.
Christians say that killing is morally wrong because a) that is destroying God’s creation, b) we are called to emulate Christ, who loved all people – especially the “worst” types of people, and c) no sin is worse than other sin. We’d all have to die therefore if we wanted to kill murderers. Hard to grasp as this may be, we believe that gossiping or stealing is equal to murdering, even like Ridgeway did. Amazingly, the Bible offers an example somewhat similar to this case: Saul “persecuted” Christians, and by persecuted the Bible doesn’t mean “bothered.” As a pharisee, he sought out and murdered Christians until he personally spoke to Jesus on the road to Tarsus; thereafter, he became Paul and went on to become a pillar of the early church. To this day the notorious Christian-killer is revered by Christians as one of the most Godly men to live as well as human author through which God revealed his Word.
Other people just say that killing is inherently bad, and that is why the death penalty should be banned from everywhere. Proponents of such a viewpoint are obligated to must say that Ridgeway ought to be allowed to live no matter what his crimes. Locking him up should punish him enough, and perhaps one day with reeducation he may turn out to be a decent human being.
All that said, the human side of me – the woman in me who feels the unfairness of those womens’ deaths (side note: here’s an amusing case of feminine solidarity) – demands that he die. He killed almost fifty women! Murdered them in the coldest of blood. I can’t claim to hold with all pacifist tenants, and if anybody ought to die for his crimes, Ridgeway is the man. Some things seem completely unpardonable, unforgiveable, worthy of nothing less than death. Is this one of those things? I do not know, and as of now he will remain imprisoned but alive. What do you think this man deserves?
– KF –