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But late that Sunday evening in August '82, as Reichert stood on the bank of the Green River discussing the case with colleagues, he had no idea how long the case would last. Reichert was 31 years old then, and during his three years in homicide he had dealt mostly with domestic fights or failed robberies. Chapman's waving hand was beckoning him into a different world, one of pimps, drugs, $20 prostitutes--and a predator who was picking up these women and killing them in secluded sites in the surrounding dark forest, thick with undergrowth, dripping with rain.
BLOOD ON THE STRIP
Ridgway came to this world in all weather. He was a frequent customer of the prostitutes on the strip, a section of the Pacific Highway from South 139th Street to South 272nd Street that ran along the airport south of Seattle for about eight miles. The strip was lined with bars, strip clubs and motels that book rooms by the hour. In the early '80s the area drew a steady stream of Alaskan oilmen, off-duty sailors and local men in search of fleeting assignations. The women would stand out on the street waiting for customers, and during Seattle's frequent downpours, would take cover in bus shelters or convenience stores.
Ridgway often drove along the strip on his way to and from work. He would cruise slowly by single women, and was in the habit of parking in the lot at Larry's Market on 144th Street or the 7-Eleven at 142nd Street, where he could scan the street. Leading off the strip was a network of small streets. Many of its houses had been abandoned when SeaTac Airport expanded its flight path directly overhead, and this is where the girls liked to turn their tricks. The passing planes muffled any sounds, and the streets were mostly deserted. The few residents who had not moved out complained about the prostitutes and their clients parking curbside at night and the condoms and needles that were found on the road the next day.
In May 1982 Ridgway was arrested for soliciting a "John patrol," a female police officer posing as a prostitute. And on Feb. 23, 1983, Ridgway picked up Keli McGinness, 17, from the strip and took her to a ballpark behind Sunset Junior High School on South 140th Street, where their liaison was disturbed by a police patrol. Four months later, McGinness disappeared after someone picked her up on the strip. Two months after that, police found the first of three bodies that had been dumped in blackberry bushes behind the school's ballpark. McGinness' body has never been found.
But with hundreds of prostitutes, thousands of customers and the furtive nature of the business they transact, Reichert's men had difficulty even drawing up a list of potential suspects. The strip was slow to yield up its secrets.
SCARS, PART I