Unspeakable Times
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Inside Gary Ridgway's Childhood

Updated October 3, 2018 13.3k views12 items

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Gary Ridgway is believed to have murdered more than 70 female sex workers. By the time authorities arrested him in the early 2000s, there was only enough evidence to convict him of murdering 49 women, and many people rightfully wanted to know what inspired him to commit such violent acts. A look at Ridgway's childhood provides insight into the serial killer, but his young life was full of contradictions. While the prerequisite bed-wetting and violence were there, Ridgway also had lots of friends and was even considered a "ladies man." 

Although many of the following stories don’t involve Ridgway violently acting out, they demonstrate how he adopted the Green River Killer persona early on in life. As the wallflower child of overbearing parents, he crafted a quiet persona that helped him avoid arrest for decades. 

  • Photo: Em Cecile / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    His Parents Fought Constantly

    Ridgway's home life was reportedly tumultuous. He watched his parents' violent fights time and again. At one point, he even saw his mother smash a plate over his father's head.

  • Photo: Architectsea / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

    He Was A Poor Student

    Like many serial killers, Ridgway was a below-average student. He reportedly had an IQ of 82 and also struggled with learning disabilities like dyslexia. As a result, he was held back two grades, graduating in 1969.

    His former teachers and football coaches don't remember much about him. After Ridgway's arrest, David Alfred, a biology teacher and football coach at his high school, had trouble recalling what Ridgway looked like: "The picture I keep getting in my mind is of a somewhat smallish kid - 5 feet 7 or 5 feet 8, 145 pounds, with wispy hair. Nondescript."

  • His Parents Believed In Harsh Discipline

    When Ridgway's parents weren't fighting with each other, they were allegedly taking their sons to task over minor infractions. Friends and neighbors recall Ridgway's parents being strict with their boys. Their mother screamed at them while their father dished out physical violence.

    One neighbor told The News Tribune, "I could sit up in my treehouse and look in their yard. All I'd hear were cries of 'No, Dad, no,' as they were getting beaten with a belt or a stick or whatever."

  • There Were No Snacks In The Ridgway Household

    The Ridgway house had a few strict rules. One guideline that received some push-back was his mother's strict ban on after-school snacks. A friend of Ridgway's from the old neighborhood recalled that "a slice of bread after school was not allowed."

    The same friend also remembered sneaking a jar of canned vegetables out of the Ridgway pantry, only for the parents to punish their children for snacking.