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.
He Grew Violent In His Teens
As a teenager, Ridgway dabbled in violent crimes. His childhood activities checked every box of the Macdonald Triad, a set of behaviors allegedly linked to psychopaths and serial killers. According to the Seattle Times, Ridgway set fires, smothered a cat, and wet the bed.
When Ridgway was 16, he approached a 6-year-old child and said, "You know, there's uh, there's people around here that, that liked to kill little boys like you," and stabbed him in the liver. The boy lived, but he never reported Ridgway.
After the attack, Ridgway allegedly said, "I always wondered what it would be like to kill someone." However, after his arrest, he told a psychologist that he never fantasized about stabbing anyone other than his mother.
He Compartmentalized His Psychopathic Nature
In seventh grade, Ridgway befriended his neighbor Gilbert Mendiola, and the two regularly walked to school together. Mendiola told The News Tribune that he didn't recall anything particularly dark happening in the Ridgway household and that Ridgway was "actually a nice guy."
He Dated Regularly
Perhaps surprisingly, Ridgway dated frequently during his teenage years. One friend from high school referred to him as a ladies' man, and said that Ridgway "never had any trouble getting a girlfriend or getting a date."
This continued until the day he was caught. He was married multiple times.
His Father Likely Sparked His Hatred Of Sex Workers
Ridgway's father was a bus driver who allegedly hated sex workers. Ridgway likely picked up on this. His hatred towards sex workers intensified over time, as did his supposed devotion to the Christian faith. Ridgway believed sex workers were committing the ultimate sin.
In his confession, he admitted, "I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex."