With no leads and roughly 40 bodies having turned up, authorities working the Green River Killer (GRK) case were growing desperate for new insights. Ted Bundy had previously contacted the department offering his help in the investigation after he read about it in a newspaper. In 1984, detectives Dave Reichert and Robert Keppel decided to take him up on his offer. The GRK case was one of the first times authorities enlisted the assistance of one serial slayer to investigate another.
The facts about Bundy's case and his life proved useful in leading investigators to Gary Ridgway, who was eventually convicted for taking the lives of 49 women. Both slayers were excellent at hiding in plain sight - just like Bundy's long-time girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, Ridgway's wives had no conception of their husband's slaying spree. The motivations and parallels between Bundy and Ridgway bestow a fascinating glance inside the minds of two of history's most prolific serial killers.
Bundy Wrote To The Detective On The GRK Case And Offered His Help
Housed in a Florida prison, Bundy wrote to sheriff and detective Dave Reichert after he saw the man's photo in a newspaper article about the GRK. Bundy said, "Don't ask me why I believe I'm an expert in this area, just accept that I am and we'll start from there."
Nonetheless, Reichert asked Bundy why he thought he could be of use to the investigation, and Bundy replied - without explicitly admitting guilt - he was intimately familiar with the act of slaying. Of course, Bundy was an expert because he slayed over 30 women across seven states from 1974 to 1978.
Detective Reichert Drew Comparisons Between Bundy And The GRK's PersonalitiesPhoto: King County Sheriff's Office / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Detective Reichert noticed a complete lack of emotion or penitence in both Ridgway and Bundy. He said, "First off, there's no remorse... [Ridgway] doesn't have any feelings toward anybody, his family included. And that's what I saw in Bundy and what I saw in Ridgway." Reichert also said the two sought to gain attention from their wrongdoings, providing them with a sense of power and control.
The detective challenged the notion of serial slayers as cunning and intelligent - he said Ridgway and Bundy only wanted to feel dominant, so they often preyed on the vulnerable. Reichert characterizes them as pathetic figures rather than acute master manipulators, contrary to the idea that persists in the collective cultural narrative.
Bundy Envied Ridgway's Notoriety, And Helping Catch The GRK Was His Attempt To Re-Enter The Limelight
Detective Reichert said Bundy appeared jealous of the attention Ridgway received during the investigation. This theory is in line with Bundy's actions during his trial, wherein he acted as his own attorney, referred to himself in the third person ("Mr. Bundy"), and implemented other attention-grabbing ploys. Bundy understood the public was fascinated with him and would pay attention to anything he said.
After reporters Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth told Bundy they would likely write a book about him, he immediately expressed concern with its popularity. He said, "I don't care what you say as long as it sells." Similarly, Reichert noted Ridgway often tried to portray himself positively - that is, when he wasn't talking about all the women he had slain - as he believed somone would write a book about him.
Ridgway Admitted To His Slayings Because He Wanted Credit
A jury officially convicted Ridgway of 49 slayings, but he confessed to more. To avoid capital punishment, Ridgway cut a deal with prosecutors in which he confessed to his wrongdoings. He said he would only admit to the slayings he had committed because he didn't want to take credit away from another slayer: "Why [would I confess] if it isn't mine? Because I have pride in... what I do. I don't wanna take it from anybody else."
Ridgway told reporter Charlie Harger the number of lives he took was closer to 80 people, but Harger said he doubts Ridgway's claims, believing Ridgway was perhaps trying to increase the count to gain notoriety. Harger speculates the GRK simply wanted to be considered "the best at something," and upping his numbers allowed him to solidly outdo Bundy.