Crime

Likely Green River killer victim identified

A skull found in an Auburn ravine was identified Thursday as the remains of Rebecca "Becky" Marrero, who authorities believe was a victim of Green River killer Gary Ridgway.

Detectives with the King County Sheriff’s Office believe Marrero was “very likely” killed by Ridgway, making her the first additional victim of Ridgway found since his conviction in 2003.

Records of King County’s investigation of Ridgway state that he confessed to killing Marrero. Following are excerpts of an interview with Ridgway by Detective Randy Mullinax on Oct. 9, 2003.

“DET: I want to try to concentrate just for a moment here on Marrero.

“GR: Um-hm. (yes)

“DET: Do you recognize her face? Do you recognize this as a woman that you killed?

“GR: Uh, yeah, I’m quite sure, yes.”

Marrero last was seen Dec. 3, 1982, when she left a motel room at South 168th Street and Pacific Highway South. She was 20.

Marrero was reported missing by her mother July 20, 1984. The Green River Task Force investigated her disappearance, and she was believed to be a Green River victim, the sheriff’s office said.

Using dental records, the remains were identified Thursday by Dr. Gary Bell, a forensic specialist for the King County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

After the skull was found Tuesday, more bones were discovered Wednesday in the same area – at the bottom of a 200-foot-deep ravine off South 292nd Street.

The remains of Marie Malvar were found Sept. 28, 2003, in the same general area where Marrero’s remains were found. Malvar last was seen in 1983 at South 216th Street and Pacific Highway South. Ridgway was convicted in Malvar’s homicide.

Ridgway was arrested Nov. 30, 2001. He pleaded guilty in November 2003 to the murder of 48 women and was sentenced to 48 consecutive life prison terms. He wasn’t charged in the Marrero case, despite his confession and the strong suspicions of prosecutors and investigators. Records suggest Ridgway tried to lead investigators to Marrero’s remains without success. Without that evidence, prosecutors were not willing to include Marrero in the final list of formal charges.

Patricia Eakes, a deputy prosecutor at the time of Ridgway’s sentencing, discussed the dilemma with Mark Prothero, Ridgway’s defense attorney, on Oct. 20, 2003. A book by Prothero (“Defending Gary”) describes the conversation:

“We know he killed Keli McGinness, Patricia Osborne, and Kase Lee,” Eakes said. “But we don’t have their bodies. Rebecca Marrero, too. But we just don’t have enough corroboration.”

Marrero was listed as one of several missing women on the Green River Task Force list of 49 possible victims in the 1980s. Some of Ridgway’s alleged victims were never found. Ridgway accepted a plea agreement that saved him from execution. That agreement required him to provide “complete, truthful and candid information concerning his crimes in King County and answer all questions during interviews,” according to documents filed by King County prosecutors in 2003. The agreement required Ridgway to address not only the “official” list of victims, but any and all other crimes he might have committed.

Sheriff’s office spokesman John Urquhart said it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether Ridgway will face a new murder charge.

The prosecutor’s office said investigators “will examine all aspects of the case, including any potential involvement of Ridgway.”

“Detectives have long believed Marrero to be a victim of convicted serial killer Gary Ridgway,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement Thursday. “He was not charged for the murder of Marrero based upon the evidence available at the time.

“With the discovery of Ms. Marrero’s remains, detectives and prosecutors will now review the investigation into her disappearance and death,” the statement continued. “Prosecutors will announce the results of the review at a later date.”

Urquhart said he didn’t have an estimate of when the case would go to the prosecutor’s office. “We will also be reviewing our tapes of his interview where we asked him about Marrero to see what he told us,” Urquhart said.

The transcripts of Ridgway’s interviews, released several years ago via public disclosure, suggest that Ridgway kept the promise embodied in his plea agreement. He confessed to Marrero’s murder, and tried to recall where he had placed her remains. His memory was spotty, and he gave different possible locations at different times.

At one point in the interviews, Ridgway referred to the area where Malvar’s remains were found, and insisted that other undiscovered remains were in the same area, left there before the Malvar murder (Marrero disappeared a few months before Malvar).

An interview excerpt from Nov. 10, 2003, reveals the following:

“GR: There’s one where I took before uh, at the lower site where it was all roto..uh the the side ‘a the bank was kinda wore away. Th..she was put there first, and then Malvar was put there second. There’s gotta be two. There’s not, there’s not one. There’s no other way about it. There’s gotta be two there.

Ridgway later told another interviewer that he believed Marrero’s remains would be discovered eventually.

“There’s bodies there, but they’re it’s 20 years,” he said Dec. 12, 2003.

The sheriff’s office said Ridgway was questioned extensively in 2003 about Marrero’s disappearance. In its statement Thursday, the sheriff’s office said it does not discuss what suspects “say or don’t say” during the investigation of open cases. The transcripts disclosed to the public years ago reveal exactly what was said.

Urquhart said the sheriff’s office will continue to search for more bones in the ravine in the next week or two.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@thenewstribune.com

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 sean.robinson@thenewstribune.com

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