Authorities identify 36-year-old remains of Green River Killer’s youngest victim
Infamous Pacific Northwest serial killer Gary Ridgway — known more widely as the Green River Killer — confessed to murdering 48 women in 2003, four of whom had remained unidentified to this day. As of Monday, one of those four has now been successfully identified.
This comes as a result of work from the King County Sheriff’s Office, forensic anthropologist Dr. Katherine Taylor, the DNA Doe Project, and others. Together, they were able to identify the victim as Wendy Stephens.
Stephens reportedly ran away from her Denver home when she was just 14 years old in 1983. Her remains were discovered a year later in SeaTac. According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, she “is believed to be Ridgway’s youngest victim.”
Authorities and forensic experts were finally able to identify Stephens after all these years due to “the latest in emerging DNA and genealogical technologies.”
“Cases once thought unsolvable are now within reach thanks to this pioneering work,” the King County Sheriff’s Office said in a Monday news release. “It is our hope today’s development brings those who love Wendy one step closer to healing.”
“Our experienced detectives continue to work on the Green River serial murders and roughly 300 unsolved cold cases to identify victims, hold perpetrators accountable and provide these grieving families with answers,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht.
The DNA Doe Project is a volunteer organization that works with local agencies and medical examiners, “helping them solve their most intractable cases.” The group uses genetic genealogy to help solve cold cases across the U.S., using money from outside donors.
Ridgway is currently serving a life sentence without parole in Walla Walla’s Washington State Penitentiary. He was spared the death penalty after agreeing to tell authorities the locations of still-missing women he had killed.