Case of the 'Green River Killer' examined in documentary

KING COUNTY -- It's a part of Washington state's history that continues to disturb and fascinate people all over the country decades later: the case of the Green River killer.

In the 1980s in King County, women were being picked off by the dozen, hunted by a predator capable of more violence and carnage than anyone could've imagined. In Investigation Discovery's new documentary, Green River Killer: Mind of a Monster, viewers get an inside look into the horror of the case, the complexities of the investigation, and the perplexing mind of the serial killer, Gary Ridgway.

One of the key interviews in the documentary is Patty Eakes, who was a senior deputy prosecuting attorney assigned to the case. Eakes is still haunted by the lack of emotion Ridgway showed when talking about the women he killed.

"Many of them were really young girls, they were runaways," said Eakes.

Eakes said a particularly troubling topic of conversation Ridgway casually discussed was how he continued to kill, even with his young son in the picture.

"When his son was sleeping, he'd kill women and go back and have sex with their dead bodies. He showed no emotion at all," Eakes said.

And when Ridgway did eventually show emotion, it had nothing to do with his crimes.

"I remember distinctly one of the first times he ever cried was when he talked about how he was so worried as a kid about being sent on what was called the short bus to school," said Eakes.

Eakes and detectives spent about six months with Ridgway around the clock, trying to determine how many women he'd killed and how many cases they could conclusively tie to him. In the end, he was convicted of 49 murders. Investigators know there are likely far more victims than that.

"There remain missing women. There remain women who probably will never be found. He claims other murders, and you just don't know whether or not they occurred," said Eakes.

The King County Sheriff's Office still hasn't closed the dark chapter that was the decades long hunt for the killer, despite Ridgway's capture.

"There are still open cases. We have at least three cases that remain open. We have remains that are unidentified and detectives continue to try to get leads in those cases," said Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

It's hard to say if or when detectives' work on the massive serial killer case will ever end. As it lives on through the media, Eakes says she hopes in addition to keeping the victims' memories alive, people will also realize this:

"It's important for people to understand that someone like Gary Ridgway could be existing in our society, living next door to us, going to work every never really know what's going on in people's lives really, and you have to appreciate that there can be that danger out there."

Green River Killer: Mind of a Monster is now available through Investigation Discovery.

You can also watch the special online using your TV provider login.