Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Listened: "Chasing the Devil" by David Reichart

Listened: Chasing the Devil: my twenty year quest to capture the Green River Killer by David Reichart, 2004 (audio), downloaded from

Quite good. I was trying to find the pub date and saw this was a finalist for an Audie in 2005. I like that the narrator, Dennis Boutsikaris, was very straightforward in his reading. Boutsikaris did not employ much emotion; he just presented the story.

One thing that Reichart really focuses on is the officers' compassion. This was a twenty year hunt and the officers were always thinking of the victims. An important point to make is that Reichart never uses a word other than prostitute. He never says whore, hooker, or anything else. No pejoratives at all. He addresses victims' circumstances but always focuses on the fact they were victims. Murder victims. Whether they had drug problems, family problems, money problems, whatever and however they got in the life did not matter. They had families and dreams and expections.

Was the investigation botched? How else and what else could they have done? Reichart was a new detective when the first bodies were discovered in and alongside the Green River. He was the lead investigator for years and at the center of the multi-jurisdictional task force. They had 40,000 tip sheets and 17,000 suspects. They talked to everyone they could on the strip. The sheriff mentions how the people they talked to often did not want to talk since they were hooking or pimping and feared legal trouble from the police. Witnesses were the homeless and drug addicts who could not remember the previous day let alone what happened to a missing hooker 30 days ago. Heck the the victims were hookers. They dealt with lots of people. People who also feared the police and possible damage to their reputations and family life.

Many of the women worked under multiple names. Unknown multiple names caused confusion in the case. Police knew "Jane" was missing and "Sue" was missing but had no clues that this was one woman using two names. The work was transient and police had trouble identifying who was missing.

Reichart addresses how important their evidence collection was in the 1980s. They collected and saved everything at the crime scenes. The cotton chewed by Ridgway for a blood type test was kept and used for DNA testing. That intense evidence work ended up solving the cases twenty years later.

Reichart and the investigation got plenty of heat from the Seattle press and a few families. Reichart's take on this was that the papers were sometimes unfair and spinning for a better story. Some families would alternately praise and condemn the investigators.

Gary Ridgway himself was a sad sack. Mumbling, small statured with a stoop, and a total liar. Catching the killer should only be part of the story. The police and family of missing women wanted answers for what happened. Ridgway signed an agreement to avoid the death penalty by clearing multiple cases. But, getting the repulsive guy to tell the truth was not easy. Reichart is still convinced Ridgway hid totems of his victims.

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