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Who is the infamous Green River Killer?

Evidence was found in Stevens’ home

Evidence was found in Stevens’ home

It was one of the largest serial murder cases in U.S. history. Two years, 48 victims, and all young women.  Most of them were prostitutes who operated along the Sea-Tac Strip near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport.  Nearly all of them were strangled and dumped in a remote area. Thousands of leads were investigated. Hundreds of suspects interrogated. One suspect stood out—William J. Stevens. Bill Stevens was a petty thief, in and out of trouble with the law for most of his life.  In 1981, he simply walked away from a minimum-security facility where he was serving time for burglary.

Over the next eight years, Stevens avoided arrest, dividing his time in the cities of Seattle, Spokane, and Portland. According to Roderick Thorp, an author who has written extensively on the Green River murders, Stevens was an alienated individual who never held a job:

“He fit all the FBI profiles of serial killers.  His poor relationships with women, a mother who throttled his personality in development.  He was raging to his friends about how the prostitutes of the Sea-Tac Strip were spreading the AIDS epidemic.”

Bob Stevens, Bill’s adopted brother, claimed his brother told several people how he wanted to murder women:

“He wanted to torture them.  He wanted to cut them up, dissect them. He wanted to fill them with rocks.  He wanted to fill them with concrete.  And he… still put all of this on tape.  He thought that would be neat.”

Victims of the Green River Killer

Victims of the Green River Killer

Acting on several tips, police searched the house in Spokane where Stevens lived with his parents. They uncovered a cache of guns and police badges. They also found dozens of Polaroids of nude women, most of them prostitutes.  In another room, police discovered dozens of pornographic tapes and fraudulent credit card receipts from 1981 to 1989, the years of the Green River killings.  Investigators later searched a second house in Portland, where Stevens had lived until 1985.  According to Roderick Thorp, the basement held a secret room which could only be accessed by using a garage door opener:

“The secret room first came to the attention of a neighbor, who lived outside Portland at the same time Stevens did.  He invited her in to see this room, and, in the room, as I remember it, there was a bed, and on the bed was a mannequin.  A store dummy, that was dressed in women’s underwear, and was struck in an obscene pose. 

In January of 1989, Bill Stevens was arrested and charged with felony escape and a series of weapons violations. That summer, Stevens was also publicly named as a prime suspect in the Green River killings.  But within months, authorities had cleared Stevens, based on an alibi provided by his younger brother, Bob:

“I visited him in the King County Jail before he was transferred back to Spokane.  And he mentioned that he couldn’t have done the killings because he was on a trip in Connecticut, visiting me in 1982, when the killings first happened.”

Was William Stevens the killer?

Was William Stevens the killer?

After the 1982 visit, Bill Stevens then joined his parents on a cross-country trip.  Bob produced receipts which seemed to prove that his brother was still traveling with their parents when the first five victims were murdered. However, Bob now believes that his brother got away with murder—at least 48 times.  It was a surprising twist for Bob, the very person who provided his brother with an alibi:

“I really believe my brother is the Green River Killer. The police had the killer behind bars in 1989, and I helped get a killer away free.”

Bob Stevens now questions whether his brother was, in fact, with their parents when the first five murders were committed:

“My dad had told me that my brother didn’t always leave with them, he would always just… join them somewhere. Just appear on their trip.  And then leave again.  That was his way of providing a paper trail. He used my parents as his alibi.”

However, authorities did not re-interview William Stevens for the Green River murders. Roderick Thorp believed this was the case because Stevens was a police informant:

“The police are involved in misdirection here, because they don’t want the public looking too closely at the various roles Stevens played in his life.  Police are only as good as the information they get from people who live as Stevens did, on the edge of society. A guy like Stevens is constantly giving them information about more serious criminals, but at the same time he was indulging in his own little sport there, which was the murder of young girls.”

Bill Stevens died of cancer in 1991, but critics of the investigation still insist that he could have been the serial killer. Roderick Thorp even proposed a theory that suggested others may have been involved:

“It seems very clear that Stevens did not work alone.  Stevens’ phone bills were in the possession of the police and one of the detectives told me that they were puzzled about hours and hours of long-distance calls to a certain number.  What were they talking about? There have been killings since that are Green River type killing, suggesting that the person who was Stevens’ accomplice has continued.”

Update:

Gary Ridgway, an early suspect in the Green River killings, has been arrested. A lab matched his DNA to evidence found with a number of the victims.  Ridgway eventually pled guilty to murdering 48 women. In exchange for the plea, he was given life without the possibility of parole. Despite the evidence, Bob Stevens still insists his brother, Bill, was somehow involved with the Green River killings.