Gary Leon Ridgway confessed on 5 November 2003 to 48 murders in Seattle's King County, making him the most prolific convicted serial killer in United States history. Ridgway grew up in the Seattle area and worked as a truck painter at the time of the killings, most of which occurred in a 19-month period beginning in 1982. The victims had been strangled and their bodies dumped in ravines and near highways in the vicinity of the Green River in northwestern Washington. The so-called Green River Killer chose mostly prostitutes and runaways. Eventually law enforcement officials released a list of 49 names they believed to be victims of the same killer -- although some of those listed were missing and presumed dead. In 1984 Ridgway was identified as a suspect (he had been seen with one of the victims shortly before she disappeared), but the investigation didn't turn up any hard evidence against him. In 2001 he was arrested and charged with four counts of murder after being linked by DNA evidence from a saliva sample he had provided in 1987. In March of 2003 he was charged with 3 more murders in King County, Washington. His guilty plea in November 2003 was part of a deal that spared him the death penalty and gave him a lifelong prison term. Ridgway, who after his arrest led police to four more bodies, confessed to killing 42 of the 49 victims on the list, plus six others not on the list. The Green River Killer is also suspected of murders in Oregon and British Columbia, but Ridgway's 2003 trial did not address those crimes.
At the time of his 2003 confession, Ridgway admitted that he had never known any of his victims, that he hated prostitutes and that he killed so many women he couldn’t remember exactly how many.