Wednesday, January 15, 2003


Does Northwest draw out serial killers?


Can we blame it on the rain? Do the dark green forests that blanket the land bring out the monster in a few of us?

These questions might seem frivolous if the facts were not so damning: Police continue to unfold the grisly details of three of the nation's most notorious serial-murder cases, all within a 280-mile radius of Seattle, the emerald hub of the region.

In the universe of serial killings, the Pacific Northwest, if only in public perception, may be one of its capitals.

....But even the region's defenders must have paused at the steady stream of news over the past two years. Take one 72-hour period last fall:

• On Oct. 2, Canadian authorities charged Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer Robert William Pickton with five more counts of murder, raising the number of women he is accused of killing to 15. He is a prime suspect in the disappearances of as many as 63 women in the Vancouver area. Investigators believe Pickton's victim pool will eventually spill over into Washington. A preliminary hearing in his case began this week in Port Coquitlam.

• On Oct. 3, Robert Lee Yates of Spokane was sentenced to death for the murders of two Pierce County women. Yates has confessed to 15 slayings, but investigators believe his actual victim count may be twice that high.

• On Oct. 4, the Green River Task Force announced it would spend another weekend scouring a wetland near Kent for more victims of the Green River Killer. Gary Leon Ridgway, an Auburn truck painter, has been charged with four of the 49 Green River killings.

There's no consensus on the number 49. True-crime writer Anne Rule says the Green River killer (or killers) could easily have slain another 25.

These amount to stunningly high body counts, even in the ever-expanding universe of serial killings. In any previous era, such clusters of killings discovered in such close proximity would have been considered a horror.
..."There's something about the Pacific Northwest that seems to breed serial killers. John Douglas, the famous FBI profiler, once called the region 'America's killing fields,' " he writes.

"The weather — weeks on end of dreary rain punctuated by rare, brilliant days — probably has something to do with it. Or the fact that this is where the frontier ends and America literally runs out of room."

....By contrast, a serial killer kills strangers, usually women and girls, in different locations and at different times over long periods: months, years, even decades. They tend to be white, heterosexual males with above-average intelligence. Very often they are sexual psychopaths who hunt and kill for the thrill.

A lot of them end up in or near coastal cities.

Many of what Rule calls the "old school of serial-killer watchers" ascribe to this notion that serial murderers subconsciously gravitate to the geographic extremities as a form of fleeing — fleeing from authorities, and perhaps even from something in their own psyches.

This partially explains, Rule says, why most serial killers have been captured on the edges of the continent: the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico.

Read the rest....