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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Green River Killer Sentenced

Aired December 18, 2003 - 14:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live now to Seattle, Washington. The courtroom where Gary Ridgway, the confessed killer of literally dozens of people in the Seattle area is now speaking before the judge and before many of the victims families.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GARY RIDGWAY, GREEN RIVER KILLER: ... my son, my brothers, and my family through this hell. I hope that they can find a way -- to forgive me. I hope that they can find a way to forgive me.

I'm very sorry for the ladies that were not found, may they rest in peace. They need a better place then where I gave them. I'm sorry for killing these ladies. They had their whole lives ahead of themselves -- ahead of them. I'm sorry for causing so much pain to so many families.

JUDGE RICHARD JONES, KING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: Mr. Ridgway, please leave your letter with the court clerk. Please leave your letter with the court clerk.

Does that complete the presentation on behalf of Mr. Ridgway? Mr. Ridgway, the time has come for the final chapter of your reign of terror in our community. Today has been a long time coming for the brutal murders that you committed.

An English poet over 100 years ago by the name of John Dryden once wrote, "Murder may pass unpunished for a time, but tardy justice will overtake the time."

Today, Mr. Ridgway, is a day of justice for all the young women that you murdered. It is now time for our community to have peace from the Green River murders.

Now, normal protocol would dictate I sentence you and address the victim family members at the end. But I'm not going to follow that process. I'm going to address the victim family members first. I do this out of my deep respect for the pain they have endured and the loss they have experienced.

To the victim family members and friends, sentencing can of this type seem quite impersonal. If I had my choice, I'd take the time and spend with each and every family and hear from you and hear your grief and share your pain. But under the circumstances, I must speak to you as a whole. And before I begin, Mr. Umbresio (ph), you had it correct, we do need to take a moment of silence in this courtroom, in the city of Seattle, and all of King County, for every person across this country that has a chance to hear this broadcast, we need to stop and pause.

And I ask this moment of silence in honor of all the young women who were victims in this case, who cannot speak for themselves. And ask for the next 48 seconds, that we look in our hearts and souls and see ways to remedy this so it doesn't happen again in our lifetimes.

Thank you. Your silence speaks volumes.

I want each family member and friend of the victims to know that I thought long and hard about what words I can possibly share with you at this time. I know you probably have been told by scores of people that this sentencing will bring closure and to some degree, that probably is true.

But I know as you walk out of this courtroom at the end of the day, and after Mr. Ridgway's been sentenced and gone, I know that your heart will still be heavy with sorrow.

I think Joe Lesley (ph) said it better in the letter for Miss Childers (ph), the victim in count 16. "There is a hole in my heart, a vacancy that only my child can occupy. The emptiness is deep and it hurts."

Joe Lesley and every victim family member, please know that justice will be served today.

For the past 20 years, each of the young women who has died has been grouped, labeled, and characterized as if the circumstances of their death was representative of their entire existence.

I ask every family member, friend, and every member of our community to eliminate such stigma. I ask you to remember those 48 young women as people who had unexplored dreams, hopes, aspirations, and families who loved them deeply. Hold on to those memories, cherish those memories, and try to abandon the others.

If you have moments of grief -- and I know that you will, I encourage you not to waste those on thoughts of revenge, hatred or harm to Mr. Ridgway. Hatred and revenge are wasted emotion. Someone once said that hatred is like burning down your house to rid of a rat.

Rather than dwelling on such thoughts, I encourage you to remember your loved ones in other ways. As you walk out of this courthouse, you don't have to go far. Throughout this community there are hundreds of young women right now in our community that don't have people such as yourselves that love them deeply.

Find them. Seek them out. Know that for each minute you spend with that young woman, encouraging them, helping to achieve greatness, you're putting a smile on the face of your loved one. In this way, you give their life true meaning and dignity. I'll close my comments to the victim family members and friends. By sharing with you the words from a sympathy card that I received when my brother passed, and it read -- and it reads, "May the love of your guide give you peace. May the love of your friends give you comfort. May the love of your dear one remain in your heart and give you strength through the difficult days ahead."

And now, Mr. Ridgway, you have my undivided attention. I read as much as possible about you as this case progressed. The remarkable thing about you, sir, is your remarkable Teflon-coated emotions and complete absence of genuine compassion for the young women that you murdered.

I don't need to remind you of the calloused indifference you exhibited in your lifestyle for the past 20 years, or even in the statements that you provided to the prosecutors and investigators. In looking at your life it comes as no surprise that you had such little disregard for the lives of your victims.

You violated the sanctity of every relationship in your life, including your own son. When he was of a tender age, you even used his existence and presence as a means to gain the confidence of your victims. There's nothing in your life that was of significance, other than your own demented, calculating, lustful passion of being the emissary of death.

I mention your family, Mr. Ridgway, because they, too, were innocent victims. You used them to create the facade of being an average, hard-working family man in the community. Your family supported you and believed in you. And, sir, you deceived them greatly.

Mr. Ridgway, I trust your lawyers have shared with you the letters written by the victim families. I hope you read those letters and I hope you heard the message of their families, as they poured out their emotions then and today, describing the young victims as real persons, real persons who were loved, and had lives in front of them.

Yes, Mr. Ridgway, remember them as portrayed by their families and not the faceless bodies that you didn't have the courage to face when you were grisly bringing about their deaths.

And, Mr. Ridgway, I want you to do one more thing in this courtroom. I want you to turn around and just scan the audience right now. Mr. Ridgway, those are the family and the friends of the people you killed. As you spend the balance of your life in your cell in prison, much of which will probably be in solitary confinement, I truly hope (AUDIO GAP) of the free world are the faces of the people in this courtroom.

As you spend the balance of your life in that tiny cell, surrounded only by your thoughts, please know the women you killed were not throwaways or pieces of candy in a dish placed upon this planet for the sole purpose of satisfying your murderous desires.

While you could not face them as you took their lives, if you have a drop of emotion, anywhere in your existence, you will face those young women in your dreams and private thoughts of your grisly deeds. And, sir if you have that drop of emotion, you will be haunted for the balance of your life.

Counsel for the state, please step forward. For count one, for the death of Wendy Coughfield (ph), the court imposes life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Deborah Bonnar (ph), the charge of count two, the court imposes life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Marsha Chapman (ph), as charged in count three, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Cynthia Hines (ph), as charged in count four, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Opal Mills (ph), as charged in count five, life imprisonment, without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Deborah Estes (ph), life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Carol Christiansen (ph), life imprisonment, without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Gissell Lavorne (ph), as charged in count eight, life imprisonment with the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Carrie Milligan (ph), life imprisonment with the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Alma Smith (ph), life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Delores Williams life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Delores Williams, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Gail Matthews, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Sandra Gabbert, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Carrie Rois, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Mary Meehan, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Andrea Childers, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Constance Naon, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Kelly Ware, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Linda Rule, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Denise Bush, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000.

For the death of Shirley Sherrill, life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole and a fine of $10,000. For the death of Shawnda Summers...

O'BRIEN: We've been listening to Judge Richard Jones, King County Superior Court judge, perhaps the most eloquent statement from the bench that I've heard in my lifetime, as he reads the names individually of all 48 victims of Gary Leon Ridgway and imposes the sentence of life without the possibility of parole on him.

We'll just hearken back for just a moment to what he had to say, including 48 seconds of silence for all of us to consider the fates of those young women, the victims of Gary Leon Ridgway, the so-called Green River killer, over the course of two decades, murdered those people and confessed to that fact, telling those families that hatred and revenge are wasted emotions, strong words from bench today, Judge Richard Jones, in the sentencing of the most notorious serial killer in U.S. history.

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