14-year-old victim of Green River killer identified

The remains of Wendy Stephens were found in 1984

Wendy Stephens. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Sheriff’s Office

Wendy Stephens. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Sheriff’s Office

The King County Sheriff’s Office has identified another victim of the notorious Green River killer Gary Ridgway.

Wendy Stephens, 14, was one of four victims who had remained unidentified, according to a Jan. 25 Sheriff’s Office press release. Ridgway has been convicted of 49 murders, including Stephens (known as “Jane Doe” in court documents), but by his own estimates, the murder total is closer to 70.

Stephens ran away from her Denver, Colorado, home in 1983. Her remains were discovered in 1984 at what was then known as the Highline baseball field, just west of the intersection of 16th Avenue South and South 146th Street.

That area has since been incorporated as part of the city of SeaTac. She is believed to be Ridgway’s youngest victim.

The Sheriff’s Office, working in conjunction with forensic anthropologist Dr. Katherine Taylor, the DNA Doe Project and other scientists, positively identified Stephens.

“Today’s (Monday) development is a testament to the tireless efforts of detectives, scientists and other professionals who employed the latest in emerging DNA and genealogical technologies in Wendy’s disappearance,” according to the Sheriff’s Office statement. “Cases once thought unsolvable are now within reach thanks to this pioneering work.

“Every person, in the words of Dr. Taylor, needs their name. Wendy again has hers thanks to the collaborative efforts of this investigative team. It is our hope today’s development brings those who love Wendy one step closer to healing.”

In 2001, DNA profiling technology linked Ridgway to the murder of four women, which led to his arrest by the Green River killer task force of the Sheriff’s Office.

“Our experienced detectives continue to work on the Green River serial murders and roughly 300 unsolved cold cases to identify victims, hold perpetrators accountable and provide these grieving families with answers,” King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said in a statement.

Ridgway lived in Auburn and worked in Renton at the Kenworth Truck Co. when detectives arrested him for investigation of murder. The body of one of his first victims was found in 1982 along the banks of the Green River in Kent.

Ridgway, 71, is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

A plea agreement between Ridgway and King County prosecutors in 2003 allowed him to avoid the death penalty. The agreement required Ridgway to plead guilty to the original seven charged counts as well as any and all future cases where his confession could be corroborated by reliable facts revealed by the investigation, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

As part of the agreement, Ridgway led Sheriff’s Office investigators to numerous sites to help them find remains of his victims.

“Ridgway’s murderous spree left a trail of profound grief for so many families of murdered and missing women,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a Jan. 25 statement. “His crimes left an impact on our community that continues today.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Gary Ridgway. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter

Gary Ridgway. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter

More in Northwest

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

In a zipper merge, cars continue in their lanes and then take turns at the point where the lanes meet. (Koenb via Wikimedia Commons)
Do Washington drivers need to learn the zipper merge?

Legislators propose requiring zipper merge instruction in drivers education and in license test.

Stock photo
New state modeling report explores options for safer return to in-person learning

Explores how to minimize COVID-19 introductions in schools

A South King Fire & Rescue firefighter places a used test swab into a secure COVID test vial on Nov. 18, 2020, at a Federal Way testing site. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Masks are still king in combating new COVID strains

A top UW doctor talks new strains, masks and when normal could return.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democrats look to allow noncitizens to serve on school boards

A Senate bill takes aim at a state law requiring anyone seeking elected office to be a citizen.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State health leader: We have a plan, we don’t have the supply

Two months after the COVID vaccine landed in Washington, many still struggle to secure their shots.

An Island Park Elementary teacher and her students hit the books on Feb. 8 in the Mercer Island School District. The single largest amount of Gov. Jay Inslee’s newly announce relief package, $668 million, will go to public elementary and secondary schools to prepare for reopening for some in-person learning and to address students’ learning loss. Courtesy photo
Inslee signs $2.2 billion COVID relief package

The federal funds will go to fight COVID, aid renters and reopen shuttered schools and businesses.

Most Read