A 14-year-old girl who ran away from her Denver home has been identified as the youngest known victim of the infamous Green River Killer.
Wendy Stephens disappeared in 1983. Her skeletal remains were discovered the following year near a baseball field outside Seattle. For decades, she was known only as "Bones 10" to forensic investigators on the trail of Gary Ridgway, the notorious serial killer who terrorized the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s.
Since 2003, Ridgway has pleaded guilty to killing 49 women and girls. Four of them, including Stephens, had not been identified, according to The Associated Press.
Researchers at the DNA Doe Project, a volunteer group that scours public DNA databases to find relatives of unidentified victims, helped the King County Sheriff's office put a name to the girl's remains.
“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 statement Monday. “We are thankful that Wendy Stephens’ family will now have answers to their enormous loss suffered nearly 40 years ago.”
Now 71, Ridgway eluded authorities for decades, even though he was a main suspect. In 2001, after DNA testing became more readily available, he was arrested on suspicion of murdering four women. Two years later, he entered into a plea agreement that spared him the death penalty.
In exchange, he helped investigators locate the remains of his other victims. He had killed so many women and girls, he told authorities, he had lost track of the number.
The relatives of Stephens declined to speak to journalists and requested privacy, the sheriff's office said.
Ridgway will spend the rest of his life at Washington State Penitentiary.