On Monday, a sheriff's office in Washington announced it had identified another set of human remains in a serial killer case involving at least 49 murders — this time a 14-year-old from Denver. She is the killer's youngest identified victim to date.
In partnership with the DNA Doe Project, the King County Sheriff’s Office, based in Seattle, Washington, said the remains, which were found in area near present-day Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on March 21, 1984, were identified as Wendy Stephens, 14, of Denver. She ran away from her Denver home in 1983 and was reported missing, according to the sheriff's office.
She was identified as a victim of the serial killer Gary Leon Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer.
Authorities said in 2013 that Ridgway may have killed as many as 80 people, including many underage runaways. He was arrested on Nov. 30, 2001 after advances in DNA technology helped authorities link him to samples on some of the found bodies, according to the Associated Press. He pleaded guilty to 48 murders in 2003, and then a 49th murder in 2011.
Many of the bodies were found, sometimes with Ridgway's help, around the Green River. This earned him the nickname the "Green River Killer." As of Monday, three bodies have not been identified.
Ridgway is serving a life sentence in a prison in Washington. When he was sentenced in 2003, he tearfully said "I'm sorry for the scare I put into the community. I have tried for a long time to keep from killing any ladies," according to the Associated Press.
The King County Sheriff’s Office first reached out to the DNA Doe Project about the case involving Stephens in August 2019. In April 2020, Astrea Forensics examined bone samples for DNA extraction and by June, the DNA was shipped to HudsonAlpha Discovery for sequencing. The results were then uploaded to GEDmatch on Sept. 4, 2020.
The DNA Doe Project was able to upload the DNA data of Stephens's parents to FamilyTreeDNA and connected them to Stephens. The sheriff's office major crimes unit was notified on Sept. 27, 2020.