In memory of all the lost and murdered young women who fell victim to the Green River Killer, with my profound regret that they never had the chance to make the new start so many of them hoped to achieve – Ann Rule, author of ‘Green River, Running Red’
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, in the Seattle and Tacoma areas of Washington, fear walked alongside the night owls and hustlers as the bodies of numerous young women were found in or near the Green River in south King County. As the the landslide of human loss steadily accelerated, police — even those who normally hesitated to cooperate with neighboring jurisdictions — quickly noticed a horrific pattern appearing in instances that were previously considered simply isolated tragedies.
The murderer dubbed the Green River Killer was eventually identified as Gary Leon Ridgway, a boring little man of meager intelligence, whose presence was so painfully average and unremarkable he was able to lure, torture, and kill dozens of young women without anyone noticing or even suspecting him. Ridgway targeted the desperate and the vulnerable, primarily sex workers or runaways, because he thought nobody would notice their absences and because he “hated them,” later stating in interviews that he wanted to “…kill as many prostitutes as possible.” But he would occasionally venture away from his M.O. to target victims of opportunity (women walking home, hitchhiking, etc.).
Ridgway was eventually captured and convicted of his 49 confirmed victims, but he would later go on to confess to upwards of 80 murders. 49 young women with their own hopes, dreams and goals, sniffed out far too soon all because some monster dubbed them disposable for their “high risk lifestyles.” Rather than give any more attention to Ridgway (and his seemingly endless slew of mommy issues), let’s flip the script and shine a spotlight on the lives he stole, focusing on how they lived rather than how they died.
See Also: The Forgotten Victims and Never-ending Myth of Ted Bundy
Martina Theresa Authorlee
Martina Authorlee was 18 years old when she was last seen alive on May 15th, 1983. Born in Fuerth, West Germany, while her father was stationed there in the US Army. In 1968 the family returned to the States and settled in Washington. Martina went to Bethel high school and joined the Army National Guard while still in high school. She was medically discharged before her 6 week training was up. Martina enjoyed roller skating, basketball, baseball and loved swimming.
Cheryl Lee Wims
Cheryl Wims was the youngest of four children and her mother, Ruth, was a nurse. This would not be the last tragedy Ruth would have to live through. Years after Cheryl’s disappearance her sister Deborah, a sex worker, disappeared under eerily similar circumstances in 1990 though she was not a victim of the Green River Killer. While Cheryl did have a drug problem, her mother couldn’t picture her youngest daughter involved in sex work. The worst problem her mother ever had with Cheryl was that she was missing too much school. A former boss of hers at a downtown restaurant described Cheryl Wims as “quiet, conservative and conscientious.” She was last seen alive on May 23rd, 1983; her 19th birthday.
Yvonne “Shelly” Antosh
Little is known or can be found about 19 year old Yvonne “Shelly” Antosh. She had come to Seattle from British Columbia and was staying in a motel with a childhood friend. She was last seen in May 1983 at the Ben Carol Motel.
Carrie Ann Rois
By 1983 Carrie Rois had lived in multiple group homes. After informing a social worker that her step father was sexually abusing her, Carrie tried living with her birth father but they didn’t get along. Even though her mother left her abusive husband, Carrie refused to go home, though she visited for Christmas 1982. The 15 year old was reported to have got along well with others. She had a history of prostitution. Carrie had a lot of friends, dreams of becoming a model, idolized actress Brooke Shields and played the flute in her school marching band. Carrie disappeared without a trace sometime in June 1983.
Constance Elizabeth Naon
Constance Naon’s boyfriend last heard from her on June 8th, 1983. She informed him that she was going to pick up her check at her job at a sausage factory and would see him in twenty minutes. She was never seen nor heard from again. Constance was last seen leaving a friends house. Her car was later found parked on S188th St. and Pacific Highway South. She was just trying to make it on her own. She was only 20 years old.
Kelly Marie Ware
There is also little that can be found about 22 year old Kelly Marie Ware. Kelly was last seen on July 18th, 1983, in the Central District of Seattle.
Tina Marie Thompson
21 year old Tina Marie Thompson’s birthday has been lost to time. When authorities contacted her family, they disclosed they hadn’t seen or heard from her in at least four years. Tina was last seen on July 25th, 1983, near S144th St. and Pacific Highway South.
April Dawn Buttram
April Buttram’s story was an all too familiar one. Seemingly overnight April changed from an obedient child to a rowdy teenager who quit school, experimented with drugs and alcohol and wanted to party all the time. She seemed eager to leave Spokane since her family moved there, so eager that she wouldn’t wait for her 18th birthday; the age she would be allowed to collect a $10,000 trust fund a relative set up for her. One night during the summer of 1983, April was planning to catch a ride to Seattle with two friends. “One night,” April’s mother recalled of that evening. “I caught her crawling out of the window, carrying a suitcase. I gave up. I just told her, ‘At least have the guts to go out the front door.’ And she did. And she never came back.” The last accurate sighting of April was in the Rainer Valley in southeast Seattle sometime in August of 1983. She was still 17 and was definitely planning on returning to Spokane, 300 miles away, to withdraw her trust fund money.
Debbie May Abernathy
26 year old Debora Abernathy arrived in Seattle just weeks prior to her disappearance on September 5th, 1983. She had come along a circuitous route from Waco, Texas with her boyfriend and 3 year old son. The family was soon out of money and were living with a kind hearted couple they met at a down-and-out family store, just until they could “get on their feet”. Debora was last seen at 8th Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle.
Tracy Ann Winston
The evening of September 12th, 1983 had been both a terrible night and a much needed wake up call for 19 year old Tracy Winston. The only daughter in a tight knit family, Tracy was a natural athlete who was one of only two girls allowed to join the boys’ Little League team in District 7. “She could throw from center field to home plate without bouncing it once.” Her father would proudly recall. Tracy would go on to play forward on Glacier High School’s first string girls’ basketball team. When puberty hit Tracy began running away and fought with her parents constantly. And then met an older man. Her mother detested him so, naturally, Tracy adored him. At one point the man’s own sister found Tracy’s parents and warned them about her brother. “He’s a con man. He’s slick and he’ll change her so you won’t even recognize her.”
By the time Tracy was arrested on a loitering charge on September 12th, their relationship was over and Tracy was couch surfing and may or may not have been participating in sex work. Tracy called her parents from jail and vowed she would, ever never do anything that might put her there again. “I’m going to get myself together,” she reportedly told her father. “I’m going to get my GED, go to school. I’m going to make you and Mom so proud of me.” She was embarrassed, mortified and desperate for her parents to not come down to the jail. She didn’t want them to see her like that. They honored her wishes.
Tracy bailed out of the King County jail, walked along Cherry Street and ran into a cab driver she knew. Tracy told him about her terrible evening and asked for a ride. The driver already had a fare though, one that was heading in the opposite direction. But if she was willing to wait in the area for about 45 minutes, he would see that she got where she needed to go safely. When the driver returned, Tracy was no where to be found.
Maureen Sue Feeney
At 19 Maureen Feeney was described as shy, emotionally immature and naïve. One of eight siblings, Maureen didn’t date in high school and expressed suicidal tendencies. By September of 1983 things were slowly but surely starting to look up. Maureen was living on her own in a small apartment, had become somewhat of a social butterfly in local bars and was in a relationship with her first serious boyfriend. They were struggling financially but seemed happy. They were even making plans to move to California. Her boyfriend reported to police that on the night of September 28th, at either 5 or 6 pm, Maureen left to go to Seven-Eleven. She never came back. She reportedly spoke to her best friend on the phone everyday. Maureen had a love for animals and nature. She had ambitions of working with children one day.
Mary Sue Bello
25 year old Mary Sue Bello was a treasure to her family and liked by all that knew her. “I remember how she used to be so happy,” her mother said. “She was always helping others. She was so big-hearted.” Mary was also considered very street wise. She was last seen alive on October 11th, 1983.
Pammy Annette Avent
There is little that can be found on Pammy Avent. She was a sex worker who traveled between Portland and Seattle to work. Pammy was last seen on October 26th, 1983 in Seattle. She was only 16 years old.
Delise Louise Plager
Life had been difficult right from the start for Delise Plager. After barely surviving her birth in 1961, Delise- who always went by Missy- spent her formative years with parents who were ill equipped to properly take care of her and her twin brother. At 5 the twins were taken away and adopted into separate families, her brother’s family forbade Missy from contacting her brother, the first of many heartaches she would suffer. School was difficult as well. She was hyperactive, that combined with a learning disorder made concentrating difficult for Missy. She was also teased by older boys. In 1977, Missy was in a devastating car crash that left her hip and jaw broken and her skull fractured.
By 1980 Missy had two children, Nicole and Darrell, and while she was not emotionally equipped to take care of them there was no denying how much she loved them. Things began to look up in 1982 when a girl on Seattle’s Capitol Hill approached Missy and, like something out of a Hollywood movie, remarked, “You know, you look enough like my boyfriend to be his twin.” And she was. After seventeen years Missy had finally found her brother. Their reunion boarded on anticlimactic but that was nothing compared to the disaster that was her reunion with her biological mother, Patricia, later that same year. Over the years Patricia’s alcoholism had progressed and she was less than sympathetic to Missy’s tough upbringing. At one point, after many drinks, Patricia reportedly said something terrible. “You’ve got so many problems, maybe it would have been better if they hadn’t resuscitated you when you were born.” Missy developed a drug problem shortly after this and relied on sex work to financially support herself.
Missy was last seen on October 30th, 1983, at a bus stop in the south Seattle suburbs. She was on her way to deliver a Halloween costume to a friend’s child. She was 22 years old.
Kimberly L. Nelson
21 year old Kimberly Nelson went by many nicknames including Star and Tina. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Star dropped out of high school in her junior year. At some point she developed a heroin addiction and ended up in Seattle, Washington. By 1983 was the sole financial support of a pimp and apparently wasn’t worried about the Green River Killer. “She wasn’t afraid of anyone,” Recalled a friend of Star’s. “She would get in a car with anyone. She was so confident she could take care of herself.” Star disappeared from the Pacific Highway South near the Ben-Carol Motel, located at Pacific Highway South, in late October or early November of 1983. She was three months pregnant.
19 year old Lisa Yates had been shuttled around from home to home for much of her young life. Eventually Lisa went to live with her sister’s family where she was adored by her niece, Veronica. “She was young and beautiful,” Veronica remembered in Green River, Running Red, “gifted, loving and funny. I thought she was so cool. She was killed when I was nine. And she was supposed to come pick me up right before she was murdered. She had promised me a winter picnic in the park and I was looking forward to that for such a long time.” Lisa was last seen on December 23rd, 1983.
Mary Exzetta West
Mary West was last seen in the Rainer Valley neighborhood on February 6th, 1984. She was currently living with her aunt and was described as a quiet girl who was always thoughtful about coming home on time. But Mary was dealing with a serious problem; only a handful of people knew that she was three months pregnant and she didn’t know what she was going to do when she began to show. She was only 16 years old.
Cindy Anne Smith
It’s unclear if Cindy Smith had ever gone through that familiar rebellious phase. Either way, she left home and by 17 she was living in California, much to the concern of her mother. But March of 1984 was a time of celebration. Cindy had called earlier that month to tell her family that she was happily engaged and that she would be returning home to celebrate. In a victim impact statement Cindy’s mother, Joan Mackie, recalled “We picked her up at the airport, and we had the most wonderful time that night. My daughter was engaged. She showed me her ring. In the morning, she wanted to go see her brother who lived next door. We both lived in the SeaTac area. She went out the door. She didn’t even have a chance to unpack her suitcase.”
Patricia Michelle Barczak
Patricia Barczak was 19 when she was last seen on October 11th, 1986. She was a sweet child who often goofed around by putting olives on her fingers. A recent graduate of culinary school, Patricia dreamed of someday owning a bakery where she could craft beautiful wedding cakes. Like most girls her age Patricia was a tad gullible when it came to men. But she was on the right track and was adored by her family. In their victim impact statement Patricia’s family described her, “…Patty was the baby in my family, with two brothers and sisters. She was a loving and outgoing girl. She loved life, puppies, kittens…loved people who were down and out. I and my family will never forget her laughter, her laughter, her smile her outlook on life and her bubbly personality.”
Roberta Joseph Hayes
Roberta “Bobby Joe” Hayes “…wasn’t allowed to be a child,” recalled her aunt, Jackie Sanders. Bobby Joe was forced to grow up early as her mother faded in and out of her life, thus pushing the tasks of cooking, cleaning and taking care of a pair of twin brothers onto young Bobby Joe. She was feisty and strong-willed, once hitting a ukulele over his head when she was about 7, recalled her brother, Don Morrison. Bobby Joe was the kind of girl who would stick her head into police squad cars and say hello to officers who patrolled Aurora Avenue and warned her about the dangers of street life. Perhaps it was all the added responsibility that caused her to rebel. Hayes had her first baby when she was 15. By 21, she had five. All of her kids were placed in the care of the state and were adopted. Despite turning to a life on the streets Bobby Joe always came home for birthdays and holidays. The last time anyone heard from the 21 year old, she had planned to hitchhike to California in 1987. She never made it and was never heard from again.
There is little that can be found on the early life of Marta Reeves. By 1990 Marta was 36, separated from her husband and four daughters and participating in sex work to pay for her crack cocaine habit. Court records show she had been arrested for prostitution twice in 10 days on Pike Street in Seattle in February 1990. A 90-day jail sentence was deferred if she stayed out of areas of prostitution within the city limits. The last contact she had with her family was March 5th, 1990, when she called her husband. Marta’s daughter remember their mother as a smart, hard-working woman who was 11 when her family came to this country from Hungary and 21 when she dropped out of college to raise her daughters.
The oldest of ten children, Patricia Yellowrobe was a member of the Chippewa-Cree Nation and registered at the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation in Montana. She was adored by her family and was happy to help take care of her younger siblings as they grew up. Patricia also happy to take care of her blind grandmother, it was Patricia who acted as her ‘eyes’, leading her gently where ever she needed to go. “She was always fun,” recalled one of her younger sisters. “…She took care of me. I could talk to her. She took me to the fair and on shopping sprees, and she taught me how to drive.” But she also struggled with drug and alcohol addictions for most of her life. By 1998, she was 38 and living a precarious, unpredictable existence. She was last seen in August of 1998. The location of her disappearance is unknown.