Forensic Profile of a Serial Murder Rapist (a case study)

Gary Ridgway is one of America’s most prolific serial killers. He was convicted of raping and murdering 48 women in King’s County in the state of Washington. It is, however, believed that he is responsible for more than 90 rapes and murders. He was dubbed the Green River Killer during the 1980s and, while he was successfully killing prostitutes, he was employed as a painter for the Kenworth Trucking Company.

Gary Ridgway possesses a lower IQ than average. His IQ was measured at 82 and as a child he suffered from the learning disability of dyslexia. Gary Ridgway’s mother was characterized as domineering. His mother took care of his affairs even while he was married. She handled his checkbook, and approved financial purchases to their house and marriage. At one point he became a religious fanatic and wanted his wife to adhere to the strict religious codes of conduct of his faith. Contradicting his affiliations to church worship, he liked having sex outdoors. He like soliciting prostitutes, and had a fetish for strangulation and sex with the dead bodies postmortem. His method of operation included solicitation of prostitutes, whom he would pick-up in his pick-up truck. He would escort them to a secluded wooded location and while entering his victims through the act of sexual intercourse from behind, just as he was about to climax, he would he strangle them.

He strangles his victims in a position of sexual dominance. Sex is violence. The act of conquering through sexual conquest, by positioning yourself above your partner in traditional sexual intercourse is considered a benign form of aggression. But when it reaches levels of sadomasochism, inflicting injury or even murder onto another, it crosses over the threshold of normal. Gary Ridgway then places a stone in the vaginas of these female victims. Often times, after he murders them, he re-visits them for further sexual intercourse making him a necrophiliac. Necrophilia is a sexual fetish and sexual fetishes usually develop during the onset of puberty, but they can occur as late as early adulthood. There may have been early signs of sexual aggression in former attachments with adolescent girls as well.

Gary Ridgway was a Vietnam war veteran who displayed early aggressive tendencies at age 16. At 16, he stabbed a six year old boy in the liver and left him in the woods. Juvenile aggression is one of the most prominent characteristics for establish future violent aggression in adult life; assaults or sexual assaults combined with sadistic brutality are individuals considered at risk for career long instutionalization. Gary Ridgway possessed a high libidinal sex drive, often requiring his wives to have sex with him three or more times a day.

Quotation from “Germany and the Tasks of Mourning” in Stranded Objects: Memory, Mourning, and Film in Postwar Germany by Eric L. Santner . . . .

“That is, the family was used as a sort of looking glass that would magically make one whole again, give oneself back to oneself, if only as an image. . . . This fixation is the flip side of a “depressive self-obsession,” a state of melancholy “which can be attributed less to a sense of sorrow that something has been lost than to an existential feeling that something is missing – a sense of disappointment over something which was never received.”

The onset of puberty will sometimes initiate symptoms of psychopathy. Individuals genetically predisposed toward aggressive acts, coupled with environmental facilitators. In Gary Ridgway’s case a domineering mother who appeared by all accounts too over controlling. And a father who frequently complained about sex workers in which this labeling of “undesirables” may have reinforced the splitting of the female object into good and bad parts. “To ward off anxiety, the child in his/her earliest defense mechanism splits the object into a good part and a bad part . It is the first introjections the persecutory maternal object and the subsequent defensive operation of splitting this object into a good part and a bad part that provide the basis for the primitive superego. This primitive superego is persecutory and savage in nature, consisting of the projected and introjected sadism of the child itself. It is this condition that Melanie Klein calls the paranoid schizoid position: paranoid fear of the devouring attacks of the mother and schizoid (splitting) defense mechanisms to cope with the anxiety generated.” Gary Ridgway fits perfectly into this personality profile which finds its theoretical core in the psychoanalytic works of matricide.

Gary Ridgway feels weak. His weak ego, perhaps a consequence to a lower IQ, creates the need for omnipotence over weaker, powerless, and invisible victims. At 16, he chooses a six year old to attack. Obviously because the child could not adequately defend himself. Likewise, in his adult career as a serial rapist, he chose many younger prostitutes to kill, many of the woman he targeted were aged 16 – 23. Prostitutes are considered weak. The characteristic of his method of operation profiles closely with the personal style and characteristics of a batterer or explosive psychopath. Men who beat their wives. It is likely that both his father and mother were emotionally unavailable to him. This absent parent creates a “care-giver wound,” even though the mother and/or father were present as a caregiver. Gary most likely feels like something is missing, something never received and a void that must be filled. The void is the lacunae of a superego or the ability to feel sympathy for ‘other.’

Gary Ridgway possessed a conscience state of awareness in that he realizes the law forbids him to murder. He still can’t help himself. Initially, the act of murder made him feel bad and anxious that he may get caught. He new what he was doing was wrong and against the law. However, as time went on and he continued to successfully complete each act of murder, he felt increasing comfortable with performing the crimes. Gary Ridgway is a “stranded object.” Although my conclusion is only a speculation and purely opinion, I theorize, without knowing any of the particulars of the case file regarding his parents parenting styles. I believe he used the rapes and murders of these victims as a way to magically make himself feel whole again, a way to magically re-imagine himself. When asked why did you kill them? He stated, “Because it felt good. They were weak. I like killing them because every time I killed them it was like creating a new me.” Thus, he reinvented himself as a strong, powerful, competent male upon completion of each crime. It is likely that this newly re-created ‘self’ disintegrated quickly with each new anxiety, insecurity, failure or other threat to his ego. Thus the reinforcing of a weak ego through acts of controlled violence, power, and dominance is was important to Gary Ridgway’s survival because he feels impotent, weak, and with no control.

His chronic sense of impotence, coupled with the stress and anxiety of a learning disability were the likely at the root of his insatiable need to murder young women. When anxieties are heightened, either through failures or uncertainties, the act of sexual intercourse can be used to re-establish a state of psychic equilibrium. It is likely that the act of murder, coupled with the sexual pleasure, brought relief to his perpetually insufficient ego, repairing the crack of a narcissistic wound of early childhood development where he may have never successfully navigated rapprochement crisis, or perhaps as a result of his learning disability. When he was unable to accomplish normal learning tasks he may have been verbally or physically abused for these failures by one or both parents. An opinion read that he identified with his mother. It is more likely he identified with his father.

Over stimulation causes his high libidinal drives. It is likely his high libidinal drive resulted from the stress and anxiety over uncertainties or insecurities from failures present in his work environment and/or family life. His lower IQ may have contributed to the pre-disposition of a personality disorder and to be easily over-stimulated.

What is the significance of a stone placed in the vaginas? The perpetual presence of the father’s erect all powerful phallus perhaps. According to Freud, the child interprets coitus as a sadistic violent act where the mother is damaged by the father’s phallus. The stones could by symbolic of the permanent damage wrought by the father’s all powerful phallus. This establishes his identification with the paternal image of the mother-father-child triad. Or they could be symbolic of an “in-between” symbolic space between mother and child during infancy. A symbolic space that had become invaded by a rupture in his early childhood history and one that represents the pain of the past that dwells in the invisible space of the unconscious creating his fantasized sexual omnipotence. It could also be a sign of “blocked” motherhood.

“…symptoms may be the traces of conflicts that have been repressed, that is, forgotten by consciousness but remembered by the body. The body, then, functions in this novel as a sort of writing tablet and mnemonic device of the unconscious. But this act of forgetting comes in its turn to be subjected to a secondary act of amnesia . . The failure of language.” ~Eric L. Santner

Character attributes we can establish based on certain details:

Ethnicity of Serial Killers: (usually White Males)


Probable Occupation:

Personality Attributes:



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