Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert D. Keppel, Ph.D. an Interview

Ted and The Green River Killer

Q. In March 1982, you left the King County Police Major Crimes Unit to take up a position as the chief criminal investigator with the Washington State Attorney General's Office. What led to the move and what did the new position entail?

What led to the move was the fact that I felt I needed a change. I wasn't going anywhere where I was. I'd actually applied for a similar position with the Attorney General's office in Wyoming but didn't take it. When this other position came through it was time for me to leave. I had greater aspirations. I had already begun work on my Ph.D in 1980 and that was pretty solidified with the program at the University of Washington. I felt I needed a nice job and the job that I took was for a lot more money than I was making as a detective, even with overtime.

Initially, my job was to investigate cases that came in to a new unit at the Attorney General's office and then once the unit expanded, I would become the chief investigator. In the beginning it was just an attorney and myself but eventually it became five attorneys and seventeen investigators so it enhanced itself quite a bit. Initially, I did all the investigating myself but the cases were usually old by the time I got them. Despite the fact that these weren't fresh cases I was able to solve quite a few of them. For instance there was the case of a ship's captain who was killed by his wife and we were able to successfully prosecute that case without finding his body. There was also the case from 1975 of a guy who allegedly found his wife dead in a horse stall and claimed that a horse had kicked her. I took that case on in 1982 and was able to turn it into a first-degree murder charge against the husband who had murdered his wife with a hammer.

Q. From your experience with the Green River investigation, do you think the river itself was significant to the killer or killers, apart from an attempt to destroy evidence?

Not after the first five. There were bodies that ended up miles away from Green River and not in water. The original name of course came from the first five victims that were found in or right on the bank of the Green River. One was less than fifteen feet from the bank and the rest were right in the water. I think that when the river got so much attention he moved on. After the river, when a body was found in any location he never dumped another one near it. We had all these places where victims or a number of victims were found but each time one of those areas were discovered, he never put another victim there even though there were four or five that hadn't been discovered yet. He never went back and put one there. I think the need to avoid detection was governing his choice of sites.

Q. Was there some connection between the river and the subsequent later sites?

I don't think so other than it being one of the many sites he was familiar with anyway. He was familiar with the river, familiar with Highway 410, I-90, Star Lake road and he was familiar with the Mountview cemetery road. He knew that they were isolated places where it was pretty safe to take somebody and not be discovered.

Q. The criminal profile of the Green River killer that was supplied by the FBI seemed to point to "the taxi-driver" as being the most viable suspect even though he was eventually dismissed as a possibility. Was this a case of trying to make the suspect fit the profile and if so, how damaging was it to the case?

No doubt about it. It didn't really damage the case because in the whole case the F.B.I must have done about six or seven profiles and that was just one of them. One of the bad ones. There were other bad ones, that was just one I documented in Riverman. I don't think it was that misguided but it did give us the unwarranted probable cause to search his premises based on how many characteristics he matched with the profile. This was long before the task force and before I became involved in the case so the F.B.I was helping out quite a bit with profiling. I suspected that it was because they knew too much about the cab-driver. If you're a police officer asking for a profile you should never give the profiler any information about any possible suspects because you're going to skew the profile. You can even skew it intentionally if you want to.

Q. Was there any real evidence to suggest that the killer returned to the dump sites and engaged in any necrophilic behavior?

Yes. On one occasion, he murdered Denise Bush, as I remember, and she was found in Oregon, which is two hundred and thirty five miles from where she disappeared. Only her major bones were found, her skull, her backbone and large bones. Years later, there were some other bones found, located not more than half a mile from where she disappeared, which was in the city of Tukwila. There we found her lower jaw bone, and the shunt that belonged to her head. There was a hole in her head when it was found in Oregon. What we surmised happened was, she was initially dumped in Tukwila and the killer came back to the scene after the body had decomposed and picked up any remains that he could find and carted them all the way down to Oregon where he had three other victims. That's the only handling of remains after death that we know about but there were other places where there weren't many bones so he could have been doing this all over the place for all we knew.

Q. Why do you think Ted Bundy offered to help with the Green River investigation?

What I sensed was that he was jealous of the Green River killer. Of course, from his minor crime scene assessments based upon newspaper articles that he had read, he was pretty well convinced that the killer was attacking girls, killing them and leaving them in places where he left his so he was really familiar with some of those areas. He had hiked in those areas as a kid and he felt close to the Green River killer. At one stage he believed that the killer was from Tacoma, where he was from. I tend to believe that it was jealousy because the Green River killer could go on and not be discovered when he went only so far and got caught.

I think he was getting off on it too; after all, he loved talking about murder. Who knows what he was doing when he went back to his cell.

Q. Did he provide any valuable insights?

There was one little thing that struck us at the time as we were listening to him talk and describe things. It had to do with the fact that he sensed that because of our proactive measures like stopping prostitutes, stopping Johns who were approaching in cars and that kind of thing, we had neglected the fact that maybe the killer didn't approach the prostitutes in a car. He suggested that the killer may have approached them on foot and then took them back to where his car was parked in the dark because that's what Bundy did. He always had his car hidden or out of sight some place so he assumed that the Green River killer may have done the same thing. Of course there was never any evidence to support that because we just didn't know what he did. That made us think that when we did our surveillances we'd better be looking for someone on foot as well. Basically, when it first started, they were out there taking down licence numbers of prospective clients of prostitutes. Then they would try and find out something about them without them knowing and see if any of it led to a suspect.

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