Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Green River Killer: River of Death

Chasing Evil

In January 1984, the Green River Task Force came under new leadership headed by Captain Frank Adamson, who previously headed the police department's internal affairs unit. During the first few months of Adamson's assignment, drastic changes took place. He first decided that it would be in the investigation's best interest to relocate the task force headquarters to the Burien County precinct, which was near the airport and closer to where the crimes were occurring.

Following Keppel's advice, Adamson divided up various tasks and assigned them to individuals within the team. It was believed that this method would facilitate a more thorough organization, integration and assemblage of the vast amounts of information and lead to more successful results in the case. Smith and Guillen stated that one team composed of seven investigators and one sergeant/team leader was assigned to handle the victims of the Green River Killer. Another team of similar construction was assigned to information pertaining to probable suspects.   

Adamson then assigned three detectives to a newly-constructed crime analysis section, whose duties involved the follow-up of leads and analysis of possible trends and methodologies utilized by the killer, as well as other pertinent information relevant to the case. Twenty-two police officers were also assigned to the task force's proactive squad, which developed new strategies to monitor prostitute activities on The Strip and any unusual events or dealings in the area.  

Moreover, a new strategy was imposed by Keppel that changed the investigators' focus from a suspect's possible guilt to the suspect's possible innocence. The implication of this strategy allowed investigators to quickly eliminate people under suspicion who had alibis and instead concentrate on more probable suspects.

The suspects that remained were prioritized according to their threat: those who were most closely linked to victims, fit the profile of the killer and his movements were put in category "A"; those who were less closely linked with the crimes were assigned to categories "B" or "C" before being eventually eliminated. Just when it seemed as if the newly revised task force was better prepared to capture the Green River Killer, the inevitable occurred.

On February 14, 1984, the skeletal remains of a woman, who was later identified as Denise Louise Plager, were discovered 40 miles from the city close to interstate 90. She was the first victim to be found that year, but not the last. Over the next two months approximately nine more bodies would be found.

Sandra Gabbert and Alma Smith
Sandra Gabbert and Alma Smith, victims
 
Some of those found included those of Cheryl Wims, 18, Lisa Yates, 26, Debbie Abernathy, Terry Milligan, 16, Sandra Gabbert, 17, and Alma Smith, 22. The other victims remained unidentified. Most of the girls had one primary thing in common, a history of prostitution.

Although it appeared as if the Green River Task Force was making few advances in the investigation, distinct patterns began to emerge that allowed the team to create a more accurate profile of the killer and his movements. The killer seemed to have several dumping grounds where he would dispose of the bodies of his victims. With the exception of Meehan, the bodies that were discovered were found partially buried or covered with garbage or foliage. Most of the bodies had been found off of isolated roads in or near illegal waste dumping areas. The FBI's profiler John Douglas concluded that the bodies were dumped in the areas because the killer thought of the women as "human garbage."

During 1983 dumping grounds moved away from the river and concentrated mostly around the Sea-Tac Airport and Star Lake. In 1984, the victims' remains were concentrated in the areas of Mountain View Cemetery and North Bend off of or near to Interstate 90. The victims were also disappearing from two primary areas, the strip and the downtown area of Seattle.

The task force worked under the assumption that the killer worked or lived close to the area where he was disposing the bodies. The task force determined that the areas where the bodies were found, when plotted on a map, roughly formed a triangular shape. It was believed that the killer might live somewhere within that triangle.  

An important discovery was also made in April when the skeletal remains of some of the victims were found. Shoe impressions, possibly that of the killer, were revealed when investigators removed the brush that partially concealed the bodies. Upon examination of the prints, investigators learned that they were made by a size 10 or 11 man's walking shoe. It was a vital piece of evidence that could connect the killer with his victims.

In mid April, a volunteer task force worker and psychic, Barbara Kubik-Pattern, had a vision that another woman's body would be found close to Interstate 90. Kubik-Pattern immediately contacted the police and told them about her vision, but became increasingly frustrated when they failed to act on the new information. Taking matters into her own hand, she and her daughter set out to find the woman.

Following the leads revealed by her vision, Kubik-Pattern and her daughter eventually came across another body. Immediately after the discovery, the two women drove to a nearby search area that was patrolled by the police. When she informed one of the officers of her discovery, she was rebuffed and even threatened with arrest for obstruction of the guarded perimeter.

Angered, Kubik-Pattern informed reporters that were stationed nearby of her discovery. Finally, members of the task force approached her as she talked with the reporters and asked her to show them the body. Shortly thereafter the police were confronted with the gruesome discovery.

Amina Agisheff
Amina Agisheff, victim

The decomposing remains were that of Amina Agisheff, 36. She was last seen on July 7, 1982 walking home from her work at a restaurant in downtown Seattle. Agisheff did not fit the description of many of the other victims.

She was older than the other victims and a waitress, not a prostitute. Agisheff was also in a stable relationship at the time of her disappearance and was a mother of two. Although there were obvious differences between Agisheff's lifestyle and those of the other victims and the location of where her body was disposed, investigators believed that she was the victim of the Green River Killer. Moreover, she was listed as one of the killer's first victims, even though several murders prior to her disappearance matched the M.O. of the killer.

On May 26, two children playing on Jovita Road in Pierce County were shocked when they discovered a skeleton. The police and task force were immediately alerted to the new finding. Following a medical examination, it was discovered that the remains were that of fifteen-year-old runaway Colleen Brockman. Investigators still had no new leads to the identity of the killer, apart from the location of the bodies and the shoe print. After almost three years, the murderous killing spree continued.

 

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