Washington State is a relaxing place to live, with plenty of scenic natural parks and rugged mountain ranges.
At least until the dreary Seattle rains kick in and everyone turns into a serial killer because of the lack of Vitamin D.
Well, not really. Vitamin D deficiency is a serious issue but thankful the serial killers of Washington have been few and far between.
However, the serial killers that Washington state has had have been some of the most famous in the nation and you won’t be surprised by a couple of the names on this list.
So let’s look at some gruesome serial killers that have terrorized Washington State over the years!
1. Theodore “Ted” Bundy
Washington State is home to one of America’s most notorious serial killers: “Ted” Theodore Bundy whose name has become synonymous with sadism, depravity, and horror.
Bundy began his killing career in the early 1970s in Washington, mainly preying on young college women. Ted killed seven women in Washington state and scattered their remains on Taylor Mountain near the town of Mirrormont.
Bundy’s killings aren’t restricted to Washington State because he confessed to 30 murders across seven states (including Oregon).
Though Bundy was executed by electric chair on January 24, 1989, he continues to fascinate today. Why? Well, there aren’t many handsome and charismatic law student serial killers out there!
What’s more, while his physical and psychological evaluation in court provided an otherwise chilling account of how a seemingly normal individual could commit such heinous acts, it failed to explain why Bundy chose those particular victims.
Perhaps one reason we are still so captivated by Ted Bundy even decades later is that we still have yet to answer this question.
2. Gary Ridgway
Gary Ridgway, also known as the “Green River Killer,” is one of the most prolific killers in Washington State history.
He lived in the state for thirty years, where he spent his time working as a spray painter. Though, he described the murder of young women as his real profession.
Throughout his life, he has been convicted of 49 murders that spanned a period of 20 years but confessed to more than 71 killings.
His victims were prostitutes or women from troubled backgrounds. He would drive them into the remote area around the Green River, where he had sexual intercourse with them before strangling them. Even worse, he would occasionally return to the grave site to have sexual intercourse with the corpses.
He was able to continue killing for 20 years without being captured.
Interestingly, the police turned to fellow Washington serial killer Ted Bundy to help them find Ridgway. Bundy helped provide insights into the killer’s mind, predicting what his next move might be. Bundy suggested that Ridgway might be engaging in necrophilia that helped police catch the Green River Killer as they staked out the grave sites.
3. Gary G. Grant
Gary Grant, like most serial killers, had a very troubled childhood. Growing up in a poor and abusive home quickly put him on a path of violent crime.
Gary started killing at the age of 18 and continued for the next two years before being apprehended.
To start with, he killed two girls, dragging them into the woods before having sexual intercourse with their corpses. Later, he murdered two six-year-old boys, hiding their bodies beneath leaves.
During the trial, Grant tried to claim that he was insane. But an examination by a psychologist disproved this. He was given four consecutive life sentences.
4. Robert Lee Yates
In the category of serial killers still alive, we have Robert Lee Yates.
Yates began killing in 1975. when he shot a couple who were having a picnic near Mill Creek.
He was in the military and was doing target practice at the time. Upon seeing the couple, he shot them multiple times in the head. While their bodies were quickly found, he wasn’t linked to the crime until several years later.
His main murder spree began in the 90s when he would drive around Skid Row, looking for vulnerable women. He would convince them to get into his car. Then, he killed them with a shot to the head. It eventually came out that he committed necrophilia.
In total, he killed at least 18 people.
Yates’ most disturbing murder was that of Melody Murfin. He buried her body under the window of his family home. He even planted flowers on top of her grave! Later, he would claim that this allowed him to look at her daily.
5. Warren Leslie Forest
Warren Leslie Forest is one of the most notorious serial killers in modern history. This man’s reign of terror spanned only three short months, yet he was linked to an unprecedented number of victims with no apparent motive or connection between them. His modus operandi evolved as police utilized increasingly sophisticated investigative techniques to track him down, eventually leading to his capture.
In one case, the killer abducted young teenage girls hitchhiking in the Washington area. He would took them to a remote area where they would be stabbed. The victims were found missing a bra. One was found with her hands and feet tied behind her.
So far, police have only been able to charge him with one murder, with another charge potentially coming. Though it’s believed he could have killed seven people. In 2017, he applied for parole, telling the court that his murders were a moment of fantasy and claiming he no longer had those desires.
Despite facing the death penalty, Forest was able to strike a plea deal for three consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole due to his cooperation with authorities and the lack of physical evidence tying him directly to the murders.
Many questions have been raised about Warren Leslie Forest’s motives and background over the years, but some mysteries will never be solved.
6. Tube Sock Killer
The “Tube Sock Killer” refers to a killer who started killing in 1985. This killer targets heterosexual couples.
Why the name?
The name comes from the horrible death that was inflicted upon the women. They were found with a tube sock tied around their neck. To date, this killer is still on the loose.
7. Westley Allan Dodd
This serial killer started to commit terrible crimes from an early age. As a teenager, he started to show a fascination with young boys. He would offer to babysit them. As he did, he would molest them. Though he was caught multiple times, he was released on the condition that he would attend counseling.
In 1989, though, Dodd took things to a new level. He abducted two brothers as they walked home from the playground. He led them into the bushes and tied their shoelaces together. Then, he would molest them, before stabbing the boys. They were just 11 and 10 at the time. Following the killings, he kept media clippings about the crime in a scrapbook.
However, his most sickening crime is the murder of Lee Iseli. This child was just four years old. He was abducted by Dodd and taken to his apartment. There, he was molested and naked photos were taken. He also kept the boy’s underwear as a memento. This evidence would become key when convicting Dodds. Finally, he hung Iseli and dumped the body in the bushland.
Interestingly, Dodd pleaded to be hung. He was convinced that if he was released, he would continue his gruesome killing spree. Chillingly, he promised that he would enjoy every minute of the future murders. In 1993, he got his wish and was hung.
8. Billy Gohl
Billy Gohl was a member of the sailors union in the early 1910s. Allegedly, he used this position to identify vulnerable sailors. He would then target them for robbery. Once he had taken all their valuables, he would shoot them in the head. Then, he would drop their bodies into the river.
He was charged with the murder of two people. Though, he has been linked to the death of over 100 people. If this is true, he would be one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
However, some modern researchers don’t believe that Gohl is guilty. They think that his position as a prominent union organizer made him a target for wealthy business interests. They pinned the deaths on him. In reality, the deaths were accidental and were likely caused by unsafe working conditions.
Non-Native Killers That Killed In Seattle
Now, not every serial killer active in Washington was born in the state. In fact, many either made their way here later in life or the state was just another road stop on their murder highway.
Here are a few of the other big names that may not have the honor of being from the state but still deserve their dark infamy for their deeds while visiting.
1. Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor was a serial killer who was born in Michigan in 1936 and spent his early years in Florida, where he began his criminal activities.
Dubbed the “Royal Oak Sniper”, Taylor assaulted women at bus stops with a hammer and later progressed to shooting women in the street after dark (hence his nickname).
Taylor was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for more than 10 years for his self-proclaimed “compulsion to hurt women” but was often still treated as an outpatient (signs of the times, I guess).
Eventually, Taylor stopped reporting for treatment and went missing for several months. Taylor went on to murder at least four women in three different states. In Washington state, on the night of November 27, he abducted and killed a young housewife named Vonnie Stuth. He was later traced to Enumclaw, Washington, but was released due to a lack of an NCIC listing as a fugitive.
By the time his disappearance was reported, Taylor had already fled to Texas. He was eventually captured in Houston and confessed to four murders, including that of Stuth, whose body was found near his former home in Enumclaw. Although he was cleared of six other murders in Washington which were attributed to Ted Bundy, Taylor is suspected in as many as 20 unsolved homicides across various states. He was convicted on the four counts he confessed to and sentenced to life in prison.
2. Randall Woodfield
Randall Woodfield, known as the “I-5 Killer,” murdered at least seven people along the Interstate 5 corridor from Northern California to Washington. Woodfield’s M.O. was diverse, including robberies, rapes, and murders, using a variety of disguises and weapons.
Woodfield grew up in a seemingly stable home in Otter Rock, Oregon (which is pretty much Washington, right?).
Woodfield excelled as an athlete, especially in high school, but quickly got into trouble for indecent exposure. Woodfield “overcame” these chargers and went on to play for Portland State University and then the Green Bay Packers. However, his criminal behavior continued to escalate.
Woodfield was released from the Packers (and from jail where he was serving time for burglary) just in time for his 10-year high school reunion. There, he reconnected with Cherie Ayers, a former classmate who would become his first victim. This was the start of his five-month crime spree, which led to his conviction for several murders, though he is suspected of many more
3. Martin Stickles
Martin Stickles, also known as “The Kelso Killer,” was an American serial killer who committed a series of murders in Cowlitz County, Washington, between 1899 and 1900. He was convicted and executed in 1901 despite concerns regarding his mental health.
Stickles was born in Iowa but moved to Washington at a young age. Described as a sickly and angry child, by adulthood, he lived as a reclusive fisherman on the local rivers. His first known victim was William B. Shanklin, whom Stickles shot through a window while Shanklin dined in his cabin in Kelso. Stickles then set the cabin on fire to hide evidence. The following year, he murdered an elderly couple, Cornelius Knapp and his wife, in a similar manner, shooting them through a window in their home in Castle Rock.
Upon his arrest, Stickles initially claimed innocence but later confessed to being present at the crimes but saying another man was the shooter. This was disputed by evidence suggesting Stickles acted alone. His demeanor during his confession and trial was noted as indifferent and sometimes jovial, which caused many people to wonder about his mental state.
While in jail, Stickles converted to Christianity and confessed to the murders any religious figures who would listen and, somehow, remained even in the face of his death sentence. He was eventually executed by hanging (which was notably botched).
4. Kenneth Bianchi
Kenneth Bianchi, also known as one half of the “Hillside Stranglers,” along with his cousin Angelo Buono, was responsible for a reign of terror primarily in Los Angeles, California. However, Bianchi’s connection to Washington State is significant. After the murders in California, Bianchi moved to Bellingham, Washington, where he continued his deadly spree. It was here in Washington that he killed two more women, drawing the attention of local law enforcement and eventually leading to his arrest. In Bellingham, Bianchi worked in a security job, which he used to project a facade of respectability while committing his crimes.
Bianchi’s method of operation did not differ much from his time in California, where he and Buono lured victims with the pretense of authority or through deception, only to murder them later. In Washington, he operated alone, which eventually contributed to mistakes that led to his capture. His capture was a turning point for law enforcement in Washington, as it not only brought an end to his activities but also helped them link the murders to the infamous California cases.
5. Warren Leslie Forrest
Warren Leslie Forrest is a lesser-known but equally heinous serial killer, whose criminal activities were centered in Clark County, Washington.
Forrest’s background was unremarkable, making his descent into crime all the more disturbing for those who knew him. His crimes were committed in the 1970s when he utilized the vast wooded areas of Washington State to carry out his attacks. Forrest was known to have used his position as a county park employee to scout locations and abduct his victims.
Forrest’s method was to lure young women into his van, drive them to remote areas, and then assault and murder them. The bodies of his victims were often not found until much later due to the dense forestry of the regions he chose as his dumping grounds.
6. Joseph Kondro
Joseph Kondro, known as “The Longview Serial Killer,” was a convicted murderer with suspected ties to several other unsolved disappearances of young girls in Southwestern Washington.
Born on May 19, 1959, in Marquette, Michigan, Kondro was adopted at birth and raised in Iron River, Michigan, before moving to Castle Rock, Washington. He displayed psychopathic tendencies from an early age, including violence towards animals and other children, and a long history of criminal behavior ranging from theft to drug dealing.
Kondro’s crimes in Washington were particularly heinous. In 1982, Chila Silvernails vanished on her way to catch a school bus in Kalama. Her body was found the next day, and she had been raped and strangled.
In 1985, Rima Traxler, a third-grader from Longview, disappeared. Kondro was a family friend and had been drinking with Traxler’s stepfather on the day she went missing. Again, he was not immediately linked to the case.
The breakthrough in the investigations came with the abduction of Kara Rudd. After Rudd disappeared, Kondro was observed with unexplained lacerations, and he was the last person seen with her. Rudd’s body was later discovered near the Columbia River, and DNA evidence linked Kondro to the crime. Under interrogation, Kondro confessed to taking Rudd to Germany Creek and then to an abandoned house where he raped and strangled her. To avoid the death penalty, he also confessed to the murder of Traxler over a decade earlier, revealing that he had lured her into his car and killed her at Germany Creek.
Kondro was sentenced to 55 years in prison, where he died in 2012 of liver disease, likely related to Hepatitis C infection.
Best Macabre Attractions In Seattle, Washington
If you’re paying a visit to the state’s capital and want to learn a bit more about Seattle’s serial killers, you’re in luck! The area is rife with enthusiasts for the macabre whether it be ghosts, true-crime, or death in general.
The most common attraction is actually a pub crawl and there are many available. Since these experiences are typically focused on the booze with a few spooky stories thrown in, look at the drink list and make your choice based on that.
If you’re serious about learning about crime and serial killers in Seattle, however, you have three main options:
Haunted Seattle Ghost and Pub Walking Tour: The most popular option without a doubt (I assume because of the booze?) this is a great option to experience the “dark” side of the city while still enjoying a night out with friends.
Spooked In Seattle Ghost Tours: This is the number one rated ghost tour in Seattle and, as an added bonus, you get into the Death Museum, where you get to see everything from haunted dolls to embalming rituals.
Washington State has a dark history. This has been a fertile target for serial killers. As a result, the state has been home to some of the grisliest crime scenes and darkest minds in American history.
Hopefully, I haven’t dissuaded you from visiting the PNW but just gave you a bit of fodder to read on your drive or flight here. You’re still very welcome and we’re nice here, I promise!