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Cold Case: Brenda Banaski Missing Teen

Wife of Serial Killer Shares Life Story

Guest book Review
A significant part of many of the popular TV drama shows dwells on the psychological background of the "unidentified subject" who has committed heinous crimes. One of my favorite shows was Profile and the primary activity of the main character was to analyze who, why, and what is making this individual act as he/she does. I wonder how that main character would have discussed Gary Ridgway, the Green River Serial Killer . . .
Pennie Morehead presents readers with an interesting alternative look at the life of America's most deadly serial killer--that is, "through the loving eyes of his wife." (Back cover) Morehead, in her first book, gives a very personal perspective of an individual affected by true crime. I found it fascinating reading!
The book includes exclusive photographs from the life of Judith Ridgway, as well as letters handwritten by Gary from prison. Additionally, the author uses her professional analysis of his handwriting to give yet another "look" at a killer(s). For some reason, though I normally start reading front to back, I opened the book to these pictures and letters. Judith had been married once before and I studied the pictures of her early life, her first marriage, and then later, her fourteen "happy" years with a serial killer.
Consider if you will--two husbands. One is an admitted bisexual (after they were married) who forced Judith and their two children to dress in clothes he selected, later in victorian style, and attend medieval festivals. Judith's first husband, Lee, instructed Judith on how to perform wifely duties in the bedroom as well. Having been abused in early life, Judith was not shocked about what took place--she put no emotional investment in the sexual act. Not knowing any better, she assumed other wives must be doing the same thing.
On and on, strange things happened in her first marriage, including sex orgies and her children seeing their father naked with another man. She tried to figure out how she could escape! Finally, she was able to learn how to drive, and she was able to find work and begin to make her own money. Finally, she convinced her husband to allow a divorce.
Judith's second husband was her prince. "It was February of 1985, Judith was forty years old, and finally free from the stranglehold of her dysfunctional, nineteen-year first marriage." (p. 59) Judith met Gary Ridgway, an attractive, slightly younger man to whom she was immediately attracted and with whom she could have fun, giggle, and live a normal life. Gary was a painter for a truck company, made a good living. They bought a camper and traveled and purchased a nice home. Judith was happier than she had ever thought possible.
Two husbands--Judith's second husband was the serial killer.
"Judith was not aware of...a chilling fact: Only two days after she met her prince--Gary Ridgway was sitting in the presence of Green River Killer Task Force detectives!" (P.63) Ridgway later admitted he had no idea how many women he had murdered; 48 were documented.
I found myself moving around within this book...I'd study the pictures of Judith and her first husband and then go back to look at the ones where they wore victorian clothing. Then I marveled at the family pictures of the various families. I would reread portions of the letters from Gary to Judith once he was in prison.
Who was the Gary Ridgway who killed at least 48 women. Why could he have a totally different, loving life with a woman who came to love him deeply within a happy marriage? There is an illusion that if he didn't "have to pass" a certain area to and from work, where prostitutes could easily be found, then maybe . . . But that doesn't explain why he murdered those from whom he acquired sex.
This book doesn't provide "that profile," that would identify a serial killer, but, Morehead's review of his handwriting, noting, for instance, certain letters that referred to "socio-sexual shame," is an interesting highlight of the book. True Crime books do not normally attract me because they provide no conclusion, other than that the guilty are being punished and the book documents what happened. However, I found the story of Judith Ridgway unbelievably unique and memorable. I can only pray that Judith finds a faith and strength that will help her survive what she has endured.
Needless to say, this is a must-read for anyone interested in true crime or crime-related biographies. Morehead has provided a well-documented, comprehensive book that moves through Judith's early life through to the time she is receiving intimate letters from the prison cell of the Green River Serial Killer. True life is "really" sometimes unbelievable!
Green River Serial Killer: Biography Of an Unsuspecting Wife
By Pennie Morehead BrandenBooks ISBN: 978-0-8283-2153-2 240 Pages
G. A. Bixler is co-owner of an online review site of Independent Professional BookReviewers. She is an avid reader and has over 40 years experience in educational administration and publishing.


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