The Evergreen State is known for its pristine beauty and welcoming citizens. It is, therefore, somewhat surprising to discover that the state also has had more than its fair share of serial killers.
To be classified as a serial killer, a person must kill at least three people over a period of more than a month. This rather grim definition has fitted several Washington state residents at one time or another during its history. Let’s learn more about the true-life intrigue of 12 of the Evergreen State’s most infamous serial killers.
The 12 most infamous serial killers in Washington State history are:
- Ted Bundy
- Robert Lee Yates
- Gary Ridgway
- Jake Owen Spillman
- Joseph Kondro
- Billy Gohl
- Westley Allan Dodd
- Gary G. Grant
- Donna Perry
- George Russell
- Martin Stickles
- Linda Laura Hazzard
Who Were Washington State’s Most Infamous Serial Killers?
From unassuming-looking sociopaths to obsessive murderers, Washington state has had plenty of perilous characters pass through its unspoiled landscape. While not all the twelve serial killers on our list were born in the state, each of them became famous in Washington for the wrong reasons.
1. Ted Bundy
Theodore Robert Bundy was one of Evergreen State’s most infamous imports. Although he was born in Vermont in 1946, he and his mother moved to Tecoma, Washington, when he was a young child. He attended school in the area, followed by stints at the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington.
Ted Bundy’s seemingly insatiable appetite for killing has made him a rather grizzly pop culture icon. He kidnapped, raped, and murdered girls and women across seven states, starting in his home state of Washington, between 1974 and 1978.
No one knows precisely how many victims fell prey to Bundy’s twisted behavior. In the end, the confirmed tally was 20; he confessed to 30, but the actual number could be more than 36.
His capture and trial were marked with daring escapes, but in the end, his life of crime ended in 1989 when he was executed in Florida State Prison. Ted Bundy was 42 years old.
2. Robert Lee Yates
Hailing from Spokane, Washington, Robert Lee Yates is a serial killer who can best be described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Hiding behind the guise of a respected military and family man, his killing spree that began in 1975 only ended in 1998.
Robert Yates is known to have killed at least 11 women and two people who were having a picnic, but the actual number of victims is believed to be more than 16. His peculiar trait of covering his victim’s head with grocery bags resulted in him being dubbed The Grocery Bag Killer.
Yates was finally apprehended in April 2000 when his white Chevrolet Corvette was linked to one of the murders. The prosecution sought the death penalty, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. The Spokane Killer, Robert Yates, is imprisoned at Washinton State Penitentiary.
3. Gary Ridgway
Gary Leon Ridgway holds the dubious title of ‘the deadliest convicted serial killer in the United States.’ Although he was ultimately convicted of 49 murders, he claimed to have killed closer to 80 prostitutes and vulnerable women.
Also known as the Green River Killer, Ridgway’s killing spree started in 1982 and ended when he was finally apprehended in 1998. This serial killer trolled for victims near Seattle and Tacoma and, after strangling them, dumped most of the bodies in wooded areas around Green River.
This depraved killer was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1949 but moved to Washington early in his adult life. Gary Ridgway is imprisoned at Washington State Penitentiary, where he is serving a life sentence without any possibility of parole.
4. Jake Owen Spillman
In 1994 and 1995, Jake Owen Spillman III of Spokane, Washington, committed three murders. His female victims ranged in age from 9 to 48, and in each case, the violent killer sexually mutilated and posed the bodies of the deceased in provocative positions.
Apparently, by his own admission, Jake Spillman aspired to become the ‘world’s greatest serial killer.’ Fortunately, he was apprehended in 1996, which put a stop to his violent killing spree.
Because of his habit of stalking his victims before attacking them, he claimed to imagine himself as a werewolf. Therefore, this infamous serial killer from Washington became known as The Werewolf Butcher.
Spillman was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder. To avoid the real possibility of the death penalty, he pleaded guilty and is currently imprisoned at Washington State Penitentiary.
5. Joseph Kondro
When it comes to cold-blooded killers, they don’t get much worse than Joseph Robert Kondro. This resident of Longview, Washington, was convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder of two young girls but has been linked to many more.
Joseph Kondro showed psychopathic tendencies from an early age in his hometown of Castle Rock, Washington. As a preteen, he was already killing animals and later admitted to molesting young girls while he was still a child.
Several young girls disappeared in southwestern Washington in the early 1980s. Kondro was eventually netted in 1996 with forensic evidence from the body of 12-year-old Kara Rudd.
Kondro, who became known as The Longview Serial Killer, struck a plea deal and was only sentenced to 55 years’ incarceration. He died of liver disease in 2012 while imprisoned at Washington State Penitentiary.
6. Billy Gohl
No one knows for sure how many people Billy Gohl murdered, but speculation is that it could be more than 100. This German immigrant is one of Washington state’s earliest serial killers. From his arrival in Aberdeen, bodies started washing up on shores around the area.
William Gohl was born in Germany in 1873, and little is known about his early life. What is known is that his murderous escapade in Washington lasted from 1902 to 1910. He may have killed multiple sailors during that time, although he was finally only convicted of two.
Also known as the Ghoul of Grays Harbor, Billy Gohl was finally apprehended and sentenced to life in prison. He died in prison in March 1927 at the age of 54.
7. Westley Allan Dodd
The look at the life of Westley Allen Dodd reveals some pretty disturbing behavior from a young age. Born in 1961 in Toppenish, Washington, he began exposing himself to other children in his neighborhood at the age of 13.
His perverted behavior escalated as he got older until finally, in 1989, he abducted two young boys. After performing lewd sexual acts on them, he murdered them and proceeded to create a macabre scrapbook to document the killings.
A month later, Dodd kidnapped a four-year-old boy whom he tortured and finally killed. After the killing, he immediately began making plans in a diary for his next victim. Fortunately, his fourth victim managed to raise the alarm during the attempted kidnapping, and Dodd’s car broke down while he was trying to escape.
Westley Dodd was given a choice of execution by lethal injection or hanging, and he chose the latter. The Vancouver Child Killer was pronounced dead on January 5, 1993, at the age of 31.
8. Gary G. Grant
Gary Gene Grant was one of the youngest serial killers to come out of Washington State. He was born to a low-income family in Renton in 1951, and his killing spree started when he was only 18 years old.
Fortunately, Gary Grant was apprehended in 1971, or he would have gone on to kill far more people. His victims included two young women who he raped and murdered, as well as two six-year-old boys who he beat, killed, and hid their bodies in the woods.
Gary Grant pleaded not guilty to the murders, claiming he was insane. The jury was not convinced, and he received four life sentences without any chance of parole. He is currently imprisoned at Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington.
9. Donna Perry
The 2017 trial of Donna R. Perry for the murders of three sex workers in 1990 was not without controversy. The serial murderer was born Douglas R. Perry and had undergone gender reassignment surgery in 2000.
It has been suggested that the killings were motivated by jealousy, but no one can be sure. At first, the bodies found on the banks of the Spokane River in Washington state were thought to be the work of Robert Lee Yates.
As with most serial killers, no one can be sure of the actual number of victims. In the late 1990s, Perry spent some time in prison for a minor offense and confessed to a cellmate that he had killed nine women.
DNA evidence finally matched Perry to the three bodies found over a four-month period near the river. In 2017, she was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, and Perry was sentenced to life without any chance of parole. She is currently in Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.
10. George Russell
In the summer of 1990, a serial murderer known as The Charmer terrorized women in Seattle. The identity of the killer and thief was later revealed to be George Waterfield Russell Jr, from Mercer Island, Washington.
George Russell was born in Florida in 1958, but the family moved to Washington while he was an infant. His distinctive habit of posing the nude bodies of his victims in bizarre positions earned him several nicknames, including:
- The Charmer
- The Bellevue Killer
- The East Side Killer
During a three-month period in the summer of 1990, Russell sexually assaulted and killed three women. Fortunately, he was arrested in September. DNA samples and items stolen from the crime scenes were used to convict him.
George Russell was first officially diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder in 1987. He is currently serving two life terms at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.
11. Martin Stickles
A man known as the Kelson Killer prowled Cowlitz County, Washington, in 1899 and 1900. During that time, he murdered three innocent people with the motive of theft. In one case, he set the house alight on his way out to cover his tracks.
Martin Stickles was suspected and interrogated, but he protested his innocence. However, he was charged. Before the trial could take place, he was so moved by a sermon by members of The Salvation Army that he confessed to the killings.
The murder trial was short. Although Stickles’ family and lawyers pleaded for leniency on account that he was of unsound mind, he received the death penalty. On January 25, 1901, he was hanged in what became a talking point in later articles documenting botched executions in Washington state.
12. Linda Hazzard
No list of infamous serial killers in Washington state would be complete without Linda Laura Hazzard. This dangerous woman was not a qualified doctor but was licensed to practice medicine using a loophole in the system. Her trail of death earned her the nickname The Starvation Doctor.
To say that her alternative methods were dodgy is an understatement. In the early 20th century, more than 15 people died at a sanitarium she operated near Seattle. After a while, local residents started calling her establishment Starvation Heights.
Ms. Hazzard’s ‘cures’ for an assortment of conditions all centered on ridding the body of toxins. What this actually meant was extreme fasting or starvation. The motive for admitting people to the clinic was financial. In their weakened states, patients could be swindled and robbed mercilessly.
Fortunately, the law finally caught up with her cruel methods, and the dubious doctor was found guilty of manslaughter of more than 15 people. In the ultimate twist of karma, The Starvation Doctor succumbed to her own treatment methods at the age of 70.
Washington State has had a colorful past dotted with several infamous murderers. The unnerving thing about serial killers is that, at first glance, many don’t appear dangerous. Fortunately, all the notorious killers on our list have been permanently taken out of society in one way or another. They will never return to the streets of the Evergreen State.