Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert D. Keppel, Ph.D. an Interview

Ted and The Green River Killer (Continued)

Q. Did you treat Bundy's offer of help with Green River seriously or was it viewed mainly as an opportunity to obtain a confession from him?

Both. We took him seriously because he was so well spoken on the crime of murder. He had quite a lot of experience, not only on the killing itself but also because he had been educating himself while he was in prison with other serial killers who were there. We had never had the opportunity to speak to a killer about this and find out what he thought about what was going on. We'd talked to everybody else in the world, all the other forensic experts, so that was one thing. Of course it was always on our minds that some day we wanted to know about his crimes. We actually suggested that before we left. We were very candid with him. We said look, we're very interested in what you did as well so by knowing what you did and being able to corroborate what you did, or what you say you did, we'd be able to view your information on the Green River case as being much more valuable. Of course that was just a con but it was a way to get him to believe that if he confessed to us that it would make him a more credible person. It took quite some years to get him to do that though.

Q. Were you surprised at his level of insight and the detail of his observations?

Absolutely. It was hard for us to believe that he could have such intimate details when all he was operating on was newspaper articles. He could read between the lines better than anybody because he knew what was between the lines.

Q. Were any changes made to the investigative process based solely on Bundy's recommendations?

No. He came up with two strategies. One was to have the sex-slasher movie and the other one was to stake out the crime scene. Staking out of the crime scene was probably the most plausible one but we could never get into a position where we had a fresh body that nobody knew about. It was virtually impossible in our way of doing things because usually somebody would call up the radio room at the police department and they would send out a car and say "go see a body at..." and then news would know. It's always hard to keep that kind of thing protected. We had actually staked out the Green River crime scenes, before Bundy even suggested that we do it, hoping that the killer might return. We knew he'd returned several times just to drop bodies alone, let alone what else he might have been doing there, but that was exposed by the news helicopter so our method was rendered useless.

Q. Was the Green River investigation fatally flawed or was it simply a lack of resources within the specified time frame that led to its downfall?

I don't know, frankly. I want to believe that, in the beginning, there was a lack of resources, when in fact there was a lot of resistance to letting the detectives do the work. The people who do the spade work are supposed to be the people that solve the crime. Crimes don't get solved from the top down, they get solved from the bottom up. The detectives had some very good thoughts early on. In fact, even before the three victims were found in August '82, they wanted to stake out not only the river, but the places where these girls had been missing from Pacific Highway South. But the upper management in the department said no, it would take too many resources. God! Look how many people disappeared from Pacific Highway South after that. It was loaded with them. So that was a real poor response on the part of the management.

Q. Why do you think the killings stopped in 1983?

I don't know that they did. I knew one thing. He was getting better and better at disposing of bodies. We were finding them but I wonder if he didn't keep going and was putting them in places where we couldn't find them. There are other bodies in other jurisdictions that may be related. They're a little off in M.O. and things, like the Oregon killings and one kidnapping down there too but they're all possibilities. There were also some in King County and Snohomish County in the late 80's that may have something to do with it as well, but we don't know.

Q. Do you have any strong theories regarding the identity of the killer?

No. I don't have a good feeling about any of the people who have been investigated and there are some that have had a lot of resources put into them.

Q. Do you think he will ever be caught?

At the rate we're going, no. In my studies that I've conducted, on murder cases in general, any time you have victims who are last seen and they're bodies aren't found for over a month, the body sites are over a mile-and-a-half from where they disappeared, you don't know where the murder site is and you don't know where the initial contact site is, more than likely only four percent of those murders get solved. Those that do get solved get solved by luck. Which means that somebody will call up from prison and say "I want to cleanse my soul and confess to the Green River killings." There is no work that you can do. Where do you start with 58,000 suspects? It's virtually impossible to go through and read those and determine where we should start. How do we prioritize and then go out and investigate? Even the ones they have chosen to investigate out of those 58,000 there are 800 who have gotten some attention, some detailed investigative attention. They have probably eliminated 200 out of that 800. The rest you can't eliminate because the people that you are investigating have backgrounds and alibis that are as unreliable to check on as the prostitutes they killed.

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