Look to your left. Look to your right. Seven out of every million of you beanie-toting Oregonians will be murdered by a serial killer.
Terrifying, right? Though Oregon ranks number six in the nation for serial murders, we actually know very little about what drives these killers.
By definition, serial murder means three or more killings completed in a style that suggests they were done by the same person. However, the government says they are a minimal threat.
Research put out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation says “there is a macabre interest in the topic [of serial killers] that far exceeds its scope and has generated countless articles, books and movies.” While the FBI doesn’t seem to keep or release numbers on the amount of serial murders that happen each year, we do know that no specific age, race, or psychological profile exists.
However, the news, documentaries, crime shows and horror movies are obsessed with crazed serial murders. Perhaps because any one of us could fit the profile, mystery drives our obsession. So since it’s Halloween, let’s get right to a few of the most notorious serial killers from the Pacific Northwest.
The Molalla Forest Killer: Oregon’s most prolific
Dayton Leroy Rogers, born Sept. 30, 1953, was arrested for stabbing and killing Jennifer Lee Smith, a 25–year-old prostitute. Rogers dumped her body behind a restaurant in Oak Grove.
Prosecutors said Rogers’ killing had been for a sexual thrill. Before that, Rogers had been targeting prostitutes that were addicted to heroin and taking them on “dates” to the woods and giving them miniature vodka bottles and orange juice before torturing them. Rogers abused some women several times over, and their testimony was crucial to his convictions.
The bodies of six women that didn’t survive were found off the side of logging roads in the Molalla woods. Rogers hogtied, slashed, and tortured his victims. He sawed the feet off some of them, and one had her entire abdomen gutted.
In all, Roger’s eight murder victims and many victims of assault have ranged in age from 15 to 35.
Rogers has remained in prison since 1988. He was sentenced to death in 1989, 1994, and 2006, but the Oregon Supreme Court rescinded these verdicts when laws changed or technicalities arose. He was most recently sentenced to death again in November 2015.
The Green River Killer
Gary Leon Ridgway, born Feb. 18, 1949, has been proven to be responsible for the deaths of 49 people but is suspected of killing at least 90.
Ridgway strangled and dumped the bodies of mostly sex workers and vulnerable women in Washington and Oregon while he worked as a commercial truck painter. His first five victims were discovered in the Green River in Washington state. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ridgway said he had killed so many women he lost count.
Ridgway’s crimes began with his stabbing of a six–year–old boy when Ridgway was 16. The boy, whose liver was punctured, survived.
Ridgway had a handful of troubled marriages in which he reportedly demanded sex from his wives several times a day, sometimes in public places where he later dumped his victims’ bodies. Ridgway often went back to those bodies and had sex with them again. Ridgway was also hyper-religious during these marriages but frequently had sex with prostitutes.
Ridgway evaded a life sentence through a plea deal in 2001. As of 2015, law enforcement was still looking for more victims’ bodies.
Southwest Portland local Alvin Brown killed three women and attempted to murder one more in the 1980s. He evaded local police for 10 years until forensics linked him to a woman he tried to dump off an Interstate 5 overpass.
In 1981, Brown raped and strangled 17-year-old Kimberley Stevens while she was walking a mile to her friend’s house. Her body was left by a church and discovered on Mother’s Day. Near the same time, Brown raped and strangled 17–year-old Melina Crist after she disappeared from the Portland Community College Sylvania campus.
Brown worked as a landscaper, often in Portland Police Detective Mike Hefley’s neighborhood. Brown said his inspiration was Hannibal Lecter. He was never convicted of his crimes and died behind bars in 2002.
Ted Bundy (1946-1989)
Bundy murdered at least 30 women across seven states between 1974 and 1978 and possibly earlier. Bundy kidnapped women in broad daylight, often feigning disability to gain empathy, then butchered their bodies. He also beat several women to death in their sleep.
Bundy visited the bodies of his victims for sometimes hours at a time, often grooming or having sex with them until advanced decomposition made it impossible. Bundy also kept photographs of his killings, as well as some of his victims’ severed heads, in his apartment as mementos.
Bundy was born in Vermont but moved to Tacoma, Wa. as a child. He attended the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington for about three years to study Chinese and psychology before dropping out.
Bundy was known as an empathetic and charismatic person during his childhood and young adulthood and even worked at a suicide crisis center in Seattle. However, after being dumped by his serious college girlfriend, then rekindling the relationship and ghosting her out of the blue, Bundy killed a slew of women that looked like her.
Bundy escaped from prison twice before running south to steal cars, credit cards and electronics, and committing more murders in Florida. Bundy was executed by the electric chair in 1989. Several attempts were made at psychiatric diagnoses, including multiple personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Bundy never fully took responsibility for his crimes, and instead blamed them on the victims, his abusive grandfather, pornography or society in general. Bundy has been the subject of six films and multiple biographies, but his answers to questions about his life over the years were inconsistent.
Richard Lawrence Marquette
The oldest serial killer on our list is 82-year-old Richard Marquette, who’s been incarcerated in the Oregon State Penitentiary since June of 1975. Marquette mutilated his victims’ remains beyond recognition and stored some of those remains wrapped in newspaper in his refrigerator.
After raping and murdering Portland woman Joan Caudle in 1961, Marquette drained her blood, dismembered her body, and left her head to rot in the woods. Marquette went to prison for 11 years after that but went home on parole in 1973.
However, Marquette then dismembered the body of another woman in Marion County and left her remains to float in a shallow slough. Betty Wilson was an impoverished woman who had 11 children with her abusive husband before fleeing North Carolina for Oregon. She was living in an abandoned school bus before she was murdered.