By Our Staff: An excerpt from 'Green River Killer: A True Detective Story'

Ten years ago this month, my dad caught a serial killer.

From 1984 to 2001, my father, Detective Tom Jensen, hunted one of the worst mass murderers in history, Seattle’s so-called Green River Killer, responsible for the strangulation slayings of over 48 women. At first, my father was a member of a task force of detectives. Eventually, and by choice, he became the only detective working the case full-time. He privately referred to the investigation as “The Quest” – the choice of words inspired by the song “The Impossible Dream” from the musical The Man of La Mancha. “Privately,” because Dad rarely talked about the case with the family, never told us what it truly meant to him – not until it was over. In September of 2001, my father, using DNA technology, put a proper name on the Green River Killer: Gary Leon Ridgway, a seemingly mild mannered painter of commercial trucks. Ridgway was arrested in December 2001, and  my father and his colleagues believed they had brought the Green River Killer to justice and brought an end to a nightmare that haunted Seattle for nearly 20 years. But a bizarre endgame still awaited them.

In 2008, I asked my father if I could dramatize his story in a slightly unusual fashion. I love comic books. My father, in fact, introduced me to comics when I was kid. So I wanted to write a graphic novel. The result is called Green River Killer: A True Detective Story, published by Dark Horse Comics. Drawn by Jonathan Case, the book chronicles my father’s “quest” by focusing on five days in particular, beginning with June 13, 2003 – the day Gary Leon Ridgway was secretly removed from jail and relocated to the headquarters of the new Green River Task Force, where he would live down the hall from my father’s cubicle for the next 188 days. Ridgway had offered to plead guilty to the 48 murders — plus bring police to even more  victims that they  had never found — in exchange for life in prison. Of course, Ridgway would have to substantiate his claims by providing my father and his colleagues with anecdotal and physical evidence – a process that proved more difficult than anyone expected.

The following link will take you to an excerpt from Chapter Two, which toggles back and forth between an increasingly frustrated day of field trips with Ridgway and my father’s equally frustrating first year working the case, which culminated with his decision to devote himself to “The Quest,” no matter how long it took, or where it would take him.

A couple clarifying notes: In the first panel on the first page, the caption “You’re never going to catch him!” is the final beat of a flashback scene not shown. And as for the final page: At this time in the investigation, circa 1984/1985, each member of the task force worked a specific part of the case. By becoming adept at working the computer database,  my father developed a deeper, broader understanding of the entire investigation, making him an ideal choice to become the sole full-time detective on the case when the task force disbanded in 1990.

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  • E

    I grew up in Western Washington when this was the big story. It seemed like Ted Bundy had finally been put away and then it was starting over again. Though for some people the fact that they were prostitutes made it seem more removed. So grateful to your dad and the others who helped everyone feel safer.

  • An Average Sized Mustache

    Being a fan of comic books, crime stories, and Jensen’s EW column I had no choice but to buy this graphic novel. And any hesitation I might’ve had about picking it up was quickly set aside after reading the positive blurbs by my favorite comic book writers, Brian K. Vaughan, and Ed Brubaker.

    Highly recommended!

  • Heather

    Doc, tell your dad “job well done!” (and give yourself a pat on the back for all your Lost coverage over the years while you’re at it)

  • amanda

    Your dad is truly a hero.
    I have never read a comic book in my life, but I plan to pick this one up.

  • PDDB

    I read that Jeff was doing this project a while back. Now that it is finally done, it is understandable why he chose the comic book medium to do this. Sometimes, the “quest” for justice is time consuming, frustrating and emotionally painful. Jeff does a great job translating what happened and what his dad went through. I am really glad Jeff wrote this tale and his dad agreed to let him do this. Too often the unsung heroes never get recognized for their work. Hopefully this work changes this for former Detective Ted Jensen.

  • huangzhenwei

    Being a fan of comic books, crime stories, and Jensen’s EW column I had no choice but to buy this graphic novel. And any hesitation I might’ve had about picking it up was quickly set aside after reading the positive blurbs by my favorite comic book writers, Brian K. Vaughan, and Ed Brubaker.

    Highly recommended!
    I’m Female, 22, and just this Christmas had a brief encounter with a mature man. It was wonderful. We met via internet dating on this site: SeekSugarDad.C óM- a good way to meet like-minded people, and he actually approached me first. It just so happens I like older man and he likes woman around my age. We had an amazing day and later on he joined me at a hotel. It was like a fantasy come true. Amazing company, amazing sex too and a really warm and loving man. He will turn 36 this month, and my goodness what a connection we had that day.——–

  • Jeff’s Dad

    To Pang, HarryG, hunagzhenwei. Thanks for your kinds remarks. Now I suggest you really read the book.

  • Queen Bee

    Jeff – I am not a comic book or graphic novel girl, but I will get this. I grew up with the Reichert kids, but more importantly, I grew up less than a mile from one of his first dumping grounds. To put it bluntly, it freaked me the hell out. Years later, skeletal remains were found on a friend’s property line, which just served to underline the impact Gary Ridgway had already made on my psyche. Had it not been for him I probably wouldn’t be spending my adult life writing stories about serial killers. He brutalized so many women, but he terrorized so many more, just by being out in the world, by being himself. So glad your father was there to get the job done.

    • Jackson

      There is a perfectly good resaon for sending an automatic confirmation mail from a no-reply mailbox, yet giving a contact email address in the message body: Broken email autoresponders and mistyped email addresses. Yes, you still want your customers to reach you via their preferred communication channel. No, you don’t want to spend your days wading through tons of notifications from broken auto-responders, transfer reports and mistyped email addresses.

  • Zephyr

    I love true crime novels (Anne Rule) and graphic novels (Rick Geary). I will be sure to pick this up.

  • MurMaz

    Jeff, I saw the TV movie with Tom Cavanagh playing Det. Jensen. I had no idea that was your dad! Another layer of the onion that is Doc Jensen.

    • SeattleAnne

      MurMaz- in that tv movie-Tom Cavanagh actually portrayed Det.Dave Reichert.

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