Washington State has garnered a reputation in the true crime community, mostly attributed to the fact that multiple serial killers committed heinous crimes in the state during the 1970s to 1990s. The Pacific Northwest’s gray weather, expansive forests that are lightly inhabited, and multiple true crime TV shows set near Seattle add to the mystique of the area.
Although it is commonly incorrectly rumored that Washington state produces most of the serial killers in the United States, the history of serial killings in the state has proven to be both fascinating and terrifying for locals, true crime fanatics, and historians alike. Below are 13 of the most infamous serial killers in Washington state history as well as their crimes, their punishments, and more.
1. Ted Bundy
Without a doubt one of the most famous serial killers in American history, Ted Bundy’s total victim count is still unknown to this day. Bundy was known for his crime spree during the 1970s which consisted of kidnapping, rape, and murder. Although he is well known for his crimes committed in Washington state, Bundy also committed crimes in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah.
Although his crime spree has only been confirmed to be 4 years long, it is believed he may have committed more crimes earlier in his life. He confessed to 30 murders but was suspected of 36 or more killings. His high murder count combined with his unusual reputation for attracting mass amounts of women even after his arrest has made Bundy infamous long after his death. He was sentenced to 2 death sentences for his crimes and was executed by electrocution in 1989. He was only 42 years old.
2. Gary Ridgway
When people talk about true crime in Washington state, Gary Ridgway is one of the first criminals to come to mind. Known as the Green River Killer, Ridgway is the most prolific serial killer in Washington state’s history and the second most prolific in all of the United States with a total of 49 confirmed victims to his name. He is suspected of having a total of 71 to 90 victims.
With a crime spree spanning nearly 2 decades across Washington and Oregon, Ridgway earned his nickname due to the fact that his first 5 victims were found in the Green River. Ridgway was actually suspected of murder as early as 1982 but couldn’t be arrested due to lack of evidence. It wasn’t until DNA evidence in 2001 that connected him to these crimes that he could finally be arrested. He confessed to 49 murders as part of his plea bargain, resulting in him being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is still alive to this day in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Ridgway is 74 years old.
3. Billy Gohl
Nicknamed the Ghoul of Grays Harbor, Billy Gohl killed multiple sailors as they passed through the city of Aberdeen, Washington. His crime spree lasted 8 years. Although only 2 of his murder victims were confirmed to be his, he was suspected of committing dozens or even 100 murders. He is one of the earliest serial killers in Washington state history, with his crimes running from 1902 to 1910.
Originally born in Germany, Gohl’s personal life is virtually unknown until his arrival in Aberdeen. His arrival coincided with the bodies of multiple migrant workers washing up on nearby shores. Skulls were later found near a cabin he owned. Gohl was eventually convicted of 2 murders but at the time he was suspected of a total of 41 murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but passed away at age 54 in the Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, Washington.
4. Robert Lee Yates
Perhaps the most prolific serial killer in Spokane’s history, Robert Lee Yates was dubbed the Spokane Serial Killer and the Grocery Bag Killer due to his 2-decade-long crime spree in Spokane, Washington. He has also committed crimes in Walla Walla and later confessed to a murder in Skagit County and 2 more murders in Pierce County. In total, he has at least 16 murder victims to his name.
Yates wasn’t convicted until 2 years after his crime spree ended. He was convicted of 13 counts of first-degree murder, 2 counts of aggravated first-degree murder, and 1 count of attempted first-degree murder. Yates was originally sentenced to death but his sentence was changed to life imprisonment in 2018. Currently, he is incarcerated in the Washington State Penitentiary. Yates is 71 years old.
5. Gary Taylor
Although he is significantly lesser known worldwide in comparison to Gary Riddway, Gary Taylor is infamous in Washington state in his own right. With potentially up to 20 victims to his name, Gary Taylor committed his crimes over the course of 3 years. His crimes included robbery, rape, and murder of multiple women throughout Michigan, Texas, and Washington state.
Despite his extensive criminal history, not much is known about Taylor and he is seldom discussed when it comes to Washington state’s history. Many claim Gary Taylor is responsible for up to 20 victims, although only 4 have been confirmed. Even with these confirmed cases, Taylor was only convicted on 1 count of murder in Washington state in 1976. He was sentenced to life in prison.
6. Randall Woodfield
Convicted of murder, robbery, sodomy, and sexual assault, Randall Woodfield committed a 6-month crime spree through Washington, Oregon, and California. All of his crimes occurred along the Interstate 5 corridor, which eventually caused many to dub him the “I-5 Killer” or the “I-5 Bandit.” Woodfield was only convicted on 1 murder charge but has been linked to 18 other victims and is suspected to be involved in another 44 cases.
To this day, Woodfield has yet to confess to any of the murders he’s been accused of. Woodfield was sentenced to life imprisonment with an additional punishment of 165 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated in the Oregon State Penitentiary. He is 72 years old.
7. Martin Stickles
One of the earliest accounts in the history of serial killings in the state of Washington, Martin Stickles is responsible for the death of 3 people in Cowlitz County, Washington. He committed these crimes sometime between 1899 and 1900. He was nicknamed the Kelso Killer for his crimes and was convicted of 3 counts of murder.
Stickles moved to Washington when he was only 18 months old. He eventually grew up to earn a living as a fisherman, living on a small barge that sailed along the Columbia, Cowlitz, and Coweeman Rivers. He killed all of his victims by shooting them with a rifle through a window of their home. Stickles was only 30 years old when he was executed by hanging in Kalama, Washington in January 1901.
8. Kenneth Bianchi
Many know Kenneth Bianchi for his role in committing the Hillside Strangler murders in Los Angeles, California with his cousin, Angelo Buono Jr. However, it’s often overlooked that had subsequent Washington murders after the Hillside Strangler crimes. Bianchi killed 2 women, 22 and 27 years old at the time, in Bellingham, Washington while he was working as a house guard. He committed these crimes alone, without the help of his cousin.
In total, Bianchi has at least 12 murder victims to his name. His crimes spanned from 1977 up until his arrest in January 1979. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but eventually pleaded guilty to avoid receiving the death penalty in Washington State. He is currently imprisoned at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. He is 72 years old.
9. Joseph Duncan III
Although he is mostly famous for his crimes in Idaho, Joseph Duncan III is a rather unique serial killer in that his crimes spanned multiple states, similar to Ted Bundy. His crimes first began in Washington state when he was only 15 years old when he was convicted of rape. In the course of 2 years, Duncan had stolen guns, abducted young children, and committed more rapes. It was shortly after this that he committed 2 murders in Seattle. Both victims were young girls, aged 11 and 9. Their remains were found in Bothell, Washington, in 1998.
The Seattle murders are generally considered to be the first of many committed by Duncan. After these killings, he went on to kill a 10-year-old boy in California before moving on to Idaho, where the bulk of his crimes were committed. After his arrest, Duncan was convicted of 7 murders, although it is thought he could’ve killed another bringing the total to 8. He had convictions in both Idaho and California and was sentenced in both states to life without parole. However, on a Federal level, he was sentenced to death. Duncan passed away in 2021 at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was 58 years old.
10. Warren Leslie Forrest
Convicted and sentenced to 2 life terms, Warren Leslie Forrest is known for the murders of 2 young women in Clark County, Washington. On top of these charges, he is also the prime suspect for a string of 5 other murders and disappearances in the early 70s. His confirmed crimes span from July to September of 1974, although it is believed his crimes began as early as 1971.
Warren Leslie Forrest was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington. For most of his life, he lived and worked in Battle Ground, Washington as part of the Clark County Parks Department. He was convicted of his first count of murder in 1974. His second conviction didn’t come until 2023 when DNA evidence finally provided confirmation that he was linked to the murder of Martha Morrison. All of his victims, both confirmed and alleged, were all 20 years old or younger. Currently, he resides in the Airway Heights Corrections Center in Airway Heights, Washington. He is 74 years old.
11. Joseph Kondro
Known as the Longview Serial killer, Joseph Kondro kidnapped, assaulted, and killed 3 children in or around the city of Longview, Washington. He committed these crimes in the 1980s and 1990s. His victims were all young girls, with 2 of them being only 8 years old and the oldest being 12 years old. It is believed that Kondro was also linked to the disappearances of many other girls in the region but he passed away before any of these allegations could be confirmed.
On top of kidnapping, assault, and murder, Kondro was convicted of forgery, theft, and drug dealing. His sentence was only 55 years in prison due to a deal he struck with the prosecutors in which he confessed to the murder of Rima Traxler in 1985. Kondro was incarcerated in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington before his death in 2012. He was 52 years old when he passed due to liver disease, likely brought on by a Hepatitis C infection.
12. Westley Dodd
Nicknamed the Vancouver Child Killer, Westley Allan Dodd was convicted on 3 counts of aggravated first-degree murder, 1 count of attempted first-degree murder, and 1 count of first-degree kidnapping. He committed these crimes in the fall of 1989, causing the deaths of 3 young boys in Vancouver, Washington, and a failed attempt at kidnapping another child.
Dodd was caught when police found his diary that listed his crimes in great detail. He pleaded guilty to the murder charges and received the death penalty. Dodd was executed by hanging in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington on January 5, 1993. It was the first legal hanging in the United States since 1965. Dodd was only 31 when he died.
13. The Tube Sock Killings
One of the most famous serial killers in Washington state has yet to be identified to this day. Also known as the Mineral, Washington murders, these killings occurred from August 1985 to December 1985. 4 victims have been confirmed as part of the killings but some believe there are other potential unconfirmed victims. Despite the fact that the killer has yet to be identified even after so many decades, these serial murders are some of the most famous in the state.
The killings spanned through the remote parts of Lewis and Pierce County specifically. The nickname for the murders comes from the fact that all the victims were found with a tube sock tied around their necks. All victims were adults and lived in Washington state. The causes of death were either due to stabbing or shooting. The most recent update in the case was in 2011 when a partial skull of one of the victims was found but no concrete leads have been found either during or after the crimes occurred.