By Jonathan Kaminsky
OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - The unsolved deaths of three women in the 1980s and 1990s in rural southwestern Washington state fit the victim profile of "Green River Killer" Gary Ridgway, police said on Tuesday.
Ridgway, 64, was convicted a decade ago of murdering 48 mostly young women who were prostitutes or runaways, with an additional murder conviction added in 2011.
In 2003 he pleaded guilty to the Seattle-area killings, as well as any others subsequently linked to him, as part of an agreement with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty. He is serving a life prison term without the possibility of parole at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
But Ridgway's plea deal pertained only to murders committed in King County. The three dead women that authorities say fit Ridgway's victim profile were recovered in rural Lewis County - meaning the death penalty could be back on the table in those cases, said Lewis County Detective Sergeant Dusty Breen.
"We don't have anything definitively that links Ridgway to them," Breen said in an interview. "The victimology of the three deceased women is where that nexus is coming in."
Ridgway, who is considered the country's most prolific serial killer, recently told Seattle-based KOMO News radio that his total number of victims numbers between 75 and 80. He committed the bulk of his killings in the 1980s, with some of his slayings continuing into the 1990s.
His attorney, Mark Prothero, said that Lewis County prosecutors approached him late last year wanting to discuss their unsolved cases with Ridgway but his client declined to meet with them.
"He has always denied killing anyone outside of King County," Prothero said.
Like Ridgway's other victims, the women found in Lewis County were all engaged in "high risk" lifestyles, Breen said. One was a prostitute, another a transient and the third a stripper. Also like his other victims, they were each discovered a short distance from Interstate 5, he said.
None of the three women had ties to the local Lewis County community, Breen said, and all were all last seen in or around Tacoma, about 55 miles to the northeast in Pierce County.
Breen said that no physical evidence in any of the cases has been tied to Ridgway, and that investigators do not currently have access to the women's bodies. He said that their cases are reviewed periodically - as often as every year.
"He could potentially be back up for the death penalty with us, which might be a reason why he doesn't want to talk," said Breen.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman)