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Gary Ridgway, the Green River killer, back in Washington

SEATTLE – One of the nation’s most prolific murderers, Green River serial killer Gary Ridgway, has been returned to a Washington prison after a transfer to Colorado upset relatives of his victims as well as investigators who handled the case.

The Washington Department of Corrections said Ridgway was returned to the state prison in Walla Walla on Saturday from the federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, the Seattle Times reported. He had been in Colorado since May.

Ridgway is serving life without parole for the killings of 49 women over a 20-year spree, and he’s suspected of having murdered dozens more. Officials said they would have saved money by keeping him in Colorado, and that it would have provided him with an opportunity to live in the general prison population instead of being kept in solitary for his own protection in Washington. Anytime he left solitary at Walla Walla, he had to be accompanied by a security team, officials said.

They reasoned that he’d be less well known and less of a target in Colorado, but investigators said it could hinder future investigations if they didn’t have easy access to Ridgway. They and victims’ relatives were also angered to learn that he had been transferred without their input.

In a statement Sunday, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, who investigated Ridgway during his years in the King County Sheriff’s Office, said he approved of the killer’s return.

“Last June when we learned that the Washington State Department of Corrections justified the transfer of Ridgway to Colorado by describing him as a model prisoner, the victims’ families, dedicated detectives, scientists, patrol officers, and hundreds of volunteers involved in the Green River case were rightly shocked and outraged,” he said. “On behalf of those that lost their loved ones, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Ridgway spends the rest of his days where he belongs, alone behind thick cement cell walls.”

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