Details of Disappearance
Deborah was last seen on October 25, 1990 when she left her apartment en route to a supermarket on Pacific Highway South and South 216th Street. She has never been heard from again. After her disappearance, her car was found abandoned at a Safeway store at South 216 and Pacific Highway.
Deborah was a prostitute and transient in 1990, and had a substantial criminal record dating back to the 1970s for crimes including auto theft, grand larceny and prostitution. She had lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, San Francisco and Santa Ana in California, and in Wichita, Kansas as well as Seattle.
Deborah's sister, Cheryl Lee Wims, was murdered prior to her disappearance. A photo of Cheryl is posted with this case summary. She disappeared on her eighteenth birthday in May 1983. Her skeletal remains were found in March 1984, just north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. She had also been a prostitute, and her pimp and Deborah's pimp were brothers. Authorities determined she was the victim of the Green River Killer, later identified as Gary Leon Ridgway.
Photos of Ridgway are posted with this case summary. He had been one of the suspects in the case since 1984. Authorities questioned him that year after witnesses placed him with two of the victims and his pickup truck was identified as being at the scene of the victims' last known locations.
In 2003, Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder, including Cheryl's, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He claimed he killed all his victims in King County, Washington, almost all of them during the early- to mid-1980s, and denied being responsible for Deborah's disappearance. The bodies of several of his presumed victims have never been found; they may include Patricia Osborn
, Patricia LeBlanc
, Kristi Vorak
, Kase Lee
, Keli McGinness
, and Louise Sanders
Ridgway's home was searched in 1987 and he provided a saliva sample at that time. DNA testing was performed on the saliva in 2001 and matched three of the victims: Opal Mills, Marcia Chapman and Cynthia Hinds. The women's bodies had been discovered in the Green River near Seattle in August 1982. Ridgway was connected to the fourth victim, Carol Christensen, through circumstantial evidence.
Ridgway was arrested twice for soliciting prostitution; once in 1982 and again in October 2001. Many of the Green River victims were runaways or prostitutes. A 1980 charge against Ridgway was dropped when a prostitute claimed he choked her. Ridgway told authorities that he attacked her in self-defense, as she was allegedly biting him. One of his former wives came forward after his 2001 arrest and claimed that Ridgway preferred to have sexual relations outdoors. She also said that he often employed a chokehold while engaged in sexual activity. A prostitute who stated Ridgway paid her for sex in the early 1980s supported the story, stating that he attempted to choke her during intercourse.
Ridgway's residence and his parents' home were searched after his 2001 arrest. Authorities discovered an envelope containing bone fragments, tufts of human hair, numerous blood stains, boxes of latex gloves, costume jewelry and several wigs. Many of the assumed Green River victims were missing jewelry and/or wigs at the time their remains were discovered. Ridgway is married and his neighbors considered him to be a family-oriented individual. Profilers have said that he does not fit the mold of most accused serial killers, as he did not seek attention for his crimes.
Many investigators believe Ridgway was responsible for more deaths than he claims. Authorities are continuing to investigate the cases of missing and murdered young women in Washington state, which they believe may be tied to Ridgway. If they can prove he was responsible for any murders outside of King County, he could be prosecuted and face the death penalty.
Foul play is suspected in Deborah's disappearance due to the circumstances involved.