Details of Disappearance
Sanders was last released from jail in Seattle, Washington on February 15, 1981, after serving a sentence for theft. She had contact with a friend afterward and made plans to meet her friend for lunch, but canceled because she had a date. She has never been heard from again.
Sanders was involved with prostitution at the time of her disappearance and may have been a victim of the Green River serial killer. Other possible victims of the murderer may include Patricia Osborn, Patricia LeBlanc, Kristi Vorak, Kasee Lee, Deborah Wims, and Keli McGinness.
Gary Allen Ridgway was charged with aggravated murder in four of the deaths linked to the Green River killer(s) in December 2001. 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.
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.
Prosecutors announced in April 2002 that they would seek the death penalty in Ridgway's case. Authorities located several of his former vehicles and purchased his pickup truck and camper from their owners in May 2002. A photo of his truck is posted with this case summary. Ridgway owned it during the early 1980s, the time when many of the victims disappeared or were discovered deceased. Investigators stated that they hoped to uncover evidence related to the murder cases inside the vehicles.
In a surprise move, Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder in November 2003. He agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for them dropping the death penalty specifications against him. Ridgway will serve life in prison with parole instead of facing execution.
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 Sanders's disappearance due to the circumstances involved.