If there is ever a political figure who is purely the figment our local media's imagination, it is the silver-haired sheriff, Rep. Dave Reichert, a man whose entire political career is built upon the fiction that he single-handedly brought to justice Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer.
But as Michael Hood explains in blunt detail in a re-post of his excellent series on the subject that first ran in 2006 on HA and BlatherWatch, Reichert's oft repeated tale is total bullshit....
Sheriff Reichert became the public face of the sensational arrest of the serial killer by elbowing his way in front of the cameras on November 30, 2001 when the sensational collar was announced.
Everyone knows Reichert is the guy who caught the Green River killer, because he reminds us in every introduction; every speech, interview, and on his website.
It helped get him elected in 2004 in his race against KIRO radio host, Dave Ross; and he still flogs it every time he opens his mouth....
The fact is: technology caught the killer, not Detective Reichert's dogged shoe-leather sleuthing as his press so dramatically implies. Even then, on Sheriff Reichert's watch, the saliva sample that could have busted Ridgway as early as 1996 when the DNA technology became available, was not tested until 2001.
Women died in that interim.
In fact, as Part II of Hood's series explains, Reichert actually bungled the case almost from the start of the investigation:
Frank Atchley, who supervised Reichert in the 1980s, told the P-I that Reichert "actually was more of an impediment to the investigation. He was probably the worst detective I've ever worked with," Atchley said. "He developed tunnel vision."
He's talking about Reichert's lock on one suspect: an ornery cab driver named Melvyn Foster. They had butted heads in an interview early on and Guillén writes, "... an acrimony developed that seemed to taint Reichert's judgment on Foster's viability as a suspect for years." He was so convinced of Foster's guilt, the task force focus disasterously excluded everyone else.
Including Ridgway, who our local media myth-makers fail to tell us, became one of the earliest suspects in the case, after an area woman accused him of trying to abduct and strangle her... the Green River Killer's signature M.O. So much of a suspect that the brother of Ridgway's employer claimed in a call to my former 710-KIRO radio show, that the police went as far as to interview him.
Interviewing family members of employers; that shows a certain amount of interest. But Reichert was so focused on his ornery cab driver, that they let Ridgway go, allowing him to continue his killing spree for 18 more years, until someone in the Sheriffs office — not Reichert — took the initiative to DNA-test a near two-decades old saliva sample.
Had I been Reichert at the moment that DNA test crossed my desk, suddenly confronted with the reality that my own incompetence had led to the deaths of innumerable women, I would have been heartbroken... distraught... wracked with guilt. But Sheriff Dave, he snapped on his dress uniform, posed for the cameras, and rode that tragedy all the way to Congress.
But as despicable at that might be, it's nothing compared to the malpractice of our local media, whose unselfconscious myth-making enabled Reichert to build a political career upon the graves of dozens of murdered young women.