Human remains discovered in SeaTac in 1984 have been identified by King County Major Crimes and the DNA Doe Project as Wendy Stephens.
In 2003, Gary Ridgway, Washington’s notorious Green River killer, pleaded guilty to murdering 48 women. At the time of this plea, four of Ridgway’s victims remained unidentified.
The King County Sheriff’s Office, working in conjunction with forensic anthropologist Dr. Katherine Taylor, the DNA Doe Project and other scientists, recently positively identified one of these four victims as Wendy Stephens. Wendy was only 14-years old when, in 1983, she ran away from her Denver (CO) home. In 1984 her remains were discovered in SeaTac. Wendy is believed to be Ridgway’s youngest victim.
Wendy was found March 21, 1984 at the Highline Baseball Field, just west of the intersection of 16th Ave South and South 146th Street. That’s since been incorporated as part of the City of SeaTac.
As a Jane Doe, she was believed to be 15. We now know Wendy was just 14 when she was killed.
“This recent development is a testament to the tireless efforts of detectives, scientists and other professionals who employed the latest in emerging DNA and genealogical technologies in Wendy’s disappearance,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. “Cases once thought unsolvable are now within reach thanks to this pioneering work.”
Every person, in the words of Dr. Taylor, needs their name. “Wendy again has hers thanks to the collaborative efforts of this investigative team.”
“It is our hope today’s development brings those who love Wendy one step closer to healing,” police said.
“Our experienced detectives continue to work on the Green River serial murders and roughly 300 unsolved cold cases to identify victims, hold perpetrators accountable and provide these grieving families with answers,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi G Johanknecht.
KING COUNTY PROSECUTOR STATEMENT
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg released the following statement on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021:
“This weekend we learned the name of a young woman murdered by Gary Ridgway in King County in the early 1980’s. Wendy Stephens was from Denver, Colorado and only 14 years old when she was killed. Ridgway’s murderous spree left a trail of profound grief for so many families of murdered and missing women. His crimes left an impact on our community that continues today.
“Ridgway was convicted of the murder of Wendy Stephens in the original court plea. She was referred to only as “Jane Doe” in Count number 24. He has been found guilty of 49 counts of murder, and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
“Thanks to the hard work of the diligence and hard work of the King County Sheriff’s Office and Dr. Katherine Taylor, we can now say her name. We are thankful that Wendy Stephens’ family will now have answers to their enormous loss suffered nearly 40 years ago.”