Americans are both horrified and fascinated by serial killers and want to know everything about the murderer and their victims. Many enjoy exploring the details behind how anyone could commit such atrocities as these serial killings and how the perpetrators are caught. Whole TV channels are dedicated to the genre.
Across the United States, there are thought to be 25-50 serial killers at any one time. Some of these are located in and around the state of Oregon and you may unknowingly walk past them today.
Here, we let you know all about some of the most active and famous Oregon serial killers, and what happened to them. We’ll take a look at the crimes of:
- Gary Ridgway
- Randall Woodfield
- Bobby Jack Fowler
- Dayton Leroy Rogers
- Keith Hunter Jesperson
Gary Ridgeway was born in 1949, in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a deprived neighborhood. He wasn’t a good student and was sent to Vietnam following high school. On his return, he got a job painting trucks and did this for 30 years.
He was married three times but was a regular customer of prostitutes in the Oregon area. He began his killing spree in 1982 when he picked up young runaways and prostitutes from Route 99 in Oregon and Washington.
The Green River Killer
He took many of his victims to his home in Oregon before strangling them, leaving their bodies in remote, woody areas. The first of his victims' bodies were discovered alongside the Green River, Oregon, resulting in him being named the Green River Killer.
He eluded the law until 2001 when new developments in DNA technology led to police re-examining the DNA evidence. In December 2001, Ridgway was charged with four counts of murder by the Oregon supreme court.
He finally pleaded guilty to 49 counts of aggravated first-degree murder, receiving 48 life sentences. He received an additional 480 years for tampering with the bodies of his victims.
When facing the death penalty in Oregon, he made a deal with the police to reveal the location of more hidden bodies. At trial, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Ridgeway is thought to have committed more murders than any other serial killer in the United States. He has claimed that he murdered 75 to 80 women, and is one of the most famous serial killers in history.
Randall Woodfield was a football player who had a short spell with the Green Bay Packers before going on a brutal killing spree in the Oregon area, murdering up to 44 people, most of whom were women.
Born in 1950 and coming from a respectable home in Oregon, he excelled at sports in high school, and it was during this time that he began to sexually harass girls.
Growing up, he was arrested on many occasions for indecently exposing himself. His behavior escalated, and in 1975 he was arrested for second-degree robbery, holding several women at knifepoint and making them perform a sex act before robbing them.
On his release from prison, he attended his 10-year high school reunion in Oregon and connected with a former classmate who was later found bludgeoned to death in her apartment. This was the beginning of a five-month spree, where he murdered seven women along Interstate 5, through Washington, Oregon, and California.
The I-5 Bandit
He didn’t just rape and kill, he also committed multiple armed robberies along Interstate 5 and Oregon, while also sexually assaulting the female staff at gunpoint.
The press dubbed him the I-5 bandit due to the location of the attacks. He wore disguises such as a fake beard to conceal his identity.
He was finally revealed after an attack on two women where he sexually assaulted them before shooting them both in the head. One of the women survived, and he was apprehended on March 3, 1981, by which time he had attacked and killed a further three victims, including a 14-year old girl.
He was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to spend 35 years in prison in Oregon. Further evidence was uncovered in 2012, linking him to five more murders. True Crime has reported his story on the podcast and the TV series.
Woodfield has never admitted to any of the murders. The overwhelming evidence, including DNA discovered by the state medical examiner, guarantees that he will never walk free to commit any further crimes. He is incarcerated in Oregon state penitentiary.
Bobby Jack Fowler
Bobby Jack Fowler was born in Texas in 1939 and moved around the United States, racking up crimes that included attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, attempted rape, and assault.
He was a drug addict who worked in the construction industry. Spending his free time in bars and motels, he often picked up hitchhikers in the state of Oregon. He was arrested in 1969 for murdering a man and a woman but got off with only discharging a firearm.
In 1974 he would travel the infamous Highway of Tears, Highway 16, working for a roofing company. It is thought that he could be responsible for 10 to 20 serial murders along the highway during this time.
In June 1995, he was apprehended by Oregon state police in Newport, Oregon, when a woman leapt out of a motel's second-story window to escape from him. She managed to get to the police station, naked and bleeding, with a rope tied to her ankle, and told them what Fowler had done to her.
Fowler was then sentenced to 195 months imprisonment in Oregon, on the count of Kidnapping, attempted rape, sexual abuse, coercion, and assault. in 2006 The Oregon Department of Corrections revealed that Fowler had died of lung cancer while in prison.
Although he was never convicted of murder before he died, he is a suspect in at least 16 homicides in the United States and Canada.
Dayton Leroy Roger
Dayton Leroy Rogers was born in Idaho in 1953. At 16 he was arrested for shooting at passing cars with a BB gun.
This escalated and his evil fantasies were eventually realized, when at 19-years-old, he stabbed a 15-year-old girl on their second date. He got a sentence of four years probation after pleading guilty to second degree assault.
Aged 20, he attacked two teenage girls with a beer bottle. He was found not guilty because of insanity and committed to the Oregon state hospital, where he spent only eight months.
He continued to assault and rape girls throughout Oregon and always pleaded mental instability. He spent five and a half years in prison from 1976 until 1982, when his parole in the knife attack case was revoked.
He remained at liberty until he killed a prostitute in a parking lot in Oregon in 1987. While in prison for murdering the sex worker, a bow hunter stumbled across a decomposed body on a farm on the outskirts of Molalla, Oregon.
Seven bodies of naked women were found, less than 100 yards from each other. Most of the victims had their feet severed. Some of their clothing and jewelry were found at the Rogers residence in Oregon, connecting him to the serial murders.
The women that he murdered were usually prostitutes and drug addicts. They were raped and mutilated by him before their death. He was known in the Oregon press as the Molalla Forest Killer due to the location in Oregon where the bodies were found.
He was sentenced to the death penalty at Oregon state prison in June 1989 for the murders of six of the women. The seventh woman is still to be identified.
His conviction has been upheld four times, the most recent being in 2015. This time the sentencing was different, as aggravated murder is no longer punishable by death, but he remains in prison in Oregon.
Keith Hunter Jesperson
Keith Hunter Jesperson was born in 1955 in British Columbia, Canada. As with many serial killers, he showed signs of psychopathic behavior from a young age when he was seen torturing animals and attacking younger children.
He lived an uneventful life, and, after 15 years of marriage, moved to Washington state with his wife and three children. He split from his wife and later killed his first victim. He went on to kill a further seven women between 1990 and 1995 in the state of Oregon.
Happy Face Killer
He was known as the 'Happy face killer' due to the smiley faces he drew on the letters he sent to the Oregon media and authorities.
The women that he murdered were mostly sex workers who he picked up in his truck throughout Oregon. He killed most of his victims by strangulation and said he was ‘putting them out of their misery.' He claims to be responsible for killing 185, but the police found only eight bodies.
Jesperson handed himself into the Oregon authorities and was given three consecutive life sentences at the Oregon department state penitentiary for the serial killings. He was convicted of a further killing in 2010 and was handed a fourth life sentence by the Oregon supreme court.
The story of the Happy face killer can be viewed on the True Crime series, and the murderer remains in prison in Oregon.
Oregon has a homicide rate of half the national average. However, this doesn’t make the Oregon serial killers operating, any less notorious than any other killer in the United States.
Some of the notorious serial killers in the state of Oregon have been compared to and been as prolific as Ted Bundy in the number of atrocities and shocking murders committed and suspected of.