Norm Maleng, 68; prosecuted Green River serial killer of 48 women

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Norm Maleng, 68, the longtime King County prosecutor in Washington state who reached a plea bargain in 2003 with the notorious Green River serial killer, died Thursday of a heart attack in Seattle.

Though he was a tough-on-crime Republican in a liberal county, Maleng was so popular that he rarely drew serious election challenges after first winning office in 1978.

He was best known for the Green River case, which had baffled investigators since 1982, when authorities began finding women’s bodies in or near the river south of Seattle. Nearly 50 women -- most of them prostitutes or runaways -- were believed to be victims.

Longtime suspect Gary Ridgway, a trucking company worker, was arrested in 2001 after DNA testing linked him to some of the killings.

Ridgway pleaded guilty in 2003 to 48 murders and was sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms.


As part of the deal, Ridgway agreed to help investigators locate remains that had long been missing.

Maleng, who had vowed that his office would not bargain away the death penalty, said he made the deal to bring answers -- and peace of mind -- to victims’ families and the community.

Raised on a dairy farm in Acme, Wash., Maleng earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Washington.