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Originally published March 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 1, 2008 at 10:13 AM

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"Green River Killer" miniseries stirs Reichert's memories, angst

One thing you won't see Dave Reichert the TV character do in tonight's Lifetime Movie Network miniseries about him: Weep. Which is what actually...

Seattle Times staff reporter

On TV

"The Capture of the Green River Killer"

Part 1 at 9 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday (April 2) and Part 2 at 9 p.m. Pacific time Thursday (April 3) on Comcast digital channel 504.

Broadcast times for the two-part "The Capture of the Green River Killer" TV movie were wrong in a story published on Sunday due to incorrect information provided by Lifetime Movie Network. The network is rebroadcasting Part 1 at 9 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday (April 2) and Part 2 at 9 p.m. Pacific time Thursday (April 3) on Comcast digital channel 504.

One thing you won't see Dave Reichert the TV character do in tonight's Lifetime Movie Network miniseries about him: Weep.

Which is what actually happens when the real Reichert, the former King County sheriff turned U.S. congressman, is interviewed about the decades-long investigation hunting the horrific Green River killer.

Yes, the two-night TV miniseries gets some things right: Reichert obsessing about solving the murders. Reichert praying. Reichert traveling to Florida to gain some insight on the elusive killer from fellow serial killer Ted Bundy.

Also, there were indeed occasions when the real Reichert, after pulling corpse after corpse from the banks of the Green River, would head to his car, slam the door shut, and sit with his head back in frustration. Just like Tom Cavanagh, the former "Ed" star, does in one of the TV movie's scenes. Except, no sunglasses. He didn't start wearing them until he needed prescriptions, he said.

But the emotional toll of hunting down the nation's most notorious serial killer — Gary L. Ridgway, who eventually pleaded guilty in 2003 to killing 48 women — is palpable. Reichert spent 20 years investigating the murders and during a recent interview on Mercer Island, he wept.

"I just knew that one day we'd catch him," he says, still emotional about the subject.

"I go back to the scenes every now and then. And I just sit there."

Nothing quite as genuine, however, surfaces in "The Capture of the Green River Killer," airing on LMN (Comcast digital cable channel 504).

The only reasons worth tuning in are if you've forgotten just how many women Ridgway actually murdered; if you're unaware of this area's sordid serial-killer past; if you have the lowest of expectations.

Casting Cavanagh as Reichert isn't too much of a stretch — Reichert actually had a dark mane like the actor's when he was younger.

And the movie, adapted from Reichert's 2004 book "Chasing the Devil: My Twenty Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer," covers some of the sheriff's younger life (time spent as a child on the Green River; being assaulted as a boy; a stabbing early in his police career) as well as some gruesome facts of the killings: Ridgway put rocks inside his victims, who were mostly young prostitutes. He deposited their remains largely in South King County but also as far south as Oregon. And he did not fit the stereotypical serial-killer profile. He had been married; he was a father and he was holding down a job.

But rather than just telling a cat-and-monstrous-mouse tale, the TV movie story line — this being on a network geared toward women — opts to fictionalize one of the Green River Killer victims. A young woman named Helen (Hel for short; get it?) grows up miserably in a trailer park, sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend. She runs away and winds up as a prostitute on the Sea-Tac strip. And even after she's killed she continues to narrate the movie, talking long about destiny.

Hel (Amy Davidson) haunts Reichert the way each murder haunted the real-life Reichert, until DNA evidence eventually linked Ridgway to two killings and he was arrested. In a face-to-face confession, as part of a plea agreement, Ridgway admitted to killing as many as 71 women, although only the remains of 48 victims were eventually found.

The TV movie was screened earlier this month in Washington, D.C., which is when Reichert first saw it.

The one part of the movie he couldn't watch were photos of the actual victims shown at the end. (The rest of the photos shown throughout the movie are fake.) The movie was filmed in Canada.

In an interview, Reichert said he never imagined he'd be the subject of a movie. He received payment "well below six figures" for his story. A portion of it will go to charity, he said.

He said he couldn't think of a time when he doesn't think about the killings. "It's always been there."

And if Ridgway, currently incarcerated at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary, ever wanted to talk to Reichert again, the ex-sheriff said, "I'd go over there in a heartbeat. I don't think he's told everything. I know he hasn't."

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com

Dave Reichert's compensation for the TV adaptation was "well below" six figures, not "in the low six figures" as originally stated in March 30, 2008 story.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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