Jill McCabe Johnson isn't 100% sure that the man she slept with one night as an 18-year-old was Gary Ridgway—more commonly known as the Green River Killer, who had at least 49 victims—but she's pretty close to it. In a lengthy piece for Slate, Johnson recounts meeting a man roughly a decade her senior at a country-western dance hall in Seattle in late 1980 or early 1981. The man she knew only as Gary seemed nice enough. He'd buy her a non-alcoholic drink and ask for a dance, and one night a few weeks later he drove her home in his well-worn pick-up. He told her he had split from his wife and talked about his rough custody battle over his son, whom he showed her a photo of. She found him "vulnerable." They slept together. He left fairly suddenly after hearing her roommates come home, and when he asked her out the next weekend, she said no.
"A few times after that, I thought I saw Gary’s truck in our apartment parking lot. I had since met the man who would become my first husband. He was with me each time I saw Gary, who pulled out when he saw us." She didn't think much of it, and Gary never asked her for another date. Then came the arrest of the Green River Killer in 2001, and she noted similarities: Gary Ridgway drove a busted-up pickup, liked country-western, separated from his wife in 1980, and went to Parents Without Partners meetings at the bar where they met. She started following the case, and found even eerier overlap: He parked near his ex's apartment for hours at a time. He admitted showing women a photo of his son to relax them. "I felt irrational guilt that I hadn’t detected anything disturbing about Gary," she writes. And while he didn't start killing until 1982, "my mind often races: What if my roommates hadn’t come home when they did? ... What if I’d been alone when I found him waiting in my parking lot?" (Read her full story.)