Congress

Lawmaker seeks to keep 'murderabilia' items out of U.S. mail

WASHINGTON — State and federal prisoners would be barred from using the mail to sell personal items under a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by the man who caught the Green River Killer.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a former King County sheriff who spent nearly 20 years tracking Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, believes serial killers and others murderers shouldn't be allowed to profit from the sale of so-called "murderabilia."

A handful of Web sites market the items, ranging from a hub cap off Ted Bundy's 1968 Volkswagen Beetle to a Charles Manson fingerprint chart to a Zodiac killer wanted poster. One murderabilia site is offering for $1,700 a four-page letter Ridgway wrote three weeks after he was arrested. The top bid at another Web site has reached $900 for what's reputed to be Bundy's last Christmas card.

Some of the killers willingly participate in the sales, while others are duped by dealers into providing drawings, letters and other personal items.

"The families of these victims can be assured the federal government, Congress, believes this is a sick, sick practice," Reichert said. "In law enforcement, we personally see how crime affects victims, and murder is the most heinous crime. The families of these victims experience enormous, life-consuming pain after losing a loved one, and the exploitation of the crime by a criminal is unacceptable."

While King County sheriff, Reichert at one point interviewed Bundy — who was on Florida's death row — seeking insights into who was killing young women and dumping their bodies along the Green River in Washington state. Ridgway eventually confessed to murdering 48 women.

Reichert said he wouldn't be surprised to see Ridgway try to profit from sales of his personal items.

"Ridgway is a guy who would take advantage of every opportunity to make his star rise," Reichert said.

Bundy, who grew up in Tacoma, Wash., was executed 18 years ago in Florida for killing two Florida State University sorority sisters and a 12-year-old girl. He confessed to 40 murders, but the real number may never be known. Along with Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, Bundy items are among the most sought-after in murderabilia.

Reichert's bill is similar to one introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The measure prohibits inmates from using the mail to sell personal items. Five states — Texas, California, New Jersey, Michigan and Utah — have restricted such sales.

Reichert said he expects Congress to approve the legislation before the end of the year.

"Federal legislation is the only answer," said Andy Kahan, director of the mayor of Houston's crime victims' office, who has been tracking the sale of murderabilia for eight years. "The U.S. mail is the conduit used by these vultures."

Kahan said Reichert was the perfect person to introduce the House measure.

"No one is better suited to carry this legislation," Kahan said. "You couldn't ask for a better person to represent the victims than the man who spent 20 years catching the Green River Killer. There is no one else in Congress who can better understand the pain, grief and misery crime victims have to endure."

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