Does the Pacific Northwest breed serial killers? - WNEM TV 5

Does the Pacific Northwest breed serial killers?

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

There is a tranquil beauty about the Pacific Northwest, but for decades the region has also hidden dark secrets.

Oregon and Washington have the dubious distinction of being home to some of the nation's most prolific serial killers.

"We've got these serial killers and these ended up turning into very, very large cases," said Dr. Nici Vance, a forensic scientist with the Oregon State Police crime lab.

Dr. Vance has analyzed forensic evidence found at the dumpsites of northwest serial killers, including the dumpsite of Dayton Leroy Rogers.

Rogers, known as the Molalla Forest Killer, was convicted of killing seven women.

"We have a lot of tools that are used for big scenes like that," she said.

As far back as the 1960s, Jerome Brudos, dubbed the Shoe Fetish Slayer, killed women in the Willamette Valley.

Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy grew up in Seattle and hunted women in several states, including Washington and Oregon. One of his victims was snatched from the Oregon State University campus. 

The Northwest was also home to Robert Lee Yates, a serial murderer who operated in the Spokane area; the I-5 Killer, Randall Woodfield; and Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, who confessed to killing 49 women, mainly prostitutes.

A photographer spent two years documenting the dumpsites of northwest killers.  Stephen Chalmers traveled to more than 250 dumpsites in northern California, Oregon and Washington. He captured images that are simply titled with the victims' names.

The photos are stark and evocative.

Chalmers, who once worked a an EMT in Portland, said the inspiration for the project came while he was on a date. The pair was hiking on a picturesque trail near Seattle and Chalmers later learned it was where a serial killer had dumped his victims.

"I hope the photos help people look at the scenes in a different light," he said. "They're a beautiful tribute to the victims."

Chalmers used old newspaper articles, police archives and information from Freedom of Information requests to locate the sites. The project is now being considered for publication as a book.

As for why there seem to be so many serial killers in the Northwest?

Dr. Vance said it may be the region's rural and wooded areas.

"It's largely anonymous, all the open areas, up and down the I-5 corridor," she said. "I think it's a thoroughfare of humanity and it's easy to be obscure when you're there."

RELATED: "Dumpsites" by Photographer Steven Chalmers

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