Sister of Green River killer victim fights to change child rape laws

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 11 at 7:58 PM

It's painful for Jenny Graham of Spokane to walk along Pacific Highway South in Federal Way, where she once attended beauty school just blocks from where her sister walked the streets as a teen prostitute in the early 1980s.

"It is difficult, it's hard because every time I drive by here, I realize I was just 2 minutes away and there’s a huge amount of guilt,” Graham said.

"That is where Gary Ridgway picked up my sister on the day that he killed her, September 20, 1982,” said Graham, pointing to a sign at the intersection of S. 333rd Street and Pacific Highway South.

Graham said that she believes her sister, Debbie Estes, never would have chosen the life that put her in Ridgway's path, had she not been sexually abused as a child.

"She did not have the life skills to take care of herself and so she was looking for safety and the person that she found to help her with safety turned out to be a pimp,” Graham said.

Debbie's body was found a short distance away, just across the fence from Panther Lake Elementary School, where the girls once attended school.

After years of agonizing over her sister's death, Graham decided she had to do something.  She spoke out in court in 2003, when Ridgway plead guilty to killing 48 women, including Debbie Estes.  

“Shame on you Gary Ridgway,” Graham told the killer who is now serving life in prison.

While Graham said she will never recover from losing her sister.

“I can take Debbie’s life, death and the love that I will always have for her and try to make things better for someone else," she said.

She’s keeping that promise.  Graham traveled from Spokane to Western Washington, where she’s spent weeks lobbying for a bill that would change the statute of limitations in cases of child rape to do away with a complex set of restrictions, such as the requirement that the abuse be reported within a year in order for prosecutors to file charges.

“The bill is a strong line in the sand that says it is not okay to rape children,” Graham said.

Gary Ridgway wasn't prosecuted until decades after he'd committed his crimes.  Graham wants the people who abuse children to know that it can happen to them too.  

Representative Jeff Holy of Spokane is sponsoring House Bill 1352.  He said he hopes the new law will act as a deterrent by stopping perpetrators earlier, before they prey on new victims.  Holy said the bill would allow prosecution of child rapists and child molesters until the victim turns 30.  Holy said  there is an identical bill in the Senate and both have bipartisan support.   

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