updated 10/30/2003 3:27:21 PM ET 2003-10-30T20:27:21

The man suspected of being the Green River Killer has agreed to plead guilty next week to the murders of 48 women in a deal that would spare him from execution, two sources told The Associated Press on Thursday.

GARY LEON RIDGWAY, a 54-year-old truck painter arrested in the serial killer case in 2001, will admit to murdering 42 women on investigators’ list of Green River Killer victims, as well as six women not on the list, said the sources, who are involved in the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The numbers of killings he pleads to “could change between now and Wednesday, but that’s where it stands,” one source said.

The Green River Killer preyed mostly on prostitutes, drug addicts, young runaways and other women on the streets. The case is named for the waterway where the first bodies were found in the suburbs south of Seattle in mid-1982.

Most of the slayings were in the mid-1980s, but one of the women Ridgway is expected to admit killing died in 1990, and another died in 1998.

In many cases, the killer had sex with his victim and then strangled her.

Ridgway was arrested nearly two years ago and was ultimately charged with seven slayings. Prosecutors said DNA evidence and microscopic paint particles linked him to most of those killings.

Ridgway began cooperating with authorities months ago, one source confirmed, leading them to four sets of remains over the summer.

Seattle-area newspapers and TV stations had been reporting over the past few days that a plea bargain had been reached.

With the death penalty off the table, Ridgway would face life in prison without parole — the only other penalty for aggravated murder under Washington law.

“He deserves the death penalty, but what would be the point?” said Tim Meehan, whose pregnant sister Mary was found dead in 1983. “Twenty years from now, when he’d actually be put to death, he’d be in his mid-70s. At least now the families have an opportunity to have answers. Closure is well worth the tradeoff.”

Detective Kathleen Larson, a spokeswoman for the Green River Killer task force, would not comment when contacted by the AP on Wednesday and Thursday.

The women Ridgway will admit killing who were not on the list include Patricia Ann Yellow Robe, 38, of Seattle, a nurse’s aide who was found dead by a wrecking crew in 1998; and Marta Reeves, 36, whose remains were found in 1990, the source told The AP.

“I guess I’m a little stunned, you know,” said Robe’s father, Joe Yellow Robe of Box Elder, Mont., told KING-TV. “I find it incredible that an individual was able to cause that many deaths, to perpetrate that much suffering and misery on so many people.”

The body of Reeves, 37, was found near Enumclaw, not far from where three Green River victims were found in 1983.

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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