THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, people have been fascinated by serial killers. From the Whitechapel murders of Jack the Ripper to the more modern John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Wayne Williams (the Atlanta Child Murderer) and Gary Ridgway (the Green River Killer), these cases have demanded the attention of the masses with books, documentaries and articles written about the incidents. Although these killers account for a scintilla of the murders committed in the United States, criminologists have committed their academic lives to the study of these human enigmas to see what makes them tick.
In this age of vast information resources, most of these killers are well-known to the students, whether hobbyists or academics, of this type of crime. People are often surprised to learn that the vast majority of serial killers are not generally known by the public.
Even though I was a longtime homicide detective who worked on serial murder cases and studied many others, there are serial killers I’ve never heard of. To have one who operated in the Seattle area was surprising; I thought I knew most of the local suspects.
A year before I wrote this book, I received an email from someone who had read my first book, “Homicide: The View from Inside the Yellow Tape”: “What do you know about Gary Grant, who killed two teenaged girls and two small boys in Renton in the late ’60s or early ’70s?”
I had never heard of Grant. Inquiries to the Renton Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office revealed only a small, incomplete footprint of the crime.
When I contacted the King County Prosecutor’s Office, it had the court file for the case and allowed me to copy it for submission to the Homicide Investigations Tracking Systems database, where I currently work. Later, when The History Press asked whether I would write a historical true-crime book from the Seattle area, this case immediately came to mind.
Besides poring over the file, I tried to find people who were associated with this case. Many had passed away. But talking with surviving members of the Renton Police Department, the prosecution team, the judge who presided over State v. Gary Gene Grant, and the son of the case’s special prosecutor, the case slowly emerged for me.
I learned that those who worked the case still had fresh memories of it. It had made an indelible mark on their collective minds.
With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I learned about the case, about mistakes made and the excellent detective work done by investigators with little or no experience in working on a crime of this magnitude — without all the modern forensic tools available today.
And I learned about Gary Gene Grant: Seattle’s forgotten serial killer.