Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River killer, was convicted of murdering at least 49 women over nearly 20 years. He had been transferred in the spring from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla to a federal prison in Colorado.

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Green River serial killer Gary L. Ridgway is back in prison in Walla Walla after being flown to Washington from the federal prison in Colorado where he had been since May.

Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesman Andrew Garber said Ridgway was returned to the state Saturday morning.

The killer, convicted of murdering at least 49 women over nearly 20 years, was transferred in the spring from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla to a prison in Florence, Colo.

Relatives of his victims were outraged to learn of the transfer in September, and corrections officials quickly changed course.

Ridgway, sentenced to life without parole in 2004, had been confined to a solitary cell in Walla Walla for 23 hours a day to keep him from being attacked by other inmates. Such solitary arrangements are usually temporary.

Whenever Ridgway left his cell, he was accompanied by a security team. DOC officials cited the cost of the arrangement in seeking his transfer to Colorado.

Documents obtained by The Seattle Times showed the move to the maximum-security prison also was intended to provide Ridgway with an opportunity to live among the general prison population in Colorado, where he is not as well known.

The records also revealed that Ridgway has been on medication and had complained of unspecified mental-health problems.

Ridgway claims to have killed as many as 70 women. Investigators have hoped he would cooperate in locating his victims, but the killer has a history of lying to investigators and sending them on dead-end chases.