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Police question man in serial murder case

By TERRY FINN

SEATTLE -- Detectives investigating the nation's longest string of unsolved serial killings spent hours questioning a man they called a 'person of interest' before releasing him early today.

But detectives remained at the unidentified man's suburban home for several more hours, searching for evidence in the Green River murders of 34 young women, most of them prostitutes.

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The flurry of activity Thursday by King County detectives and FBI agents drew considerable attention to a case that has frustrated investigators for more than three years, but authorities were tight-lipped in discussing their most recent actions.

'Detectives have completed their interview with the man whose name came to the attention of the Green River Task Force,' said Fae Brooks, a task force spokeswoman. 'He's being released and being transported to a destination of his choice.'

Brooks said little else, except that detectives would continue processing evidence from the man's house and elsewhere to determine if it related to the investigation.

Earlier, Brooks cautioned against identifying the man, said to be middle-aged, as a suspect in the case.

'Any assumption that this person is responsible for the Green River homicides would be presumptive and speculative at this time,' Brooks said.

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The Green River Killer, nicknamed when the first five bodies were discovered in the summer of 1982 near the Green River in south King County, is believed responsible for the murders of 34 young women, mostly from Seattle. Another 11 women are missing and feared to be additional Green River victims.

A phalanx of police officers from the special Green River Task Force and the King County Police Department cordoned off the man's two-story house in a working class neighborhood with a bright orange ribbon.

Brooks said officers had a search warrant for the house and other sites, but refused to be more specific.

It was the first time officers in the case have converged on a house, sealed it off and conducted such a thorough search, which included taking hundreds of photographs.

Asked if was a major break in the case, Brooks replied: 'It may be. It may not be.'

She said the task force 'focused attention from time to time on a person of interest' and that 'evidence has been processed to clarify this person's status.'

'However, we do not feel it would be appropriate to release the name or the locations being processed,' she said. 'It would be detrimental to our investigation.'

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The task force, comprised of 56 officers from the King County and Seattle police departments and FBI agents, has spent most of the past two years trying to solve the murders and disappearances.

The latest two sets of victims' bones were found around Christmas 1985 on a highway hillside near a cemetery south of Seattle. Police have been unable to identify the remains.

The FBI joined the investigation last September after concluding the killer crossed state lines to dump two bodies in a suburb of Portland, Ore.

Although most of the victims had records of prostitution, not all fit into that category.

Since the first discoveries, most of the bodies or remains have been found in small clusters in remote areas throughout King County. One was found in a Seattle park. Four sets of remains have never been identified.

Police believe the killer has not struck since March 1984, when a 17-year-old prostitute disappeared in Seattle.

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