Matt Lewis, the man behind the now-cancelled Green River Killer Tour, knew his idea would be controversial. He knew some people would be upset with him. He even knew the media would pounce on the story. What the stay-at-home dad and lead singer of the rock band WhiteTrash Whiplash says he didn't realize, however, is just how all of this would make him feel.
"I'm kind of done talking about it," says Lewis now, planning a weekend trip to get away from the onslaught of attention.
In many cases, that reaction was genuine and heartfelt. While Lewis quickly sold out his first two planned tours, and notes there was never an intention to glorify or thoughtlessly profit off of Ridgway's murders, the attention he received also inspired the friends and family members of Green River Killer victims to contact him and express the pain the idea had stirred within them.
"They were real," says Lewis of the emails he received from the friends and family of Ridgway's victims. "There was a lot of genuine emotion."
Ultimately, Lewis says while he never expected everyone to support his idea, it was the messages he got from friends and family members of Green River Killer victims that led him to cancel the tour.
"Why should I be someone poking a wound?" asks Lewis in retrospect.
"In my mind I probably minimized the actual impact it would have [on friends and family members of Ridgway's victims]," Lewis continues. "What happened is exactly what I thought would happen. But when you're living it, the way that it made me feel was unexpected."
Lewis says he was particularly moved by a message he received from the daughter of one of Ridgway's victims, a case he was extremely familiar with thanks to the "hundreds and hundreds of hours" he's spent researching Ridgway's killing spree. In the letter, the victim's daughter asked Lewis to put himself in the shoes of people like her, still struggling, so many years later with the pain that comes from having a family member murdered.
In this light, cancelling the tour, "Wasn't that hard of a decision to make," says Lewis.
Of course, not all of the reaction came from the friends and family of Ridgway's victims. Of the torrent of emails, Facebook messages and other correspondence Lewis received, much was downright troubling.
"Some of the [emails] were pretty threatening to me and my family," says Lewis. "Some of them said stuff like, 'You'll know what this is like when someone kills your wife and kids.' Others just said, 'Fuck you.'"
"My wife has been reading all the reaction, and it kind of freaked her out a little. That kind of got to me," offers Lewis. "I had the feeling a brick was going to come through my window."
Now, hopefully, it won't come to that.
"The public reaction, even the threatening stuff, that wouldn't have changed my mind," says Lewis. "It was the victims' family that did."
Lewis says he hopes to use the platform his week in the intense media spotlight has brought to "turn lemons into lemonade," by asking people to make donations to Washington Engage and YouthCare - two programs that aid victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Lewis says both programs are "near and dear" to his heart.