Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who, beginning in the 1970s and maybe earlier, abducted, raped, and killed several young women and girls. He finally admitted to 30 killings carried out in seven states between 1974 and 1978 after more than a decade of denials. His actual victim count is unknown but almost certainly far higher.
Bundy was frequently praised for his charisma and good looks, qualities he used to gain the trust of his victims and society. Typically, he would approach his victims in public settings, pretending to have a physical impediment like an injury or to be an authority figure, before striking them until they were unconscious and transporting them to additional sites where they would be raped and strangled.
Bundy frequently returned to his victims, grooming them and engaging in sexual activity with the bodies until rotting and destruction by wild animals prevented any further contact. At least 12 of his victims had their heads removed, and he stored the leaders in his apartment as souvenirs. He occasionally broke into people’s homes at night and beat them as they slept.
In 1975, Bundy was detained and imprisoned in Utah for attempted criminal assault and aggravated kidnapping. He then appeared as a suspect in a growing number of unsolved homicides in several states. Bundy, who was facing murder charges in Colorado, staged two spectacular escapes and carried out additional assaults—including three murders—in Florida before being finally apprehended in 1978.
He was given three death sentences in two trials for the murders in Florida. On January 24, 1989, Bundy was put to death at Florida State Prison in Raiford.
He was described as “a cruel sociopath who took joy from another human’s misery and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death and even after,” according to biographer Ann Rule.
In a past interview, Bundy called himself “the cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet,” and lawyer Polly Nelson, a former member of his defense team, concurred. Ted was the epitome of uncaring wickedness, she claimed in her essay.
The Early Life of Ted Bundy
Eleanor Louise Cowell (1924–2012, better known by her middle name) gave birth to Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. Although a copy of his original birth certificate identified his father as unknown, it appears that salesperson and United States Air Force veteran Lloyd Marshall is his real father.
His actual father’s identity has never been established. Louise claimed to have met Jack Worthington, a war veteran, who allegedly abandoned her not long after she fell pregnant. According to census records, when Bundy was born, numerous males with the names “John Worthington” and “Lloyd Marshall” resided close to Louise.
Some relatives harbored concerns that Louise’s own father, Samuel Cowell, might have been Bundy’s biological father. In the documentary Crazy, Not Insane, released in 2020, psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis claimed to have obtained a sample of Ted Bundy’s blood.
However, she did not identify from where and to have organized a DNA test that determined Bundy was not the result of incest.
Bundy’s maternal grandparents, Samuel (1898-1983) and Eleanor Cowell (1895-1971) reared him as their son for the first three years of his life at their Philadelphia home. They did this to escape the social stigma associated with births outside of marriage at the time.
Everyone, including young Ted, was informed that his mother was his older sister and his grandparents were his parents. Though his memories of the events were inconsistent, Bundy eventually learned the truth. He told a girlfriend that a cousin had shown him a copy of his birth certificate after calling him a “bastard.”
Still, he claimed to biographers Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth that he had located the document alone. Bundy did not learn until 1969, when he discovered his genuine birth record in Vermont, according to author and biographer Ann Rule, who knew him closely. Bundy expressed a lifelong grudge against his mother for not disclosing his real father to him and for leaving him to determine his true parentage on his own.
Early on, Bundy occasionally demonstrated strange behavior. Julia, Louise’s younger sister, remembers waking up from a nap to discover herself encircled by kitchen knives and three-year-old Ted grinning by the bed. Sandi Holt, Bundy’s former next-door neighbor, called him a bully and stated, “He enjoyed frightening people. He enjoyed being in command. He enjoyed inflicting anguish, pain, and fear.”
In a few of his interviews, Bundy expressed his love for his grandparents and told Rule that he “connected with,” “respected,” and “clung to” his grandfather. However, he and other family members testified to attorneys in 1987 that Samuel was a tyrant bully who beat his wife and dog, displayed bigotry (including religious intolerance, racism, and xenophobia), and swung neighborhood cats by their tails (a true psycho? I concur).
Samuel once tossed Julia down a flight of stairs for sleeping too much. At least once, when Bundy’s paternity was questioned, he erupted into a violent rage and occasionally talked aloud to invisible entities.
In Bundy’s account, his grandmother was a shy and submissive person who occasionally received electroconvulsive therapy for depression and grew afraid to leave their home as she grew older. In more subsequent investigations, these descriptions of Bundy’s grandparents have been called into question. Some residents described Samuel Cowell as a “good man” despite being a little… quirky.
According to a Bundy cousin, Samuel Cowell’s unfavorable reputation arose to explain why his grandson became a serial killer. Audrey, Louise’s sister, added that their mother was not mentally sick but could not leave her house since she had a stroke from being overweight.
In 1950, Louise changed her last name from Cowell to Nelson and moved with Ted out of Philadelphia to live with her cousins Alan and Jane Scott in Tacoma, Washington, at the insistence of other family members.
At an adult singles event held at Tacoma’s First Methodist Church in 1951, she met Johnny Culpepper Bundy (1921–2007), a hospital cook. Later that year, when they got married, Johnny legally adopted Ted. Johnny and Louise had four children together, and the two remained estranged despite Johnny’s efforts to involve Ted in family outings and other activities.
Johnny wasn’t his true father; he “wasn’t very smart” and “didn’t make much money,” he later complained to a girlfriend.
In later years, Bundy’s memories of Tacoma changed. He told Michaud and Aynesworth about scouring his neighborhood for images of naked women and telling Polly Nelson about reading detective magazines, crime fiction, and true crime documentaries in search of stories about sexual violence, especially when the stories were illustrated with images of dead or hurt women.
He claimed that he “never, ever read fact-detective periodicals, and cringed at the concept that anyone would” in a letter to Rule. He admitted to Michaud that he frequently drank much alcohol and spent late nights “canvassing the town” in search of open windows where he could watch women undress or “anything [else] could be observed.”
It also varies how Bundy’s social life is described. He claimed to be unable to comprehend interpersonal connections as a teenager, which is why he “chose to be alone” in interviews with Michaud and Aynesworth.
He asserted that he lacked an innate understanding of how to form friendships. Bundy confessed, “I didn’t know what made people want to be friends. I was unsure of what motivated social connections. Rule was informed by Bundy’s Woodrow Wilson High School classmates that he was “well known and well-liked” there and that he was “a medium-sized fish in a huge pond.”
Downhill skiing was Bundy’s lone substantial athletic interest, which he followed with zeal while using stolen gear and fake lift tickets.
He was detained at least twice during high school on suspicion of car theft and burglary. As is common in Washington and many other U.S. states, the specifics of the incidents were erased from his record after he turned 18 years old.
Ted Bundy During his College Days
Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound (UPS) for one year following his high school graduation in 1965 before moving to the University of Washington (UW) to study Chinese. He started dating Diane Edwards, a classmate at the University of Washington, in 1967 (identified in Bundy’s biographies by several pseudonyms, most commonly Stephanie Brooks).
Bundy left college at the beginning of 1968 and took a number of minimum-wage jobs. While Arthur Fletcher was running for lieutenant governor of Washington State, he hired him as his driver and bodyguard. He also volunteered at Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign’s Seattle office.
As a Rockefeller delegate, Bundy attended the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami in August. Frustrated by Bundy’s immaturity and lack of ambition, Edwards abandoned their relationship soon after and left for her family’s home in California.
This crisis was “perhaps the critical stage in his growth,” according to psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who made this observation afterward. Devastated by the separation, Bundy made her way to Colorado before continuing her journey eastward, stopping in Philadelphia and Arkansas to see family while also enrolling for one semester at Temple University.
Rule said Bundy visited the Burlington birth records office about this time in early 1969 and verified his real parentage.
By the fall of 1969, Bundy had returned to Washington. Then, he met Elizabeth Kloepfer, an unmarried mother from Ogden, Utah, who worked as a secretary at the UW School of Medicine. She is also known as Meg Anders, Beth Archer, or Liz Kendall in Bundy literature.
Long after his initial detention in Utah in 1976, their turbulent connection would endure. Molly Kloepfer was three years old when Bundy began dating her mother; he remained in her life until she was ten years old after he had been incarcerated.
Bundy then took on the role of a father figure for Molly. Beginning when she was seven years old, Molly wrote about instances in which Bundy had been violent or inappropriately sexual with her as an adult. She claims that Bundy punched her in the face, knocked her to the ground, threatened to drown her, exposed her indecently, and touched her inappropriately while pretending it was an accident or a game.
Bundy returned to the University of Washington in the middle of 1970, this time declaring psychology as her major. He graduated with honors and earned the respect of his lecturers. He accepted a position at the Suicide Hotline Crisis Center in Seattle in 1971.
There, he met and collaborated with Ann Rule, a former Seattle police officer and aspiring crime writer who would later pen The Stranger Beside Me, one of the most important Bundy biographies. At the time, Rule didn’t find anything unsettling about Bundy’s character; she called him “kind, solicitous, and empathetic.”
Bundy joined the reelection campaign of Governor Daniel J. Evans after receiving his degree from the University of Washington in 1972. He pretended to be a college student and followed former governor Albert Rosellini, Evans’ rival while recording his campaign speeches for later study by Evans’ team.
Evans gave Bundy a position on the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Committee. Bundy was appointed as Ross Davis’s assistant after Evans won reelection as the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. Bundy was praised by Davis, who characterized him as “clever, aggressive, and a believer in the system.”
On the strength of letters of recommendation from Evans, Davis, and a number of UW psychology professors, Bundy was admitted to the law schools of UPS and the University of Utah in early 1973 despite having subpar LSAT results.
Bundy resumed his contact with Edwards during a trip to California in the summer of 1973 on behalf of the Republican Party. She was astounded at his development into a responsible and serious professional who appeared to be on the verge of a significant legal and political career. The two women were unaware of each other as Bundy continued dating Kloepfer.
He enrolled at UPS Law School in the fall of 1973 and pursued Edwards, who frequented Seattle to visit him. When they were talking about getting married, he introduced her to Davis as his fiancée.
Bundy abruptly cut off all communication with Edwards in January 1974; her calls and letters remained unanswered. After calling him for the first time after a month, she demanded to know why he had abruptly stopped their relationship without giving any reason.
He answered, “Diane, I have no idea what you mean,” in a flat, composed voice and then hung up. He vanished from her life forever. Edwards concluded in hindsight that Bundy had purposefully planned the entire courting and rejection in advance as retaliation for the breakup she started in 1968.
Bundy subsequently said, “I just wanted to prove to myself that I could have married her.” At that point, Bundy had started missing law school classes. He stopped going by April when young girls started missing in the Pacific Northwest.
What is Ted Bundy Known For?
No one can agree on the exact moment or location Bundy started murdering women. Even though he confessed in great detail to scores of later killings in the days leading up to his execution, he gave varied accounts of his crimes to different persons and would not reveal the facts of his early atrocities.
He admitted to Nelson that he made his first attempt at an abduction in Ocean City, New Jersey, in 1969 but that he did not actually kill anyone until sometime later, in Seattle.
According to psychotherapist Art Norman, he admitted to killing two women in Atlantic City in 1969 while on a family trip to Philadelphia. Despite declining to go into further detail, Bundy suggested to homicide investigator Robert D. Keppel that he had killed a hitchhiker near Tumwater in 1973 and a person in Seattle in 1972. According to Rule and Keppel, he may have begun killing while he was a teenager.
When Bundy was 27 years old and committed his first known homicide in 1974. In the days before DNA profiling, he had, according to his own admission, perfected the skills required to leave only the barest amount of incriminating forensic evidence at crime sites.
California and Washington
On January 4, 1974, just after midnight, Bundy entered the basement apartment of Karen Sparks, a dancer and University of Washington student who was 18 years old. Karen Sparks is frequently referred to in Bundy literature as Joni Lenz, Mary Adams, and Terri Caldwell.
He sexually abused Sparks after beating her with a metal rod or metal speculum from her bed frame, leaving her with severe internal wounds. Despite the fact that she survived and spent ten days in the hospital unconscious, she was left with physical impairments.
On February 1, early in the morning, Bundy broke into Lynda Ann Healy’s basement room. Healy was a UW undergraduate who provided skiers with morning radio weather reports. He carried her away after beating her unconscious, dressing her in blue trousers, a white top, and boots.
Female college students vanished during the first half of 1974 at a rate of roughly one per month. A 19-year-old student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, which is 95 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Seattle, Donna Gail Manson, left her dorm on March 12 to attend a jazz concert there but has yet to show up.
On April 17, Susan Elaine Rancourt, who was attending nighttime advisers meeting at Central Washington State College in Ellensburg, 110 miles (175 kilometers) southeast of Seattle, vanished while she was making her way to her dorm room.
Later, two female Central Washington students came forward to describe encounters with a man wearing a sling who was requesting assistance carrying a load of books to his brown or tan Volkswagen Beetle.
One of these encounters occurred the night of Rancourt’s disappearance, and the other occurred three nights earlier. Roberta Kathleen Parks left her Oregon State University dorm in Corvallis, which is 260 miles (420 km) south of Seattle, on May 6 to meet friends for coffee at the Memorial Union, but she has yet to show up.
Seattle and King County investigators became more worried. The missing women shared little in common with one another outside their comparable appearance as young, pretty, white college students with long hair parted in the middle.
There was also little in the way of physical evidence. Brenda Carol Ball, 22, vanished on June 1 while she was leaving Burien’s Flame Tavern, which is close to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. She was last observed conversing with a brown-haired male with his arm in a sling in the parking lot.
Georgann Hawkins, a University of Washington student, went missing early on June 11 while crossing the street from her sorority home to her boyfriend’s dorm. Three Seattle homicide detectives and a criminalist searched the entire alleyway on their hands and knees the following morning without discovering anything.
Later, Bundy admitted to Keppel that he had lured Hawkins to his car and used a crowbar to strike her senselessly. He handcuffed her and drove her to Issaquah, a neighborhood east of Seattle, where he strangled her and spent the night with her corpse.
Issaquah is 20 miles (30 km) from Seattle. The following morning, he went back to the UW alley and, in the midst of a significant crime scene investigation, found and took Hawkins’s earrings and one of her shoes from the nearby parking lot, where he had placed them, and then left unnoticed.
According to Keppel, “it was a daring feat that still astounds police today.” Bundy claimed to have visited Hawkins’ body three times.
After Hawkins’s disappearance was made public, witnesses said they saw a man in an alleyway behind a nearby dorm the night she vanished. He attempted carrying a briefcase using crutches and a leg cast. According to one woman, the man asked her to assist him in carrying the case to his light brown Volkswagen Beetle.
Bundy authored a booklet for women on rape prevention while he was employed at the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission as the assistant director in Olympia during this time. Later, he was employed by the Department of Emergency Services (DES), a state government body charged with investigating the disappearance of the ladies.
Carole Ann Boone, a twice-divorced mother of two who would play a significant role in the closing stage of his life six years later, was someone he met and started dating at the DES.
News of the heinous assault on Sparks and the six missing women was widely reported in newspapers and on television throughout Oregon and Washington. People became more fearful, and the number of young ladies hitchhiking decreased significantly.
Law enforcement authorities came under increasing pressure, but they needed more tangible proof to be able to support them. Police refused to give the media the scant information they had because they thought it may jeopardize their investigation.
Additional commonalities amongst the victims included the fact that they always vanished at night, frequently close to active construction sites, and within a week of a midterm or final exam. All of the victims were last seen wearing slacks or blue jeans, and numerous crime locations featured sightings of a man driving a brown or tan Volkswagen Beetle while carrying a cast or sling.
The killings in Oregon and Washington came to a head on July 14 when two women were kidnapped in broad daylight from a busy beach at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah. A young man with an appealing appearance who had his left arm in a sling and was speaking with a light accent—possibly Canadian or British—was seen by five female witnesses.
He identified himself as “Ted” and asked for assistance in getting a sailboat out of his tan or bronze Volkswagen Beetle. Four refused, and one followed him all the way to his car before realizing there was no sailboat and taking off.
Three more witnesses saw him approach Janice Anne Ott, 23, a probation caseworker at the King County Juvenile Court and witnessed her leave the beach in his company. He told her the sailboat narrative.
Denise Marie Naslund, a 19-year-old studying to be a computer programmer, left a picnic four hours later to use the restroom and never came back. Bundy admitted to William Hagmaier and Stephen Michaud that Ott was alive when he returned with Naslund and that he had made the other witness the killing of the other under duress.
Still, he later denied it in an interview with Lewis on the day before his execution.
Once King County police had a complete description of their suspect and his vehicle, they distributed flyers around the Seattle region. Regional newspapers and local television stations both ran a composite sketch.
The profile, the sketch, and the car were all recognized by Kloepfer, Rule, a DES employee, and a UW psychology professor, who suggested Bundy as a potential suspect. However, detectives—who were receiving up to 200 tips per day—thought it unlikely that a well-groomed law student with no adult criminal record could be the perpetrator.
The skeleton remains of Ott and Naslund were discovered on September 6 by two grouse hunters close to a service road in Issaquah, 2 miles (3 km) east of Lake Sammamish State Park. Later, Bundy determined that the extra femur and many vertebrae at the scene were really Hawkins’.
On Taylor Mountain, where Bundy frequently walked, just east of Issaquah, forestry students from Green River Community College found the skulls and mandibles of Healy, Rancourt, Parks, and Ball six months later. The remains of Manson were never found.
Ted Bunty’s Victims in Colorado, Idaho, and Utah
Bundy left Kloepfer in Seattle after receiving a second admittance to the University of Utah Law School in August 1974. He dated “at least a dozen” other women while still calling Kloepfer frequently.
He was dismayed to learn that the other students “had something, some intellectual aptitude,” that he did not, as he reread the first-year law curriculum. The lectures were utterly beyond his comprehension. It was a massive letdown for him, he admitted.
The following month saw the start of a fresh wave of killings, including two that wouldn’t be revealed until Bundy admitted to them just before his death.
He assaulted and strangled an unnamed hitchhiker in Idaho on September 2 and either dumped the body right away in a river or came back the next day to take pictures and dismember it.
He kidnapped Nancy Wilcox, 16, on October 2 in Holladay, Utah, a Salt Lake City enclave. Approximately 200 miles (320 km) south of Holladay, Bundy told investigators that her remains were buried close to Capitol Reef National Park but were never discovered.
The 17-year-old daughter of the Midvale, a different neighborhood of Salt Lake City, police chief Melissa Anne Smith, vanished on October 18 after leaving a pizzeria. Nine days after she vanished, her naked body was discovered in a neighboring mountainous area.
A postmortem test revealed that she may have survived for up to seven days after that. In Lehi, 25 miles (40 km) south of there, on October 31, Laura Ann Aime, also 17, vanished after leaving a café just after midnight.
On Thanksgiving Day, hikers 9 miles (14 km) to the northeast discovered her naked body in American Fork Canyon. Both girls had suffered from beatings, rapes, sodomizations, and nylon stocking strangulations. Years later, Bundy spoke of the postmortem procedures he performed on the bodies of Smith and Aime, including shampooing their hair and applying cosmetics.
In the late afternoon of November 8, less than a mile from the Midvale restaurant where Smith was last seen, Bundy got in touch with 18-year-old phone operator Carol DaRonch at Fashion Place Mall in Murray. Officer Roseland of the Murray Police Department introduced himself and informed DaRonch that someone had attempted to break into her car.
He requested her to go with him to complain at the station. Bundy quickly pulled over onto the shoulder and attempted to handcuff her after DaRonch pointed out that he was traveling on a road that didn’t lead to the police station. He unit During their struggle, he unintentionally secured both handcuffs on the same wrist ng DaRonch to unlock the car door and flee.
Debra Jean Kent, a 17-year-old student at Viewmont High School in Bountiful, which is located 20 miles (30 km) north of Murray, vanished later that evening after leaving the school’s theatre show to pick up her brother. Police were informed by the theatre instructor at the school and a student that “a stranger” had requested them all to come out to the parking lot to identify an automobile.
The same man was later noticed pacing at the back of the auditorium by a different student, and the drama teacher eventually caught him again just before the play ended. Investigators discovered a key outside the theatre that allowed them to release DaRonch from his restraints.
In November, Kloepfer made a second call to King County police after learning that young women were going missing in areas around Salt Lake City. She was Major Crimes section detective Randy Hergesheimer thoroughly questioned her.
She had, by this time, advanced up the King County ladder of suspicion, but the Lake Sammamish witness, thought to be the most trustworthy by the police, was unable to recognize him in a lineup of photos. Kloepfer confirmed her suspicions over the phone to the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office in December.
Although Bundy’s name was added to their list of suspects, there was no reliable forensic evidence connecting him to the crimes in Utah at the time.
After finishing his final examinations, Bundy traveled back to Seattle in January 1975, where he spent a week with Kloepfer, who kept a secret from him that she had reported him to the police three times. She planned a trip to Salt Lake City in August to see him.
Bundy moved a large portion of his criminal enterprise from his Utah headquarters to Colorado in 1975.
On January 12, Caryn Eileen Campbell, a 23-year-old registered nurse, vanished as she made her way down a well-lit hallway from the elevator to her room at the Wildwood Inn (now the Wildwood Lodge) in Snowmass Village, which is located 640 kilometers (400 miles) southeast of Salt Lake City. A month later, her naked body was discovered near a dirt road far from the resort.
Her body also showed significant cuts from a sharp weapon. Blows had slain her to the head from a blunt instrument that left recognizable linear grooved depressions on her skull. Julie Cunningham, a 26-year-old ski instructor from Vail, vanished on March 15 while traveling from her apartment to a dinner meeting with a friend, around 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Snowmass.
Later, Bundy admitted to Colorado police that he had approached Cunningham on crutches and asked her to assist him in carrying his ski boots to his car. He then beat and handcuffed Cunningham before sexually assaulting and strangling her at a second location close to Rifle, 140 kilometers (90 miles) west of Vail. He traveled from Salt Lake City to see her remains six hours after a few weeks passed.
On April 6, while cycling to her parent’s house in Grand Junction, Colorado, Denise Lynn Oliverson, 25, vanished. Her bicycle and sandals were later discovered beneath a viaduct close to a railroad overpass.
Lynette Dawn Culver, 12, was enticed by Bundy on May 6 from Alameda Junior High School in Pocatello, Idaho, which is about 160 miles (255 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City. He murdered her by drowning her in his hotel room before dumping her remains in a river (perhaps the Snake River) north of Pocatello.
Three of Bundy’s coworkers from the Washington State DES, including Boone, visited him in Salt Lake City in mid-May and stayed in his apartment for a week. He then spent a week in Seattle with Kloepfer at the beginning of June, when they talked about being married the Christmas after that.
Again, Kloepfer should have mentioned her several conversations with Salt Lake County and King County officials. Neither Bundy’s prolonged connection with Boone nor his contemporaneous involvement with a Utah law student described variously as Kim Andrews or Sharon Auer were publicized.
Susan Curtis disappeared on June 28 from the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, which is located 45 miles (70 km) south of Salt Lake City. Bundy’s final confession—which was taped just before he entered the execution chamber—contained details of her murder. Finding the remains of Wilcox, Kent, Cunningham, Oliverson, Culver, and Curtis was never possible.
Bundy was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in August or September 1975. However, he did not actively participate in church activities and disregarded most church rules.
Once he was found guilty of kidnapping in 1976, the LDS Church excommunicated him. When questioned about his preferred religion following his incarceration, Bundy replied, “Methodist,” citing his upbringing.
Investigations into the murder spree in the Pacific Northwest that stopped as abruptly as it had begun were still ongoing in Washington State. They turned to the then-innovative tactic of creating a database in an effort to make sense of an overwhelming amount of data.
As the only one accessible, they employed the King County payroll computer, a “big, primitive machine” by modern standards.
They searched the computer for coincidences after entering the several lists they had assembled, including classmates and associates of each victim, Volkswagen owners named “Ted,” known sex offenders, and more.
Out of thousands of names, 26 appeared on four lists, with Ted Bundy being one of them. Bundy was also included on the detectives’ list of 100 “greatest” suspects. When word of his arrest arrived from Utah, he was “literally at the top of the pile” of suspects.
Ted Bundy is Caught!
Officer Bob Hayward of the Utah Highway Patrol detained Bundy on August 16, 1975, in Granger, another suburb of Salt Lake City. Hayward saw Bundy driving through a neighborhood in his Volkswagen Beetle in the early morning hours before spotting the patrol cruiser.
Hayward looked around the Volkswagen and saw that the front passenger seat had been removed and put on the back seats. He discovered other items that, at first glance, appeared to be burglary tools, including a ski mask, a second mask made out of pantyhose, a crowbar, handcuffs, trash bags, a coil of rope, and an ice pick.
According to Bundy, he had discovered the handcuffs in a dumpster, and the other items were standard home stuff. The ski mask was for skiing. However, Detective Jerry Thompson remembered Bundy’s name from Kloepfer’s phone call a month later and a similar suspect and automobile description from the November 1974 DaRonch kidnapping.
Police discovered a flyer for the Viewmont High School play in Bountiful, where Kent vanished, and a map to Colorado ski resorts with a checkmark beside the Wildwood Inn when searching Bundy’s apartment.
Bundy was released on his own recognizance because the police lacked sufficient evidence to hold him. Later, Bundy claimed that a concealed cache of Polaroid pictures of his victims—which he later destroyed after being freed—had eluded the searches.
The Salt Lake City police put Bundy under constant observation, and Thompson and two other detectives took a flight to Seattle to speak with Kloepfer. She claimed that in the year before Bundy moved to Utah, she had found items in both Bundy’s apartment and her home that she “couldn’t explain.”
Crutches, a bag of plaster of Paris that he admitted stealing from a pharmacy, and a meat cleaver that was never used for cutting meat were among these things. A bag full of women’s clothing, a pair of surgical gloves, and an Oriental knife in a wooden case that he kept in his glove box were other items.
Since Bundy was always in debt, Kloepfer believed that practically everything of value that Bundy owned had been stolen. When she challenged him about a new TV and stereo, he threatened to break her neck if she told anyone.
She claimed Bundy grew “extremely agitated” if she even considered cutting her long, middle-parted hair. Sometimes, when she woke up in the middle of the night, he looked at her body with a flashlight under the blankets.
He frequently took her Volkswagen Beetle, which he kept in the trunk “for safety,” and taped a lug wrench halfway up the handle. The investigators determined that neither the day Ott and Naslund were kidnapped from Lake Sammamish State Park nor any of the evenings that the victims from the Pacific Northwest had gone missing, Bundy had not been there with Kloepfer.
When Seattle homicide detective Kathy McChesney spoke with Kloepfer shortly after, she discovered Diane Edwards’ existence and her brief engagement to Bundy around Christmas 1973.
Bundy sold his Volkswagen Beetle to a Midvale kid in September. Utah police seized it, and FBI specialists disassembled and searched it. Hairs were discovered that matched those taken from Campbell’s body.
Later, they discovered hair fragments that were “microscopically indistinguishable” from Smith’s and DaRonch’s. According to FBI lab specialist Robert Neill, finding hair strands matching three distinct victims who had never met one another in a single car would be “a coincidence of mind-boggling rarity.”
On October 2, investigators lined up Bundy. Witnesses from Bountiful identified him as the foreigner in the Viewmont High School auditorium, and DaRonch recognized him immediately as “Officer Roseland.”
In the DaRonch case, there was more than enough evidence to accuse him of aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault but not enough to connect him to Kent (whose body was never discovered). He was granted freedom on a $15,000 bail, which his parents covered.
He resided in Kloepfer’s home in Seattle most of the time between his arrest and trial. Police in Seattle kept him under close observation despite not having enough evidence to charge him with the deaths that occurred in the Pacific Northwest.
According to Kloepfer, “so many unmarked police cars began coming up that it sounded like the start of the Indy 500” when Ted and I stepped out onto the porch to go somewhere.
In November, thirty detectives and prosecutors from five states convened in Aspen, Colorado, where the three main Bundy investigators—Jerry Thompson from Utah, Robert Keppel from Washington, and Michael Fisher from Colorado—exchanged information.
Officials concluded that more concrete evidence would be required before Bundy could be prosecuted for any of the murders, even though they left the meeting, later known as the Aspen Summit, sure that he was the murderer they were looking for.
Bundy was put on trial for the kidnapping of DaRonch in February 1976. He forfeited his right to a jury on the recommendation of his lawyer, John O’Connell, because of the controversy surrounding the case. He was convicted guilty of kidnapping and assault by Judge Stewart Hanson Jr. following a four-day bench trial and a weekend of deliberation.
In June, he was given a prison term of one to fifteen years at Utah State Prison. He was placed in solitary confinement for many weeks after being discovered hidden in the bushes in the prison yard carrying an “escape package” that included a social security card, road atlases, and airline itineraries.
Colorado authorities accused him of killing Campbell later that month. He first resisted extradition, but in January 1977, he waived the process and was sent to Aspen.
The Escape of Ted Bundy
For a preliminary hearing, Bundy was driven 40 miles (64 km) on June 7, 1977, from the Garfield County jail in Glenwood Springs to the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen. The judge released him from wearing handcuffs or leg shackles since he had chosen to act as his own attorney.
He requested to use the courthouse’s law library during a break to conduct research for his case. He opened a window and fell to the earth from the second story while hiding behind a bookcase from his guards’ eyes, breaking his right ankle on impact.
Bundy discarded his outer layer of clothing and limped through the town as barricades were set up on Aspen’s outskirts. He then went southward to Aspen Mountain. He broke into a hunting cabin close to the peak and took food, clothes, and a rifle.
He left the chalet the next day and headed south toward Crested Butte but became lost in the forest. He missed two routes that headed down the mountain to his targeted location during his two days of aimless wandering.
On June 10, he broke into a camper trailer on Maroon Lake, which is 10 miles (16 km) south of Aspen. He stole food and a ski parka, but instead of going south, he turned around and went back toward Aspen while dodging search teams and obstacles.
He stole a car at the Aspen Golf Course’s edge three days later. Bundy returned to Aspen while suffering from the cold, lack of sleep, and persistent discomfort from his sprained ankle. Two policemen stopped him after noticing his car swerving in and out of their lanes.
He’d been on the run for six days. Maps of the mountains near Aspen that the prosecution was using to show where Campbell’s body was found were in the car, showing that Bundy’s escape had been planned (as his own attorney, he was entitled to discovery rights).
Bundy disregarded the counsel of friends and attorneys to remain in place and return to Glenwood Springs jail. The prosecution’s case, which was already at best tenuous, was progressively losing strength as essential pieces of evidence were routinely ruled inadmissible and pretrial motions were consistently decided in his favor.
“A more sensible defendant could have understood that his chances of being found not guilty were good and that successfully defending against the murder accusation in Colorado would likely have discouraged other prosecutors.
“If Ted had persisted, he might have been released from his DaRonch conviction with as little as a year and a half remaining.” Bundy instead put together a fresh escape strategy. He obtained a hacksaw blade and a full Garfield County jail floor plan from other prisoners.
He also gathered $500 in cash, which guests, including Boone, brought in illegally over a six-month period. He sawed a hole in the ceiling of his cell that measured about one square foot (0.093 m2) between the steel reinforcing bars while other prisoners had showers at night.
He could crawl through and investigate the crawl space above after losing 35 pounds (16 kg), which enabled him to perform several practices in the following weeks. Claims of movement in the ceiling made by an informant during the night should have been looked into.
By the end of 1977, Bundy’s upcoming trial had gained national attention in the sleepy hamlet of Aspen, and he moved for the trial to be held in Denver.
The motion was granted on December 23 by the Aspen trial judge, but Colorado Springs was chosen because its jurors had a reputation for being unfriendly to murder suspects.
On the evening of December 30, with the majority of the jail staff away for the holiday and nonviolent inmates enjoying time off with their families, Bundy made his bed out of books and folders, covered it with a blanket to resemble his sleeping body, and crept into the crawl space.
He entered the main jailer’s apartment via the roof when the latter was out for the evening with his wife, changed into street clothes from the jailer’s closet, and then escaped through the front door.
After taking a car, Bundy left Glenwood Springs heading east, but the vehicle soon broke down on Interstate 70 in the Rockies. A passing driver gave him a ride into Vail, 60 miles (97 km) to the east.
He took a bus from there to Denver, where he booked an early-morning flight to Chicago. The jail’s skeleton staff in Glenwood Springs did not learn about the escape until midday on December 31—more than seventeen hours later.
Bundy was already in Chicago at that point.
Ted Bundy Murders Again
Bundy took a train from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was present on January 2 in a neighborhood bar. He stole a car and traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, five days later. From there, he took a bus and landed in Tallahassee, Florida, early on January 8th.
He spent one night in a hotel before renting a room at a boarding house close to the Florida State University (FSU) campus using Chris Hagen’s identity. Later, Bundy claimed that his initial intent was to find gainful employment and stop engaging in criminal activity because he believed he could continue to live freely and unnoticed in Florida for as long as he avoided drawing the attention of the police.
However, his one and only job application at a construction site had to be abandoned when he was required to show identification. He resumed his previous behaviors of shoplifting and robbing cash and credit cards from women’s wallets left in abandoned shopping carts at neighborhood supermarkets.
One week after arriving in Tallahassee, Bundy entered the Chi Omega sorority home at Florida State University through the back door with a broken locking mechanism on January 15, 1978. He hit Margaret Bowman, 21, with a hefty piece of oak firewood beginning at around 2:45 a.m., shattering her skull.
Then, after ripping her panties off violently enough to cause friction burns on one of her thighs, he garroted her with a nylon stocking. After killing Bowman, he crossed the hall and went straight into the bedroom of Lisa Levy, 20, where he beat her until she was unconscious and strangled her.
Bundy bit into Levy’s left buttock and through one of her nipples, almost severing it from her right breast, in what would later be considered one of the most important pieces of evidence against him at his trial.
He raped her vaginally and anally in a brutal attack that tore her internal organs, using a bottle of hair mist that Levy had in her room. He attacked Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler in an adjacent bedroom, fracturing Kathy Kleiner’s jaw and severely lacerating her shoulder.
Karen Chandler also sustained a concussion, a broken jaw, tooth loss, and a crushed finger. Kleiner claimed that Chandler and Kleiner escaped the attack because car headlights illuminated the inside of their room and scared the assailant away.
Nita Neary, a sorority sister, entered via the back door as Bundy fled the scene and caught him in the act. Detectives in Tallahassee discovered that the four assaults occurred in a span of fewer than fifteen minutes, in close proximity to more than thirty witnesses who were oblivious to anything.
Shortly after Bundy’s outburst, police gathered at the sorority house and started looking into the situation. Initially, people mistook Levy’s bite mark for a gunshot wound.
Levy initially survived the attack despite being critically hurt and unconscious, however, she passed away shortly after while being transported to the hospital. Bundy traveled to a duplex eight blocks away within the hour, put on a handmade pantyhose “mask” with holes cut out for him to look through, and then approached the apartment’s basement window and went through it while it was dark.
Around 4:00 a.m., Bundy saw FSU student Cheryl Thomas asleep in her bed and attacked her savagely, dislocating her shoulder and breaking her jaw and skull five times. Her dance career was ended by irreversible hearing loss and harm to her equilibrium.
For some reason, Bundy took off his mask and threw it on the mattress. Thomas’ neighbors in the nearby rooms heard the commotion and called the police, who arrived to find her lying in bed, severely battered.
The authorities discovered a semen stain on the bed in addition to the mask he had left behind, which included hairs “similar to Bundy’s in class and characteristic.” However, there was no proof of a sexual assault.
Law enforcement was baffled by the timing of Bundy’s attack on Thomas, with Sheriff Ken Katsaris expressing shock and skepticism that the same person would strike again in such a short time.
On February 8, Bundy took a stolen FSU van 150 miles (240 km) east to Jacksonville. Leslie Parmenter, 14, the daughter of the Jacksonville Police Department’s Chief of Detectives, was in a parking lot when he approached her.
He introduced himself as “Richard Burton, Fire Department,” but withdrew when Parmenter’s older brother confronted him. He turned around and headed back to Lake City, 60 miles (97 km) to the west.
The next day at Lake City Junior High School, 12-year-old Kimberly Dianne Leach was asked by a teacher to go to her homeroom to get a lost pocketbook; she never returned to class.
Her partially mummified bones were discovered seven weeks later, following a thorough search, in a pig farrowing shed close to Suwannee River State Park, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Lake City. Theoretically, Leach had been raped with a knife before having her neck slashed, according to forensic specialists.
On February 12, Bundy stole a car and left Tallahassee, traveling through the Florida Panhandle as he ran out of money to pay his past-due rent and grew increasingly concerned that the authorities were pursuing him.
He was apprehended by Pensacola police officer David Lee three days later at around 1:00 a.m. after a “wants and warrants” check revealed his Volkswagen Beetle had been stolen. Bundy kicked Lee’s legs out from under him and fled after learning he was being arrested.
Lee chased after him and tackled him after firing two warning bullets. Before the officer managed to overpower and arrest Bundy, the two engaged in a battle for Lee’s gun. Three sets of female FSU student IDs, 21 stolen credit cards, and a stolen television were all found in the stolen car.
The disguise used by “Richard Burton, Fire Department” in Jacksonville, was later determined to be a pair of plaid slacks and a pair of dark-rimmed non-prescription glasses that were also discovered.
Unaware that he had just apprehended one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, Lee was transporting his suspect to jail when he overheard Bundy saying, “I wish you had murdered me.”
The Trial of Ted Bundy
In June 1979, Bundy was put on trial for the Chi Omega murders and assaults after the trial’s location was changed to Miami. The trial was the first to be broadcast nationwide on American television and was covered by 250 reporters from five different countries. Although five court-appointed counsels were present, Bundy handled most of his defense once more. He “sabotaged the entire defense effort from the beginning out of spite, distrust, and grandiose delusion,” Nelson later remarked. Ted was accused of murder and could receive the death penalty, but all that mattered to him, it seemed, was being in command.
A pre-trial plea agreement was reached, according to Mike Minerva, a Tallahassee public defender and defense team member, in which Bundy would admit to killing Levy, Bowman, and Leach in exchange for a set sentence of 75 years in prison. According to one report, prosecutors were open to a compromise since they “had a very strong chance of losing at trial.”
Bundy, on the other hand, considered the plea agreement as a “tactical maneuver” that would allow him to submit his plea and then wait a few years for witnesses to pass away, move on, or recant their testimony, as well as for evidence to break down or go missing.
He may pursue a post-conviction request to throw aside the plea and get an acquittal once the prosecution’s case against him has deteriorated beyond repair. But at the last minute, Bundy rejected the offer.
He realized that he would have to confess his crime in front of everyone, Minerva added. “He just wasn’t able to accomplish it.”
Chi Omega sorority members Connie Hastings, who located Bundy in the area of the sorority house that evening, and Nita Neary, who saw him leave home holding the murder weapon, both provided significant testimony during the trial.
The impressions of the bite mark Bundy left on Levy’s left buttock, which forensic odontologists Richard Souviron and Lowell Levine matched to castings of Bundy’s teeth, were among the physically incriminating items of evidence.
On July 24, 1979, the jury found Bundy guilty of the murders of Bowman and Levy, three charges of attempted first-degree murder (for the assaults on Kleiner, Chandler, and Thomas), and two counts of burglary after deliberating for less than seven hours. For the murder convictions, trial judge Edward Cowart handed death sentences.
A second trial for Leach’s kidnapping and murder was held in Orlando six months later. After less than eight hours of deliberation, Bundy was found guilty once more, primarily because of the evidence of an eyewitness who observed him escorting Leach to his stolen van from the schoolyard.
Clothing fibers with a unique manufacturing flaw were discovered in the van and on Leach’s body. These fibers matched those from Bundy’s jacket when he was apprehended.
Bundy took advantage of an obscure Florida rule that said that a marriage statement made in court, in the presence of a judge, constituted a valid marriage during the punishment phase of the Leach trial.
He proposed to her as he was questioning Boone, who had relocated to Florida to be close to Bundy, had testified in support of him during both trials, and was now testifying as a character witness. She agreed, and Bundy informed the judge that their marriage was valid.
On February 10, 1980, Bundy received a third electrocution death sentence. He reportedly stood when the verdict was read and said, “Tell the jury they were incorrect!” It would be almost nine years after this third death sentence was actually executed.
Boone gave birth to Rose in October 1981 and identified Bundy as the father. While conjugal visits were prohibited at the Florida State Prison at Raiford, where Ted Bundy was held, it was common knowledge for prisoners to band together and pay the guards to grant them private time with their female guests.
Ted Bundy’s Confession and Execution
Bundy began a series of interviews with Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth soon after the Leach trial ended and the protracted appeals process got underway. He started disclosing information about his crimes and mental processes for the first time, primarily speaking in the third person to avoid “the stigma of confession.”
When Bundy described his career as a thief, Kloepfer’s long-held hunch that he had stolen almost everything of value from him was confirmed. “The biggest reward for me,” he continued, “was really having what I had taken. I thoroughly loved possessing something that I had sought out and gotten.”
Possession was a significant factor in both rape and murder cases. He claimed that sexual assault satisfied his desire to “completely possess” his victims. He initially murdered his victims “as a matter of convenience… to eliminate the prospect of [being] caught”; however, later on, murder became a part of the “adventure.”
He claimed that taking a life was the “ultimate possession.” The actual possession of the remains follows.
Bundy also shared information with FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit Special Agent William Hagmaier. Hagmaier was astounded by Bundy’s “deep, even supernatural delight” from killing. Hagmaier recalled, “He explained that after a while, murder is not only a crime of lust or violence.”
“It takes possession of it. The places where you kill them or leave them to become precious to you, and you will always be pulled back to them. They are part of you. [The victim] becomes a part of you. You [two] are forever one.”
Bundy informed Hagmaier that he initially saw himself as an “impulsive” and “amateur” killer before transitioning into what he called his “prime” or “predator” phase around the time of Healy’s murder in 1974.
Despite the fact that he never officially acknowledged killing, this meant that he started doing it well before 1974.
Two hacksaw blades were concealed in Bundy’s cell when prison authorities searched it in July 1984. One of the cell’s windows had a steel bar that had been entirely sawed through at the top and bottom and put back in with homemade soap-based glue.
When guards discovered an illicit mirror a few months later, Bundy was sent to a new cell. Shortly after, he was accused of a disciplinary offense for having unapproved correspondence with John Hinckley Jr., a notorious felon.
With an attempt to aid in the continuing search in Washington for the “Green River Killer,” subsequently identified as Gary Ridgway, Bundy got in touch with Keppel in October 1984 and offered to impart his alleged knowledge of serial killer psychology.
Bundy was interviewed by Keppel and Green River Task Force detective Dave Reichert, but Ridgway evaded capture for an additional 17 years. After working with Michaud on another analysis of the interview materials, Keppel produced a thorough description of the Green River interviews.
The Chi Omega convictions were scheduled for death on March 4, 1986; the U.S. Supreme Court provided a brief stay, but the execution was swiftly rescheduled. The full extent of Bundy’s crimes, including what he did to some of his victims after they died, were ultimately revealed to Hagmaier and Nelson in April, just after the new date (July 2) was announced.
He said that he frequently returned to the secondary murder scenes of Taylor Mountain, Issaquah, and other locations to lie with his victims and engage in sexual activities with their bodies before putrefaction forced him to stop. In some instances, he spent the entire night while driving several hours each way.
In Utah, he constantly washed Aime’s hair and put cosmetics on Smith’s dead face. He told Hagmaier, “If you’ve got time, they can be anything you want them to be.”
He used a hacksaw to cut off the skulls of perhaps twelve of his victims, and at least one group of the severed heads—likely the four later discovered on Taylor Mountain (Rancourt, Parks, Ball, and Healy)—was kept in his apartment before being disposed of.
Less than fifteen hours before the scheduled July 2 execution, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed it indefinitely. It remanded the Chi Omega case for review on a number of technicalities—including Bundy’s capacity to stand trial and a mistaken instruction by the trial judge during the penalty phase requiring the jury to decide between life in prison and the death penalty—that in the end, were never resolved.
The Leach sentence was then scheduled to be executed on November 18; on November 17, the Eleventh Circuit Court issued a stay. Despite the dissents of Justices Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan Jr., the Supreme Court declined to revisit the Eleventh Circuit’s decision against Bundy in December 1988. After that last refusal, a firm execution date of January 24, 1989, was declared shortly after.
For a case involving capital murder, Bundy’s progress through the appellate courts had been extraordinarily quick: “Contrary to common assumption, Bundy was hurried through the legal system as quickly as possible.”
Even the prosecutors admitted that Bundy’s attorneys never used delay strategies. Even though Ted Bundy’s execution appeared to be taking longer than expected, Ted Bundy was actually close to being executed.”
After exhausting all appeals, Bundy decided to be open and honest with the authorities because he had no reason to continue to try to cover up his crimes. He admitted to Keppel that he was responsible for all eight of the murders in Oregon and Washington for which he was the main suspect.
He described two more fatalities in Oregon and two more in Washington who were previously unknown (if indeed he ever knew their identities). He claimed that Manson’s body was the sixth, but her head was burned in Kloepfer’s fireplace.
Keppel remarked, “He detailed the Issaquah murder scene, and it was almost as if he had just been there.” Ott, Naslund, and Hawkins’ bones were discovered there. “As if he could see everything. He spent so much time there that he was enamored with the idea. Simply said, he is always completely preoccupied with murder.”
Nelson had similar thoughts: “The blatant misogyny of his actions, as well as his obvious rage against women, astounded her, she noted. He had no empathy at all since he was so preoccupied with the facts. His life’s work consisted of killings.”
Bundy admitted to committing multiple further homicides, including several that the police were unaware of, to detectives from Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. He explained that he could bring his victims back to his apartment in Utah so that he could “reenact scenes from detective magazine covers.”
It didn’t take long for a new ulterior plan to become clear: by withholding key information, he hoped to secure yet another stay of execution. He acknowledged, “There are more buried bones in Colorado,” but he made no further comment.
The new plan, which was quickly called “Ted’s bones-for-time plot,” did little to provide fresh specific information and instead strengthened the authorities’ desire to see Bundy killed on schedule.
When he provided specifics, nothing was discovered. Colorado investigator Matt Lindvall saw this as a contradiction between the killer’s wish to maintain “complete possession—the only person who knew his victims’ exact resting places” and his desire to delay his execution by disclosing information.
Bundy’s supporters started pushing for the only available option, executive clemency after it became evident that the courts would grant no additional stays.
To allow Bundy time to provide further details, Diana Weiner, a young Florida lawyer and Bundy’s final rumored love interest, requested that the relatives of many Colorado and Utah victims petition Florida Governor Bob Martinez for a postponement.
According to Nelson, “the families already thought the victims were dead, and Ted had killed them.” They were not in need of his admission. Martinez made it clear that he would not consent to any additional delays.
He told reporters, “We will not allow the system to be corrupted. It’s terrible that he would bargain for his life over the victims’ bodies.”
Ted Bundy Execution Pictures
Boone defended Bundy’s innocence during each of his trials and felt “very betrayed” by his admission of guilt. On the morning of his execution, she returned to Washington with her daughter and declined to take his call. According to Nelson, his friendship with Diana Weiner harmed her, and she was devastated by his unexpected, sweeping disclosures in his final days.
During Bundy’s final discussions with detectives, Hagmaier was there. He spoke of suicide on the night before his execution. According to Hagmaier, “He did not want to give the state the gratification of witnessing him die.”
On January 24, 1989, at 7:16 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Bundy was put to death in the Raiford electric chair. His final words were, “Jim and Fred, I’d like you to offer my love to my family and friends,” spoken to his lawyer Jim Coleman and Methodist pastor Fred Lawrence.
Hundreds of people celebrated as the white hearse carrying Bundy’s body left the prison as they sang, danced, and lit fireworks in a pasture across from the prison as the execution was carried out.
In accordance with his wishes, he was cremated in Gainesville, and his ashes were dispersed at an undisclosed place in the Cascade Range of Washington State.
RIP Victims. Burn in Hell, Bundy.
Next, read the Horrifying True Story of Sylvia Likens, a sixteen-year-old girl who was tortured to death by her caregiver. Or, if you’re interested in the paranormal, read about the terrible Winchester Mansion: The Castle Built for Ghosts!
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