Born November 24, 1946 (Burlington, Vermont)
Died January 24, 1989 (Starke, Florida)
Ted Bundy did not fit the stereotype of a murderer yet he was responsible for one of the most gruesome and notorious killing sprees in American history. Bundy was handsome and charming and lured dozens of unsuspecting women to their deaths. The sheer volume of those killed (suspected to be over one hundred) along with the random nature in which his victims were chosen made his case infamous.
The Ted Bundy case changed the way law enforcement handled homicide investigations. The case introduced the computer as an instrument of serial murder detection. It was used to organize large volumes of information as Bundy's crimes spread over several state lines. By the time he was apprehended, two dozen police agencies in four states were searching for Bundy. Despite the increased sophistication of information, many of the agencies were still largely unaware that they were pursuing the same individual.
"We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow."
Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. For the first four years of his life he lived happily in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with his mother, Louise Cowell, and his grandparents. His mother then moved to Tacoma, Washington, where she met and married John Culpepper Bundy, known as Johnnie. Ted was soon joined by two brothers and a sister. Ted and his stepfather did not have a close relationship. By high school Ted referred to him as John.
Ted enjoyed skiing and the structured environment of the classroom where he felt confident. The opinions of the few friends he had were extremely important to him. He was regarded by his peers as scholarly. Most people at Wilson High School predicted he had a bright future when he graduated in 1965. But Ted was shy. By his first year at the University of Puget Sound, his high school friends had moved on and he was spending most of his time alone.
Ted's prized possession was a vehicle, a 1958 Volkswagen Bug he had purchased for $400. Ted transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle for his sophomore year and had his first serious dating experience. The woman soon broke off the relationship with him due to his immaturity. Devastated, he immersed himself in university classes and Republican Party politics.
Ted Bundy served on the Nelson Rockefeller (1908–1979) presidential campaign in 1968 and the successful reelection campaign of Washington governor Dan Evans. Bundy was appointed to the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Committee, and later became an assistant to Ross Davis, the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.
Due to his lack of finances and his need to keep up appearances, Bundy stole things he needed from stores and homes. He also continued a childhood habit of peeping into women's windows and developed a strong appetite for violent pornography. In order to relax before engaging in theft or voyeurism, Bundy would consume large amounts of alcohol. About this time, he traded in his beloved VW bug for a newer light brown, 1968 model.
Bundy had matured into a handsome man with striking blue eyes who dressed impeccably. University theatrical arts classes taught him about acting and makeup. He acquired a false mustache and other accessories that allowed him to change his appearance at will. While working for a medical supply company Ted stole a variety of props, including plaster casting material, splints, slings, and crutches.
Bundy earned his bachelor's degree in psychology in 1972. He briefly attended the new University of Puget Sound Law School before transferring to the University of Utah's law school in the fall of 1974.
Violence in paradise
Beginning in early 1974, nine young women vanished from college campuses and recreation areas in Washington and Oregon. Another young woman was severely beaten in her bedroom but survived after several months in a coma. The women ranged in age from eighteen to twenty-two years old. Two of the women's bodies would never be found. The seven that were eventually recovered had been left to decompose in wooded areas around Seattle, Washington.
All of the women had been assaulted and either bludgeoned (beaten with an object) or strangled to death. The few leads that law enforcement had discovered pointed to a handsome man who drove a Volkswagen and introduced himself as "Ted." He requested some form of help from the women who became his victims. Witnesses said the man's leg was in a cast and he was on crutches or his arm was in a cast and sling. He was very polite and friendly in asking for assistance in some task he was unable to do because of his injury. Public hysteria reached near panic when it became apparent someone was killing young women in the Pacific Northwest.
Authorities in Seattle and surrounding King County formed a multiple agency investigative task force when it
became evident a violent killer was on the loose. (The term "serial killer" had not yet been introduced into police investigations but would later be used to perfectly describe Bundy.) Police received hundreds of calls each day on the "Ted Hot-line." People called and turned in acquaintances, strangers, boyfriends, and husbands if they were named Ted, owned a Volkswagen, or vaguely resembled the composite pictures in the media.
Ted Bundy's name was among the first "Teds" reported to the Seattle authorities. The investigating task force received his name from a University of Washington professor, a former coworker, and from one of his girlfriends. He was one of over three thousand possible suspects delivered to the authorities. But the murders in the Northwest suddenly ended in the fall of 1974.
On the move
Bundy arrived in Salt Lake City in September to attend the University of Utah Law School. He settled into the life of a graduate student near the mountains and canyons of Utah's ski country. In October 1974 three young women disappeared from small towns outside Salt Lake City. Law enforcement received a break in the case on November 8 when Carol DaRonch, an attractive nineteen year old, escaped a kidnapping attempt from a mall in Salt Lake City. The man who attacked her was dressed as a police officer and had requested her assistance in solving a crime. He drove a VW bug and introduced himself as Officer Roseland of the Murray, Utah, police department.
While DaRonch described her attempted abduction at the local police station, another abduction was taking place just twenty miles north at a high school parking lot in Bountiful, Utah. The kidnapped teenage girl was never seen again. The murders, however, stopped temporarily in Utah. It seemed they had moved to Colorado.
Known Victims of Ted Bundy
1 February 1974: Lynda Ann Healy, age 21
12 March 1974: Donna Gail Manson, 19
17 April 1974: Susan Elaine Rancourt, 18
1 June 1974: Brenda Carol Ball, 22
11 June 1974: Georgann Hawkins, 18
14 July 1974: Janice Ott, 23
14 July 1974: Denise Naslund, 19
2 August 1974: Carol Valenzuela, 20
6 May 1974: Roberta Kathleen Parks, 22
2 October 1974: Nancy Wilcox, 16
18 October 1974: Melissa Smith, 17
31 October 1974: Laurie Aime, 17
8 November 1974: Debbie Kent, 17
1 July 1975: Nancy Baird, 21
12 January 1975: Caryn Campbell, 23
15 March 1975: Julie Cunningham, 26
6 April 1975: Denise Oliverson, 25
15 January 1978: Margaret Bowman, 21
15 January 1978: Lisa Levy, 20
9 February 1978: Kimberly Diane Leach, 12
Between January and April 1975, three women disappeared from ski areas in Colorado. One body was recovered near Aspen but the other two were never found. By July 1975, the focus was back on Utah when a woman disappeared from the town of Farmington. Utah authorities were thrust into a new investigative area of the crimes. They were once again faced with the absence of evidence or a body.
Beginning of the end
Ted Bundy was stopped for a traffic violation in a Salt Lake City suburb during the early morning hours of August 16. Officers discovered robbery gear in the Volkswagen and Bundy, caught in a series of lies, was arrested on suspicion of burglary. The Utah sheriff's office then notified the Seattle task force that they had Washington resident Theodore Robert Bundy in custody and had confiscated a pair of handcuffs, an ice pick, a crowbar, a pantyhose mask, and several lengths of rope from his car. Investigators immediately began working to determine if Bundy was their killer in the Washington cases.
Carol DaRonch and several other witnesses picked Bundy out of a police line up. He was sent to trial on February 23, 1976. On March 1 the judge pronounced Bundy guilty of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and sentenced him to one-to-fifteen years in Utah State Prison. He would be eligible for parole in less than three years.
Investigators in Washington, Utah, and Colorado continued their efforts to link Bundy to the homicides in their states. Evidence was mounting. By October 1976 officials presented Bundy with a warrant charging him in one of the Colorado murders. He was extradited (taken to the jurisdiction or area where a crime is originally committed) to Glenwood Springs, Colorado for trial. Bundy escaped in June 1977 during a pretrial hearing but was recaptured eight days later. He managed to escape again in December and this time he made it to Florida.
Life on the run
In January 1978 Bundy settled in Tallahassee, Florida, and began living his life as a fugitive under the alias Chris M. Hagen. By January 15, two women were dead and two more had been severely beaten in Tallahassee at Florida State University's Chi Omega sorority house, only a few blocks from Bundy's rooming house. On February 9 twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach was kidnapped from her Lake City, Florida, junior high school and brutally murdered.
Bundy was arrested in January as he drove a stolen vehicle towards Pensacola, Florida. By this time sufficient evidence and eyewitness accounts existed to indict Bundy for the Tallahassee and the Lake City killings. In June 1979 a sensational trial, the first on national television, took place in Miami, Florida. Bundy was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair for the sorority house murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. In Orlando, Florida, the following year Bundy was handed his third death sentence, this time for the murder of twelve-year old Kimberly Leach.
Bundy spent the next nine years on death row in Florida, filing appeals and giving select interviews. He ultimately confessed to thirty murders but estimates put the count as high as one hundred. He was never tried for most of his crimes. Bundy made a last effort to trade information on an additional fifty murders of which he had knowledge in exchange for a stay (delay) of execution. His appeals exhausted, Bundy was electrocuted on January 24, 1989, at the Florida State Prison in Starke.
For More Information
Dobson, James C. Life on the Edge. Nashville, TN: Word Pub., 2000.
Michaud, Stephen G., and Hugh Aynesworth. The Only Living Witness. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.
Michaud, Stephen G., and Hugh Aynesworth. Ted Bundy: ConversationsWith a Killer. Irving, TX: Authorlink Press, 2000.
Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me. New York: Norton, 2000.
"Ted Bundy." BBC News Online.http://www.bbc.co.uk/crime/caseclosed/tedbundy1.shtml (accessed on August 15, 2004).