"I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire,
I got a cobra snake for a necktie
A brand new house on the roadside,
and it's made out of rattlesnake hide
Got a brand new chimney put on top, and it's made out of human skulls
Come on take a little walk with me baby,
and tell me who do you love?"
- Bo Diddley/'Who Do You Love'
What we do know is that Bundy is one of America's most famous criminals, and the fascination surrounding him has lasted far beyond his death. He may very well be one of the nation's - if not the world's - worst serial killers.
Born illegitimately in 1946, Ted was raised to believe that his mother, Louise, was his sister, and that his grandparents his mother and father. His mother even went so far as to change she and Ted's last name to Nelson, hoping to pass as either a young divorcee or a widow. His grandfather was a tyrannical, abusive person, and ruled the family with an iron hand. He constantly berated his wife and children, and was said to have also beat his wife. Ted learned early on that power, complete and total power, was the easiest way to get what you wanted. In the critical developmental years, Ted learned that domination and fear were essential to survival. Instead of becoming submissive and meek like his grandmother and other female relatives, he instead began harboring the same attitudes and beliefs his grandfather held-that women were basically nothing. Little boys invariably look up to their fathers, (or father figures,) and Ted soaked up his grandfather's venom like a sponge. Late one night, while he and his mother were still living with his maternal grandparents, his fifteen year old aunt awoke with a start. Standing next to her bed was Ted, then only three, grinning widely in the dark. Her body was surrounded by knives, arranged around the contours of her sleeping body. It was not an uncommon occurence.
In 1950, Louise took her young son and moved to Tacoma, Washington. At church she met a man named John Culpepper Bundy, and in May of 1951 they were married, and soon Ted was surrounded by siblings. As a child he was active in church and the Boy Scouts, and did well in school. He stepfather attempted to include the boy in father-son outings such as camping, but Ted pushed the man away, seeming to prefer isolation from others. In an interview shortly before his execution, Bundy said, "I didn't know what made people want to be friends. I didn't know what made people attractive to one another. I didn't know what underlay social interactions."
By his teens, Ted was committing acts of petty thievery and shoplifting, a pastime that would remain with him his entire life, as well as peeping into windows to watch women. Ted may also have began killing in his teens: a twelve year old girl mysteriously disappeared from her home not far from where the then-fifteen year old Bundy lived. Despite his nocturnal activities, Bundy graduated high school in 1965 with a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
While enrolled in college Bundy worked for the local chapter of the Republican party, displaying a natural affinity for politics. He also performed charity work, and was awarded a write-ups in a local newspaper for running down a purse snatcher and saving a child from drowning. Bundy also worked at a crisis hotline, handling calls from distraught, often terrorized people. The woman at the telephone next to his was former police officer and budding crime writer Ann Rule. The two befriended one another, meeting for casual lunches and dinners, with Bundy insisting on walking Rule to her car afterward. While working alongside Ted at the crisis center, Rule was commissioned to write several articles, and later a book, about the ongoing disappearances and murders of young college co-eds. Years would pass before Rule would discover she had been writing about her close friend Ted Bundy all along.
It was in college that Bundy met the woman who would become his first serious girlfriend, Stephanie Brooks. The two dated seriously until Stephanie graduated and left Ted bereft, blaming his lack of ambition for the break up. It was not long afterward that Ted learned of his true parentage, and the spark was set for the horrors to come. Shattered by the knowledge of his illegitimacy and the loss of his girlfriend, Ted threw himself into activities with the Republican party, kick-started his performance in school by delving into psychology, and went through what appeared to be a total personality and lifestyle overhaul. During this time he met Elizabeth (not her real name,) who was swept off her feet by the handsome, vivacious young upstart. The two shared a passion for skiing and Ted seemed to dote on Elizabeth's young daughter. However, Bundy was secretly seeing Stephanie at the same time and eventually won her over. The two even went so far as to plan marriage. Ted grew distant, and in February of 1974, they broke up for the last time. Later, Stephanie would say, "I escaped by the skin of my teeth. When I think of his cold and calculating manner, I shudder."
Neither Stephanie Brooks nor Elizabeth knew that on January fourth, Ted had sneaked into the bedroom of eighteen year old Joni Lenz, a University of Washington student, and bludgeoned her with a crowbar. He then tore an iron bedpost from the girl's bed and used it to sexually assault her. Lenz was found comatose the next morning, the bedpost still inserted in her vagina. She sustained permanent brain damage from the attack.
Barely three weeks later, Bundy broke into the bedroom of Lynda Ann Healy, also a University of Washington student. Her empty bed was found the next morning, with the covers pulled up neatly, hiding a large pool of blood that had soaked into the mattress. Healy's decapitated, dismembered body was found a year later.
Bundy killed in earnest over the next year, often using the ruse of wearing a cast or a sling on his arm, or appearing to struggle with an armload of books while using crutches. He even snatched two women in one day from Lake Sammamish state park in Washington. Both Janice Ott and Denis Naslund were taken by a man asking for help moving his sailboat, a move that was incredibly bold considering that it was a crowded summer day at the lake. It is not know if Ott, who was taken first, was alive when Bundy kidnapped Naslund, although in Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, Bundy surmised to author Stephen Michaud about the nature of the girls' killer, "...Had he been cautious, he would've probably killed the first individual before leaving to get the second girl, but in this instance since we've agreed he wasn't acting cautiously, he hadn't killed the first girl when he abducted the second." Michaud walked Bundy through a third-person account of the kidnapping, asking Bundy (who never confessed to Ott and Naslund's murders,) thought the killer might do. Following a sexual assault on the two bound women, Bundy said, "Well, by this time, his frenzied compulsive activity of that day has run its course. Then he realized the jeopardy he was in. Then the normal self would begin to reemerge and, realizing the greater danger involved, would suffer panic and begin to think of ways to conceal the acts - or at least his part of them. So he'd kill the two girls, place them in the car, and take them to a secluded area and leave them."
Both Naslund and Ott were belived to have been decapitated. Naslund's remains were found in a wooded area, along with other women Bundy had murdered. Janice Ott's lower jawbone was found nearby. The rest of her body has yet to be discovered.
Along with Healy, Ott and Naslund, Carol Valenzuela, Donna Manson, Susan Rancourt, Brenda Baker, Brenda Ball, and Georgann Hawkins, along with Kathy Parks in Oregon, were killed before Ted decided to head for Utah.
The time span between murders shortened when Bundy travelled to Utah in October of 1974. Bundy had travelled to Utah before, (and had killed there, it was later discovered,) while there in 1974 he would murder Nancy Wilcox, Melissa Smith, Laura Aime, Debbie Kent, Susan Curtis, Nancy Baird, and, in a return trip in 1976, Debbie Smith. Curtis was a fifteen year old who was visiting the Brigham Young University for a youth conference. She left her friends to walk back to a dorm room and vanished into thin air. Aime was last seen on Halloween in Lehi, UT. Her nude, raped, and sodomized body was found on Thanksgiving Day by a hiker in American Folk Canyon, strangled and beaten beyond recognition. It also appeared as if her killer had washed her hair before disposing of her body. Melissa Smith, the daughter of the Midvale, UT police chief, was last seen hitchhiking. Her nude body, like the others, had been beaten, raped, and sodomized. Her own stockings were tied around her neck, and dirt and sticks had been pushed into her vagina. Someone had touched up her make up before leaving her body on a golf course in Summit Park, UT.
Bundy would also kidnap and attempt to murder another Utah woman - a failed killing that would provide police with one of their first big breaks in the case.
On November eighth Bundy kidnapped eighteen year old Carol DaRonch. Posing as an 'Officer Roseland' Bundy lured her to the parking lot of a shopping mall, saying that her car had been broken into, and he wanted the young woman to see if anything had been stolen. Once alone in the deserted lot, Bundy used the ruse of taking DaRonch to the police station to get her into his Volkswagen, even flashing a gold police-style badge when she asked for identification. With DaRonch was in the car, Bundy pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the road - driving away from where DaRonch knew the police station was at. After some distance, Bundy stopped the car and managed to clamp handcuffs on one of DaRonch's wrists. The girl began screaming, struggling to free herself, when Bundy pulled out a gun and threatened to kill her if she did not stop. She managed to break free and open the door, but Bundy followed and pinned her against the side of the vehicle, this time with a crowbar - his weapon of choice - in his hands. Knowing that it was either fight or be killed, DaRonch kicked Bundy in the testicles and escaped, flagging down a passing car. The couple driving took her to the police station, where she gave officers a description of the man and his car. Police also took samples of the blood on DaRonch's coat. It was type O positive, Ted Bundy's blood type.
Later that evening, Bundy approached a woman in the parking lot of Viewmont High School, asking her to help identify a car in the lot. The woman turned the man down, although he accosted her again later. The woman ignored him and went back inside the auditorium, where she was directing a school play. Later, she would see the man standing in the back of the auditorium, watching.
Debby Kent, who was watching the play that night, left early on an errand, promising to pick up her parents at the school after she retrieved her brother from a nearby bowling alley. Kent never made it to her car - it was found empty, still parked in its space. Police searched the area and although they did not find Kent, they did find a tiny handcuff key. After Bundy's arrest, the key would prove to be an exact match for the handcuffs Bundy had used to restrain Carol DaRonch.
Kent's body was never found.
Meanwhile, in Washington, similarities in the crimes had been coming into focus. There were witnesses who reported seeing a man with a cast or crutches near the abduction sites of many of the women, as well at a tan Volkswagen Beetle. With the witnesses' help a composite sketch was created and circulated to the media, along with a description of the VW. It was seen by a close friend of Bundy's ex-girlfriend Elizabeth. The friend noticed the resemblance between Elizabeth's former lover and the drawing, and reported her suspicions to the authorities. Bundy's name was put on a growing list of suspects. After seeing the police sketch and reading the description of the car, Elizabeth herself turned Bundy's name in to police, telling them about his odd sleeping habits, his penchant for violent sex, and that she had seen crutches and items to make casts in his bedroom even when he was uninjured. The pieces were starting to fall into place.
Colorado and Idaho
It seemed as if Bundy came like a ghost in the night to snatch his victims. He often left no trace of either himself or the women he spirited away - although the few times he did slip up would prove important later.
In mid-January of 1975, Bundy was in Colorado. His first victim there, Caryn Campbell, was taken from the hotel where she was staying with her fiance and his two children. The four of them had been in the hotel lounge when Campbell decided to go back to their room. (There are conflicting reports as to why she left, with some sources claiming that Campbell and her fiance were arguing, and other saying that she had forgotten an item in their room and had returned to retrieve it.) When Campbell did not rejoin her fiance in the lounge, he set off to find her.
She had never even made it back to their room.
Caryn Campbell's body was found a month later, only a few miles from the hotel. Scavenging animals and decomposition had done their work on her nude remains, making an exact cause of death impossible to determine, although there was evidence of rape. Her skull had obviously borne the brunt of several blows from a heavy, sharp instrument, the resulting skull fractures may very well have been what brought about her death. There was no trace of her killer at the scene.
Over the next six months, Bundy would kill five more women in Colorado. Julie Cunningham disappeared from Vail, CO while walking to a bar. Denise Oliverson, Grand Junction, vanished after leaving her parents' home. Melanie Cooley was found twenty miles away from her hometown of Nederland, her hands tied, a pillowcase around her neck. Nancy Baird and Shelley Robertson were taken from the gas stations where they worked. The bodies of Cunningham and Oliverson were never found.
Inbetween the Colorado murders, Bundy travelled to Idaho at least once, where he snatched thirteen year old Lynette Culver from a school playground in Pocatello. Her body would never be discovered. While there he also murdered an unknown victim, whose identity is still listed as simply Jane Doe.
As he acted out his fantasies with these latest victims, police in Washington had discovered what Bundy had left behind in the Taylor Mountains.
The Taylor Mountains & the Break
Bundy, it seemed, had a favorite place to dispose of his Washington victims. The Taylor Mountains were a densely forested area, so dense that it would have difficult to carry a body into the trees to dispose of it. Perhaps this is why only skulls, lower jaws, teeth, and one clump of hair were ever found their. Ted Bundy, it was apparent, was not only raping, beating, and strangling - he was also taking heads.
In all, the skulls or parts of the skulls of Lynda Ann Healy, Kathy Parks, Brenda Ball, Denise Naslund, Janice Ott, and Susan Rancourt were found there. Bundy had driven more than two hundred and fifty miles, all the way from Oregon, to dispose of Rancourt's remains.
While Bundy was busy murdering his way across the western half of the country, police in Washington had created a computer program that would prioritize suspects based on information from tips and an exhaustive investigation. Though the program was primitive by today's standards, it eventually reduced the list of suspects to just twenty-five. Ted Bundy's name was second on the list to be investigated when Utah police cornered him at last.
Bob Haywood of the Utah Highway Patrol was driving through his neighborhood in Granger when he noticed a tan Volkswagen speed by. Haywood hit his lights, but the car kept going, running two stop signs before coming to a halt on the side of the road. The driver handed over his license and registration, all in the name of one Theodore Robert Bundy.
Inside the car, Haywood discovered a mask made of nylon pantyhose, an icepick, a crowbar, and handcuffs. Bundy was arrested for evading an officer and for possession of burglary tools. He was released and put under surveillance after the teacher he'd approached at Viewmont High School positively identifed him, and was soon rearrested after police conclusively linked him to the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. In a brief trial, he was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to one to fifteen years in prison. In essence, the Utah conviction was a way for authorities to keep Bundy in one place while police in Washington, Colorado, and Utah built murder cases against him.
Bundy, however, wasn't going to wait around long.
He was extradited to Colorado to stand trial for the killing of Caryn Campbell, and managed to befriend the jailers who escorted him to and from the proceedings. In a testament to Bundy's ability to set people at ease and con anyone, he was able to convice his handlers to let him use the Pitkin County courthouse's law library unsupervised. Once he was out of their sight, he opened a second story window and jumped.
He was found six days later, cold, hungry, and exhausted, driving a stolen car through Aspen.
The Campbell trial was moved to Colorado Springs, but Bundy again had other plans. He was patient and observant and became familiar with the guards' habits and routines. He also began purposely losing weight, and on the night of December thirtieth, 1977, was thin enough to remove a ceiling tile and crawl through the ceiling of his cell. He made his way to the deputies' living quarters, stole clothes to replace his inmate jumpsuit, and disappeared.
His absence was not noticed until noon that day.
If Bundy was a madman during the Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, killings, he disentegrated further while in Florida. It was not long after arriving in Tallahassee that he visited the Chi Omega sorority house and committed the series of crimes for which he may be best known for - and marked the first time a witness saw Bundy leaving the scene of an obvious murder.
Lisa Levy, Margaret Bowman, Karen Chandler, and Kathy Kleiner were asleep in their beds when Bundy came calling, carrying either a crowbar or a thick branch. (Bark was found in one of the victim's hair.) The attacks that January night were not nearly as calculating as Bundy's previous murders, evidence that he may have been deteriorating mentally. In fact, a housemate came home to find a back door unlocked - and Bundy, still carrying a bloody club-like object, leaving through the front door. The housemate searched the quiet residence and found Chandler and Kleiner in their bedroom, bludgeoned but alive. Paramedics led Chandler from the house with a bucket beneath her chin to catch the blood, and several of her teeth were found scattered in her bed. Kleiner had also been severly bludgeoned, both girls suffering from broken jaws. Before searching the home further, the housemate called the police.
It was a wise choice.
Police found the brutalized bodies of Levy and Bowman still lying in their beds. Levy was strangled and beaten, and had been raped and sodomized with a plastic bottle. (The bottle was later found under her bed, covered in blood and hair.) Her right nipple had nearly been bitten off at the moment of or shortly following her death, and there were bitemarks all over her body. A nylon stocking was still knotted around Bowman's neck, and deep, crowbar shaped wounds had caved in her skull. The crime scene was not a tidy, nearly bloodless scene like that of previous murders. This was uncontrolled viciousness.
That same night, at a seperate location, Bundy beat another young woman, Cheryl Thomas, as she slept. She was found in her bedroom alive but suffering from five skull fractures, a broken jaw, and a dislocated shoulder. Bundy had beaten her so badly that she would sustain permanent hearing loss and problems with equilibrium. A pantyhose mask was also found in her semen-stained bedsheets.
The Chi Omega murders and the beatings of Kleiner, Chandler, and Thomas became a high priority for local police. Feeling the heat, Bundy fled to Lake City, FL, where he committed his last - and one of his most brutal - murders.
At twelve years old Kimberly Leach was Bundy's youngest victim. While at school on the morning of February ninth, she left class to get her purse, which she'd left in another building. She was seen a short time later talking to a man in a white van, but never returned to class. Her body was found on April twelfth, near the Suwanee River State park, dumped facedown in an abandoned pig sty. Some of her clothes had been removed and were piled next to her body. An exact cause of death could not be determined due to decomposition - she was nearly mummified - but the damage to her neck and chest area, along with the position of her body, indicated that she had probably been kneeling on all fours when her throat was cut from behind. Bite marks were also found on her buttocks, and those bite marks would be a key point in helping convict Bundy of her murder.
After killing Leach, Bundy abandoned the van and stole another vehicle. He was stopped by police while driving, but escaped when the officer was checking the car's license plates. He stole a Volkswagen and fled Tallahassee, but authorities caught up with him in Pensacola. A policeman recognized the plates on the vehicle as stolen, and pulled the car over. Bundy attempted to run away, even feigning a gunshot wound when officers fired at him. After a short struggle he was handcuffed and arrested, but this time he would not escape.
While Bundy was hiding out in Florida, the FBI had added him to their Ten Most Wanted list. At first he refused to give investigators his real name, using the alias Chris Hagen, although it was not long before his real indentity came to light. In July 1978 he was indicted for the murders of Lisa Levy, Margaret Bowman, and, to be tried seperately from the Chi Omega killings, Kimberly Leach.
Bundy was convicted of the Levy and Bowman murders and sentenced to death on July thirty-first.
The Leach trial began in the winter of 1980, and it was during this trial that Bundy took advantage of a Florida allowing any declaration of marriage inside a courtroom to be valid and legally binding. While questioning his girlfriend Carol Boone, who'd struck up a relationship with him during the previous trial, he managed to work a marriage proposal into the questioning (As long as vows are said in a courtroom, before a judge, the union is considered valid.) Bundy the serial killer was now a married man.
Just hours after Bundy's surreptitious marriage proposal to Boone, he was sentenced to die in the electric chair for the murder of Kimberly Leach.
Bundy would spend the better part of the next decade on Florida's death row. He even fathered a child with Carol Boone, who later moved out of state, her devotion to the man she referred to as 'Bunny' ebbing. While on death row Bundy spoke to many journalists, writers, and police investigators, all the while maintaining his innocence. He consented to an extensive interview with Christian fundamentalist Dr. James Dobson on the dangers of pornography - without admitting his guilt, of course. Bundy even offered his assistance with the then-ongoing investigation into Seattle's notorious Green River murders, later documented in Dr. Robert Keppel's book The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer. Bundy considered himself an expert on serial murder, and spent hundreds of hours ruminating with Keppel on the killings. (He was, for a time, considered a suspect in some of the Green River killings, but the real killer, Gary Leon Ridgway, was captured more than decade later, with no help from Bundy. Ridgway had left more than fifty victims in his wake.) Shortly before his execution, Bundy also opened up to Dr. Keppel about his own crimes, and spoke at length with authors Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynsworth. The books written by Keppel, as well as Michaud and Aynsworth's joint efforts, Conversations with a Killer and The Only Living Witness, are excellent and give great insight into Bundy's mind. He was a con man and a master manipulator the very end. In fact, shortly before his death, Bundy tried to buy time for himself by promising to confess to all the murders he'd committed.
Authorities didn't buy it. He'd tried this tactic before and had not come through. Ted Bundy was never going to confess to all that he had done - he enjoyed knowing what others did not. His secrets were his own.
Ted Bundy went to the execution chamber on January twenty-fourth, 1989. Outside the prison where he was to be executed by electrocution, crowds had gathered, chanting, "Fry, Bundy, fry!" and cheering for his death. Local radio stations played the sound of bacon frying. There was a festive atmosphere outside as the crowds - and the nation - awaited his death.
The end for Bundy was anticlimatic. There was no sudden confession or show of remorse. He hugged his mother stiffly, nodded somberly to investigators he had come to know, and was then strapped into Florida's infamous electric chair, Old Sparky. According to Aynesworth and Michaud's The Only Living Witness, the first set of volts stunned him, the second rendered Bundy unconscious, and the third brought death. When the black hood covering his face was removed, his eyes were half open, but they were unseeing. A doctor pronounced Bundy dead at 7:16 a.m.
It has been rumored that his executioner was female.
Bundy's remains were cremated, his ashes scattered in the Cascade mountains of Washington state, near the place where he secreted so many bodies of so many women.
The fallout from the Ted Bundy case may never truly disappear. Several of his victims were never found, leaving their parents with no knowledge of what happened to their daughter, no knowledge of where she is at or if she will ever be found. For these people, there will always be questions left unanswered.
Bundy himself was not the suave, handsome young man gone wrong the media is so bent on portraying him as. He was a brutal manipulator who murdered at least thirty-six women over the span of nearly five years. He promised time and again to reveal the location of his victims, and then reniged when the time came to tell the truth. Bundy could not tell the truth. He was unrepentant to the end.
The crimes Bundy committed, and the acts he performed on the bodies of his victims, were brutal beyond comprehension. After his incarceration, it was discovered that Bundy had decapitated at least a dozen of his victims with a hacksaw. He kept the severed heads in his room, along with the hands of some victims, before finally disposing of them. Some of the skulls were found with the front teeth broken out, and whether this is from being beaten or for a darker purpose we are not sure. A compulsive necrophiliac, Bundy would visit his victims' bodies over and over again at the Taylor Mountain site. He would lie with them for hours, all night at times, applying makeup to their corpses and violating their remains until putrefication forced him to abandon the remains. (Not long before his death, Bundy admitted to returning to the corpse of Georgann Hawkins for purposes of necrophilia.) He may very well have killed far more women than we realize, for when Bundy was confronted with the body count, he said to add 'one more digit, and you'll have it'. Whether this means there were thirty-seven murders or more than one hundred, we will never know. Even before the murder of Lynda Ann Healy and the beating of Joni Lenz, another coed had been beaten and raped so forcefully with a vaginal speculum that a hole had been punched in her vaginal wall. Although he was never convicted of the attack, Bundy worked for a medical supply company at the time - which is where he acquired the plaster for the mock casts he would later use.
In the final prison interview before his execution, Bundy spoke with author Hugh Aynsworth. The two reminisced on the process of writing Conversations with a Killer, and Bundy waxed philosophical to Aynsworth on where his life had taken him.
"I'm glad, too. [For agreeing to do the book.] I think it was important. That's why I feel that all this was not a waste. It started to put me on the path to where I am now. Just thinking about this business was so terrible, so horrible. You really jarred me a couple of times, knocked me back from where I thought I was to exactly when it happened, but while I was facing all this from you - which wasn't easy for any given session - I slowly began to understand what I had to do next, how I had to restructure my life. I'm in a lot better shape now.
Oh well, who'll remember either one of us in a hundred years?"
Margaret Bowman (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Margaret Bowman (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Margaret Bowman (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Margaret Bowman (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Margaret Bowman (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Lisa Levy (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Lisa Levy (Chi Omega Sorority House, Florida)
Healy Crime Scene (Washington)
Bitemark (Kimberly Leach, Florida)
Bitemark (Kimberly Leach, Florida)
Bundy's body following his execution.
Special thanks to:
Mark Bowers, DDS, JD, Diplomate, American Board of Forensic Odontology, and Dr. Richard Souviron.