Ted Bundy was born in Burlington, Vermont on November 24, 1946, at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers. The identity of Ted’s father remains a mystery. Bundy’s birth certificate lists a “Lloyd Marshall”, while Bundy’s mother, Louise, would later tell a tale of being seduced by a war veteran named “Jack Worthington”. Bundy’s adopted family disbelieved this story, however, and expressed suspicion about Louise’s violent, abusive father, Samuel Cowell. To avoid social stigma, Bundy’s grandparents claimed him as their son, giving him their last name; he grew up believing his mother to be his older sister. Bundy would not learn the truth about his parentage until he was in high school.
For the first few years of his life, Bundy and his mother lived in Philadelphia with his maternal grandparents. In 1950, Bundy and his “sister” moved to live with relatives in Tacoma, Washington where Louise had Ted’s last name inexplicably changed from Cowell to Nelson. In 1951, one year after their move, Louise met Johnny Culpepper Bundy at an adult singles night held at Tacoma’s First Methodist Church. A Navy veteran and cook at a local Veterans Administration hospital, Bundy was eligible and lonely much like single mother Louise. In May of that year, Johnny and Louise were married and soon thereafter Johnny willingly adopted Ted, legally changing his last name to “Bundy”.
In time, the Bundy family grew to add four more children, whom Ted spent much of his free time babysitting. Johnny Bundy tried to include him in camping trips and other father-son activities, but the boy remained emotionally detached from his stepfather. In Bundy’s mind, he felt more like a Cowell than a Bundy and saw Johnny and the rest of the Bundy clan as beneath him. He became increasingly uncomfortable around his stepfather and made it clear that he preferred to be alone. Bundy was a good student at Woodrow Wilson High School, and was active in a local Methodist church serving as vice-president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. He was involved with a local troop of the Boy Scouts.
Socially Bundy remained shy and introverted throughout some of his high school and early college years. He would later say that he “hit a wall” in high school; he was unable to understand social behavior, stunting his social development.
He maintained a facade of social activity, but he had no natural sense of how to get along with other people: “I didn’t know what made things tick. 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.”
Before he was even out of high school Bundy was a compulsive thief, a shoplifter, and on his way to becoming an amateur criminal. To support his love of skiing, Bundy stole skis and equipment and forged ski-lift tickets. He was arrested twice as a juvenile, though these records were later expunged.
Bundy described the part of himself that, from a young age, was fascinated by images of sex and violence as “the entity”, and kept it very well hidden. Later, friends and acquaintances would remember a handsome, articulate young man. While a college student, he worked as a volunteer at a Seattle suicide crisis center, alongside fledgling crime reporter Ann Rule. Ironically, Rule would go on to write the most famous biography of Bundy and his crimes, The Stranger Beside Me.
Bundy had one serious relationship with fellow college student Stephanie Brooks (a pseudonym), whom he met while enrolled at the University of Washington in 1967. Following her 1968 graduation and return to her family home in California, Stephanie ended the relationship. Fed up with what she described as Bundy’s immaturity and lack of ambition, they separated, although he obsessively stayed in touch with her through letters. It was at this time that Bundy decided to pay a trip to Burlington, Vermont, the place of his birth. Making a visit to the local records clerk in Burlington, he finally discovered the truth of his parentage in 1969. Although it is unclear what impact this discovery had on him emotionally, it is clear that following his return from Vermont he began to treat Johnny Bundy with more obvious disdain.
After his discovery, Bundy became a more focused and dominant character. He re-enrolled at the University of Washington, this time with a major in psychology. Bundy became an honors student and was well liked by his professors. In 1969, he started dating Elizabeth Kendall (pseudonym), a divorced secretary who fell deeply in love with Bundy. They would continue dating for over six years, until he went to prison for kidnapping in 1976.
Bundy graduated in 1972 from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology, and soon afterward, he began working for the state Republican Party. While on a business trip to California in the summer of 1973, Bundy came back into Stephanie’s life with a new look and attitude; this time as a serious, dedicated professional who had been accepted to law school. Bundy continued to date Elizabeth as well, and neither woman was aware the other existed. Bundy courted Stephanie throughout the rest of the year, and she happily accepted his proposal of marriage. Two weeks later, however, he unceremoniously dumped her, refusing to return her phone calls. He would later dismiss the proposal and break-up as part of a challenge he undertook, saying, “I just wanted to prove to myself that I could have her.” It was a few weeks after this breakup that Bundy began a murderous rampage in Washington state.
First wave of murders
Many Bundy experts, including Rule and former King County detective Robert D. Keppel, believe Bundy may have started killing as far back as his early teens: an eight-year-old girl from Tacoma, Ann Marie Burr, vanished from her home three miles from Bundy’s house one summer night in 1961, when Bundy was fourteen years-old. When asked about Burr’s disappearance by Keppel shortly before his execution, Bundy denied killing her. While the possibility of Bundy’s involvement in her disappearace is intriguing, it is improbable since the Burrs lived on the other side of town from the Bundy’s home. When talking to his lawyer the day before his execution, Bundy said that his first attempt to kidnap a woman was in 1969, and implied that his first actual murder was sometime in the 1972-73 time frame. His earliest known, confirmed murders were committed in 1974, when he was 27.
Shortly after midnight on January 4, 1974, Bundy entered the basement bedroom of 18-year-old Joni Lenz (pseudonym), a dancer and student at the University of Washington. Bundy bludgeoned her with a metal rod from her bed frame while she slept, and sexually assaulted her with a speculum. Lenz was found the next morning by her roommates in a coma and lying in a pool of her own blood. She survived the attack, but suffered permanent brain damage and was unable to continue in her aspirations as a dancer.
Bundy’s next victim was Lynda Ann Healy, another University of Washington student. On the night of January 31, 1974, Bundy broke into Healy’s room, knocked her unconscious, dressed her in jeans and a shirt, wrapped her in a bed sheet, and carried her away. On March 12, 1974 in Olympia, Bundy kidnapped and murdered Donna Gail Manson, a 19-year old student at The Evergreen State College. She was last seen walking to an on-campus jazz concert. On April 17, Susan Rancourt disappeared from the campus of Central Washington State College in Ellensburg. Later, two different CWSC co-eds would recount meeting a man with his arm in a cast — one that night, one three nights earlier — who asked for their help to carry a load of books to his Volkswagen. Next was Kathy Parks, last seen on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis on May 6. (Oregon State is approximately 250 miles away from the scene of the Washington murders. Consequently, detectives for some time were unsure if they should class Parks with the other disappearances.) Brenda Ball was never seen again after leaving The Flame Tavern in Burien, Washington on June 1. Bundy then murdered Georgeann Hawkins, a student at the University of Washington and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, an on-campus sorority. In the early morning hours of June 11, 1974, she walked through an alley from her boyfriend’s dormitory residence to her sorority house. Hawkins was never seen again. Witnesses later reported seeing a man with a leg cast struggling to carry a briefcase in the area that night. One co-ed reported that the man had asked her help in carrying the briefcase to his car.
Bundy’s Washington killing spree culminated on July 14 with the abduction in broad daylight of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund from Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, Washington. Eight different people that day told the police about the handsome young man with his left arm in a sling who called himself “Ted”. Five of them were women that “Ted” asked for help unloading a sailboat from his Volkswagen Beetle. One of them accompanied “Ted” as far as his car, where there was no sailboat, before declining to accompany him further. Three more witnesses testified to seeing him approach Janice Ott with the story about the sailboat, and to seeing Ott walk away from the beach, with her bicycle, and in his company. She was never seen alive again. King County detectives were able to get a description both of the suspect and his tan Volkswagen Beetle. Some witnesses told investigators that the “Ted” they encountered spoke with a clipped, Canadian accent. From the witnesses police obtained descriptions of the man and his Volkswagen, and soon fliers were up all over the Seattle area. After seeing the police sketch and description of the Lake Sammamish suspect in both of the local newspapers and on television news reports, Bundy’s girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall (pseudonym), one of his psychology professors at the UW, and former co-worker Ann Rule all reported him as a possible suspect. The police, receiving up to 200 tips per day, did not pay any special attention to a tip about a clean-cut law student.
The fragmented remains of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund were discovered on September 7, off Interstate 90 near Issaquah, one mile from the park. Along with the women’s remains was found an extra femur bone and vertebrae, which Bundy shortly before his execution would identify as that of Georgeann Hawkins. On March 2, 1975, the skulls and jawbones (and no other skeletal remains) of Healy, Rancourt, Parks and Ball were found on Taylor Mountain just east of Issaquah. Because Ball was not a college student and had disappeared from a bar rather than a campus, investigators had not initially believed her to be one of the “Ted” victims. Later, they would discover that she had been seen dancing at the Flame on the night of her disappearance with a man that matched the “Ted” description, including the sling on his arm. Years later Bundy claimed that he had also dumped Donna Manson’s body there, but no trace of her has ever been found.
Second wave of murders
That autumn, Bundy moved to Utah to attend law school in Salt Lake City, where he resumed killing in October. Nancy Wilcox disappeared from Holladay, near Salt Lake City, Utah on October 2. Wilcox was last seen riding in a Volkswagen Beetle. On October 18, Bundy murdered Melissa Smith, the 17-year-old daughter of Midvale police chief Louis Smith. Bundy raped, sodomized, and strangled her. Her body was found nine days later. Next was Laura Aime, also 17, who disappeared when she left a Halloween party in Lehi, Utah on October 31, 1974. Her remains were found nearly a month later by hikers on Thanksgiving Day, on the banks of a river in American Fork Canyon. She was found naked, beaten beyond recognition, sodomized, and strangled with her own sock.
In Murray, Utah, on November 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch narrowly escaped with her life. Claiming to be Officer Roseland of the Murray Police Department, Bundy approached DaRonch at a mall, told her someone had tried to break into her car, and asked her to accompany him to the police station. She got into his car (but refused his instruction to buckle her seat belt), and they drove for a short period before Bundy suddenly pulled to the shoulder and attempted to slap a pair of handcuffs on her. In the struggle, he fastened both loops to the same wrist. Bundy then whipped out his crowbar, but DaRonch caught it in the air just before it would have cracked her skull. She then managed to get the door open and tumble out onto the highway, thus escaping from her would-be killer.
About an hour later, a strange man showed up at Viewmont High School in Bountiful, Utah, where the drama club was putting on a play. He approached drama teacher Raelynne Shepard several times, eventually asking her to go out to the parking lot to identify a car. Shepard declined. The man asked another student in attendance, Katherine Ricks, to come out to the parking lot and help him fix his car. Ricks also declined. Shepard would see the man again shortly before the end of the play, this time breathing hard, with his hair mussed and his shirt untucked. Another student, Tamara Tingley, would see the man lurking in the rear of the auditorium. Debby Kent, a 17-year-old Viewmont High student, left the play at intermission to go pick up her brother, and was never seen again. Later, investigators found a key in the parking lot outside Viewmont High. It unlocked the cuffs taken off of Carol DaRonch.
In 1975, while still attending law school at the University of Utah, Bundy shifted his crimes to Colorado. On January 12, Caryn Campbell disappeared from the Wildwood Inn at Snowmass, Colorado, where she had been vacationing with her fiancé and his children. She vanished somewhere in a span of fifty feet between the elevator doors and her room. Her body was found on February 17. Next, Vail ski instructor Julie Cunningham disappeared on March 15, and Denise Oliverson on April 6. While in prison, Bundy confessed to Colorado investigators that he used crutches to approach Cunningham, after asking her to help him carry some ski boots to his car. At the car, Bundy clubbed her with his crowbar and incapacitated her with handcuffs, later strangling her in a crime highly similar to the Georgeann Hawkins murder.
Lynette Culver went missing in Pocatello, Idaho on May 6 from the grounds of her junior high school. While on Death Row, Bundy later confessed that he kidnapped Culver and had taken the girl to a room he had rented at a nearby Holiday Inn. After raping her, he stated that he had drowned her in the motel room bathtub and later dumped her body in a river. After his return to Utah, Susan Curtis vanished on June 28. (Bundy confessed to the Curtis murder minutes before his execution.) The bodies of Cunningham, Culver, Curtis and Oliverson have never been recovered.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, investigators were attempting to prioritize their enormous list of suspects and, in an innovative use of technology for 1975, using computers to cross-check different likely lists of suspects (classmates of Lynda Healy, owners of Volkswagens, etc.) against each other, and then identify suspects who turned up on more than one list. “Theodore Robert Bundy” was one of 25 people who turned up on four separate lists, and his case file was second on the To Be Investigated pile when the call came from Utah of an arrest.
Arrest, first trial and escapes
Bundy was arrested on August 16, 1975, in Salt Lake City, for failure to stop for a police officer. A search of his car revealed a ski mask, a crowbar, handcuffs, trash bags, an icepick, and other items that were thought by the police to be burglary tools. Bundy remained cool during questioning, explaining that he needed the mask for skiing and had found the handcuffs in a dumpster. Utah detective Jerry Thompson connected Bundy and his Volkswagen to the DaRonch kidnapping and the missing girls, and searched his apartment. The search uncovered a brochure of Colorado ski resorts, with a check mark by the Wildwood Inn where Caryn Campbell had disappeared. After searching his apartment, the police brought Bundy in for a lineup before DaRonch, Shepard, and Tingley. They identified him as “Officer Roseland” and as the man lurking about the night Debby Kent disappeared. Following a week-long trial, Bundy was convicted of DaRonch’s kidnapping on March 1, 1976 and was sentenced to 15 years in Utah State Prison. Colorado authorities were pursuing murder charges, however, and Bundy was extradited there to stand trial.
On June 7, 1977, in preparation for a hearing in the Caryn Campbell murder trial, Bundy was taken to the Pitkin County courthouse in Aspen. During a court recess, he was allowed to visit the courthouse’s law library, where he jumped out of the building from a second-story window and escaped. In the minutes following his escape, Bundy at first ran and then strolled casually through the small town toward Aspen Mountain. He made it all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain without being detected, but then lost his sense of direction and wandered around the mountain, missing two trails that led down off the mountain to his intended destination, the town of Crested Butte. At one point, he came face-to-face with a gun-toting citizen who was one of the searchers scouring Aspen Mountain for Ted Bundy, but was able to talk his way out of danger. On June 13, Bundy was able to steal a car he found on the mountain. He drove back into Aspen and could have gotten away, but two police deputies noticed the Cadillac with dimmed headlights weaving in and out of its lane and pulled Bundy over. He was recognized and brought back to prison after having been on the lam for six days.
Upon arrest, Bundy was placed in the smaller Glenwood Springs jail, rather than being taken back to Aspen. Somehow he had acquired a hacksaw blade and $500 in cash—Bundy later claimed the blade came from another prison inmate. He was able to saw through the welds fixing a small metal plate in the ceiling and, after dieting down still further, to fit through the hole and access the crawl space above. An informant in the prison told guards that he’d heard Bundy moving around the ceiling, but no one checked it out. When Bundy’s Aspen trial judge ruled on December 23 that the Caryn Campbell murder trial would start on January 9, 1978, and changed the venue to Colorado Springs, Bundy realized that he had to make his escape before he was transferred out of the Glenwood Springs jail. On the night of December 30, 1977, Bundy dressed warmly and packed books and files under his blanket to make it look like he was sleeping. He wriggled through the hole and up into the crawlspace. Bundy crawled over to a spot directly above the jailor’s linen closet—the jailor and his wife were out for the evening—dropped down into the jailor’s apartment, and strolled out the door to freedom.
Bundy was free, but he was on foot in the middle of a bitterly cold, snowy Colorado night. He managed to steal a broken-down MG, but it stalled out on a mountain road. Bundy was stuck on the side of Interstate 70 in the middle of the night in a blizzard, but a helpful driver gave him a ride into Vail. From there he caught a bus to Denver and boarded the 8:55 a.m. flight to Chicago. The Glenwood Springs jail guards did not notice Bundy was gone until noon on Dec. 31, 17 hours after his escape, by which time Bundy was already in Chicago.
Bundy’s final rampage, Florida
Bundy then caught an Amtrak train to Ann Arbor, Michigan where he got a room at the YMCA. On January 2, he went to an Ann Arbor bar and watched his beloved University of Washington Huskies beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. He later stole a car in Ann Arbor that he abandoned in Atlanta, Georgia before boarding a bus for Tallahassee, Florida, arriving on January 8. There, he rented a room at a boarding house under the alias of “Chris Hagen” and committed numerous petty crimes including shoplifting, purse snatching, and auto theft. He stole a student ID card that belonged to a Kenneth Misner and sent away for copies of Misner’s Social Security card and birth certificate.
Just one week after Bundy’s arrival in Tallahassee, in the early hours of Super Bowl Sunday on January 15, 1978, two and a half years of repressed homicidal violence erupted. Bundy entered the Florida State University Chi Omega sorority house at approximately 3 a.m. and killed two sleeping women, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman. Levy and Bowman were bludgeoned, strangled, and sexually assaulted. Bowman’s brain was visible through a hole in her skull. Two other Chi Omegas, Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiner, were bludgeoned in their sleep and severely injured. The entire episode took no more than half an hour. After leaving the Chi Omega house, Bundy broke into another home a few blocks away, clubbing and severly injuring FSU student Cheryl Thomas.
On February 9, 1978, Bundy traveled to Lake City, Florida. While there he abducted, raped and murdered 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, throwing her body under a small pig shed. She would be his final victim. On February 12, Bundy stole yet another Volkswagen Beetle and left Tallahassee for good, heading west across the Florida panhandle. On Feb. 15, 1978, shortly after 1 a.m., Bundy was stopped by Pensacola police officer David Lee. When the officer called in a check of the license plate, the vehicle came up as stolen. Bundy then scuffled with the officer before he was finally subdued. As Lee took the unknown suspect to jail, Bundy said “I wish you had killed me.” Before long, Bundy was identified and taken to Miami to stand trial for the Chi Omega murders.
Conviction and execution
Bundy went to trial for the Chi Omega murders in June of 1979 with Dade County Circuit Court Judge Edward D. Cowart presiding. Despite having five court-appointed lawyers, he insisted on acting as his own attorney and even cross-examined witnesses, including the police officer who had discovered the body of Margaret Bowman.
Two pieces of evidence proved crucial. First, Chi-O Nita Neary, getting back to the house very late after a date, saw Bundy as he left, and identified him in court. Second, during his homicidal frenzy, Bundy bit Lisa Levy in her left buttock, leaving obvious bite marks. Police took plaster casts of Bundy’s teeth and a forensics expert matched them to the photographs of Levy’s wound. Bundy was convicted on all counts and sentenced to death. After confirming the sentence, Judge Cowart bid him goodbye:
"It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that current be passed through your body until you are dead. Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity as I’ve experienced in this courtroom. You’re an intelligent young man. You’d have made a good lawyer, and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself."
After the Chi Omega trial, Bundy was tried for the Kimberly Leach murder in 1980.He was again convicted on all counts, principally due to fibers found in his van that matched Leach’s clothing and an eyewitness that saw him leading Leach away from the school, and sentenced to death.
During the Kimberly Leach trial, Bundy married former coworker Carole Ann Boone in the courtroom while questioning her on the stand. Following numerous conjugal visits between Bundy and his new wife, Boone gave birth to a girl she named “Tina” in October 1982. Eventually, however, Boone moved away, divorced Bundy, and changed her last name and that of her daughter. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
In the years Bundy was on death row at Florida State Prison, he was often visited by Special Agent William Hagmaier of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. Bundy would come to confide in Hagmaier, going so far as to call him his best friend. Eventually, Bundy confessed to Hagmaier many details of the murders that had until then been unknown or unconfirmed. In October 1984, Bundy contacted former King County homicide detective Bob Keppel and offered to assist in the ongoing search for the Green River Killer by providing his own insights and analysis. Keppel and Green River Task Force detective Dave Reichert traveled to Florida’s death row to interview Bundy. Both detectives later stated that these interviews were of little actual help in the investigation; they provided far greater insight into Bundy’s own mind, and were primarily pursued in the hope of learning the details of unsolved murders that Bundy was suspected of committing but had never been charged with.
Bundy contacted Keppel again in 1988. With his appeals exhausted (Bundy had beaten previous death warrants for March 4, July 2, and November 18, 1986), and execution imminent, Bundy confessed to eight official unsolved murders in Washington State, for which he was the prime suspect. Bundy told Keppel that there were actually five bodies left on Taylor Mountain, and not four as they had originally thought. Bundy said that the fifth body was that of Donna Manson, the Evergreen State College student missing since 1974. Bundy confessed in detail to the murder of Georgeann Hawkins, describing how he lured her to his car with the crutches-and-briefcase routine, clubbed her with a tire iron that he’d stashed on the ground under his car, drove away with a semi-conscious Hawkins in the car with him, and later strangled her.
After the interview, Keppel reported that he had been shocked in speaking with Bundy, and that he was the kind of man who was “born to kill”. Keppel stated:
"He described the Issaquah crime scene (where Janice Ott, Denise Naslund, and Georgeann Hawkins had been left) and it was almost like he was just there. Like he was seeing everything. He was infatuated with the idea because he spent so much time there. He is just totally consumed with murder all the time."
Bundy had hoped that he could use the revelations and partial confessions to get another stay of execution or possibly commute his sentence to life imprisonment. At one point, a legal advocate working for Bundy, Linda Barker, had asked many of the families of the victims to fax letters to Florida Governor Robert Martinez and ask mercy for Bundy in order to find out where the remains of their loved ones were. To a person, all the families refused. Keppel and others reported that Bundy gave scant detail about his crimes during his confessions, and promised to reveal more and other body dump sites if he were given “more time”. The ploy failed and Bundy was executed on schedule.
The night before Bundy was executed, he gave a television interview to James Dobson, head of the evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family. During the interview, Bundy made repeated claims as to the pornographic “roots” of his sexually driven violence. He stated that, while pornography didn’t cause him to commit his crimes, the consumption of violent pornography helped “shape and mold” his violence into “behavior too terrible to describe.” He alleged that he felt that violence in the media, “particularly sexualized violence,” sent boys “down the road to being Ted Bundy’s”. After the interview was made public, many who knew Bundy as a sociopath had their doubts as to the validity of his “the pornography made me do it” claims. In the same interview, hours before his execution, Bundy stated:
"You are going to kill me, and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that.”
According to Hagmaier, Bundy contemplated suicide in the days leading up to his execution, but eventually decided against it.
At 7:06 a.m. on January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair. His last words were, “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.” Then, more than 2,000 volts were sent through his body for less than two minutes. He was pronounced dead at 7:16 a.m.
"I’m not going anywhere…"