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Ted Bundy: The Biography of a Serial Killer

March 11, 1999

Ted Bundy: A Biography of a Serial Killer


University educated serial sex killer whose good looks and charm enabled him to lure at least 30 young women to their deaths. Handsome, intelligent, socially recognized, Ted Bundy had been a law student, Boy Scout, a college degree with a major in psychology, involved in a Washington State party politics, and even served as a counselor at the Seattle Crisis Center. The public personality of Ted Bundy suggested nothing of the serial killer he truly was.


After spending the last remaining months of her pregnancy at a home for unwed mothers, 22 year old Eleanor Louise Cowell gave birth to her son, Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946. Ted?s natural father, Lloyd Marshall, who was an air force veteran, was unknown to him for the rest of his life. Shortly after the birth, he and his mother moved to Philadelphia to live with Eleanor?s parents, who he would later refer to as mother and father. This plan allowed Eleanor to escape any harsh criticism and prejudice for being an unwed mother. Theodore grew up referring to his own mother as his older sister. At the age of four, Ted moved to Tacoma, Washington, with his natural mother to live with relatives. They legally changed their names to Theodore Robert Nelson and Louise Cowell. One year later, Louise married a cook by the name of Johnnie Culpepper Bundy, whose last name Ted would assume for the rest of his life.Louise and Johnnie had four other siblings who Ted spent much of his time babysitting. Ted and his new father never took to each other, despite Johnnie?s attempts at camping and other father-son activities. The only man he would ever look up to was his grandfather who lived in Pennsylvania, and yet he was forced to leave him to move to a strange place.Throughout school, Ted was terribly shy and was often teased by bullies. However, he was able to maintain a high grade point average that would continue through high school and college. He didn?t date much, but occupied his time elsewhere with interests in skiing and politics. In 1965, Ted graduated and won a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound and in 1966 he transferred to the University of Washington to study Chinese. He was often thought unreliable; floating through one low-level job after another. He still continued to maintain a high grade point average. In 1967, Ted met a beautiful woman by the name of Stephanie Brooks. He was everything he had ever dreamed in a woman. She was raised in a high class Californian family, and was highly sophisticated and wealthy. Although they had many differences, they both loved to ski and it was during their many ski trips that they began to fall in love. Stephanie was the first woman Ted was ever involved with sexually. However, Stephanie was not as infatuated with Ted as he was with her. She liked him, but believed that he had no real direction or future goals. She wanted someone who would fit in her lifestyle. Ted tried too hard to impress her, even if that meant lying, something which she disagreed with. In 1968, after graduating from the University of Washington, Stephanie broke up her relationship with Ted. Ted never recovered from the break up. His life started to fall apart as he dropped out of school and stopped participating in the things he enjoyed. But Ted was obsessed with her and he couldn?t get her out of his mind. It was an obsession that would span his lifetime and lead to a series of events that would shock the world.THE TIME OF CHANGE Shortly after his breakup, he found out his true parentage. During this time of life, he changed from a shy character to a more focused and domineering one. He suddenly became driven to prove himself and possibly Stephanie, that he could do what ever he wanted to. He re-enrolled at the University of Washington and studied psychology. Bundy became an honors student and was well liked by his professors. During this time, Ted met Meg Anders, a woman whom he would be involved with for nearly five years. She was a single mother, whom soon Ted would act as a father to her daughter. Meg wanted to marry, but Ted felt that there was too much for him to accomplish. Meg knew that he didn?t feel as strongly about her as she did him. She was unaware of Ted?s previous relationship with Stephanie and that they still continued to keep in contact and visit each other. Ted?s life in 1969-1972 seemed to be looking up. Ted began applying to several law schools while becoming active in politics. Ted performed volunteer work at a crisis center and was even commended for saving a three year old boy, who was drowning in a lake. He was pleased with the path of life he was taking at this time. In 1973, during a business trip to California, Ted met up with Stephanie for a night out. Stephanie was amazed at the transformation in Ted and they, once again, became romantically involved. They talked about marriage during their fling, during that fall and winter. Suddenly, their relationship had suddenly changed. It seemed as if Ted had lost all interest in her over the period of just a few weeks. Stephanie was confused and in February 1974, with no explanation, Ted ended all contact with Stephanie. His plan of revenge worked; he rejected Stephanie as she had once rejected him. They would never see each other again.THE TIME OF TERROR On December 6, 1973, a young couple stumbled across the remains of a fifteen-year-old girl in McKenny Park, Washington. Kathy Devine was last seen by friends on November 25, hitchhiking to Oregon to run away from home. She had been strangled, sodomized and her throat was cut. Investigation proved nothing, but Kathy Devine was not the last one to die under such circumstances that year. During that spring and summer, eight more woman students suddenly vanished within the states of Utah, Oregon and Washington. There were striking similarities among many of the cases. All girls were white, thin, single, wearing pants at the time of disappearance and had long hair parted down the middle. During interviews, police found that a strange man, who was seen wearing a cast on either his arm or leg, was wandering around the area. Supposedly, he would struggle with books and ask young women for assistance. Also, witnesses sat that they seen a man with a cast ask women for assistance with his car, a VW bug that he had trouble starting. Finally, in August 1974, remains of some of the missing girls were found in Lake Sammamish Park, Washington. The two women were identified and eyewitnesses helped track down the suspect to be a man wearing a cast, driving a VW bug. These women, Janice Ott and Denise Naslund, were not the last women to disappear and be found dead. Midvale, Utah?s Police Chief, Louis Smith had a seventeen-year-old daughter who he constantly warned about the dangers of the world. He had worried for her safety; yet his worst fears came true when in October 1974, his daughter Melissa disappeared. Nine days later, she had been found strangled and raped. Thirteen days later, 17 year old Laura Aime disappeared. She was found on Thanksgiving lying dead by a river. She had been beaten by a crowbar, raped and sodomized. It was suspected that she was killed somewhere other than were she was found due to the lack of blood at the crime scene. The similarities between the Washington and Oregon murders caught the attention of local police in Utah, who were frantically searching for the man responsible for these awful crimes. Evidence was slowly mounting with each murder. Investigators from all three states consulted with each other and almost all agreed that it was highly likely that the same man was committing these murders. Eyewitnesses were able to put together a composite of the could-be-killer who called himself ?Ted?. A close friend of Meg Anders, Lynn Banks, saw the murder of Melissa Smith in the paper and recognized the composite to be Ted Bundy. Meg had to agree that the composite did resemble Ted. Somewhat hesitant, she contacted the police in the fall of 1974, on the advice of her friend. Meg was one of five people to have turned in Ted Bundy?s name to police. Her report, along with others, was filed away and forgotten until a few years later, since police were obligated to investigate other likely suspects.A SURVIVOROn November 8, 1974, investigators got the break they needed to break the case. That evening a strange man in a Utah bookstore approached eighteen year old Carol DaRonch. He said his name was Officer Roseland and that he seen someone trying to break into her car. When they arrived at the car, she informed him that everything was there. He was not satisfied and wanted to escort her to the VW bug. She became suspicious and asked for identification. He showed her the gold badge and escorted her to the car. He drove off quickly in the opposite direction of police headquarters. She started screaming and he pulled a gun and told her to be quiet or he?d kill her. He pressed her against the side of the car and had a crowbar in his hand ready to hit her in the head. Full of terror, she kicked him in the genitals and broke free. DarRonch ran towards the road and caught the attention of a couple driving by. They immediately took her to the police station. She gave a description of the madman and investigators felt that they had their lead. That night, two other young women disappeared and within the next month, eyewitnesses were able to give evidence of the disappearance. They would call about a handsome man with a VW bug. On January 12, 1975, Caryn Campbell disappeared from her hotel while relaxing in the hotel lounge. Her family waited in vain for her return, and by mid-morning they informed the police of her disappearance. Almost a month later, her body was found in the Taylor Mountains by recreational workers. Within the next few months, three more bodies were discovered. They were identified as Brenda Ball, Susan Rancourt and Lynda Healy; all who disappeared earlier that summer. All of the victims suffered from severe head trauma from a blunt instrument, possibly a crowbar. Police continued unsuccessfully to look for the killer. Five more women were found in Colorado under similar circumstances. They were not the last of Ted?s killing spree.A SUSPECT On August 16, 1975, a Utah Highway Patrolman was sitting in his patrol car when he spotted a suspicious tan VW Bug drive by him. Immediately, the officer began to chase the vehicle. After speeding through two stop signs, the driver of the VW Bug pulled over at a gas station. Two other officers joined the scene and searched the car. They found the passenger seat missing as well as unusual objects such as a crowbar, ski mask, rope, handcuffs, wire and an ice pick. Bundy was immediately placed under arrest for burglary. Soon after his arrest, police began to find connections between him and the man who attacked Carol DaRonch. The handcuffs that were found were the same make and model as the one?s found with Carol DaRonch. He was also suspected of the disappearance of Melissa Smith and the other woman who went missing the night of DaRonch?s attack. On October 2, 1975, Carol DaRonch, along with other eye witnesses, were asked to view a lineup of seven men. DaRonch identified Bundy as the man she was attacked by, and the two other woman identified him as the man they seen wandering around that night. Soon after he was picked from the lineup, investigators began a full-blown investigation of Ted Bundy.INVESTIGATION During the fall of 1975, police investigators approached Meg Anders for whatever information she was able to give about Ted. After all, she had alerted her suspicions concerning her boyfriend in connection to the notorious ?Ted?. They believe Meg would most likely hold the key to Bundy?s whereabouts, habits, and personality. What investigators learn later help link Ted Bundy to the murder victims. In interviews with Meg, investigators learned that Ted had Plaster of Paris to make casts in his room, which she had noticed when they first began dating. On other occasions, she noticed a hatchet in his car. She also recalled that Ted had visited Lake Sammamish Park in July, where he had supposedly gone water skiing. A week after Ted had gone to Lake Sammamish Park, two young ladies, Janice Ott and Denise Naslund were reported missing. After long interviews with Meg, investigators decided to shift their focus to Stephanie Brooks. Police learned that Stephanie?s relationship with Meg, and that either of them knew of each other. Ted seemed to be living a double life, filled with lies and betrayal. There was more to Ted than what investigators initially expected. More evidence would be found, that would later lead to his conviction. Lynda Ann Healy was linked to Bundy through a cousin of his; more eyewitnesses would recognize him from Lake Sammamish Park; and old friend noticed pantyhose in his glovebox; plus Ted had spent a lot of time in Taylor Mountains where several bodies were discovered. His credit cards were tracked to gas stations where he purchased gas in towns where girls went missing. Also, a friend had seen him in a cast when there was no hospital records of him having a broken arm.TRIBULATIONS On February 23, 1976, Ted Bundy was put on trial for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. Ted Bundy believed that there was no hard evidence to convict him, but he couldn?t have been more wrong. When Carol was asked to point out the man that kidnapped her, she pointed to Bundy and began crying. Ted said that he had never seen the defendant, but he had no alibi to confirm his whereabouts the day of the attack. Two days later, the judge would find Bundy guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of aggravated kidnapping. Ted Bundy was sentenced to one of fifteen years in prison with the possibility of parole. While Bundy remained incarcerated in Utah State Prison, investigators began a search for evidence connecting him to the murders of Caryn Campbell and Melissa Smith. Detectives discovered hairs in his car that were examined by FBI investigators and found to be characteristically alike to Campbell and Smith?s hair. Colorado police filed charges against Bundy on October 22, 1976 for the murder of Caryn Campbell. In April of 1977, Ted was transferred to Garfield County Jail in Colorado to await trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell. During preparation of his case, Bundy became increasingly unhappy with his representation and began to take up his own defense in the cast. Bundy was granted permission to leave the confines of the jail on occasion to utilize the courthouse library in Aspen to conduct research.THE GREAT ESCAPE On June 7, during one of his trips to the library at the courthouse, Bundy managed to jump from an open window, injuring his ankle in the process, and escaped to freedom. It was an escape that had been planned for awhile. Police launched a massive land search, using scent tracking bloodhounds and 150 searchers in hopes of catching Ted. However, Ted was able to elude them for days. While on the run, Bundy tried to flee to Aspen in a stolen car. Six days after his escape, he was captured by two police officers and returned to prison. From then on, Bundy was ordered to wear handcuffs and leg irons while conducting research in the library. Almost seven months later, Bundy again tried to escape, but this time he was more successful. He crawled into the ceiling of Garfield County Jail and made his way to another part of the building. He sat and waited until he knew the apartment was empty, then casually walked out the front door to his freedom. His escape would go undiscovered for fifteen hours. By the time police noticed his escape, he was heading towards Chicago. By mid-January, Bundy had settled comfortably into a one-room apartment in Tallahassee, Florida under the name of Chris Hagen. In order to get by, Bundy would steal food and merchandise and often pawn it off for cash. He spent much of his time wandering the campus of Florida State University, often ducking into classes unnoticed. Under the circumstances, Bundy seemed to have enough material things to make him content. What he missed the most was companionship.MURDER ON THE RUN It was mid-January when Nita Neary was dropped off at the Chi Omega Sorority House at 3 am. She was dropped off at the house by her boyfriend and noticed the front door and lights on. It wasn?t unusual for the girls to stay up late and party, so she didn?t think much of it. After she entered the wide-open front door, she heard some movement, as if someone were running in the rooms above her. Suddenly, she heard footsteps approaching the staircase near her and she hid in a doorway, out of view. She watched a man with a knit blue cap pulled over his eyes, holding a log with a cloth around it, run down the stairs and out the door. Nita?s first thought was that the house had been robbed. She immediately ran up the stairs to wake her roommate, Nancy Dowdy. Unsure of what to do, the girls made their way to their housemother?s room. Yet, they had seen another roommate, Karen Chandler, staggering down the hall. In the next room, they found Kathy Klein in her room alive, but in a horrible state. Hysterical, Nancy ran to the phone and called the police. Police later found two more girls dead in their rooms lying in their beds. They had been attacked while they were sleeping. Lisa Levy was the first girl that officers had found dead. Autopsy?s showed that she had been beaten on the head with a log, raped and strangled. Further examination proved that she had bite marks on her buttocks and to one of her nipples. Her nipple was so severely bitten, that it was almost severed from the rest of her body. She had also been sexually assaulted with a can of hair spray. Margaret Bowman had suffered similar injuries, although she had not been sexually assaulted and she showed no signs of bite marks. A pair of pantyhose that were later found at the crime scene had strangled her. They had both been beaten on the head, and neither girls showed signs of a struggle. Later that night, Debbi Ciccarelli was awakened by loud banging noises coming from the apartment next to hers. The noises persisted and she became suspicious and woke her roommate. They heard their next door neighbor moaning and screaming. When the girls called the girl next door to see if she was all right, nobody answered. They immediately called the police. The police came quickly, since they were just a few blocks away. They found her somewhat conscious and half-nude, but lucky to be alive. Police discovered a mask at the foot of the bed. Police investigators worked diligently on the evidence that was left behind. They were able to get a blood type from the assailant, sperm samples and fingerprint smudges. Investigators did not have a suspect and Ted Bundy was unknown to them. Almost a month later, a twelve-year-old girl, Kimberley Leach disappeared. A man in a white van approached another young child. Upon hearing of the stranger in a white van, Detective James Parmenter had the license plates checked out and found the van, as well as the plates, were stolen. He decided to have the children witnesses observe a stack of mug shots to see if they recognize one. All the children chose Ted Bundy as the man whom they seen in the white van. Over the month?s following, investigators compiled critical evidence to be used against Bundy in the case. During this time, Officer Lee, a Utah officer, pulled over a VW Bug and arrested Bundy. After months of investigation, police charged Bundy with the murder of Kimberley Leach.THE TRIALS Ted Bundy faced three trials, all spaced within three years. His first trial date for the Chi Omega murders was set for February 22, 1978 in Miami, Florida. Three months later, he would go on trial for the attacks on the Chi Omega Sorority sisters. One year later, Bundy would go on trial for the murder of Kimberly Leach. The trial for the Chi Omega murders would seal his fate forever. During the Chi Omega murder trial, Ted acted as his own defense attorney. Twelve jurors looked on as he defended himself against the murder charges. The first event that would sway the jury against Bundy was the testimony of Nita Neary, of what she had seen that night. She identified Ted Bundy as the man she seen fleeing down the stairs of the Chi Omega House. The second event was the testimony of oncologist, Dr. Richard Souviron. Dr. Souviron described the bite marks found on Lisa Levy?s body. With pictures, the doctor pointed out the uniqueness of the indentations left behind on the victim and compared them with full scale pictures of Bundys teeth. They were a perfect match. The pictures would be the most incriminating evidence the prosecution had linking Bundy to the crimes. On July 23, Bundy waited in his cell as the jurors deliberated over his guilt or innocence. After almost seven hours, they returned to the coatroom. Emotionless, Bundy listened on as one of the jurors read out ?GUILTY.? On all counts of murder, Bundy was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. On July 31, Ted Bundy would be sentenced to die in the electric chair. On January 7, 1980, Ted would go to trial for his last time for the murder of Kimberley Leach. With evidence stacked against him, he would once again be found guilty. He would eventually confess to the murders of 28 women. However, many believe the number to be much higher. After countless appeals, Ted was finally executed on January 24, 1989.

Table 1. Ted Bundy?s Known VictimsDate Missing Name AgeFebruary 1, 1974 Lynda Ann Healy 21March 12, 1974 Donna Gail Manson 19April 17, 1974 Susan Rancourt 18May 6, 1974 Roberta Parks 22June 1, 1974 Brenda Ball 22June 11, 1974 Georgeann Hawkins 18July 14, 1974 Janice Ott 23July 14, 1974 Denise Naslund 19August 2, 1974 Carol Valenzuela 20October 2, 1974 Nancy Wilcox 16October 18, 1974 Melissa Smith 17October 31, 1974 Laura Aime 17November 8, 1974 Debbie Kent 17January 12, 1976 Caryn Campbell 23March 15, 1975 Julie Cunningham 26April 6, 1975 Denise Oliverson 25January 15, 1978 Lisa Levy 20January 15, 1978 Margaret Bowman 21February 9, 1978 Kimberley Leach 12

CONCLUSION In Bundy?s opinion there are very few true psychotic killers, that is, those driven by voices and visions. The majority are like himself ? intelligent people capable of making rational decisions in relation to their crimes. In a last ditch effort to save his miserable life, Bundy began a recital of all the murders he committed, twenty-three in all. His last nervous words were: ?Give my love to my family and friends.?

Works Cited

Corpus, Leilani. ?What we learned from Ted Bundy.? http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner (March 89)

Duijndam, Rachael Bell. ?Ted Bundy.? http://www.crimelibrary.com (Aug 98)

Roth, Martin. The Writers Complete Crime Reference Book. Pasadena: Writer?s Digest Books, 1993.

Lane, Brian and Gregg, Wilfred. The Encycolpedia of Serial Killers. Missouri: Headline Book Publishing, 1992.

Nash, Jay Robert. World Encyclopedia of 20th Century Murder. Chicago: Paragon House, 1992.

Frasier, David K. Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century. New York: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996.

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