I’m the only Ph.D. in serial murder.
You could smell the blood.
They say that the twentieth century is an age of specialization; if that is true, then it certainly applies to serial killers. Each serial killer falls into a specific category and rarely do his murders cross the parameters defining the categories. This kind of categorization has become important in police investigations because it helps identify the probable characteristics of a suspect in a process the police use called criminal profiling. (See Chapter 9 for a more detailed treatment on profiling and some of the controversies surrounding it.)
There is no single universally accepted system for categorizing serial killers. It varies depending upon the individual investigator, criminologist, or forensic psychologist who is proposing the categories. In the next two chapters we will explore some of the more frequently cited categories used in classifying serial killers.
Probably the most common and familiar is the FBI’s organized/disorganized classifications. The FBI’s behavioral specialists have compiled the Crime Classification Manual, which categorizes murder into four main groups: criminal enterprise homicide (category 100); personal cause homicide (category 120); sexual homicide (category 130); and group cause homicide (category 140). These groups are then further divided up into some forty subcategories. Thus, for example, under personal cause homicide, category 122.01 is spontaneous domestic homicide while category 123.01 is argument murder. Category 101 under criminal enterprise homicide is contract killing while category 107 is insurance inheritance-related death.85
There is no separate category for serial killing; serial homicides fall into the various categories depending upon their type. The most common group where serial homicides frequently occur is category 130: sexual homicide. That group is divided into subcategories that include the following:
131: organized sexual homicide
132: disorganized sexual homicide
133: mixed sexual homicide
Thus a singular or serial sex killer will be first categorized as organized, disorganized or mixed. These three categories are the fundamental building blocks of serial killer identification and profiling used by the FBI and by police agencies that adopt the FBI system.
The organized offender plans his murders and his escape carefully. He thinks through his crimes, often for weeks, months, and even years, before acting. He evolves his fantasy gradually and is aware of his growing compulsion to act out his murderous desire. He scrupulously targets his victims and stalks them for as long as necessary. He gains control over them at the crime scene. Often he takes his victims to another location and disposes of the body in such a manner that it may never be found. The killer is methodical and orderly in his crime. There are usually three separate crime scenes: where the victim was confronted, where the victim was killed, and where the victim’s body was disposed of.
The organized serial killer is dangerous and difficult to track for the police. Usually he is socially competent and gainfully employed as a skilled worker. He approaches his victims by socializing with them, charming them, or tricking them into a situation where he can overpower them. He owns a car and is mobile, often is married or lives with a partner, and is sometimes the father of children. He follows the reports of his crimes in the media and may change jobs or move to a different city to avoid being detected. He is intelligent, often educated, cunning, and controlled. He brings his own weapons and restraints such as rope, handcuffs, or tape to the scene of the crime, and afterward he destroys evidence left behind. He is sometimes schooled in police investigative methods. The organized serial killer is a perfectionist, constantly improving his technique with each additional murder. The longer he kills, the more difficult he becomes to capture.
The disorganized serial killer is diametrically opposite the organized one. He too is difficult to catch because while the organized killer is predictable in a certain way, the disorganized one is not. The police cannot second-guess the disorganized offender because he himself does not make any careful plans and does not know when he will kill next. He has vague and intense murderous fantasies, but he does not develop a thought-out plan of action. The disorganized serial killer usually attacks his victims spontaneously—his act is often a crime of opportunity. The victim is frequently overcome by a violent “blitz” attack and the weapon is often an object found near by—a pipe, a rock, a branch. The killer is usually socially inept, is unemployed or unskilled, does not own a car, and kills near his home. He is often of below-average intelligence or psychotic. The victim’s body is usually left where the confrontation and attack took place, and the killer makes no attempt to hide it. The corpse is often subjected to extraordinary and frenzied mutilation. The offender often keeps souvenirs from the victim’s belongings, clothes, and even parts of the victim’s body. He makes little or no effort to cover his tracks, destroy evidence, disguise himself, or develop an escape plan. Often the offender is isolated from other people and living alone, and therefore, there is nobody from whom to hide incriminating objects or behavior. Evidence might be found in his premises out in the open or even on display.
The FBI system also classifies homicides as a mixture of both organized and disorganized. The reason for this could be two or more killers working as a team. An attack may begin organized but be interrupted and deteriorate into chaos. The youthfulness of the offender or the use of drugs or alcohol can alter a personality of the offender from one crime to another. Critics of the organized/disorganized model argue that the “mixed” classification demonstrates the weakness of the system—too many serial killers do not fit into the neat categories and are thus classified “mixed”—a meaningless classification.
How these three categories manifest themselves in actual behavior is best illustrated with some actual case studies of offenders that reflect these organized/disorganized/mixed characteristics.
All roads in the empire of serial killers lead to Ted Bundy. Bundy was so organized that the police never located the crime scenes where his first seventeen victims were actually killed. Six of his victims remain missing to this day. Bundy referred to himself as “the only Ph.D. in serial murder.”
What serial killers from Jack the Ripper to the Boston Strangler are to “then,” Ted Bundy is to “now.” He is the American psycho: the very essence of both fact and myth in a simultaneous representation of everything we know and think we know the new breed of serial killers are. Bundy is special because he was attractive, educated, and like us—that is, those of us who represent some kind of middle-class aspirations linked to the promise held out by our belief in a college education and hard work.
Albert DeSalvo, whom you met previously, sold by his father to some farmer at age nine, and the killers you will meet later in this book—Ed Gein, all alone on his remote Wisconsin farm; crazy young Herb Mullin and the voices in his head; Henry Lee Lucas in a shack with his glass eye; Jerry Brudos hunched down in his basement workshop with body parts in the freezer—all dwell in a world that we think serial killers should come from: a dark insane place that does not belong to us. Our world is going to work on Monday morning, showing up in class on time, mowing the grass, going to the weekend barbecue, paying the rent and credit card bills at the end of the month, going out on Friday night, and knowing more or less where we will be six months from now. In our world, serial killers came from the outside as predators, not as neighbors from next door or among our dinner guests. That is, until we met law school student and crisis prevention counselor Ted Bundy.
Bundy’s story has been told in minute detail in numerous contradictory books and summarized in countless encyclopedias of murder. He was an archetypical organized killer and could also be classified as a “power/ control” or “anger-excitation” killer type. (See the next chapter for more details on these categories.) I’ll try to summarize here the essential history of his case and try to knead out some of the contradictory kinks between the various histories.
Ted Bundy was born as Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, in Burlington, Vermont, to Louise Cowell, age twenty-two. From birth Bundy was already in a category in which the FBI survey found 43 percent of sexual and serial killers: he had only one parent. His mother was single and had become pregnant in Philadelphia. The story of who the father was remained obscure. The Cowell family were very strict Methodists and deeply shamed by Louise’s pregnancy. In September she went away to the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Vermont, accompanied by a local church minister’s wife. After giving birth to Ted in November, Louise returned to Philadelphia, leaving Ted behind in Vermont for three months.
Back in Philadelphia, her father, Sam Cowell, pretended to adopt Ted as his son from some unknown orphanage. Louise, it is said, pretended to be his sister. Nobody knows for sure when Ted unraveled the mystery of his birth history because he gave conflicting stories about it afterward.
Most biographies of Bundy simply state that Ted and his mother lived in Philadelphia for four years and then Louise moved to Tacoma, Washington—clear across the continent. In Tacoma she was employed as a church secretary and met and married John Culpepper Bundy, a hospital cook, from whom Ted took his surname.
Reports and memories of Bundy’s childhood in his biographies are relatively mundane and undramatic: Bundy was ashamed of his family’s lower-class status; he was embarrassed to be seen in the family’s working-class Rambler automobile and had fantasies of being adopted by TV cowboy actor Roy Rogers. Bundy missed his grandfather; Bundy wanted to live with his great-uncle Jack, a university music professor in Tacoma who had a grand piano in his house. When Bundy was eight he was no longer allowed to jump into bed with his mother and stepfather; Bundy was threatened by the birth of four other children after his mother married John; Bundy’s playmates remember that he had a short temper. Nothing in the biographies indicates that Bundy grew up in anything but a loving and nurturing family, or that his mother or stepfather treated him any differently from his four siblings. His stepfather was reported to have a short temper, but there are no reports that he abused Ted or his mother, nor did Ted Bundy make any such claims. Ted Bundy’s brothers and sisters apparently had an excellent relationship with their elder half-brother. Bundy’s mother maintains that because he was her first-born, she was especially attentive to Ted.
His classmates from public school remember Bundy as an intelligent, happy, and popular child with many friends and a good academic record. One of his friends recalled that Bundy had a very subtle and intelligent “on the mark” sense of humor. Bundy had a paper route.
Once in high school, people’s recollections of Bundy suddenly become more clouded. Bundy is said to have been withdrawn and his academic progress was mediocre. He no longer was as popular as in junior high school. His friend recalled that he lost his confidence and appeared tongue-tied in social situations, not only with girls but with meeting new people in general.
Bundy later recalled that in high school he felt alienated from his old friends, feeling that they had somehow moved on but he did not. As far as learning appropriate social behaviors, Bundy felt that he had “hit a wall” when he got to high school and wondered whether it was perhaps a genetic thing. He claimed he did not have any role models at home to help him in school.86
For some mysterious reason that nobody can seem to explain, once Bundy got to high school he no longer fit in. There was nothing really wrong with him, yet he became isolated. A woman who today is an attorney and went to high school with Bundy remembers that when Bundy was seventeen he was well known and popular but not in the “top crowd.” She remembers him as being shy. That she remembers him at all is to Bundy’s credit—so many serial killers are invisible in their adolescence.
He had only one date with a girl, and Bundy said that in high school sex was “over his head”—he knew or understood little about it. In prison, Bundy said that in matters of high school male-female relationships he was “dense,” not understanding when a woman was particularly interested in him. Remarking on comments that he was handsome, Bundy said he did not believe that about himself. He remembered not understanding how friendships worked or what underlay social interaction.
The descriptions of Bundy in many ways are those of a typical high school student—just so, so typical. He was not among the most popular students at his school and he was not among the despised losers—in other words, again he was like most of us. He was not mocked, rejected, or sneered at, but neither was he the most popular kid in school.
There is one dark tremor in Bundy’s adolescence. When he was fourteen, eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr vanished near his Tacoma neighborhood. Many years later police would suspect that Bundy might have been responsible.
After Bundy was executed in Florida’s electric chair in 1989, investigative journalist Myra MacPherson attempted to dig deeper into Bundy’s history to solve the mystery of how his homicidal personality was formed. MacPherson was puzzled by how Bundy’s biographies leapt from his mother’s time in Philadelphia to her sudden departure four years later to Tacoma, Washington. Nothing was said about the four years that child Ted lived with his grandparents.87
Ann Rule, for example, in her brilliantly definitive portrait of Bundy and his crimes, The Stranger Beside Me, after stating that little Ted was told to call his grandparents “Mother” and “Father,” devotes only one short paragraph to his relationship with his grandfather:
Ted adored his grandfather Cowell. He identified with him, respected him, and clung to him in times of trouble.88
After interviewing Ted Bundy for months, the authors of The Only Living Witness had only this to say about the first four years of Bundy’s life, during which, if some psychologists are correct, 75 percent of a person’s life knowledge is acquired:
Just before his fourth birthday, Teddy and his mother left Philadelphia to join her uncle and his family in Tacoma, Washington. Later, a story attributed to the adult Ted Bundy had it that Louise posed as his older sister, not his mother. This is not so; he always knew her as Mom. However, the little boy was angry and confused about being torn from his grandfather, who doted upon him, and his grandfather’s comfortable old house.89
When MacPherson interviewed Bundy’s surviving relatives, a disturbing picture began to emerge about his roots. Bundy’s grandfather apparently had an explosive temper and was even feared by his brothers, one of whom said, “I always thought he was crazy.” The grandfather often struck his wife. The grandmother was severely depressed and repeatedly hospitalized and given shock treatments. One of Ted’s cousins reported that the grandfather, who was a church deacon, kept a large collection of pornography and that little Ted one day found it and pored over the images.
Apparently, Ted was in fact calling his grandfather and grandmother “Daddy” and “Mommy” and perceiving his real mother as his older sister. Bundy’s great-aunt said that the other members of the family were suspicious about Ted’s “adoption” by Louise’s parents. Her mother was not well enough to care for a child, and everybody suspected that Ted was actually Louise’s child.
Nobody knows exactly when Bundy discovered his true birth history, and Bundy told conflicting stories about it. In some versions he found out when he was in university that his “sister” was in fact his mother, but his school friends claim that there was never any question of Louise Bundy being anybody but his “mom.” Another friend recalls that Bundy told him when they were in high school that he was born illegitimate.
MacPherson writes that only recently did Bundy’s mother admit that her father on occasion beat her mother. Did little Ted witness his “father” with the porno collection beating his “mother”? And why did his “sister” suddenly, when he was four, take him away clear across the country and become his new mother? Moreover, upon her arrival in Tacoma, his mother changed Ted’s last name to Nelson. No satisfactory explanation has yet been given for that shift of identities. MacPherson hints at all sorts of dark possibilities as to why the identity of Ted’s supposed real father has never been discussed. Nor do we know the reasons why Louise suddenly packed up and left Philadelphia when Ted was four.
Several psychiatrists who interviewed Bundy argue that he may have shown symptoms of somebody who witnessed something horrific and traumatic in his early childhood, and had been suppressing and sublimating that memory since. MacPherson also uncovered the story of three-year-old Ted lifting the covers of his fifteen-year-old aunt’s bed as she slept and slipping in three butcher knives beside her. According to Ted’s aunt:
He just stood there and grinned. I shooed him out of the room and took the implements back down to the kitchen and told my mother about it. I remember thinking at the time that I was the only one who thought it was strange. Nobody did anything.
If MacPherson’s premise is correct, then unpleasant but minor episodes in Bundy’s childhood take on a different context and magnitude. Just like the 81 percent of the killers in the FBI study, Bundy in his adolescence showed a history of stealing. Researchers found an index card listing Bundy as a juvenile suspect in some burglaries, but the details of the incidents were destroyed when Bundy turned eighteen. His high school friends remember that Bundy forged ski lift tickets and that all his skiing gear was stolen. Skiing was one of the few group activities in which Bundy participated and excelled in. Years later some of his victims would be dumped along the mountain roads leading to the region’s ski areas. Bundy’s exposure to pornography as a child, if true, then pegs him in another 81 percent of childhood experiences reported by serial sex killers.
The isolation, the feeling of being different from the rest, puts Bundy into a category reported by 77 percent of all killers in the FBI study. When Bundy graduated from high school in 1965 he was one of the first members of the baby boom generation—his class was the biggest in the school’s history, with 740 students. That too must have contributed to his sense of anonymity and isolation.
It seems that from a very young age, Bundy was obsessed with being too poor, with being too low in the social class structure. His dreams of being adopted by Roy Rogers had less to do with his role as a cowboy on TV as with his personal wealth as a successful television actor. Little Ted wanted to live rich. He also dreamed of living with his great-uncle Jack, who had a grand piano in his house, a symbol for Ted of wealth. When his mother took Ted as a child to buy clothes, he apparently pulled his mother to the most expensive fashion items. Even after he was arrested for murder, he wrote letters from jail lamenting the absence of “chilled Chablis.” Many years later, when asked what he felt when he killed, he once replied, “How do you describe the taste of bouillabaisse? Some remember clams, other mullet.” He even affected a strange little aristocratic accent that was vaguely English—he was a young Anthony Hopkins–Hannibal Lecter before the character was ever written.
While his snobbery and obsession with class in themselves did not make him kill, they might have instilled in him unrealistic expectations that he could not live up to. He was already infected with a deep sense of insecurity, perhaps because of some early childhood trauma in Philadelphia, and the humiliation and shock of failing to realize his expectations led to his withdrawal into that secret world of fantasy that serial killers retreat to.
Bundy was most to the point when he dismissed reports of him being handsome and popular. In the end it did not matter what Bundy’s circumstances really were; what counted was what Bundy thought and perceived them to be. Bundy could have been superstar attractive—but if he did not feel that way, of what consequence was it?
After graduating from high school, Bundy entered the University of Puget Sound in 1965. Like most first-year university students Bundy was lost in a series of huge, impersonal, crowded introductory classes and lectures. Bundy recalled that as a lonely year for him. He no longer had his neighborhood buddies to hang out with and did not feel socially adept enough to make new friends. Bundy lived at home his first year in college. His mother recalled that he got good grades but did not get involved with social life at school. Every day he came home, studied, slept, and went back to school.
In the spring of 1966 Ted Bundy met the love of his life. Her name was Stephanie* and she was older than him and ahead of Bundy in school by two years at the University of Washington. She was a tall, beautiful, elegant young woman with long dark hair parted down the middle. She came from a wealthy family in San Francisco—exactly the kind of background that Bundy aspired to. She was everything that Bundy dreamt of. For some time, Bundy admired her from afar but was too shy to approach her.
One day he found out that Stephanie was going skiing and he nonchalantly asked her to give him a ride in her car. On the ski slopes, Bundy was confident and masterful. On the ride back home in the car, Bundy charmed Stephanie and they became lovers. She was, perhaps, Bundy’s first sexual experience.
Bundy worked hard at romancing Stephanie. Beatrice Sloan, a sixty-year-old widow whom Bundy befriended, lent him her car so that he could impress Stephanie. Mrs. Sloan remembers Bundy as a “lovable rascal” and sympathized with his need to impress his girlfriend. Once she lent Bundy her best crystal and silverware when he cooked a gourmet meal for Stephanie. Ted and Stephanie became a steady couple.
For his second year, Bundy transferred to Stephanie’s university and enrolled in Chinese language studies. He said he chose the most exotic and obscure area of study to separate himself from the crowd. That year was probably the happiest of Bundy’s life. He excelled in his learning of the Chinese language. He showed off his girlfriend to his neighborhood friends and family.
Yet years later, Bundy stated that it was precisely in this happiest period of his life that he began to act out a compulsion that was sparked inadvertently. Walking down a street one evening, entirely by chance he saw through a window a woman undressing. The sight so excited him that he began to compulsively seek out opportunities to peep through windows. Bundy recalled that this was not an overwhelming compulsion; he would not break a date, postpone an important meeting, or rearrange his life in any way. His voyeuristic forays fit the dictates of his daily routine. But he said that he devoted, nonetheless, an enormous amount of time and energy to fitting his window-peeping activities into his schedule; he became very adept at it and highly addicted to it.
In the spring of 1967 Stephanie graduated, and it is said that by that time she was getting bored with Bundy. She felt he was too childish, too immature. It bothered her when he sneaked up on her, tapped her on the shoulder, and vanished before she could turn around. Perhaps, despite Bundy’s claims that they did not affect his normal life, his voyeuristic activities were making him a less attentive lover. Later, when Bundy began to kill, his other lovers reported the onset of a “sexual laziness,” a cold, perfunctory performance. Hoping to ease herself out of her relationship with Bundy, Stephanie told him that she intended to go back home to San Francisco upon her graduation. To her surprise and dismay, Bundy told her he had been offered a scholarship at Stanford University in San Francisco for a summer session in Chinese studies. He followed her down to California.
Once in San Francisco, Bundy fell apart. It is hard to determine what happened first: his failure at Stanford or his outright rejection at the hands of Stephanie. He stopped showing up to lectures and doing his class work at Stanford, and he failed his courses. Stephanie, in the meantime, had begun working in a brokerage house in San Francisco. One day as she emerged from her building for lunch, there was the familiar tap on her shoulder. When she turned around, Bundy was hiding behind a corner like a little boy. Stephanie told him she did not want to see him anymore.
Bundy was devastated on his return to Tacoma. His brother recalls that before the breakup with Stephanie, Ted was always in charge of his emotions. He had never seen his brother so upset and moody.
Somewhere in this period, Bundy confessed that he began to attempt to disable women’s cars by deflating the tires or stealing the distributor cap. It never worked, he remembers, because around the college there were plenty of men who would quickly help a woman with car troubles. He said, however, that he did not have any idea what he would have done if he had actually succeeded in trapping a woman by this method. Bundy said he was toying with danger, just exploring how far things could go.
Bundy was now actively taking his fantasies out on “test runs”—a phase that incipient serial killers go through prior to committing their first murder. His voyeuristic activities, meanwhile, put him into an activity in which 71 percent of the FBI’s surveyed killers engage in before they committed their first murder.
In the autumn of 1967, Bundy returned for his third year of university. He abandoned Chinese language studies and began studying urban planning. He could not concentrate on studies and by December he had quit school. He spent the winter traveling around the country. Later, investigators would trace his travels, but found no evidence that Bundy committed any homicides during this period. In the spring of 1968, Bundy returned to Seattle, rented a small apartment, and took a job as a night stocker in a supermarket.
During this period, Bundy became a practiced thief. Most of his clothes, furniture, appliances, stereo, TV, and even a huge plant were stolen. Bundy did not steal as a professional thief to later sell the items he took—he kept and used everything he stole, and stole only items of the highest quality. Sometimes he stole from stores; at other times he burgled summer houses along the beach near Seattle. Bundy also recalled that alcohol became an important tool in his thievery, as it lowered his inhibitions and made him appear less nervous than he really was.
Bundy said that he also became an avid consumer of violent pornography. Bundy talked about his taste for porn developing over a period beginning from his juvenile high school years. He said that he began with an attraction to normal sexual imagery found in magazines like Playboy, but slowly his taste began to mutate toward imagery of a more violent nature.
Bundy also confessed to being an avid reader of pulp detective magazines, of the type that Ed Gein, John Joubert, and Harvey Glatman were reading. Bundy says he was excited by the stories and images of abused females and was also getting an education in police procedures and crime techniques—what worked and what did not. (See Chapter 6 for more about the suspected role of detective magazines in serial killing.)
It is very likely that Bundy was nearing the point of committing a homicide linked to his fantasies. He was already experiencing numerous stressors: His girlfriend had rejected him, he had failed the previous year at college and had to drop out, he was employed at a dead-end job. The only thing needed was the final trigger—one more rejection, an accidental confrontation with somebody during a burglary, anything could have set him off on his murderous career that spring of 1968. Instead, Bundy put the pieces of his life together and started anew.
What makes the case of Bundy so fascinating, again, is how typical his experiences, desires, and goals were of many young, ambitious, urban men and women—he truly could be any one of us. Among my generation of males, few were not familiar with the cheery, wholesome “girl next door” nudes published in Playboy that Bundy refers to. Most of us eventually turned to dating the real girl next door. And so did Bundy at first.
Later in early adulthood, many of us had an unhappy romance, a bad year in college, or some other major disappointment. And so did Bundy. And perhaps at those bitter moments, some of us fantasized about doing something dramatic, something unacceptable, perhaps even violent. Bundy started to toy with his fantasies—peeking into windows, disabling women’s cars, exploring how far things could go. This is what begins to distinguish him from the rest of us, even before he began to kill: his willingness to tinker his desires into reality, to start exploring that dark fantasy road to see where it leads.
Yet Bundy did not go down that road easily. Like the rest of us, Bundy attempted to deal with his disappointment, heal from his hurt, and go on with his life, doing the best he could in “chasing the dream.” What makes Bundy so fascinating is his resilience and drive, so lacking in most other serial killers. Bundy attempted to do what is expected of us—get back up on his feet and keep moving.
One morning in the spring of 1968 Bundy was on his way to break into some beach houses. On a street corner near one of the houses, Bundy ran into an acquaintance from high school and they struck up a conversation. He told Bundy that he was working for Art Fletcher, a local Republican politician making a bid for the office of lieutenant governor of Washington State. Several of Bundy’s other acquaintances were already working for Fletcher, and he was invited to come by. His friend remembered that in high school Bundy had had an active interest in election politics. Shortly afterward, Bundy was offered a job on Fletcher’s election staff.
Bundy recalled that he found politics a way to be instantly a part of something. There was a social life that came with it. He said he did not have the money for a tennis club membership, but politics gave him access to influential levels of society.
In 1968, Art Fletcher was running in the same series of elections that Robert Kennedy was in before he was assassinated. Fletcher was so impressed by Bundy that he selected him as his personal driver and bodyguard. Bundy was remembered as an able, intelligent worker, whose appearance was always meticulous but studiously casual. Nobody knew that Bundy was shoplifting the fine clothes he wore. Unfortunately, in November Fletcher came in second, and within days after the election, Bundy no longer had employment.
Bundy quickly secured a job as a salesperson in the same Seattle department store from which he used to shoplift. There he quickly gained a reputation as an excellent salesman, especially adept with female customers. Apparently he could sell them anything.
In the meantime, Bundy remained in touch with his lost love, Stephanie, in San Francisco. He occasionally wrote or phoned her, and apparently when Stephanie passed through Seattle to visit relatives in Vancouver, British Columbia, she called Bundy to say hello. There seemed to be no sense of desperation or drama in Bundy’s letters or calls to her.
After saving some money, Bundy quit his job at the department store and in the winter of 1969 he traveled to Philadelphia, where he had spent his first four years. There he enrolled in Temple University, taking theatrical arts classes. He got good grades in acting and stage makeup, skills that he would put to use in the near future. Nothing else is known about his winter there.
In the summer of 1969 Bundy returned to Seattle and took an apartment in a University District rooming house run by a couple. They took an instant liking to Bundy and remember him as a quiet and helpful tenant. He kept his room neat and tidy and helped out with small chores around the house. He was often invited down to their kitchen for lunch or coffee. He took various temporary jobs, one of which was as a messenger for a legal firm.
In September, Bundy walked into a college tavern around the corner from where he lived and spotted a pretty girl with several of her friends. Her name was Liz Kendall; she was a twenty-four-year-old divorcée with a three-year-old daughter, and she worked as a medical secretary. She had long, dark hair and came from a wealthy family in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ted told her he was a law student and was writing a book about Vietnam. Liz bitterly recalls that Bundy was so charming and handsome that by the end of the evening, “I was already planning the wedding and naming the kids.”
They became a steady couple and Liz and her daughter would go on many trips and outings with Bundy. Liz was a very insecure and jealous woman. Her recent divorce had made her even more insecure, and as such she was perfect for Ted. Within three months they were engaged to be married and took out a marriage license. But as things began to get serious, Bundy dramatically tore up the license and confessed to Liz that he in fact was a failed student and was not writing a book. Liz forgave him for his lies, and offered to finance his return to the university.
In the summer of 1970 Ted Bundy began to work as a delivery truck driver for a small medical equipment company. At the same time, he enrolled in the department of psychology at the University of Washington. That summer Bundy was hailed as a hero when he rescued a three-and-half-year-old girl who fell into a lake. His psychology professors had nothing but praise for Bundy. In a letter of recommendation, one of them wrote:
Mr. Bundy is undoubtedly one of the top undergraduate students in our department. Indeed, I would place him in the top 1% of undergraduate students with whom I have interacted both here at the University of Washington and at Purdue University. He is exceedingly bright, personable, highly motivated, and conscientious. He conducts himself more like a young professional than like a student. He has the capacity for hard work and because of his intellectual curiosity is a pleasure to interact with . . . As a result of his undergraduate psychology major, Mr. Bundy has become intensely interested in studying psychological variables which influence jury decisions. He and I are currently engaged in a research project in which we are attempting to study experimentally some of the variables which influence jury decisions.
Another professor of psychology gushed:
It is clear that other students use him as a standard to emulate . . . His personal characteristics are all of the highest standards. Ted is a mature young man who is very responsible and emotionally stable (but not emotionally flat as many students appear—he does get excited or upset appropriately in various situations) . . . I am at a loss to delineate any real weakness he has.
In the meantime, Liz Kendall continued seeing Bundy, later stating that he was a considerate, romantic, and gentle lover during this period. She was welcomed in the Bundy household and often she and Ted went to the family’s A-frame cabin in the mountains. Everyone assumed that it was just a matter of time before she and Ted were married.
In September 1971, Bundy began his last year of psychology training. He left the medical equipment delivery job and was employed as a counselor at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. This was a twenty-four-hour facility that people who felt suicidal or were in some kind of crisis could telephone and get counseling and advice. It was mostly staffed by volunteers and supervised by paid psychology students like Bundy.
At about the same time, Ann Rule began working at the clinic as a volunteer on Tuesday nights and was paired with Bundy. Rule was in her forties, with four children and in the middle of a divorce. She was a former Seattle police officer who had quit the force and began attending college to study creative writing. She became a prolific writer of true-crime articles for pulp detective magazines such as True Detective, the very same ones that Bundy was so avidly consuming. When she met Bundy she had already published some eight hundred articles. She was also a commissioned deputy sheriff in several counties of Washington State, where she was hired to write crime synopses for various investigations in progress. In her best-selling book about her friendship with Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me, she wrote, “I liked him immediately. It would have been hard not to.”
Rule wrote honestly about her early impressions of Bundy:
If, as many people believe today, Ted Bundy took lives, he also saved lives. I know he did, because I was there when he did it.
I can picture him today as clearly as if it were only yesterday, see him hunched over the phone, talking steadily, reassuringly . . . he was never brusque, never hurried . . . He was one of those rare people who listen with full attention, who evince a genuine caring by their very stance. You could tell things to Ted that you might never tell anyone else.90
Whereas some people stated that they saw Bundy occasionally flare up in anger, Rule says she never saw that in him:
I never saw that anger. I never saw any anger at all. I cannot remember everything that Ted and I talked about, try as I might, but I do know we never argued. Ted’s treatment of me was the kind of old-world gallantry that he invariably showed toward any woman I ever saw him with, and I found it appealing. He always insisted on seeing me safely to my car when my shift at the Crisis Clinic was over in the wee hours of the morning. He stood by until I was safely inside my car, doors locked and engine started, waving to me as I headed for home twenty miles away. He often told me, “Be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”91
Tiny, subtle, almost imperceptible cracks began to manifest themselves in Bundy’s personality. What is terrifying is that these cracks took on meaning only once Bundy’s crimes were revealed. Ann Rule recalls that at Bundy’s request, she brought him copies of articles she wrote for True Detective.At one point, Bundy specifically asked her for articles on rape because he needed the information for a psychology “research project.” His girlfriend, Liz, recalls one night pulling a pair of rubber surgical gloves from the pocket of his jacket. A friend remembered glimpsing a pair of handcuffs in Bundy’s car trunk and when asking him what they were for, Bundy gave some vague story about finding them in the garbage.
In the spring of 1972, Bundy graduated with a degree in psychology and applied to law school. Although his marks were good, Bundy fared poorly on the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) and, as a result, was turned down by every law school he applied to. Bundy went to work as a counselor in the psychiatric outpatient unit of Seattle’s Harbourview Hospital. He did not last there very long. It was reported that he was cold and nearly abusive with his patients and tended to lecture them rather than offer counsel. Moreover, some of the staff actually began to suspect that Bundy was phoning the patients at home during the night and making anonymous threats.
Despite Bundy’s professed attachment to Liz, he was having an affair with another counselor at the hospital. She told police, years later, that when she was making love with Bundy one day, he shoved his forearm under her chin and began to choke her.
Perhaps sensing an oncoming crash like the one that occurred after his disastrous romance with Stephanie, Bundy turned to politics once more for refuge. It was an election year in 1972 and Bundy went to work for the incumbent governor, Dan Evans. Sometimes he was sent out to reconnoiter the opposition’s rallies. Bundy wore disguises such as wigs and false mustaches on these jobs. He began to display a remarkable chameleon-like ability to radically change his features by getting a haircut, growing a beard, or even parting his hair differently. Several people commented that Bundy was a true changeling.
Once again, Bundy seemed to have regained equilibrium despite his failure at his first job after graduation and rejection from law school. After the election was over, he was rewarded for his good work on the governor’s campaign. Bundy’s curriculum vitae for 1972–1973 reads as follows:
In May 1973 Bundy was hired as a consultant by the state Republican Party central committee to analyze cost overruns in government spending. He worked for the committee chairman, Ross Davis, and was often a guest at his home. Davis remembers Bundy as “smart, aggressive, exceptionally so, and a believer in the system.” His wife Lisa recalls, “He didn’t talk much about himself, but I didn’t feel he was trying to hide anything. He spoke of his mother and family in loving terms.” Occasionally Ted Bundy babysat the couple’s children, and he ate dinner at their house at least once a week.
Bundy also reapplied to law school and with some aggressive lobbying he was accepted at the Utah College of Law in Salt Lake City—he was scheduled to begin classes there in September. Somewhere in this period, Ted Bundy also bought a car—a bronze-colored Volkswagen Beetle. It was the second time he had bought that model. Bundy apparently liked the auto for its classless status; it was an inexpensive vehicle, but sometimes preferred by the wealthy as a stylish second car for errands in the city.
That summer, Bundy was sent to California for a Republican Party conference, and while there he decided to look up his lost love, Stephanie. Bundy was no longer a “loser.” He projected now the aura of a “take charge” man: a college graduate with political ambitions, outspoken, confident, and about to enter law school. Stephanie liked what she saw and they rekindled their romance.
By August 1973, Bundy had truly surpassed some formidable setbacks and obstacles. He had achieved much: From a disappointed and failed college-boy reject, Bundy built himself into a psychological counselor, a respected political hand, an often-invited dinner guest, a rescuer of lives, a student of law; somebody who, some said, might very well be a future state governor. And now he reconquered his first and true love, the woman he had lost five years ago. True, there were a few rough spots along the way, such as his burglaries and window peeping; and true, there was a cloud on the horizon—he was now deeply involved with two women and he would have to deal with that. Otherwise, though, Bundy appeared to be healed. Who would have thought that six months from now he would begin brutally raping and murdering women.
At the last minute Bundy switched law schools. Over the summer his friends from the Republican Party argued that it was not wise for Bundy to go to a law school in Utah if he had plans for a political career in Washington State. Bundy applied and was admitted to the school of law at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He wrote the University of Utah, telling them that he had been in a serious car accident and could not attend classes that year. Why he told that lie is unclear, but perhaps he was embarrassed, after lobbying the university so hard for admission, to switch schools at the last minute.
Some biographies of Bundy link this change of schools with his subsequent outbreak of killing. The story goes that when Bundy arrived at the law school in Tacoma, he discovered that it was located in an anonymous office building. It was not an “Ivy League” institution as he had imagined, but a drab, third-class school, and it is theorized that the snob in Bundy revolted—he immediately began to fail in all his classes, in a collapse very similar to the one six years earlier in San Francisco. Bundy’s biographers maintain that this new intolerable failure triggered his homicidal crimes. But it is highly improbable that Bundy went through an application process to the school in Tacoma without visiting its facilities. Moreover, if he was applying late to the school, he probably would have had to go there in person to deliver his application materials, and since his family lived in Tacoma, it would have been a convenient trip. (Seattle is about a thirty-minute drive from Tacoma.) It is improbable that Bundy was surprised by anything he saw at the school when he started classes. Something else must have happened.
We know that in the last seven years Bundy had been window-peeping and trolling aimlessly at night in the residential neighborhoods near the university, seeking some sort of satisfaction out of his fantasies. Nobody knows for how long the fantasies themselves had existed; probably since childhood or early adolescence. At points, it appears that Bundy took his fantasies on “test runs,” as when he disabled women’s cars. These points probably marked cycles that came and went, but intensified with every reappearance. Bundy described them as cyclical depressions: “Not mood swings, just changes,” he said. He said he had no difficulty projecting a false cheerfulness for short periods of time while at the same time hiding a huge part of his life that nobody knew about.
Many biographers of Bundy associate his failure at Stanford in the summer of 1967 with his breakup with the girl of his dreams, Stephanie. We are not sure, however, at what point in the sequence of events Stephanie actually began to withdraw from Bundy. In fact, events might have happened the other way around—his collapse at Stanford might be associated more with his success, rather than with some failure with Stephanie. Prior to meeting Stephanie, Bundy already had notions and fantasies of what his ideal woman would be like; Stephanie seemed to fulfill those criteria. But as we all know, real-life lovers rarely match the ones in our fantasies. It is precisely after Bundy began dating Stephanie that he said he “inadvertently” began his nocturnal trolling. It was when he successfully realized his fantasy of acquiring a beautiful girlfriend that he might have realized that it was not enough. It was not what he really wanted. That was exactly when he began to prowl in the night.
Bundy claimed that violent pornography began to slowly solidify his vague fantasies and compulsions into concrete ideas and actions. Perhaps, but most likely Bundy was in a state of denial when he said that. Bundy’s violent fantasies were probably formulated much earlier, but he had the intelligence and education to be embarrassed about them—perhaps he even suppressed the early memory of them.
The pressure on Bundy was coming from three sides: the violent fantasies that he really wanted to fulfill; the attempts to realize ambitions that he felt he should have realized; and the anxiety, perhaps guilt, at the contents of his violent fantasies. A less intelligent, less thinking, or less ambitious person than Bundy might not have thought or worried much about the inappropriateness of his violent desires. Perhaps Bundy was even worried that his fantasies, if they ever took control of him, would be socially embarrassing and ruinous to his career plans—which is exactly what happened.
It was no doubt a fantasy of Bundy’s that he could get his girlfriend from six years ago to fall in love with him again, and remarkably, she did, fulfilling that fantasy. It was truly an extraordinary achievement no matter how you look at it. It is very possible that everything that Bundy had done in the last six years, he did with the purpose of regaining the love of Stephanie. The evidence is there: His failed studies in urban planning in the fall of 1967 resulted only because he was too late in applying to architectural school—Stephanie had expressed to him her admiration of architects.
Now in the fall of 1973, Bundy had reconquered his lost love. Stephanie flew to Seattle to spend time with Ted. To make sure that Liz would not stumble upon them, Ted checked Stephanie into a hotel in Seattle.
Without Liz ever finding out, Ted and Stephanie became engaged to be married, and he brought her to the Davis house for dinner and introduced her as his fiancée. Bundy borrowed their car and took Stephanie on a romantic trip into the mountains where they used to go skiing in their college days. At the end of the trip, Lisa Davis took some photographs of Ted and Stephanie with their arms around each other in front of the Davis house, and then drove Stephanie to the airport.
Almost immediately, as soon as Bundy reunited with Stephanie, his life began to fall apart, beginning with a dismal performance at law school. It is probable that when Stephanie agreed to marry him, Bundy must have realized that his fantasy in reality was meaningless—it was false. Bundy once said, “I always felt somehow lost in my life.”
Bundy must have felt that there was something else that he truly wanted to be doing other than becoming a lawyer to win the heart of a beautiful dark-haired woman. All he really wanted, deep down, was just to possess her body; he did not need her love and companionship, he realized. When he was on death row, Bundy explained that he received no pleasure from harming or causing pain to his victims. He did not torture them. What really fascinated him was the hunt for his victims and their capture and, as he said, “possessing them physically as one would possess a potted plant, a painting, or a Porsche.”
Bundy’s cyclical disappointment upon realizing his goals is typical of the cyclical psychology of serial murder. When serial killers “realize” their murderous goals by killing, they frequently find the experience of murder disappointing and need to commit another in some improved way, hoping for a better payoff to the fantasy.
Ann Rule writes that in December 1973, she saw Bundy at a Christmas party. This time he was there with his girlfriend, Liz, and he introduced her to Rule. She assumed that Bundy had gotten over Stephanie and that Liz and Ted were living together. Liz told her she was returning home to Salt Lake City for the Christmas holidays, while Ted was going to stay in Seattle to study.
As soon as Liz left to visit her parents in Utah, Stephanie arrived in Seattle to spend time with her fiancée and discuss their marriage plans. Later, Stephanie testified that Bundy had changed radically since their last time together in September. He did not buy her any Christmas presents, but showed her a very expensive chess set he bought for a friend. He was very unenthusiastic about the expensive presents she had bought him. His lovemaking was very cool and mechanical. Once he left her alone for an entire day to work on a “school project.”
He told Stephanie that there was another woman and that although it was over with her, she called often and that he needed to “get loose” of her before he could devote himself to Stephanie. When Stephanie attempted to discuss their marriage plans, he dodged the issue and went into a tirade about his illegitimate birth history. On the last evening before she returned to San Francisco, they did not make love, Stephanie said. Stunned and confused, she flew home on January 2, 1974.
On January 4, an eighteen-year-old woman went to bed in her basement apartment in a big old house near the University of Washington. When she failed to appear for breakfast the next morning, her housemates assumed she was sleeping late. By midafternoon they began to worry and went downstairs to investigate. They found her door unlocked and saw her sleeping in her bed, but not responding to their calls. As they approached closer they discovered to their horror that her face and hair were matted with blood. Somebody had detached a heavy metal rod from her bed frame and fractured her skull with it. Then the intruder inserted into her a vaginal probe, a speculum, the kind that is carried by medical supply houses, and brutally wrenched her genitals apart, seriously injuring them. She remained in a coma for ten days, and when she awoke she remembered nothing of the attack. It must have occurred while she slept. She remained brain-damaged for the rest of her life.
Bundy, the former medical supply house delivery driver, is today believed to have committed this crime.
On the night of January 31, 1974, Lynda Healy, a psychology student at the University of Washington, went to bed in her basement apartment in a big house shared by several college girls. Lynda worked part-time announcing ski reports at a local radio station and needed to get up very early in the morning. One of her housemates, Barbara Little, who also had a basement apartment right next to Lynda, heard Lynda’s electric alarm clock go off as usual at 5:30 A.M. Barbara rolled over and went back to sleep.
About half an hour later, Barbara’s own alarm went off. As she got up, Barbara was surprised to hear Lynda’s alarm still buzzing incessantly next door. She went into Lynda’s room and turned on the light. Everything seemed to be in order, although Barbara was surprised to note that Lynda had made her bed before she left—usually she made it only after she got home from classes. Barbara turned Lynda’s alarm clock off. The radio station phoned, saying that Lynda had not arrived. Barbara assured the station that Lynda had left already and would be there shortly.
As her roommates woke up that morning, each noticed something strange. Lynda’s bike, which she used for transportation to the university, was still in the basement. They also found, to their surprise, that the side door leading to the basement was unlocked—this was unusual. They then hurried off to the university and spent the day going to their different classes, each assuming that one of the others saw Lynda during the day. When that evening they got home and found that Lynda’s family had arrived for a supper that she had planned, and that Lynda still had not appeared, they called the police.
The police began to carefully search Lynda’s room. When they pulled the bedspread back they discovered Lynda’s pillow soaked in blood and missing its case. Her horrified roommates told the police that the bed had been made differently from the way Lynda did it—she pulled the sheet over the pillow, whereas now the sheet was tucked under. In the back of her closet they found Lynda’s nightgown, the neck and shoulder area caked with blood. The clothing she had worn the night before—a pair of jeans, a blouse, and boots—were missing, as was her knapsack. The police surmised that somebody had entered the house, knocked Lynda unconscious, dressed her, made her bed, and carried her away. Not a single clue was left behind by her abductor—not one fingerprint, strand of hair, or witness sighting. Nothing.
Bundy was connected to Healy. Bundy’s cousin was a friend of Healy’s and Bundy was in three of Healy’s psychology classes at the University of Washington—but so were four hundred other students.
Back in San Francisco, Stephanie was beside herself with confusion and anger. It was now mid-February, nearly six weeks since she had last seen Ted, and he hadn’t phoned or written once. Finally she telephoned Ted in Seattle and when he answered the phone she berated him for not calling her. Bundy sounded drunk and dazed, she said. He didn’t say anything except, “Well, far out, you know.” And then he hung up on Stephanie. They would never speak to each other again.
On March 12, 1974, in Olympia, near the same place where Kathy Devine had vanished back in November, nineteen-year-old Donna Gail Manson disappeared. She lived on the campus of Evergreen State College, and around 7:00 P.M. she left her dormitory to attend a jazz concert being held on the campus. She never arrived. There were no witnesses, and no clues, and her body was never found.
On April 17, Susan Rancourt, who lived in a dormitory on the campus of Central Washington State College at Ellesburg, was planning to see a German film with some friends. She had a meeting with her instructors first, and told her friends she would meet them at the movie. Before leaving for the meeting, she loaded up a washing machine in one of the dorm’s laundry rooms. She planned to put the clothes in the dryer upon her return from the movie. After the meeting was over, she left in the direction toward the building where the film was being screened, carrying a binder full of papers. She never arrived at the movie, and her washing was found the next day in the laundry room, still wet. Police attempted to retrace her movements. Rancourt was a student of karate and would have fought back at any attempt to kidnap her. Police surmised that her papers would have been found scattered somewhere. The police found no traces of her movements.
For the next few days, police took reports of every strange or suspicious incident that students at the college could remember. There were many such reports, and among them were two reports of a young, handsome, neatly dressed man, with his left arm set in a cast and driving a bronze-colored Volkswagen bug. Twice he approached different female students in front of the college library, asking them to help him carry his books to his car. The first woman reported that as she approached his Volkswagen, she noticed that the front passenger seat was missing. For some reason that she could not explain, she felt suddenly afraid, and she placed the books on the hood of the car and hurried off feeling embarrassed by her “irrational” anxiety. It saved her life.
The other woman said that after she carried the books to the car, the man told her he had problems starting the vehicle. Would she mind getting behind the wheel and turning the ignition while he fiddled with the engine in the back of the Volkswagen? Again, something caused her to feel uneasy about getting into the man’s car, and she left, saying she was in a hurry and could not help him more.
These reports were among many, none of which really at the time offered any significant clue or meaning to Rancourt’s disappearance. They were filed away.
Ted made no mention to Liz of his engagement to Stephanie. Nor did he tell Liz that he was failing miserably in his classes and that he had already reapplied to the law school at the University of Utah, without informing them that he was attending school in Tacoma. Liz, however, could not help but notice how his lovemaking had changed. Ted now wanted to tie her up spread-eagled to the bed with her pantyhose. When she consented to this kinky sex play, she noticed that he went directly to the drawer where she kept her hose without asking her where to find it. The third time she agreed to be tied up, Bundy began choking her and she refused to be tied again. Then Ted started to demand anal sex; after trying it several times and not liking it, she refused that as well. Bundy sulked. Liz, meanwhile, was puzzled by this sudden shift in his sexuality—it was so much unlike him.
The next attack happened in Corvallis, Oregon, on May 6, about two hundred miles south of Seattle, at Oregon State University. Kathy Parks, age twenty-two, agreed to meet some friends for a late-night coffee at the Student Union Building, but she never arrived. Kathy stepped out of her campus dormitory at about 11:00 P.M. and vanished along the way. Nobody saw anything.
On June 1, Brenda Ball, twenty-two years old, who had graduated from Highline Community College two weeks earlier, vanished. She was an independent young woman who could take care of herself. That night she was drinking at the Flame Tavern, a seedy and rough bar just outside Seattle. At 2:00 A.M. when the bar closed, Brenda was in the parking lot trying to get a ride home. One of the musicians from the band talked to her briefly but was going in a different direction. That was the last time she was seen. Because Brenda was such a free spirit, nobody became worried when she was missing. It took seventeen days before her roommate was concerned enough to report her absence to the police. There were no clues or witnesses—just like the other women, Brenda vanished as into thin air.
Liz, meanwhile, was seeing Ted’s behavior get stranger and stranger. One night she woke up to find Ted secretly inspecting her body under the sheets with a flashlight—hauntingly similar to the recollections of Ted’s aunt when he was a small boy and she awoke to discover him placing knives under her sheets as she slept.
Although they kept separate apartments, Liz and Ted almost lived together. His things were often at her house, and they often drove each other’s cars. One day when looking for something in the closet, Liz stumbled upon a box of powder used to make medical casts, which Bundy had obviously stolen years ago when he was a driver for the medical equipment house. She also found a pair of crutches. On another day at Ted’s apartment, she accidentally came across a bag of women’s underwear. She was embarrassed by her find, and did not say anything to Ted. On yet another occasion, she discovered a heavy wrench carefully taped under the seat of Bundy’s Volkswagen.
On June 11 at the University of Washington, eighteen-year-old Georgann Hawkins disappeared. She lived in a sorority house on the campus and was visiting friends in various other houses on the campus complex. It was around midnight, but on the warm June night, the campus was full of students socializing outside. Friends escorted Georgann back to her house and saw her get within fifty feet of her door. Another friend leaned out the window of a nearby fraternity house and briefly spoke to Georgann. That was the last she was seen. Later the police investigation found a report of a young man on crutches with a broken leg asking several young women if they would help him carry some books to a Volkswagen parked nearby.
Shortly before he was executed, Bundy revealed what he had done to Georgann. He confessed that he had parked his Volkswagen in the shadows near some bushes by the fraternity houses. He laid a crowbar and some handcuffs on the ground near the rear of the car. Hobbling around on his crutches, he asked numerous women to help him carry his books to his car until Georgann agreed to do so. They chatted amiably as they made their way to the car. As Georgann approached the cute little “love bug” Volkswagen to deposit the books through the passenger door, Bundy scooped up the crowbar from the ground and knocked her unconscious from behind. He handcuffed her and dragged her into the Volkswagen, laying her on the floor in the space from which he had removed the passenger seat.
Bundy drove out into the countryside with the unconscious Georgann on the floor. At some point during the trip she regained consciousness and according to Bundy began to speak about a Spanish test she was supposedly taking the next day—she was obviously raving. Bundy drove out onto a dirt road, dragged her out of the car into a clearing, and struck her unconscious again with the crowbar. He then took a length of cord he kept in his car and strangled her to death. He dragged her body some thirty feet away from the car into a small grove of trees, and there he carefully undressed her. Fifteen years later, on the eve of his execution, he remembered undoing a pin that had kept her pants closed—a detail police had kept confidential. He then had sex with Georgann’s corpse until dawn.
In the morning Bundy drove away from the site, throwing out along the way various items of Georgann’s clothing and his killing tools. By the afternoon he realized that he had made a mistake. He returned to the murder site and, retracing his route, he recovered most of the items that he had thrown from his car. One thing perplexed Bundy: He could not find one of Georgann’s shoes. To his horror, Bundy realized that they might be back at the location where he kidnapped her. Fearing that police were searching the area and might have a description of a Volkwagen parked there last night, Bundy rode a bike back to the kidnap site. There he discovered Georgann’s other shoe and an earring that had come off when he struck her. He took away the remaining clues to Georgann’s fate before police could find them.
Three days later, Bundy returned to where he had left Georgann and had sex with her decomposing corpse one more time. Then he severed her head with a hacksaw and buried it in the ground about fifty feet away. Police never learned any of this until the last days prior to Bundy’s execution.
Ted Bundy had failed his first year of law school, but cleverly he decided to repeat the year at Salt Lake City, where he was admitted the year before. Without telling them he had attended school for a year in Tacoma, Bundy wrote that he had sufficiently recovered from his “car accident” and was ready to start. He was admitted into the first year and scheduled to start in September.
While Ted waited for school to begin in the autumn, he went to work that summer at the Department of Emergency Services (DES), whose function was to respond to disasters and coordinate search and rescue efforts. The summer of 1974 was the year that the OPEC oil embargo hit the United States, and the DES was responsible for allocating the dwindling fuel supplies in Washington State. Bundy was assigned to calculate a special project budget for the DES by the end of the summer.
Bundy’s arrival at the DES attracted a lot of attention. The women thought he was very attractive and the men were impressed with his political connections and knowledge of how to get things done with the state bureaucracy.
One former employee at the DES, Larry Diamond, remembered feeling jealous of Bundy and how everybody, including the males, was taken with him. While most men talked about women in the context of fantasy, Bundy did not. It was as if Bundy “compartmentalized” them, according to Diamond. Eventually Diamond concluded that perhaps Bundy had one major flaw: He was too perfect. Diamond explained, “Ted was almost one-dimensional if I think about it. It’s like there’s a very beautiful storefront that’s attractive and lures you in. But when you get inside to see the merchandise, it is sparse to say the least.”92
Larry Diamond’s perception was very acute and his metaphor of a beautiful storefront an apt one—except that it was not a scarcity of merchandise that waited behind the beautiful exterior, but horrific death. It is hard to say whether Diamond was more perceptive than others in the past, or whether Bundy, in the middle of his series of brutal rapes and homicides, was losing his grip on his carefully composed mask of sanity.
Bundy was about to get strange on his girlfriend, Liz. On the weekend of July 6 they went river rafting. They drank a few beers and were quietly drifting along the river enjoying the peaceful and sunny day. Suddenly Bundy lunged at Liz and pushed her under the water. When she came up shouting at him, he simply would not respond, which deeply unnerved her. He was becoming a total stranger to her. Later he said to her, “Can’t you take a joke?”
The following Saturday, Liz phoned Ted at his parents’ house in Tacoma and asked if he was free on Sunday. Ted told her he’d be busy. The next morning, July 14, as she was getting ready to go to church, Ted unexpectedly appeared at her house and wanted to know what she was going to be doing that day. She told him the name of a small park she was going to, hoping that he would join her there. He never showed up.
Fifteen miles east of Seattle lies Lake Sammamish State Park, a paradise of lakes, forests, rivers, and recreational facilities. It is a popular destination for picnickers, swimmers, and sunbathers. That weekend a local brewery was sponsoring a beer party at “Lake Sam,” as locals knew it. At the other end of the park was the annual Seattle Police Department picnic. There were some 40,000 visitors that day at Lake Sam.
Janice Graham later told police that a man approached her with a broken arm at about noon that Sunday. He was dressed all in white—white T-shirt, socks, tennis shoes, and shorts. He asked her if she would help him load his small sailboat onto the roof of his car. She agreed and began to walk with him. She said he was very friendly, polite, and charming. He told her he injured his arm playing racquetball and they chatted the entire route. When they got to his car, a bronze-colored Volkswagen, Janice saw no boat or trailer. “It’s at my parents’ house, just at the top of the hill,” the stranger said, asking her to get into his car.
Janice refused because some friends were waiting for her. He should have told her, she said, that the boat was at his parents’ house. The stranger was not at all upset, he apologized and walked back with her from the parking lot. Janice later told the police, “He was very polite at all times. Very sincere. Easy to talk to. He was real friendly and he had a nice smile.”
In an interview, Bundy talked about encountering his victims in his third person manner:
BUNDY: Conversation, to remove himself from the personal aspects of the encounter, the interchange. Chattering and flattering and entertaining, as if seen through a motion picture screen. He would be engaging in the patter just for the purpose of making the whole encounter seem legitimate and to keep her at ease. He didn’t want this girl to get second thoughts about going with him to his place. And, also, he was afraid if he started thinking about what he was going to do he’d become more nervous or lose his concentration or in some way betray himself.
QUESTION: So there’s a very delicate balance between being cool and the excitement?
BUNDY: Well, it’s a critical balance, not a delicate balance. It became almost like acting a role. It wasn’t difficult. The more an actor acts in a role, the better he becomes at it, the more he is apt to feel comfortable in it, to be able to do things spontaneously. And get better, as it were, in his role.93
Shortly after meeting her friends, Janice Graham saw that the stranger had found somebody else to help him. He was walking back toward his car next to a young woman with a bicycle. Janice wondered where she was going to put her bicycle for the trip to get the man’s boat.
Twenty-three-year old Jan Ott, a Seattle probation officer, bicycled that day to Lake Sammamish for some sunbathing and swimming. She found a spot on the edge of the lake, not too far from several couples who were enjoying the sun, and spread out her towel. One couple testified that she was there for about half an hour when a handsome young man approached her. He was dressed entirely in white and his left arm was in a sling, encased in a cast from his wrist to past his elbow. He spoke with a slight English accent. He asked Jan if she could help him load his boat. Just to show how fast serial killers learn and adapt, this time Bundy told Ott that the boat was at his “parents’ house.” She did not leave immediately with him and they talked for about ten minutes. Witnesses overheard him introducing himself as “Ted.” Eventually Jan got up and left with the handsome stranger. Several couples testified that they overheard him telling her that there was room in his car for her bike and talking about how easy it would be for him to teach her how to sail in a single afternoon. Jan Ott was reported missing the next day by her roommate. Her bike was never found.
It wasn’t over yet. About two hours after Ott walked off with the stranger, several women reported being approached near the park washrooms by a man dressed in white with a broken arm needing help with his sailboat. One woman turned him down because he grabbed at her while asking for help with his boat. Another saw him watching her before he approached her with his request and practically ran from him. Bundy was like some kind of killing animal loose in a herd of prey.
Nineteen-year-old Denise Naslund and her boyfriend, Kenny Little, were sunning themselves in the park. At one point Denise got up to go to the washroom. Kenny fell asleep. When he woke up, Denise still had not returned—her purse lay nearby where she had left it. Kenny attempted to report Denise’s disappearance to the park police, but was told that only family could file a missing person report. He drove back to her parents’ house and they called the police. Witnesses later recalled seeing Denise in the washrooms, but afterward there was nothing.
Liz remembers Ted phoning her that Sunday late in the afternoon—about an hour after Denise’s boyfriend discovered that she had disappeared. Ted invited Liz out to dinner—he was starving, he told her. He arrived about ten minutes later and they drove to a bowling alley reputed to serve some of the best hamburgers in Seattle. Liz was amazed to see Ted gobble down two hamburgers. He looked like he was under stress, she said. His eyes were all puffed up and when she asked him about it, he said he had a cold and was tired. Nonetheless, he insisted on driving back to Liz’s house and transferring a ski rack that he had borrowed from his car to hers.
By this time, the various police agencies had met and although they had little tangible evidence, they had good reason to suspect that the kidnappings were committed by the same individual. The police had identified distinct similarities in the student victims:
The police reviewed the witness statements and isolated the reports of a man wearing a cast and driving a Volkswagen. The disappearances at Lake Sammamish now gave them a name: Ted. But that was all they had, and the police did not agree among themselves that the same man had committed the crimes.
Using witness descriptions from the Lake Sammamish disappearances, newspapers published police sketches of the suspect and the information that he was driving a Volkswagen and might be called Ted. A lot of people ribbed Bundy about the fact that he had a Volkswagen, was called Ted, and looked like the individual in the sketches. Everyone felt safe kidding Bundy about it, because few believed that he could even be remotely capable of committing those kinds of crimes.
That summer, Ann Rule was among the first to call the police with Ted Bundy’s name. She remembers that she did not know whether Ted had bought a car since she had seen him last, but it appeared to her that Ted resembled the police sketches published in the papers. She had a friend on the police force run Bundy’s name through vehicle registration records and was shocked to find out that “her” Ted also drove a Volkswagen.
Liz was also seeing the resemblance and could not shake the memory of finding the box of medical cast material. She made an anonymous call to the police. But neither Ann Rule nor Liz Kendall, despite their suspicions, was convinced that Ted was a killer. Rule continued her friendship with Bundy, and Liz continued working on marriage plans with him.
The police meanwhile, filed Bundy’s name with the other 3,000 names reported to them as possible suspects.
On August 2, in Vancouver, Washington, twenty-year-old Carol Valenzuela vanished, but it was thought that she left on her own and no alarm was raised about her disappearance.
Ted Bundy, in the meantime, at the end of the month packed his things and moved to Salt Lake City in Utah to attend law school there. No further disappearances were reported in the State of Washington.
On September 7, in the Issaquah hills about a mile from Lake Sammamish, hunters discovered the remains of Jan Ott and Denise Naslund. There was not much to find—their bodies had been torn apart by coyotes, rodents, and possibly bears. Their flesh was mostly stripped away, and bones and tufts of hair were scattered all over the area. It took the police days to assemble enough bones to identify the women. Worse yet, the police anthropologists discovered extra female bones—there was a third victim. To this day, her identity remains unknown but it could have been Georgann Hawkins, whose body was never officially found.
Then in October the body of Carol Valenzuela was discovered near Olympia, Washington, in the rugged territory close to the Oregon border. She too had been consumed by animals. Lying near her, the police found the body of another woman believed to be aged between eighteen and twenty-two. Her identity has never been established either.
In the Salt Lake City area, young women began disappearing on October 2. The first was sixteen-year-old Nancy Wilcox, who on a night when she had argued with her parents was seen getting into a Volkswagen bug. She was listed as a runaway at first. Her body was never found. Salt Lake City is some seven hundred miles south of Seattle, and nobody in Utah even remotely thought of making a connection between the Volkswagen and the crimes in the north, nor was there any national database like VICAP today to make that link.
On October 18, Melissa Smith, age seventeen, the daughter of a police chief of a small town near Salt Lake City, vanished. She went out around 9:00 P.M. to eat a pizza with a friend. Afterward she was seen at a few teen hangouts around the town and was reported at one point to be seen hitchhiking.
Her body was found ten days later, the first of the series of victims to be found reasonably intact enough to perform an autopsy. Her skull had been fractured by a heavy blow, and she had been strangled by one of her knee-high socks tightly wrapped around her throat. Her head and shoulders showed multiple bruises and lacerations. She had been raped and sodomized, and afterward sticks had been pushed into her vagina. Her makeup was completely undisturbed and her long fingernails were undamaged. This led the police to believe that the killer may have kept her in an unconscious state for several days, applying her makeup himself and repeatedly raping her before finally strangling her.
On October 31, Halloween night, seventeen-year-old Laura Aime disappeared. She was at a party, got bored, and decided to hitchhike downtown to get some cigarettes. Her body was found the next month in a canyon. Her jaw had been broken and her skull was fractured. She had been raped and sodomized, and one of her stockings was wrapped tightly around her throat. There were vaginal puncture wounds from a sharp instrument, believed to be an ice pick, thrust into her genitals. The one thing that immediately struck the police was that her hair was freshly shampooed and free of blood from her cranial wounds. Again, as with Melissa Smith, it appeared that the killer had kept the teenager in an unconscious state, shampooing her hair, raping her, and then strangling her.
On November 8, Carol DaRonch was approached in a shopping mall by Ted Bundy posing as a police officer and lured into his car. As he attempted to put a pair of handcuffs on her, she managed kick free of him and flee. DaRonch is the only known victim of Ted Bundy’s to escape.
Later that same night, at an evening performance by a high school drama club, young women and girls were approached by an impeccably dressed man and asked to come into the parking lot and identify a car, or help him start a car. The request made no sense and the man appeared very nervous and would not look the women in the eye. Everybody refused the stranger’s request. His actions attracted the attention of a few people among the audience of 1,500 and they kept an eye on him that evening. During the intermission they saw him leave, and were happy to see that he did not return when the play began again. However, when the play ended and the lights went up, they were surprised to see that he was back in the auditorium, although now his shirttail was hanging out and his hair seemed somewhat disordered.
Dean and Belva Kent were among those who never noticed the man. They were sitting with their daughter, seventeen-year-old Debra Kent. During the intermission, Debra left the auditorium to pick up her brother from a nearby skating rink. She used the school pay phone to call him and say she was on her way and walked out of the school toward her parents’ car. She then vanished. The car was found parked as it was when they first arrived at the school. Debra’s body was never found.
Thirteen murders in ten months, and there were more to come. While the police in Utah hunkered down for what they expected to be more murders in December, nothing happened. Ted was back in Seattle for the Christmas holiday.
In Seattle, after the discovery of the first bodies, the investigation had mobilized into a major effort. The police had a list of 3,000 names that had been phoned in—including Ted Bundy’s four times by now. The 3,000 names were fed into a computer. The names of Volkswagen owners in Washington State were added, the names of all the friends of victims, names from their address books, class lists of all the missing girls’ fellow students, all mental patients in the state for the last ten years, known sex offenders, names of motel guests near Lake Sammamish, and even names of people renting horses to ride in the district. The computer was then programmed to print out any names that appeared twice. Nearly six hundred names emerged. The computer was asked to print out any names that appeared four times—and the computer responded with four hundred names, including Ted Bundy’s. This time, the computer was asked to print out five coincidental appearances of the same name. The computer identified twenty-five names for the police to investigate. Bundy was not one of them.
The sameness of Bundy’s crimes becomes numbing to describe. Clever kidnappings, no witnesses, no physical evidence. The victim was rendered unconscious by a powerful blow to the head with a blunt weapon, raped and sodomized, and then strangled.
After the Christmas holidays, Bundy returned to Utah. The next disappearance happened over in the next state—Colorado. Caryn Campbell and her boyfriend were staying at a ski lodge. In the evening they were in the lobby sitting by the fireplace when Caryn went upstairs to get a magazine from her room. She never made it. Her magazine was found untouched. A month later her body was discovered a few miles from the lodge, partially consumed by animals. Her skull had been fractured and it appeared as if she had been strangled.
In March, back in Washington State, forestry students working on the slopes of Taylor Mountain found a skull. It was identified as Brenda Ball, the girl who had gone missing at the Flame Tavern some thirty miles away. Two hundred police officers began making a painstaking search along the slopes of Taylor Mountain. Their search would yield scattered fragments from the heads of three other victims: Susan Rancourt, who disappeared on her way to a movie at her campus, ninety miles away; Kathy Parks, who disappeared while going for a coffee at her campus, 260 miles away; and Lynda Healy, the first girl who had vanished from her basement apartment. Four girls, killed at four different locations at four different times, their heads dumped on Taylor Mountain—the killer’s private graveyard. He spent months returning to the same location, arriving each time with a new head. Even for seasoned police officers, it was a horrific find.
At the time a junior investigator, Robert D. Keppel, suggested that the killer was cutting off the victims’ heads and keeping them for a while before dumping them on Taylor Mountain. The notion was dismissed at the time by the supervisors because no neck vertebrae were found at the scene. Typically, intentional decapitations are made with a cut below the base of the skull, leaving a fragment of the vertebrae at the scene. Senior police officials instead insisted that animals had dragged the other bones away beyond the search perimeter, never adequately explaining why animals left precisely only fragments of the heads.
Keppel later recalled:
My own theory—considered outrageous—was that, for a period of time, the killer had parked the skulls at another location, where they decayed individually, and then dumped his entire load just inside the edge of the forest. The physical evidence, which consisted of leaves in skulls from one previous leaf fall, the growth of the maple branches through and around the skulls, and the lack of any tissue on the crania left me with the feeling that they were exposed to outdoor elements, in one place, where they decayed at the same rate. In other words, they were put someplace else for a period of time and then brought to Taylor Mountain; the killer was moving around the body parts of his victims. It seemed as though nobody wanted to consider my theory seriously—maybe because it gave too much credit to the ability of the killer to manipulate evidence and escape detection. They also probably didn’t want to consider what it would take to catch a killer so remorseless that he could handle the body parts of his dead victims long after he had murdered them.94
Years later Bundy would confess to Keppel that he used a hacksaw to sever the victim’s heads and that he kept them in his apartment. The bodies he dumped at other undisclosed locations, which he would visit from time to time to see how the animals had devoured them. Ted also admitted that he burned Donna Manson’s head in the fireplace of Liz Kendall’s home.
On March 15, in Vail, Colorado, twenty-six-year-old Julie Cunningham went out at about 9:00 P.M. to meet a friend at a nearby bar for a drink. She never arrived and her body was never found.
On April 6, in Grand Junction, Colorado, twenty-five-year-old Denise Oliverson set out on her bicycle from her apartment to her parents’ house. Her body was never found.
On April 15, eighteen-year-old Melanie Cooley vanished in Denver.
In May, three friends from last summer’s work at the Washington Department of Emergency Services—Carole Ann Boone, Alice Thissen, and Joe McLean—came to spend a week with Bundy. They went swimming and horseback riding and remember that Bundy seemed to be in high spirits. In the evenings Bundy prepared gourmet meals for his guests while Mozart played on his stereo.
In prison, referring to himself in the third person, Bundy explained that his desire to kill was akin to a hobby—it was not something you did all the time, “like collecting stamps. He doesn’t retain the taste of glue, so to speak, all day long.”
In June, Bundy was back in Seattle. He spent a lot of time with Liz Kendall discussing marriage plans and helped his former landlords, Ernst and Frieda Rogers, put in a garden at the rooming house. Near the end of the month he left Seattle.
On July 1, Shelley Robertson, twenty-four, vanished in Golden, Colorado, after being last seen at a service station; much later that same day, about seven hours away, in Farmington, Utah, near Salt Lake City, twenty-one-year-old Nancy Baird vanished, also from a service station. Ted Bundy was on his way back to Salt Lake City.
On Saturday, August 16, 1975, at 2:30 A.M., a Utah Highway Patrol officer was sitting in his cruiser in front of his own house in the Salt Lake City suburb of Granger when he saw a Volkswagen drive by. It was a small neighborhood where there was little traffic, and even less at night, and almost every vehicle was known—this auto was not. The officer let the car pass without taking any action. Ten minutes later, the car passed by again and this time the policeman turned on his high beams to read the license plate. As soon as he did that, the Volkswagen turned off its lights and began to drive away quickly. After a short pursuit, the highway patrolman had the Volkswagen pull over into a service station parking lot. Ted Bundy stepped out of the car.
Bundy was relaxed and calm, but appeared confused as to why he was stopped by the police. He told the officer he had been at a movie and got lost on his way home. When the patrolman asked the name of the movie playing at the theater, Bundy made his fatal mistake—he gave the wrong title. A few minutes later, another patrol car arrived, summoned by radio. Bundy’s trunk was searched. Inside they found a pair of handcuffs, a mask made from pantyhose, an ice pick, short lengths of rope, and torn strips of sheets.
Bundy was taken into custody, charged with evading police, fingerprinted, and sent home. He was told to expect a warrant charging him with possession of burglary tools.
On the following Tuesday, police officers from various Utah agencies gathered for their weekly review of arrests. It was a boring procedure as the various arrests of that week were reviewed and notes compared. But when Salt Lake City detectives heard the mention of a Volkswagen and a pair of handcuffs, they immediately became alert.
Slowly, step by step, Ted Bundy was first charged with possession of burglary tools, and then, after being identified by Carol DaRonch, he was charged with attempted kidnapping. Bundy remained free on bail during his trial in the winter of 1976, but once he was convicted in the spring, he found himself in prison. Because Bundy had no previous criminal record, his sentence was fairly light—one to fifteen years, meaning that he could be paroled after serving only three years. But soon after Bundy began serving his sentence in Utah, he was charged with murder in Colorado. He found himself transferred to Aspen, Colorado, to stand trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell, who had disappeared at the ski lodge. By now the police had assembled a formidable collection of evidence consisting of gas receipts, phone bills, credit card slips, hair samples, and witnesses who linked Bundy’s movements and presence with the murder of Caryn Campbell. Bundy was now in serious trouble.
Ted Bundy’s story should have ended there; perhaps if it had, Bundy might have remained in history as just another serial murderer with seventeen kills. Instead of becoming a household name and a movie of the week, Bundy could have become another Gerald Stano—a guy who killed forty-one women between 1969 and 1980, twice as many as Bundy, but nobody has heard of him other than true-crime buffs. But Bundy made a spectacular escape by jumping from a second floor window of the Aspen courthouse during a lunch break, which guaranteed him superstar status in the future. He disappeared into the mountains for nearly a week before he was recaptured after getting lost and coming back down into Aspen. At the time, the full extent of Bundy’s crimes was not known, and Bundy was treated as a local hero and outlaw.
Remarkably, after escaping once, Bundy escaped a second time. On this occasion he managed to saw his way through the steel ceiling of his jailhouse cell on the night of December 30, 1977. This time, instead of heading into the mountains, Bundy went directly to the airport. By the time the authorities realized that Bundy had escaped, he was already in Chicago. From there, he slowly made his way to the college town of Ann Arbor, but did not like it there, and moved to Tallahassee, Florida. He took a room in a student house near Florida State University and survived by shoplifting and stealing credit cards.
Within sixteen days of his escape, in the middle of the night of January 15, 1978, Bundy slipped into a campus sorority house carrying a log and walked from room to room battering the heads of sleeping women. He bit the nipple off one woman and sodomized her with an aerosol bottle of hair spray before killing her. In total, two women were killed and two were severely injured. A few minutes later at another house nearby, he battered a fifth woman, but failed to kill her.
Bundy’s crimes had become frenzied. The attack on five women in one night was unlike Bundy’s previous carefully executed crimes. His attack was characteristic of a disorganized personality: The weapon was a piece of branch taken from a woodpile at the back of the sorority house. The bite marks left on one of the victims were a valuable piece of evidence that would be effortlessly matched with Bundy’s teeth. The women were found at the crime scene, unlike Bundy’s other victims.
Bundy was reaching the “burnout” stage. This is the stage in which some serial killers quietly surrender to the police; others commit suicide; some go underground, never to be heard from again; others, like Bundy, increase the frenzy of their killing and become sloppy, as if hoping that the police will capture them.
On February 9, Bundy kidnapped and killed a girl who is believed to be his last victim—twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach. She was snatched in front of her school. Her body was found in April in an abandoned hog shed—she had been raped and sodomized and then strangled. By then Bundy was already in custody. He was pulled over on February 12 while driving a stolen car in a drunken state. Earlier that day he had been caught four times committing petty crimes but managed to talk his way out of trouble every time. While in custody, he was identified. Ted Bundy would never leave Florida again.
Bundy was a thinking person, and no doubt after he had been arrested the first time and jailed, he must have thought a lot about his crimes. He considered himself lucky when he escaped to Florida, for in Colorado he was on trial for murder but had not yet been convicted. He knew that his compulsion was the ruin of his life. Bundy believed that the two years in jail had cured him of his homicidal desires; certainly in the first weeks he lived in Florida, he attempted to stay away from situations in which he might be tempted to kill. However, at some stage he must have suddenly felt the pangs of his compulsion once again, and by that point in his life he knew that he could not resist.
Bundy must have been smart enough to know that sooner or later his compulsion would lead to his capture, and therefore he began to gorge himself on killing, no longer caring if he was leaving evidence behind or not.
Bundy’s conclusions about his own crimes are intelligent but banal. Bundy attributed his crimes to “peculiar circumstances of society and of the twentieth century in America.”95
He said, “Living in large centers of population and living with lots of people, you can get used to dealing with strangers. It’s the anonymity factor. And that has a twofold effect. First of all, if you’re among strangers you’re less likely to remember them or care what they’re doing or know what they should or should not be doing. If they should or shouldn’t be there. Secondly, you’re conditioned almost not to be afraid to deal with strangers.”96
Bundy was charged with the sorority house murders and the murder of Kimberly Leach. The trials were held separately, were televised, and cost the State of Florida $9 million. Bundy acted as his own defense counsel.
His friend Carole Boone, whom he had met the summer he worked at the Department of Emergency Services, became his lover.
When Bundy was convicted for murder, he and Boone requested permission from Florida’s prison authority to get married. Permission was refused. Bundy then pulled off a coup by performing the marriage ceremony himself. Boone filled out the necessary marriage licenses at the courthouse. She was then called to the stand by Bundy to testify as a character witness during his sentencing hearing. During the examination, Bundy suddenly asked her if she would marry him and she replied, yes. Bundy then responded that he, too, wanted to marry her. A notary hired by Boone sat among the courtroom spectators and witnessed the exchange of vows. Under Florida law, Bundy and Boone were now legally married, and thus Boone had the right to ask for contact visits in prison with her husband Ted. Although such visits were restricted to a kiss, a hug, and holding hands under the watchful eyes of guards, prisoners often managed to engineer some way to have sex with their visitor. Boone claimed that she and Bundy conceived a child during one of these contact visits. If true, then Bundy had a daughter in the autumn of 1981.
While on death row awaiting execution, he was asked if he felt guilty about the murders he had committed. Guilt, he said, is an illusionary mechanism to control people and is unhealthy and does terrible things to people’s bodies. Bundy replied that he felt as sorry for those who felt guilt as he did for drug addicts or businessmen who craved money. It solves nothing. It only hurts you, he said.
Bundy had committed many of his murders in King County in Washington State. In 1982 a new serial killer took his place there—the Green River Killer. Robert D. Keppel was now a senior investigator when Bundy offered to profile the Green River Killer for him. Keppel accepted and secretly met with Bundy, not only to take advantage of Bundy’s expertise in serial murder but to also probe further into Bundy’s own crimes and possible locations where missing victims might be found. Keppel found Bundy’s insight into serial killers perceptive. At the same time he marveled at Bundy’s ego and his sense of superiority over the Green River Killer. Keppel said, “The Leonardo da Vinci of serial murder was Theodore Robert Bundy’s perception of himself.”
Bundy himself proclaimed, “I’m the only Ph.D. in serial murder. Over the years I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about it. The subject fascinates me.”
Bundy explained his crimes in the context of young urban professional ambition when he said, “Society wants to believe it can identify evil people, or bad or harmful people, but it’s not practical. There are no stereotypes. The thing is that some people are just psychologically less ready for failure than others.”
After years of numerous appeals and motions, Bundy was executed in January 1989. Carole Boone and Ted’s daughter had vanished from the public eye several years earlier, and it is not known if they stayed in contact with Bundy. Ted may have died alone. On Florida campuses, students hosted “Bundy-Qs” and chanted, “Fry, Bundy, Fry” on the day he was electrocuted.
An example of the disorganized class of serial killers, Miguel Rivera randomly attacked young boys in tenement buildings in East Harlem and on the Upper West Side of New York between March 1972 and August 1973. His first victim, an eight-year-old boy, was stabbed thirty-eight times and sodomized, and an attempt was made to cut off his penis. Three other boys were found in hallways, in basements, and on the rooftops of various tenements, stabbed to death and their genitals cut off. Local children dubbed the serial killer “Charlie Chop-Off.” Witness testimony produced a description of a Puerto Rican suspect who was attempting to persuade young boys to run errands for him. Following a failed attempt to kidnap a nine-year-old boy in May 1974, Miguel Rivera, who exhibited severe signs of mental illness, was arrested. Rivera claimed that God had told him to transform little boys into girls. The hidden logic and erratic behavior of the disorganized serial killer makes it difficult for police to narrow down a suspect, even though he often makes no attempt to cover up his crimes.
Herbert Mullin, whose case is described in the next chapter (see the “Visionary” section), is also a classic case study of the disorganized class of serial killer, as is Richard Chase, described in Chapter 9.
Richard Ramirez, who committed most of his crimes in Los Angeles, is an example of a mixed-category murderer. Between June 1984 and August 1985, nineteen people were brutally killed inside their homes by a mysterious intruder who was dubbed the “Night Stalker” by the press. Men were shot or strangled, while women were brutally raped and mutilated. He gouged out one victim’s eyes with a spoon and took them away with him. One night, he killed three victims, on other nights, he left without killing his victims. At the crime scenes, the Night Stalker left occult symbols such as an inverted pentagram drawn on a wall with a victim’s lipstick. Some crime scenes were signed “Jack the Knife.” One victim who survived reported that as she was being raped, he forced her to recite, “I love Satan.” When asked where they hid their valuables, victims were ordered to “swear on Satan” that they were telling the truth. The crimes were committed completely at random, and the killer made unsuccessful attempts to disguise his fingerprints. His victims often saw his face, and he left them alive as often as he killed them. Outside the windows of the houses he entered, he left behind his shoe prints. When the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit was asked to profile the crime scenes, they responded that the crimes were unique and did not conform to anything they had seen before.
In 1985 California installed a new $25 million computer system—Cal-ID—that could automatically search out fingerprints from previous crimes and match them to prints on record. The official story is that within several minutes of being online, the computer used the prints left behind by the Night Stalker to identify him as Richard Ramirez, a twenty-five-year-old petty burglar from El Paso, Texas. The real story is that police had first developed leads from several street informants who dealt in stolen goods. They revealed that a burglar they knew named Rick, Ricardo, or Richard Ramirez was weird enough to be the Night Stalker. Police ran those names through the computer and quickly came up with a match on a fingerprint from an abandoned car connected to one of the crimes.97
Pictures of Ramirez were widely publicized in California, and it was not long before he was sighted on a street in a residential Los Angeles neighborhood. The police had to rescue him from a mob intent on beating him to death.
Richard Ramirez was a mentally disturbed drifter with a cocaine addiction who frequented the skid row district around the Los Angeles bus station. He was the youngest brother in a devout Catholic Mexican family. Ramirez’s father was a former Mexican police officer and a domineering and tyrannical parent whose temper frightened all the kids. His mother was deeply religious, frequently praying, lighting candles, and regularly attending church.
We will later see that frequently serial killers sustained head injuries as children; Ramirez was accidentally knocked unconscious twice as a child. He also had epileptic seizures. When Ramirez was seven or eight he might have witnessed his older brothers being sexually molested by a neighbor. Neither he nor his brothers can remember whether Ramirez himself was victimized. Ramirez is remembered as shy and sweet, and his teenage girlfriend with whom he had a relationship several years before the murders also remembers him as a gentle and sweet lover. Girls at his school remember Ramirez as being “nice.”
When Ramirez was twelve years old he began to hang out with his cousin Mike, a Green Beret who had recently returned from two tours of duty in Vietnam. They frequently smoked marijuana together, and Mike regaled the impressionable Richard with war stories. According to Ramirez, his cousin showed him black-and-white Polaroids of Vietnamese women forced to perform fellatio on soldiers. Other photographs showed the severed heads of the same women. Ramirez said that he became highly aroused at the sight of those images. On May 4, 1974, while on a visit at Mike’s house, Richard saw his cousin shoot his wife to death in cold blood. Mike told him never to say that he had been there and sent him home. Ramirez remained mute about what he had seen, while Mike was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental facility.
Several days after the shooting, Richard visited the apartment with his parents to retrieve some of Mike’s property. Ramirez recently recalled: “That day I went back to that apartment, it was like some kind of mystical experience. It was all quiet and still and hot in there. You could smell the blood.”
After witnessing the homicide, Richard began to steal and habitually smoke marijuana. His interest in school declined. Making matters worse, he went to Los Angeles to visit his older brother, a heroin-addicted thief who instructed Richard on the finer arts of burglary.
When he was thirteen, Richard moved away from home to live with another brother. There he began experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD, mushrooms, and PCP—angel dust—a highly unstable and dangerous drug normally used as a horse tranquilizer. Richard became obsessed with slasher horror films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. He was into heavy metal, especially the darker stuff from Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Billy Idol, Ozzy Osborne, and AC/DC. Soon he dropped out of school.
In 1978 Richard left El Paso and returned to live in Los Angeles, settling into the cheap seedy hotels in the downtown tenderloin district. He became addicted to cocaine, which he would inject. In summary, Ramirez had head injuries, had epilepsy, had a tyrannical father and an overly religious mother, was perhaps sexually molested, was exposed to graphically violent images, witnessed a murder at age twelve in which he was complicit by his silence, smoked marijuana, consumed LSD and PCP, and entertained himself by watching horror films and listening to heavy metal, before he became addicted to the ultimate paranoia-inducing drug—cocaine, which he did not merely snort, but injected. Young Richard’s brain no doubt was seriously fried and his soul battered when he added one more thing into the mix at age seventeen: In the summer of 1978 he read The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey—a San Francisco self-styled satanist. So impressed was Richard that he stole a car and drove to San Francisco, where he sought out LaVey and attended his satanic rituals, during which he says he felt the hand of Satan touch him.
Between 1978 and 1984 Ramirez became almost entirely estranged from his family, including his brothers. He rarely contacted them and we know little about his activities. In mid-1983 his sister sought him out and found him living in a fleabag hotel near the L.A. bus station. He was still injecting cocaine and sustaining himself by committing burglaries. He told his sister that Satan was protecting him from arrest.
On June 27, 1984, he committed his first known murder, stabbing a woman to death as she slept in her bed. He would kill at least nineteen victims, raping, stabbing, shooting, mutilating, and bludgeoning them, before his capture on August 31, 1985.
At his trial Ramirez flashed press photographers with an inverted pentagram inked on his palm and chanted “Evil, evil . . .” When he was convicted and sentenced to death, he growled at the court, “I don’t believe in the hypocritical, moralistic dogma of this so-called civilized society . . . I need not look beyond this room to see all the liars, haters, the killers, the crooks, the paranoid cowards; truly trematodes of the Earth, each one in his own legal profession. . . . You maggots make me sick; hypocrites one and all . . . And no one knows that better than those who kill for policy, clandestinely or openly, as do the governments of the world, which kill in the name of god and country or for whatever reason they deem appropriate . . . I don’t need to hear all of society’s rationalizations. I’ve heard them all before and the fact remains that what is, is. You don’t understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable of it . . . I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil, legions of the night—night breed—repeat not the errors of the Night Stalker and show no mercy . . . I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within all of us! . . . See you in Disneyland.”
We can see that Ramirez fits both categories of organized and disorganized serial killers. He killed his victims in their homes at random, not always sure whom he would find when he entered houses. He overcame them with a fast “blitz”-type attack using extreme force. He left many of his victims alive, suggesting that when he made a decision to kill he made it spontaneously at the scene. He did not disguise his face and left forensic evidence behind, traits of a disorganized killer. On the other hand, Ramirez brought weapons to the scene and even carried a police frequency scanner, traits of an organized offender. Ramirez is a mixed-category serial killer in the FBI system.
In Chapter 9, which deals with profiling, we will return to a more extensive discussion of some of the problems of the organized/disorganized profiling system used by the FBI. Next, however, we explore how the dissatisfaction with the organized/disorganized model of serial killer behavior led to the evolution of alternate and more complex categories.