Ted Bundy was an American serial killer known for 30 confessed murders, 20 of which were confirmed during the 1970s. Bundy targeted young women, often subjecting them to rape and torture before murdering them and performing necrophilic acts with the corpses after. Bundy was active in the mid to late 1970s and killed across seven different states. In 1978, he was arrested and later sentenced to death in Florida (after escaping jail and a trial after a 1975 arrest). He was executed by electrocution on January 24, 1989.
Early Life of Ted Bundy
Bundy was born on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont, to a single mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell. He never knew his farther, nor has his father ever been confirmed. Early on, Bundy was raised in Philadelphia by his grandparents Eleanor and Samuel Cowell and was told that his grandparents were his parents and that his mother was just an older sister to avoid the social stigmas of being an illegitimate child. Bundy told differing accounts of his grandparents. In her biography of Bundy, ” The Stranger Beside Me” by Ann Rule, who met Bundy in the 1970s while volunteering at a suicide call center, she recalled that Bundy spoke fondly of his grandfather and noted how close they were. However, in a 1987 interview, two years before Bundy’s execution, Bundy and other family members told Bundy’s lawyers about how cruel, abusive, and bigoted Samuel Cowell was while Bundy was growing up in his home. Bundy later discovered that his grandparents were not indeed his parents and his mother was not his sister sometime in the late 1960s and held anger towards his mother for the rest of his life for never telling him the truth.
Bundy and his mother eventually relocated to Tacoma, Washington from Philadelphia in 1950, Washington. Bundy’s mother met and married a man named Johnny Culpepper Bundy in 1951. Johnny adopted Ted and tried to bond with him, but Ted was distant and did not care for his adoptive father. As a youth, Bundy engaged in petty crime like shoplifting, it is also speculated that he committed his first murders in his teenage years although this was never confirmed by authorities or confessed to by Bundy.
In 1964, he graduated high school and attended University of Puget Sound for one year and the transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle. At both schools he studied Chinese, Bundy did not graduate from University of Washington and instead dropped out and began working a variety of jobs. He eventually Volunteered for the campaign office of then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. He also became romantically involved with a woman named Stephanie Brooks.
1968 and 1969 were pivotal years of distress for Bundy. In late summer took a trip to the Republican National Convention in Miami Florida in 1968 as a delegate for Rockefeller. Soon after his trip, Brooks broke up with Bundy and moved back to California. Bundy took the break up hard and did not return to Washington for school. He ended up going to Colorado, visiting relatives across the country, then briefly returning to Philadelphia where he enrolled for a semester of college at Temple University. In 1969, Bundy also went back to Vermont where he did some searching about himself and found his birth certificate which revealed the truth about his parents.
Bundy went back to Washington in 1969 and a few years later reenrolled at the University of Washington to study Psychology and graduated in 1972. He became involved in extracurriculars related to his major including working at a crisis hotline center that helped people who were suicidal. Bundy also rekindled his affinity for politics where he worked on a re-election campaign for Washington Governor Daniel J Evans and was later hired on to work for the Washington State Republican Party.
In 1973, Bundy showed an interest in remaining in the political realm and applied to Law school at University of Puget Sound. That same year Bundy went to California on behalf of the Washington Republican Party and reached out to his old girlfriend Stephanie Brooks. Impressed by the law student and emerging politician, Brooks fell back for Bundy. Bundy is noted to have been dating another women when he rekindled things with Brooks named Elizabeth Kloepfer.
Ted Bundy’s First Murders
Though Bundy made positive strides in at the beginning of 1973, he began faltering at the end of the year. Bundy started skipping classes at Puget Sound and broke up with Brooks out of nowhere. In 1974, Bundy committed his first confirmed attack and his first confirmed murder. The firsts of a very long line of brutal killings in the 1970s. On January 4th, Bundy attacked at Woman named Karen Sparks, beating her with a metal rod to a point where she suffered permanent brain damage, but she survived.
The following month, Bundy committed his first proven murder. Bundy targeted another young woman named Lynda Ann Healy. Bundy kidnapped her from her room early in the morning of February first. After noticing that Healy’s alarm clock was never silenced in the morning, her roommate Barbra Little went into Healy’s room to see what was going on and Healy was missing. Perhaps more confusing was that nothing seemed out of place in Healy’s room, it was neat and showed no signs of disturbance except for some blood on Healy’s pillow. A pillow which was set on a neatly made bed. Bundy had murdered her and taken her body to Taylor Mountain outside of Seattle where it would be found alongside several over victims in 1975.
Bundy kept killing and abducting young women in 1974. In the first half of the year, there was a sting of six disappearances of female college students across Washington. All the disappearances had one thing in common. Witnesses usually described a brown-haired man at the scene with either his arm in a sling or walking with the aid of crutches. Bundy was developing a tactic that became synonymous with his crimes: he would act injured or in need of help to lure his victims in. In July, he killed two more female college students at a state park, Janice Ott and Denise Mashind. The incidents created a stir in the news and fear spread across the Pacific Northwest. Police received over 200 tips a day about possible suspects, Bundy was even suggested, but police ruled him out given his status as a law student and the fact that he was worked for the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission and Department of Emergency Services.
Ted Bundy’s Utah Years
After the double murder of Ott and Mashind, Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to continue Law school at the University of Utah in August of 1974 and to continue his crime spree. In September, he raped and murdered a hitch hiker in Idaho. Over the month of October, he kidnaped two teenage girls, on separate incidents, from Salt Lake City, killed them, and hid their bodies far outside of the city, burying one in the desert and leaving another in the woods. On November 8th Bundy impersonated a police officer and tried to kidnap an 18 year-old-Carol DaRonch at a shopping mall, but she escaped. After the failed attempted Bundy kidnapped a 17-year-old Debra Kent as she left her high school drama class.
Meanwhile back in Washington, Elizabeth Kloepfer, Bundy’s former girlfriend, had read the news about the disappearances in Utah and called the King County (Seattle) Police to raise her suspicions that Bundy was behind the murders. She also called the Salt Lake County Police to inform them, though they did not have enough evidence to link Bundy to the crimes.
In 1975, Bundy went back to Seattle during winter break from law school where he and Kloepfer rekindled their relationship. The two would keep a sort of long distance, on-and-off relationship until 1980.
Colorado Murders and First Arrest
Upon returning to Utah after winter break in 1975, Bundy got back to his crimes, choosing to strike in the Colorado Mountains east of his base in Salt Lake City. Over the year he murdered and hid the bodies of three more women in their mid 20s.
In the Summer of 1975, Bundy struck again, kidnaping and murdering a Brigham Young University Student. Bundy then tried to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he was not an active member and failed to uphold he Church’s teachings and practices. He was excommunicated in 1976.
In August of 1975, Bundy was arrested in Granger, Utah, outside of Salt Lake City, the arresting office found an odd collection of items in Bundy’s car including a ski mask, crowbar, and hand cuffs. All of which Bundy had excuses for. Around the time of Bundy’s arrest, investigators in Washington had been working on pinpointing a suspect for all the crimes the year before and had put Bundy on a shortlist of potential suspects. Though Bundy did not remain in custody for long, the arrest would eventually lead to his downfall.
Working together, investigators from Washington, Colorado, and Utah started building a case to pin Bundy to all the murders and kidnappings in Fall of 1975. Bundy sold his car that year which the Utah state police seized and turned over to the FBI. The FBI found hair samples from multiple of Bundy’s victim. In October, police put Bundy in a line up where one of his victims who escaped, Carol DaRonch, identified him as the police impersonator who tried to kidnap her from the mall. After the identification, the police arrested and charged Bundy for the DaRonch case. His parent paid his bail soon after and Bundy went to Seattle and lived with Kloepfer where police kept him under intense surveillance.
Ted Bundy’s Trial and Escape from Colorado
Bundy went to trial for the DaRonch case in 1976 where he was convicted and charged with 1 to 15 years in Utah Prison. While there, authorities in Colorado charged Bundy for murder for one of his murders in Colorado and transferred him to a jail in Aspen, Colorado in 1977 to await a trail. During a recess at his Colorado trial in June of 1977, Bundy made a brake for it, jumping out of a window and hiking into the woods around Aspen, Colorado. He came across a hunting cabin, broke into it, and stole food, clothing and a rifle. He evaded capture for several days until he stole a car and was spotted by police in Aspen. The stunt landed him back in jail. While in jail, Bundy began planning another escape. On December 30th, 1977, Bundy made a dummy of himself in his jail bed and climbed into a crawlspace, navigating his way through the ceiling then out of the jail. Once out, he stole a car and headed east of Aspen. The stolen car broke down in the town of Glenwood Springs. Here, Bundy hitched a ride to Denver, then made his way to the airport and bought a ticket to Chicago. In Chicago, he took a train to Ann Arbor, Michigan then stole a car and drove it nonstop to Atlanta. Here, he bought a bus ticket to Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida Years and Ted Bundy’s Demise
Initially, Bundy claims that he tried to start anew in Florida. But after a little over a week of being there and failing to get a job due to his lack of identification, Bundy started to engage in petty crime such as shoplifting and pickpocketing. On January 15, 1978, Bundy went back to his gruesome crimes. He went to a sorority house at Florida State University. Here he viciously attacked four college students, killing two. Upon feeling the scene, Bundy broke into an apartment and attacked another female college student, leaving her with permanent damage.
A month later Bundy struck again. In February, Bundy stole a van from Florida State University and drove to Jacksonville, FA. He attempted to kidnap a 14-year-old girl but was scared away by her older brother. The following day, on his way back to Tallahassee he stopped in a town called Lake City where he abducted, raped and murdered a 12-year-old, Kimberly Leach, and hid her body in a nearby state park. Bundy stole a car and tried to flee Florida bur was caught when a police officer ran a check on the car Bundy was driving and saw it was stolen. The officer was unaware that he had caught one of the FBI’s top ten most wanted.
In 1979, Bundy was put on trial for the murder and assaults at the sorority in Miami, Fl. It was heavily covered by the media and was one of the first trials to be nationally televised. The jury Bundy found Bundy guilty of the two murders and the attempted murders of three others. The judge sentenced him to death by electric chair. The following year, Bundy went to trail for the murder of Kimberly Leach where he again was found guilty. In that same trial, Bundy made court room stunt and proposed and married his then girlfriend Carole Boone whom he had begun seeing in 1974 while living in Washington.
Ted Bundy on Death Row
From his sentencing in 1979 and 1980 to his death in 1989, Bundy did what he could to delay and evade his execution. This included another attempted break out in 1984 when guards found evidence that Bundy was planning an escape and even appealing to the Supreme Court. I 1986, the year he was supposed to be executed, his execution was pushed back by a federal appeals court who questioned Bundy’s mental capacity and how he acted as his own attorney in his 1980 trial. His execution date was pushed back to 1989 and a judge ruled that Bundy was mentally competent during his trials and even went as far as to call him a “diabolical genius” to try and prevent further appeals to be made on the basis of Bundy’s mental state. During his stay in prison, Bundy also admitted to numerous murders and gave details to investigators regarding the whereabouts of his victims. Investigators remarked on his haunting details and how he seemed to be trying to confess to his murders and give details on remains as a way to push back his execution.
The state of Florida executed Bundy early in the morning of January 24, 1989. A crowd gathered outside the prison to await the news of his death. Upon the announcement, the crowd celebrated. Though justice was served and Bundy admitted to numerous crimes, the FBI even keeps a profile of his DNA in a database to check when they come across unsolved murders from regions Bundy was active.
Since his final trials, Bundy remained a subject for fascination within the American memory. He and his heinous acts have become the subject of books, podcasts, movies, and TV shows, cementing him in history as one of America’s most evil and notorious serial killers.