Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy (born Theodore Robert Cowell; November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) was an American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women during the 1970s, and possibly earlier. After more than a decade of denials he confessed shortly before his execution to 30 homicides committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978; the true total remains unknown, and could be much higher.
Bundy was handsome and charismatic, traits he exploited in winning the confidence of his young, attractive female victims. He typically approached them in public places and feigned injury or disability, or impersonated an authority figure, before overpowering and assaulting them at a more secluded location. He sometimes revisited his secondary crime scenes for hours at a time, grooming and performing sexual acts with the decomposing corpses until putrefaction and destruction by wild animals made further interaction impossible. He decapitated at least four victims and kept the severed heads in his apartment for a period of time as mementos. On a few occasions he simply broke into dwellings in the dead of night and bludgeoned victims as they slept.
Initially charged in Utah in 1975 and convicted of aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault, Bundy became linked to a progressively longer list of unsolved homicides in multiple states. Facing murder charges in Colorado, he engineered two dramatic escapes, and committed at least three additional murders and several violent assaults in Florida before his ultimate recapture in 1978. He received three death sentences in two separate trials for the three known Florida homicides.
Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida, in January 1989. Biographer Ann Rule described him as “…a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human’s pain and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death, and even after.” He once called himself “…the most cold-blooded son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” Attorney Polly Nelson, a member of his final defense team, agreed. “Ted,” she later wrote, “was the very definition of heartless evil.”
Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell at the Elizabeth Lund Home For Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont on November 24, 1946. His mother was Eleanor Louise Cowell (known for most of her life as Louise). The identity of his father has never been determined with certainty. His official birth certificate assigns paternity to a salesman and Air Force veteran named Lloyd Marshall, but Louise later claimed that she was seduced by “a sailor” whose name may have been Jack Worthington. Her family expressed suspicions that the father may actually have been Louise’s own violent, abusive father, Samuel Cowell. Bundy’s maternal grandparents, Samuel and Eleanor Cowell, raised him in their Philadelphia home as their son to avoid the social stigma that accompanied illegitimate birth at the time. Family, friends, and even young Ted were told that his grandparents were Bundy’s parents and that his mother was his older sister. Eventually he discovered the truth, but how and when is not clear. He told his girlfriend that a cousin showed him a copy of his birth certificate after calling him a “bastard”, but he told biographers Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth that he found the certificate himself. Biographer and true crime writer Ann Rule, who knew Bundy personally, believes that he did not find unequivocal proof until he tracked down his original birth record in Vermont in 1968. Bundy expressed a lifelong resentment toward his mother for lying about his parentage and leaving him to discover it for himself.
While Bundy spoke warmly of his grandparents in some interviews and told Ann Rule that he “identified with”, “respected”, and “clung to” his grandfather, he and other family members told attorneys in 1987 that Samuel Cowell was a tyrannical bully and a bigot who hated blacks, Italians, Catholics, and Jews, beat his wife and the family dog, and swung neighborhood cats by their tails. He once threw Louise’s younger sister Julia down a flight of stairs for oversleeping. He sometimes spoke aloud to unseen presences, and kept a large collection of pornography which Ted and a cousin would peruse for hours. At least once he flew into a violent rage when the question of Ted’s paternity was raised. Bundy described his grandmother as a timid and obedient woman who periodically underwent electroconvulsive therapy for depression and feared leaving their house toward the end of her life. Ted occasionally exhibited disturbing behavior, even at that early age. Julia recalled awakening one day from a nap to find herself surrounded by knives from the Cowell kitchen; her three-year-old nephew was standing by the bed, smiling.
In 1950 Louise changed her surname from Cowell to Nelson, dropped her first name Eleanor, and at the urging of multiple family members, left Philadelphia with her son to live with cousins Alan and Jane Scott in Tacoma, Washington. In 1951 Louise met Johnny Culpepper Bundy, a hospital cook, at an adult singles night at Tacoma’s First Methodist Church. They married later that year and Johnny Bundy formally adopted Ted. Johnny and Louise conceived four children of their own, and though Johnny Bundy tried to include his stepson in camping trips and other family activities, Ted remained distant from his stepfather. He later complained to his girlfriend that Johnny wasn’t his real father, “wasn’t very bright”, and “didn’t make much money.”
As a boy Bundy roamed his neighborhood, picking through trash barrels in search of pictures of naked women. As an adolescent he browsed bookstores and libraries in search of detective magazines, crime novels, and true crime documentaries, favoring stories that involved sexual violence, particularly when accompanied by pictures of dead or maimed bodies. Later, he consumed large quantities of alcohol (which he called “a very important trigger”) and “canvass[ed] the community” late at night in search of undraped windows where he could observe women undressing, or “whatever [else] could be seen.”
Bundy told Michaud and Aynsworth that as an adolescent he “chose to be alone” because he was unable to understand interpersonal relationships. Though he maintained a façade of social activity in school, he claimed he had no natural sense of how to develop friendships. “I didn’t know what made people want to be friends,” he said. “I didn’t know what underlay social interactions.” However, Bundy’s friends from Woodrow Wilson High School told Ann Rule that he was “well known and well liked” there, “a medium-sized fish in a large pond.” His only significant athletic avocation was snow skiing, which he pursued enthusiastically using stolen equipment and forged lift tickets. During high school he was arrested at least twice on suspicion of burglary and auto theft. When he reached age 18, the details of the incidents were expunged from his record, as is customary in Washington and most other states.
After graduating from high school in 1965 Bundy spent a year at the University of Puget Sound (UPS) before transferring to the University of Washington (UW) in 1966 to study Chinese. In 1967 he became romantically involved with a UW classmate who is identified in Bundy biographies by several pseudonyms, most commonly Stephanie Brooks. In early 1968 he dropped out of college and worked at a series of minimum-wage jobs. He also volunteered at the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller‘s presidential campaign, and in August, attended the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami as a Rockefeller delegate. Shortly thereafter Brooks ended their relationship and returned to her family home in California, frustrated by what she described as Bundy’s immaturity and lack of ambition. Devastated by her rejection, Bundy traveled to Colorado and then further east, visiting relatives in Arkansas and Philadelphia, and enrolling for one semester at Temple University. It was at this time in 1969, Rule believes, that Bundy visited the office of birth records in Burlington and confirmed his true parentage.
Back in Washington, Bundy became a more focused and goal-oriented person. In the fall of 1969 he met Elizabeth Kloepfer (identified in Bundy literature as Meg Anders, Beth Archer, or Liz Kendall), a divorcée from Ogden, Utah who worked as a secretary at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Their stormy relationship would continue well past his initial incarceration in Utah in 1976. In mid-1970 he re-enrolled at UW, this time as a psychology major, and became an honor student, well-regarded by his professors. In 1971 he took a job at Seattle’s Suicide Hotline crisis center. There he met and worked alongside former Seattle police officer and future crime writer Ann Rule, who would later write one of the definitive Bundy biographies, The Stranger Beside Me. Rule saw nothing disturbing in Bundy’s personality at the time, describing him as “kind, solicitous, and empathetic”.
After graduating from UW in 1972, Bundy joined Governor Daniel J. Evans‘s reelection campaign. Posing as a college student, he shadowed Evans’s opponent, former governor Albert Rosellini, and recorded his speeches for analysis by Evans’s team. After the election he was hired as an assistant to Ross Davis, Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. Davis thought well of Bundy, describing him as “smart, aggressive … and a believer in the system.” In early 1973, despite mediocre Law School Admission Test scores, Bundy was accepted into the law schools of UPS and the University of Utah on the strength of letters of recommendation from Davis, Governor Evans, and several UW psychology professors.
During a trip to California on Republican Party business in the summer of 1973, Bundy came back into the life of ex-girlfriend Brooks, who marveled at his transformation into a serious, dedicated professional, influential in political circles, and about to enter law school. He continued to date Kloepfer as well; neither woman was aware of the other’s existence. In the fall of 1973 Bundy matriculated at UPS Law School and continued courting Brooks, who flew to Seattle several times to stay with him. They discussed marriage; at one point he introduced her to Davis as his fiancée. In January 1974, however, he abruptly broke off all contact; her phone calls and letters went unreturned. Finally reaching him by phone a month later, Brooks demanded to know why Bundy had unilaterally ended their relationship without explanation. In a flat, calm voice, he replied, “Stephanie, I have no idea what you mean …” and hung up. She never heard from him again. Later he explained, “I just wanted to prove to myself that I could have married her.” At about the same time Bundy began skipping classes at law school, and by April he had stopped attending entirely, as young women began to disappear in the Pacific Northwest.
First series of murders
There is no definitive consensus on when and where Bundy began killing women. Bundy told different stories to different people, and he refused to divulge the specifics of his earliest crimes, even as he confessed in gruesome detail to dozens of later murders in the days preceding his execution. He told attorney Polly Nelson that he attempted his first kidnapping in 1969 in Ocean City, New Jersey, but did not kill anyone until sometime in 1971 in Seattle. He told a psychiatrist that he killed two women in Atlantic City, NJ in 1969 while visiting family in Philadelphia. In an interview with King County Detective Robert D. Keppel he mentioned a homicide in 1972 and another in 1973 involving a hitchhiker near Tumwater, Washington, but refused to elaborate. Rule and Keppel believe he may have started killing as a teenager. Some circumstantial evidence suggests that he abducted and killed an 8-year-old Tacoma girl in 1961 when he was 14 years old, an allegation he denied repeatedly. Bundy committed his earliest documented homicides in 1974 when he was 27. By then he had (by his own admission) mastered the skills needed—in the era before DNA profiling—to leave minimal incriminating evidence at a crime scene.
Shortly after midnight on January 4, 1974, Bundy entered the basement bedroom of 18-year-old Joni Lenz (a pseudonym), a dancer and student at UW. He bludgeoned her with a metal rod from her bed frame and then sexually assaulted her with a speculum, causing extensive internal injuries. She remained unconscious for 10 days but survived the attack with permanent brain damage. A month later, again late at night, Bundy broke into the room of UW student Lynda Ann Healy, who broadcast Seattle’s radio weather reports for skiers each morning. He beat her unconscious, dressed her in bluejeans, a white blouse, and boots, and carried her away.
Female college students continued disappearing at the rate of about one per month. In March, Donna Gail Manson, a 19-year-old student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Seattle, left her dormitory on the way to a jazz concert on campus but never arrived. In April, Susan Elaine Rancourt disappeared after an evening advisors’ meeting on the campus of Central Washington State College (now Central Washington University) in Ellensburg, 110 miles (180 km) southeast of Seattle. Two female Central Washington students later came forward to report encounters—one on the night of Rancourt’s disappearance, the other three nights earlier—with a man wearing an arm sling, asking for help carrying a load of books to his brown or tan Volkswagen Beetle. On May 6, Roberta Kathleen Parks left her dormitory at Oregon State University in Corvallis, 260 miles (420 km) south of Seattle, to have coffee with friends at the Student Union Building. She never arrived.
Detectives from the Crimes Against Persons Unit of the Seattle Police Department grew increasingly concerned. There was no significant physical evidence, and the missing women had little in common, apart from being young, attractive, white college students with long hair parted in the middle. On June 1, Brenda Carol Ball, 22, disappeared after leaving the Flame Tavern in Burien, Washington near Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. She was last seen talking in the parking lot to a brown-haired man with his arm in a sling. In the early hours of June 11, UW student Georgeann Hawkins vanished while walking down the brightly lit alley between her boyfriend’s dormitory residence and her sorority house. The next morning three Seattle homicide detectives and a criminalist combed the entire alleyway on their hands and knees, finding nothing. After Hawkins’s disappearance was publicized, witnesses came forward to report seeing a man on crutches with a leg cast in the alley behind a nearby dormitory that night, struggling to carry a briefcase. One woman said the man asked her to help him carry the case to his car, a light-brown Volkswagen Beetle.
During this period Bundy was working at the Washington State Department of Emergency Services (DES) in Olympia—a government agency involved in the search for the missing women. There he met and dated Carole Ann Boone, a twice-divorced mother of two who, six years later, would play an important role in the final phase of his life.
Reports of the six missing women and Lenz’s brutal beating appeared prominently in newspapers and on television throughout Washington and Oregon. Fear spread among the population; hitchhiking by young women dropped sharply. While pressure mounted on law enforcement agencies, the paucity of physical evidence severely hampered them. Police could not provide reporters with the little information that was available for fear of compromising the investigation. Further similarities between the victims were noted, however: the disappearances all took place at night, usually near ongoing construction work, within a week of midterm or final exams; all of the victims were wearing slacks or blue jeans; and at most crime scenes there were sightings of a man wearing a cast or a sling and driving a brown Volkswagen Beetle.
The Pacific Northwest murder string culminated on July 14 with the broad-daylight abductions of two women from a crowded beach at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, 20 miles (32 km) east of Seattle. Five female witnesses described a handsome young man wearing a white tennis outfit with his left arm in a sling, speaking with a light accent, perhaps Canadian, perhaps British. Introducing himself as “Ted”, he asked their help in unloading a sailboat from his tan- or bronze-colored Volkswagen Beetle. Four refused; one accompanied him as far as his car, saw that there was no sailboat, and fled. Three additional witnesses saw him approach Janice Anne Ott, 23, a probation case worker at the King County Juvenile Court, with the sailboat story, and watched her leave the beach in his company. About four hours later Denise Naslund, an 18-year-old woman who was studying to become a computer programmer, left a picnic to go to the restroom and never returned. Bundy would later tell Stephen Michaud that Ott was still alive when he returned with Naslund—and that one was forced to watch as the other was murdered—an assertion that he would ultimately retract on the eve of his execution.
King County detectives, finally armed with a detailed description of their suspect as well his car, posted fliers throughout the Seattle area. A composite sketch was printed in regional newspapers and broadcast on local television stations. Elizabeth Kloepfer, Ann Rule, a DES employee, and a UW psychology professor all recognized the profile, the sketch, and the car, and reported Ted Bundy as a possible suspect. However, the police, who were receiving up to 200 tips per day, initially thought it unlikely that a clean-cut law student with no adult criminal record could be the perpetrator.
Two months later on September 6, two grouse hunters stumbled across the skeletal remains of Ott and Naslund near a service road in Issaquah, 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Lake Sammamish State Park. An extra femur and several vertebrae, also found on the site, were later identified by Bundy as belonging to Georgeann Hawkins. Six months later, the skulls and mandibles of Healy, Rancourt, Parks, and Ball were found on Taylor Mountain (where Bundy frequently hiked), just east of Issaquah. All bore extensive damage caused by a blunt instrument.
Idaho, Utah, Colorado
In August 1974 Bundy received a second acceptance from the University of Utah Law School and moved to Salt Lake City, leaving Kloepfer in Seattle. While he called Kloepfer often, he dated “at least a dozen” other women. As he studied the first-year law curriculum a second time, “he was devastated to find out that the other [law] students had something, some intellectual capacity, that he did not. He found the classes completely incomprehensible. ‘It was a great disappointment to me,’ he said.” Sometime during the year he lived in Utah he was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although he was not an active participant in services and ignored most church restrictions. (When asked his religious preference after his arrest, Bundy answered “Methodist”, the religion of his childhood.)
A new string of homicides began the following month with two that went undiscovered until Bundy confessed to them shortly before his execution. On September 2 he raped and strangled a still-unidentified hitchhiker in Idaho, then returned the next day to photograph and dismember the corpse. On October 2 he seized 16-year-old Nancy Wilcox in Holladay, a suburb of Salt Lake City, and dragged her into a wooded area, intending to “de-escalate” his pathologic urges, he said, by raping and releasing her. However, he strangled her—by accident, he claimed—in the process of trying to silence her.
On October 18 Melissa Smith, the 17-year-old daughter of the police chief of Midvale, another Salt Lake City suburb, disappeared after leaving a pizza parlor. Her nude body was found in a nearby mountainous area nine days later. Postmortem examination indicated that she may have remained alive for up to seven days following her disappearance. On October 31, 25 miles (40 km) south in Lehi, Laura Aime, also 17, disappeared after leaving a café just after midnight. Her naked body was found by hikers 9 miles (14 km) to the northeast in American Fork Canyon on Thanksgiving Day. Both women had been beaten, raped, sodomized, and strangled with nylon stockings. Years later Bundy described his postmortem rituals with Smith’s and Aime’s remains, including hair shampooing and application of makeup.
On a rainy November evening in Murray, Utah, Bundy approached 18-year-old telephone operator Carol DaRonch at a mall less than a mile from the Midvale restaurant where Melissa Smith was last seen. He identified himself as “Officer Roseland” of the Murray Police Department, told DaRonch that someone had attempted to break into her car, and asked her to accompany him to the station to file a complaint. When DaRonch pointed out that Bundy was driving on a road that did not lead to the police station, he immediately pulled to the shoulder and attempted to handcuff her. During their struggle he inadvertently fastened both handcuffs to the same wrist, and DaRonch was able to open the car door and escape. Later that evening Debra Kent, a 17-year-old student at Viewmont High School in Bountiful, 19 miles (31 km) north of Murray, disappeared after leaving a theater production at the school to pick up her brother. The school’s drama teacher and a student told police that “a stranger” had asked each of them to come out to the parking lot to identify a car. Another student later saw the same man pacing in the rear of the auditorium, and the drama teacher spotted him again shortly before the end of the play. Investigators later found a key outside the auditorium which unlocked the handcuffs taken off Carol DaRonch.
In November Elizabeth Kloepfer, having read that young women were disappearing in towns surrounding Salt Lake City, called King County police a second time. Detective Randy Hergesheimer of the Major Crimes division interviewed her in detail. By then, Bundy had risen considerably on the King County hierarchy of suspicion, but the Lake Sammamish witness considered most reliable by detectives failed to pick him from a photo lineup. In December, Kloepfer called the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and repeated her suspicions. Bundy’s name was added to their list of suspects, but at that time no credible evidence linked him to the Utah crimes. In January 1975, Bundy returned to Seattle after his final exams and spent a week with Kloepfer, who did not tell him she had reported him three separate times to police. She made plans to visit him in Salt Lake City in August.
In 1975 Bundy shifted much of his criminal activity eastward to Colorado from his base in Utah. On January 12, a 23-year-old registered nurse named Caryn Campbell disappeared while walking down a well-lit hallway between the elevator and her room at the Wildwood Inn (now the Wildwood Lodge) in Snowmass, 400 miles (640 km) southeast of Salt Lake City. Her nude body was found a month later next to a dirt road just outside the resort. She had been killed by blows to her head from a blunt instrument that left distinctive linear grooved depressions on her skull; her body also had deep cuts from a sharp weapon. A hundred miles (160 km) northeast of Snowmass on March 15, Vail ski instructor Julie Cunningham, 26, disappeared while walking from her apartment to a dinner date with a friend. Bundy later told Colorado investigators that he approached her on crutches and asked that she help carry his ski boots to his car, where he clubbed and handcuffed her, then assaulted and strangled her at a remote secondary site near Rifle, Colorado, 90 miles (140 km) west of Vail. Weeks later he made the six-hour drive from Salt Lake City to revisit her remains. Denise Oliverson, 25, disappeared near the Utah-Colorado border in Grand Junction on April 6 while riding her bicycle to her parents’ house; her bike and sandals were found under a viaduct near a railroad bridge. On May 6 Bundy lured 12-year-old Lynette Culver from her junior high school in Pocatello, Idaho, 160 miles (260 km) north of Salt Lake City, and took her to his hotel room where he drowned and then sexually assaulted her.
In mid-May three of Bundy’s Washington State DES coworkers, including Carole Ann Boone, visited him in Salt Lake City and stayed for a week in his apartment. Bundy spent a week in Seattle with Kloepfer in early June and they discussed getting married the following Christmas. Again, Kloepfer made no mention of her discussions with the King County Police and Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and Bundy disclosed neither his ongoing relationship with Boone nor a concurrent romance with a Utah law student known in various accounts as Kim Andrews or Sharon Auer.
On June 28 Susan Curtis vanished from the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, 45 miles (72 km) south of Salt Lake City. Curtis’s murder became Bundy’s last confession, tape-recorded moments before he was led down the hall to the execution chamber. The bodies of Wilcox, Kent, Cunningham, Culver, Curtis, and Oliverson have never been recovered.
In Washington state, investigators were still struggling to analyze the Pacific Northwest murder spree that had ended as abruptly as it had begun. In an effort to make sense of an overwhelming mass of data, they resorted to the then-innovative strategy of compiling a database. They used the King County payroll computer, a “huge, primitive machine” by today’s standards, but the only one available for their use. After inputting the many lists they had compiled—classmates and acquaintances of each victim, Volkswagen owners named “Ted”, known sex offenders, and so on—they queried the computer for coincidences. Out of thousands of names, 26 turned up on four separate lists; one was Ted Bundy. Detectives also manually compiled a list of their 100 “best” suspects, and Bundy was on that list as well. He was “literally at the top of the pile” of suspects when word came from Utah of his arrest.
Arrest and first trial
Bundy was arrested in August 1975 by a Utah Highway Patrol officer in Granger, a Salt Lake City suburb near Murray, after he failed to pull over for a routine traffic stop. The officer, noting that the front passenger seat was missing, searched the car; he found a ski mask, a second mask fashioned from pantyhose, a crowbar, handcuffs, trash bags, a coil of rope, an ice pick, and other items initially assumed to be burglary tools. Bundy calmly explained that the ski mask was for skiing, he had found the handcuffs in a dumpster, and the rest were common household items. However, Detective Jerry Thompson remembered a very similar suspect and car description from the November 1974 DaRonch kidnapping, and Bundy’s name from Kloepfer’s December 1974 phone call. In a search of Bundy’s apartment, police found a guide to Colorado ski resorts with a checkmark by the Wildwood Inn, and a brochure advertising the Viewmont High School play in Bountiful (where Debra Kent had disappeared), but nothing sufficiently incriminating to hold him. He was released on his own recognizance. (Bundy later said that searchers missed a collection of Polaroid photographs of his victims hidden in the utility room, which he destroyed after he was released.)
Salt Lake City police placed Bundy on 24-hour surveillance, and Thompson flew to Seattle with two other detectives to interview Kloepfer. She told them that in the year prior to his move to Utah, she occasionally discovered objects she “couldn’t understand” in her house and in Bundy’s apartment: a set of crutches; a bag of plaster of Paris that he admitted he had stolen from a medical supply house; a meat cleaver, which he packed when he moved to Utah; surgical gloves; an Oriental knife in a wooden case that he kept in his glove compartment; and a sack full of women’s clothing. Bundy was perpetually in debt to everyone and Kloepfer suspected he stole most everything of significant value that he owned. Once, when she confronted him over a new TV and stereo, he warned her, “If you tell anyone, I’ll break your fucking neck.” She said Bundy became “very upset” whenever she considered cutting her hair—which was long and parted in the middle. She would sometimes awaken in the middle of the night to find him under the bed covers with a flashlight, examining her body. He kept a lug wrench, taped halfway up the handle, in the trunk of her car (she too owned a Volkwagen Beetle, which Ted often borrowed) “for protection”. The detectives confirmed that Bundy had not been with Kloepfer on any of the nights the Pacific Northwest victims had vanished, nor on the day Ott and Naslund were abducted. Shortly thereafter, Kloepfer was interviewed by Seattle homicide detective Kathy McChesney and learned of the existence of Stephanie Brooks and her brief engagement to Bundy around Christmas 1973.
In September Bundy sold his Volkswagen Beetle to a Midvale teenager. Utah police impounded it, and FBI technicians dismantled and searched it. They found hairs matching samples obtained from Caryn Campbell’s body. Later, they also identified hair strands “microscopically indistinguishable” from those of Melissa Smith and Carol DaRonch. FBI lab specialist Robert Neill concluded that the presence of hair strands in one car matching three different victims who had never met would be “a coincidence of mind-boggling rarity.”
On October 2, 1975, detectives put Bundy in a lineup before DaRonch, who immediately identified him as “Officer Roseland”. The witnesses from Bountiful picked him from the same lineup as the stranger lurking about the high school auditorium. There was insufficient evidence linking him to Debra Kent (whose body was never found), but more than enough to charge him with aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault in the DaRonch case. He was freed on $15,000 bail (paid by his parents), and he spent most of the time between indictment and trial in Seattle, living in Kloepfer’s house. Seattle police had insufficient evidence to charge him in the Pacific Northwest murders, but kept him under close surveillance. “When Ted and I stepped out on the porch to go somewhere,” Kloepfer wrote, “so many unmarked police cars started up that it sounded like the beginning of the Indy 500.”
In November, the three principal Bundy investigators—Jerry Thompson from Utah, Robert Keppel from Washington, and Michael Fisher from Colorado—met and exchanged information with 30 detectives and prosecutors from five states in Aspen, Colorado. While officials left the meeting (later known as the Aspen Summit) convinced that Bundy was the murderer they sought, they agreed that more hard evidence would be needed before he could be charged with any of the murders.
Bundy stood trial in February 1976, forfeiting his right to a jury on the advice of his attorney, John O’Connell, due to the publicity surrounding the case. After a four-day trial the judge found him guilty of kidnapping and assault. He was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison on June 30. On October 22 Colorado authorities charged him with Caryn Campbell’s murder. After a period of resistance he waived extradition and he was transferred to Aspen in January 1977.
1977 photograph—taken shortly after first escape and recapture—from Bundy’s FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives poster
On June 7, 1977, Bundy was transported 60 miles (97 km) from the county jail in Glenwood Springs to Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen for a preliminary hearing. He had elected to serve as his own attorney and as such was excused by the judge from wearing handcuffs or leg shackles. During a recess he asked to visit the courthouse’s law library to research his case. Concealed behind a bookcase, he opened a window and jumped from the second story, spraining his right ankle as he landed. After shedding an outer layer of clothing he walked through Vail as roadblocks were being set up on its outskirts, then hiked southward onto Aspen Mountain. Near its summit he broke into a hunting cabin and stole food, clothing, and a rifle. The following day he left the cabin and continued south toward the town of Crested Butte, but became lost in the forest. For two days he wandered aimlessly on the mountain, missing two trails that led downward to his intended destination. On June 10 Bundy broke into a camping trailer on Maroon Lake, 10 miles (16 km) south of Aspen, taking food and a ski parka; but instead of continuing southward he walked back north toward Aspen, eluding roadblocks and search parties. Three days later he stole a car at the edge of Aspen Golf Course. Cold, sleep-deprived, and in constant pain from his sprained ankle, he drove back into Aspen, where two police officers noticed his car weaving in and out of its lane and pulled him over. He had been a fugitive for six days. In the car were maps of the mountain area around Aspen which prosecutors were using to show the location of Caryn Campbell’s body (as his own attorney, Bundy had rights of discovery), indicating that his escape had been planned in advance.
Back in Glenwood Springs County Jail, Bundy devised a new escape plan: He acquired a hacksaw blade from another inmate and over $500 in cash that he later said was smuggled in by visiting friends—Carole Ann Boone in particular—over a six-month period. During the evenings, while other prisoners were showering, Bundy sawed a hole about one foot (.30 m) square in the corner of his cell’s ceiling and, after losing 35 pounds (16 kg), was able to wriggle through the hole into the crawl space above. In the weeks that followed he made multiple practice runs, exploring the parameters of the space. An informant told guards that he heard someone moving around within the ceiling in the middle of the night, but the report was not investigated. At a courtroom appearance on December 23, 1977, the Aspen trial judge approved a change of venue to Colorado Springs. On December 30, with most of the jail staff on Christmas break and the short-term prisoners released to spend the holidays with their families, Bundy piled books and files in his bunk bed under a blanket to simulate his sleeping body and slipped into the crawlspace. He broke through the ceiling into the apartment of the chief guard—who was out for the evening with his wife—changed into street clothes, and walked out the front door to freedom.
After stealing a car Bundy drove eastward out of Glenwood Springs, but the car soon broke down in the mountains on Interstate 70, stranding him in the middle of the night in a snowstorm. A passing motorist gave him a ride into Vail, 60 miles (97 km) to the east. From there he caught a bus to Denver, where he boarded a flight to Chicago. The skeleton crew at Glenwood Springs Jail did not discover that Bundy was gone until noon on December 31, more than 17 hours after his escape. By then he was already in Chicago.
From Chicago Bundy traveled by train to Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, on January 1 in a local tavern, he watched his alma mater UW defeat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Five days later he stole a car and drove to Atlanta, where he boarded a bus and arrived in Tallahassee, Florida on January 8. He rented a room under the alias Chris Hagen at a boarding house near the Florida State University (FSU) campus. Bundy later said he initially resolved to find legitimate employment and refrain from further criminal activity, knowing he could probably remain free and undetected in Florida indefinitely as long as he did not attract the attention of police. However, his lone job application, at a construction site, had to be abandoned when he was asked to produce identification. He reverted to his old habits of shoplifting and stealing credit cards from women’s wallets left in shopping carts.
Sometime during the evening of January 14 or the early hours of January 15, 1978—one week after his arrival in Tallahassee—Bundy entered FSU’s Chi Omega sorority house through a rear door with a faulty lock. Beginning at about 2:45am he bludgeoned Margaret Bowman, 21, with a piece of oak firewood as she slept, then garroted her with a nylon stocking. He then turned on 20-year-old Lisa Levy, beating her unconscious, strangling her, tearing off one of her nipples, biting deeply into her left buttock, and sexually assaulting her with a hair mist bottle. In an adjoining bedroom he attacked Kathy Kleiner, who suffered a broken jaw and deep shoulder lacerations; and Karen Chandler, who suffered a concussion, broken jaw, loss of teeth, and a crushed finger. Tallahassee detectives later determined that the entire attack took place in less than 15 minutes, within earshot of more than 30 witnesses who heard nothing. After leaving the sorority house Bundy broke into an apartment building eight blocks away and attacked FSU student Cheryl Thomas, dislocating her shoulder and fracturing her jaw and skull in five places. She was left with permanent deafness and equilibrium damage that ended her dance career. On Thomas’s bed, police found a semen stain and a panty-hose “mask” containing two hairs “similar to Bundy’s in class and characteristic”.
On February 8, Bundy drove 150 miles (240 km) east to Jacksonville in a stolen FSU van. In a parking lot he approached 14-year-old Leslie Parmenter, the daughter of a Jacksonville police detective, identifying himself as “Richard Burton, Fire Department”, but retreated when her older brother arrived. The next day he backtracked 60 miles (97 km) westward to Lake City. At Lake City Junior High School that morning, 12-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach was summoned to her homeroom by a teacher to retrieve a forgotten purse; she never returned to class. After an intensive search, her partially mummified remains were found seven weeks later in a pig farrowing shed near Suwannee River State Park, 30 miles (48 km) from Lake City.
On February 12 Bundy left Tallahassee, driving west across the Florida Panhandle. Three days later at around 1:00 a.m., he was stopped by Pensacola police officer David Lee near the Alabama state line after a “wants and warrants” check showed that the Volkswagen Beetle he was driving was stolen. When told he was under arrest, Bundy kicked Lee’s legs out from under him and took off running. Lee fired a warning shot and then a second round, gave chase, and tackled him. The two struggled over Lee’s gun before the officer finally subdued and arrested Bundy. In the stolen vehicle were three sets of FSU coeds’ IDs, 21 stolen credit cards, and a stolen television set. As Lee transported his suspect to jail, unaware that he had just arrested one of the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, he heard Bundy say, “I wish you had killed me.”
Florida trials, marriage
Following a change of venue to Miami, Bundy stood trial for the Chi Omega homicides and assaults in June 1979. The trial was covered by 250 reporters from five continents, and was the first to be televised nationally in the United States. Despite the presence of five court-appointed attorneys, Bundy again handled much of his own defense. From the beginning, he “sabotaged the entire defense effort out of spite, distrust, and grandiose delusion,” Polly Nelson later wrote. “Ted [was] facing murder charges, with a possible death sentence, and all that mattered to him apparently was that he be in charge.”
According to Mike Minerva, a Tallahassee public defender and member of the defense team, a pre-trial plea bargain was negotiated in which Bundy would plead guilty to killing Levy, Bowman, and Leach in exchange for a firm 75-year prison sentence. Prosecutors were amenable to a deal, by one account, because “prospects of losing at trial were very good.” Bundy, on the other hand, saw the plea deal not only as a means of avoiding the death penalty, but also as a “tactical move”: He could enter his plea, then wait a few years for evidence to disintegrate or become lost, and for witnesses to die, move on, or retract their testimony. Once the case against him had deteriorated beyond repair, he could file a post-conviction motion to set aside the plea and secure an acquittal. At the last minute, however, Bundy refused the deal. “It made him realize he was going to have to stand up in front of the whole world and say he was guilty,” Minerva said. “He just couldn’t do it.”
At trial, crucial testimony came from Chi Omega members Connie Hastings, who placed Bundy in the vicinity of Chi Omega House that evening, and Nita Neary, who saw him leaving the sorority house clutching the oak murder weapon. Incriminating physical evidence included the bite impressions Bundy left in Levy’s left buttock, which forensic odontologists Richard Souviron and Lowell Levine matched to castings of Bundy’s teeth. The jury deliberated less than seven hours before convicting him on July 24, 1979 of the two murders, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and two counts of burglary. The trial judge imposed death sentences for the murder convictions.
Six months later a second trial took place in Orlando for the abduction and murder of Kimberly Leach. Bundy was again found guilty after less than eight hours’ deliberation, principally due to the testimony of an eyewitness who saw him leading Leach from the schoolyard to his van. Other important evidence included clothing fibers with an unusual manufacturing error, found in the stolen van and on Leach’s body, which matched fibers from the jacket Bundy was wearing when he was arrested.
During the penalty phase of the trial, Bundy took advantage of an obscure Florida law providing that a marriage declaration in court in the presence of a judge constituted a legal marriage. As he was questioning former Washington State DES coworker Carole Ann Boone—who had moved to Florida to be near Bundy, had testified on his behalf during both trials, and was again testifying on his behalf as a character witness—he asked her to marry him. She accepted, and Bundy declared to the court that they were legally married.
On February 10, 1980 Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution for a third time. As the sentence was announced he reportedly stood and shouted, “Tell the jury they were wrong!” This third death sentence would be the one ultimately carried out more than nine years later.
In October 1982, Boone gave birth to a daughter fathered, some sources believe, by Bundy. While conjugal visits were not allowed at Raiford Prison, inmates were known to pool their money to bribe guards to allow them intimate time alone with their female visitors.
Death row, confessions, and execution
Shortly after the conclusion of the Leach trial and the beginning of the long appeals process that followed, Bundy initiated a series of interviews with Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. Speaking mostly in third person to avoid “the stigma of confession”, he began for the first time to divulge details of his crimes and thought processes.
He recounted his career as a thief, confirming Kloepfer’s long-time suspicion that he had shoplifted virtually everything of substance that he owned. “The big payoff for me,” he said, “was actually possessing whatever it was I had stolen. I really enjoyed having something … that I had wanted and gone out and taken.” Possession proved to be an important motive for rape and murder as well. He began abducting women when consensual sex no longer satisfied him; sexual assault, he said, fulfilled his need to “totally possess” his victims. At first, he killed the women “as a matter of expediency … to eliminate the possibility of [being] caught.” Later, however, murder became part of the “adventure.” “The ultimate possession was, in fact, the taking of the life,” he said. “And then … the physical possession of the remains.”
Bundy also confided in Special Agent William Hagmaier of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. Hagmaier was struck by the “deep, almost mystical satisfaction” that Bundy took in murder. “He said that after a while, murder is not just a crime of lust or violence,” Hagmaier related. “It becomes possession. They are part of you … [the victim] becomes a part of you, and you [two] are forever one … and the grounds where you kill them or leave them become sacred to you, and you will always be drawn back to them.” Bundy told Hagmaier he considered himself an “amateur”, an “impulsive” killer in his early years, before moving into what he called his “prime” or “predator” phase at about the time of Lynda Healy’s murder in 1974. This implied that he began killing well before 1974—though he never explicitly admitted doing so.
In July 1984 Raiford guards found two hacksaw blades hidden in Bundy’s cell. A steel bar in one of its windows had been sawed completely through at the top and bottom and glued back in place with a homemade soap-based adhesive. Several months later his cell was changed again after guards found a mirror.
Sometime during this period Bundy was attacked by a group of his fellow death row inmates. Though he denied having been assaulted, a number of inmates confessed to the crime—which was characterized by one source as a “gang rape.”
In October 1984 Bundy, who by then considered himself an expert on serial killers, contacted Robert Keppel and offered to share his self-proclaimed expertise in the ongoing hunt for his successor in Washington, the Green River Killer. Keppel and Green River Task Force detective Dave Reichert interviewed Bundy, but Gary Leon Ridgway remained at large for a further 17 years. Keppel later wrote a book about the Green River interviews.
In early 1986 an execution date—March 4—was set on the Chi Omega convictions; the Supreme Court issued a brief stay, but the execution was quickly rescheduled. In April, shortly after the new date of July 2 was announced, Bundy confessed to Hagmaier and Nelson what they believed was the full range of his depredations, including details of what he did to some victims after their deaths. He told them that he revisited Taylor Mountain, Issaquah, and other secondary crime scenes, often several times, to lie with his victims and perform sexual acts with their decomposing bodies until putrefaction forced him to stop. In some cases he drove several hours each way and remained the entire night. In Utah he applied makeup to Melissa Smith’s lifeless face, and he repeatedly washed Laura Aime’s hair. “If you’ve got time,” he told Hagmaier, “they can be anything you want them to be.” He confirmed long-held suspicions that he decapitated some of his victims with a hacksaw, and kept at least one group of severed heads—probably the four later found on Taylor Mountain (Rancourt, Parks, Ball, and Healy)—in his apartment for a period of time before disposing of them.
Less than 15 hours before the scheduled July 2 execution, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed it indefinitely and remanded the Chi Omega case for review of technicalities (such as Bundy’s mental competency to stand trial) which, ultimately, were never resolved. A new date, November 18, was then set to carry out the Leach sentence; the Eleventh Circuit Court issued a stay on November 17th. In mid-1988 the Eleventh Circuit ruled against Bundy, and in December the Supreme Court denied a motion to review the ruling. Within hours of that final denial a firm execution date—January 24, 1989—was announced.
With all appeal avenues exhausted and no further motivation to deny his crimes, Bundy agreed to speak frankly with investigators. To Keppel, he confessed to all eight of the Washington and Oregon homicides for which he was the prime suspect. He described three additional previously unknown victims in Washington and two in Oregon whom he declined to identify (if indeed he ever knew their identities). He said he left a fifth corpse—Donna Manson’s—on Taylor Mountain, but incinerated her head in Kloepfer’s fireplace. (“Of all the things I did to this woman [Kloepfer],” he told Keppel, “this is probably the one she is least likely to forgive me for. Poor Liz.”) He described in detail his abduction of Georgeann Hawkins from the brightly lit UW alley—how he lured her to his car, clubbed and handcuffed her, drove her to Issaquah, raped and strangled her, spent the entire night with her body, and revisited her corpse on three later occasions. “He described the Issaquah crime scene [where the bones of Ott, Naslund, and Hawkins were found], and it was almost like he was just there,” Keppel said. “Like he was seeing everything. He was infatuated with the idea because he spent so much time there. He is just totally consumed with murder all the time.” Nelson’s impressions were similar: “It was the absolute misogyny of his crimes that stunned me,” she wrote, “his manifest rage against women. He had no compassion at all…he was totally engrossed in the details. His murders were his life’s accomplishments.”
To detectives from Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, Bundy confessed to numerous additional homicides—including several that police had been unaware of—but as he did so, a new ulterior strategy became apparent: He withheld many details, hoping to parlay the incomplete information into yet another stay of execution. “There are other buried remains in Colorado,” he admitted, but refused to elaborate. In cases where he did give details, nothing was found. Colorado detective Matt Lindvall interpreted this as a conflict between his desire to postpone his execution by divulging information and his need to remain in “total possession—the only person who knew his victims’ true resting places.”
When it became clear that no further stays would be forthcoming from the courts, Bundy supporters began lobbying for executive clemency. Diana Weiner, a young Florida attorney who visited Bundy frequently during this period “wearing very little, and nothing under it”, asked families of the mountain states victims to appeal to Florida Governor Bob Martinez for a postponement to give Bundy time to reveal more information. All refused, and Martinez made it clear that he would not agree to further delays in any case. “We are not going to have the system manipulated,” he told reporters. “For him to be negotiating for his life over the bodies of others is despicable.”
Hagmaier was present during Bundy’s final interviews with investigators. On the eve of his execution, he talked of suicide. “He did not want to give the state the satisfaction of watching him die,” Hagmaier said. Ted Bundy died in the Raiford electric chair at 7:16 a.m. Eastern time on January 24, 1989. Several hundred celebrants sang, danced, and set off fireworks in a pasture across the street from the prison as the execution was carried out, then cheered loudly as the white hearse bearing Bundy’s body departed the prison. His remains were cremated in Gainesville and the ashes scattered at an undisclosed location in the Cascade Range of Washington State.
 Modus operandi and victim profiles
Bundy’s assault methods of choice were blunt trauma and strangulation; every recovered skull except Kimberly Leach’s showed evidence of blunt trauma, often with broken front teeth. Every cadaver on which an autopsy was possible exhibited evidence of strangulation. He deliberately avoided firearms as murder weapons due to the noise they made and the ballistic evidence they left behind. Bundy was unusually skilled at minimizing physical evidence. His fingerprints were never found at a crime scene, nor was any other incontrovertible evidence of his guilt, a fact he repeated often during the years in which he attempted to maintain his innocence.
Bundy employed two separate and very distinct modi operandi (M.O.), although his first documented homicide (Lynda Healy’s) involved a combination of both. His simpler M.O. consisted of forcible late-night entry followed by violent attack with a blunt weapon on a sleeping victim. Such attacks were virtually silent and usually remained undiscovered until morning. Some victims were sexually assaulted with inert objects; all were left as they lay, unconscious or dead. In the more elaborate technique, Bundy would employ various ruses designed to lure his victim to the vicinity of his vehicle where he had pre-positioned a weapon, usually a crowbar. In many cases he wore a plaster cast on one leg or a sling on one arm, and sometimes hobbled on crutches, then requested assistance in carrying something to his vehicle. At other times he identified himself as a police officer or firefighter. Bundy was handsome and charismatic, traits he exploited to win his victims’ confidence. Once near or inside his car or van the victim would be overpowered, bludgeoned, and restrained with handcuffs. Most were sexually assaulted and strangled, either at the primary crime scene or (more commonly) after being transported to a pre-selected secondary site, often a considerable distance away.
At the secondary site the victim’s clothing would be removed and later burned, or in at least one case (Julie Cunningham’s) deposited in a Goodwill Industries collection bin. Bundy explained that the clothing removal was ritualistic, but also a practical matter, as it minimized the chance of leaving trace evidence at the crime scene that could implicate him. (A manufacturing error in fibers from his own clothing, however, provided a crucial incriminating link to Kimberly Leach.) He often revisited his secondary crime scenes to engage in acts of necrophilia. He took Polaroid photos of most of his victims. “When you work hard to do something right,” he told Hagmaier, “you don’t want to forget it.” Consumption of large quantities of alcohol was an “essential component”, he told Keppel, and later Michaud; he needed to be “extremely drunk” while on the prowl in order to “significantly diminish” his inhibitions and to “sedate” the “dominant personality” that he feared might prevent his inner “entity” from acting on his impulses.
Bundy eluded positive identification for a protracted period in part because his facial features were generic and not particularly memorable. Early on, police complained of the futility of showing his photograph to witnesses; he looked different in virtually every photo ever taken of him. In person, “… his expression would so change his whole appearance that there were moments that you weren’t even sure you were looking at the same person,” said Stewart Hanson, Jr., the judge in the DaRonch trial. “He [was] really a changeling.” A common descriptor was “chameleon-like”, in that he was able to change his appearance significantly with only minor adjustments to his features, such as the addition or subtraction of facial hair, or a change in hairstyle. Even his Volkswagen Beetle proved difficult to pin down; its color was variously described by witnesses as metallic or non-metallic, tan or bronze, light brown or dark brown.
All of Bundy’s known victims were white females, most of middle class backgrounds. Almost all were between the ages of 15 and 25 and most were college students. There is no evidence that he had met or interacted with any of them prior to attacking them. (In their last conversation before his execution, Bundy told Kloepfer he had purposely stayed away from her “when he felt the power of his sickness building in him.”) Rule noted that most of the identified victims had long straight hair, parted in the middle—like Stephanie Brooks, the woman who rejected him, and to whom he later became engaged and then rejected in return. Rule speculated that Bundy’s animosity toward his first girlfriend triggered his protracted rampage and caused him to target victims who resembled her. Bundy dismissed this hypothesis: “[T]hey … just fit the general criteria of being young and attractive,” he told Hugh Aynesworth. “Too many people have bought this crap that all the girls were similar … [but] almost everything was dissimilar … physically, they were almost all different.” He did concede that youth and beauty were “absolutely indispensable criteria” in his choice of victims.
Bundy underwent multiple psychiatric examinations; the experts’ diagnoses varied. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and an authority on violent behavior, initially made the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but later changed her impression more than once. While other psychiatrists and psychologists experienced similar difficulties with a precise diagnosis, evidence pointed away from bipolar disorder or other psychoses. Rather, the classic criteria for one or more personality disorders were clearly identifiable. People with such disorders (known at that time as “sociopaths”) can distinguish right from wrong, but that ability has minimal effect on their behavior. They are devoid of feelings of guilt or remorse, a point readily admitted by Bundy himself. “Guilt doesn’t solve anything, really,” he said in 1981. “It hurts you…I guess I am in the enviable position of not having to deal with guilt. There’s just no reason for it.” Other hallmarks include narcissism, poor judgment, and manipulative behavior. “Sociopaths,” Lake City prosecutor George Dekle wrote, “are egotistical manipulators who think they can con anybody.”
The afternoon before he was executed, Bundy granted an interview to Rev. James Dobson, psychologist and founder of the Christian evangelical organization Focus on the Family. During the interview, Bundy made new statements about violence in the media and the pornographic “roots” of his crimes. “It happened in stages, gradually,” he said. “My experience with…pornography that deals on a violent level with sexuality, is once you become addicted to it…I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Until you reach a point where the pornography only goes so far…where you begin to wonder if maybe actually doing it would give that which is beyond just reading it or looking at it.” Violence in the media, he said, “particularly sexualized violence,” sent boys “down the road to being Ted Bundys.” The FBI, he suggested, should stake out adult movie houses, and follow the patrons as they left. “You are going to kill me,” he said, “and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that.”
Researchers generally agree that Bundy’s sudden condemnation of pornography was one last manipulative attempt to forestall his execution by catering to Dobson’s agenda as a longtime anti-pornography advocate, telling him precisely what he wanted to hear. Bundy had told Michaud and Aynsworth in 1980, and Hagmaier the night before he spoke to Dobson, that pornography played a negligible role in his development as a serial killer. “The problem wasn’t pornography,” wrote Dekle. “The problem was Bundy.”
As Rule and Aynesworth both noted, for Bundy, the fault always lay with someone or something else. While he eventually confessed to 30 murders, he never accepted responsibility for any of them, even when offered that opportunity prior to the Chi Omega trial—which would have averted the death penalty. He deflected blame onto a wide variety of scapegoats, including his abusive grandfather, the absence of his biological father, the concealment of his true parentage, alcohol, the media, the police (whom he accused of planting evidence), “society” in general, violence on television, and ultimately, pornography. On at least one occasion he even tried to blame his victims: “I have known people who…radiate vulnerability,” he wrote in a 1977 letter to Kloepfer. “Their facial expressions say ‘I am afraid of you.’ These people invite abuse…By expecting to be hurt, do they subtly encourage it?” Blame shifting and outright denial were Bundy’s principal defense mechanisms. “I don’t know why everyone is out to get me,” he complained to Lewis. “He really and truly did not have any sense of the enormity of what he had done,” she said. “A long-term serial killer erects powerful barriers to his guilt,” Keppel wrote, “walls of denial that can sometimes never be breached.”
Bundy confessed to 30 homicides, but the true total remains unknown. Published estimates have run as high as 100 or more, and Bundy sometimes made cryptic comments to encourage that speculation. He told Hugh Aynesworth in 1980 that for every murder that had been “publicized”, there “could be one that was not.” When FBI agents proposed a total tally of 36, Bundy responded, “Add one digit to that, and you’ll have it.” Years later he told attorney Polly Nelson that the common estimate of 35 was accurate, but Robert Keppel later wrote that “[Ted] and I both knew [the total] was much higher.”
On the evening before his execution, Bundy reviewed his confessed victim tally with Bill Hagmaier on a state-by-state basis:
- Eleven in Washington (including Kathy Parks, abducted in Oregon but killed in Washington), three of them unidentified
- Eight in Utah (three unidentified)
- Three in Colorado
- Three in Florida
- Two in Oregon (both unidentified)
- Two in Idaho (one unidentified)
- One in California (unidentified)
The following is a chronological summary of the 20 identified victims and five identified survivors:
- January 4: Joni Lenz (pseudonym) (age 18): Bludgeoned and sexually assaulted in her bed as she slept; survived
- February 1: Lynda Ann Healy (21): Bludgeoned while asleep and abducted; skull and mandible recovered at Taylor Mountain site
- March 12: Donna Gail Manson (19): Abducted while walking to concert at Evergreen State College; body left (according to Bundy) at Taylor Mountain site, but never found
- April 17: Susan Elaine Rancourt (18): Disappeared after evening advisors’ meeting, Central Washington State College; skull and mandible recovered at Taylor Mountain site
- May 6: Roberta Kathleen Parks (22): Vanished from Oregon State University in Corvallis; skull and mandible recovered at Taylor Mountain site
- June 1: Brenda Carol Ball (22): Disappeared after leaving the Flame Tavern in Burien, Washington; skull and mandible recovered at Taylor Mountain site
- June 11: Georgeann Hawkins (18): Disappeared from alley behind her sorority house, UW; skeletal remains recovered at Issaquah site
- July 14: Janice Ann Ott (23): Abducted from Lake Sammamish State Park in broad daylight; skeletal remains recovered at Issaquah site
- July 14: Denise Marie Naslund (19): Abducted four hours after Ott from the same park; skeletal remains recovered at Issaquah site
- October 2: Nancy Wilcox (16): Ambushed, assaulted, and strangled in Holladay, Utah; body never found
- October 18: Melissa Anne Smith (17): Vanished from Midvale, Utah; body found in nearby mountainous area
- October 31: Laura Aime (17): Disappeared from Lehi, Utah; body discovered by hikers in American Fork Canyon
- November 8: Carol DaRonch (18): Attempted abduction in Murray, Utah; escaped from Bundy’s car and survived
- November 8: Debra Kent (17): Vanished after leaving a school play in Bountiful, Utah; body left (according to Bundy) near Fairview, Utah; minimal skeletal remains (one patella) found, but never positively identified as Kent’s
- January 12: Caryn Campbell (23): Disappeared from hotel hallway in Snowmass, Colorado; body discovered on a dirt road near the hotel
- March 15: Julie Cunningham (26): Disappeared on the way to a tavern in Vail, Colorado; body buried (according to Bundy) near Rifle, 90 miles (140 km) west of Vail, but never found
- April 6: Denise Oliverson (25): Abducted while bicycling to her parents’ house in Grand Junction, Colorado; body thrown (according to Bundy) into the Colorado River 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Grand Junction, but never found
- May 6: Lynette Culver (12): Abducted from Alameda Junior High School in Pocatello, Idaho; body never found
- June 28: Susan Curtis (15) Disappeared during a youth conference at Brigham Young University; body buried (according to Bundy) near Price, Utah, 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Provo, but never found
- January 15: Margaret Bowman (21): Bludgeoned and then strangled as she slept, Chi Omega sorority, FSU (No secondary crime scene)
- January 15: Lisa Levy (20): Bludgeoned, strangled and sexually assaulted as she slept, Chi Omega sorority, FSU (No secondary crime scene)
- January 15: Karen Chandler (21): Bludgeoned as she slept, Chi Omega sorority, FSU; survived
- January 15: Kathy Kleiner (21): Bludgeoned as she slept, Chi Omega sorority, FSU; survived
- January 15: Cheryl Thomas (21): Bludgeoned as she slept, eight blocks from Chi Omega; survived
- February 9: Kimberly Leach (12): Abducted from junior high school in Lake City, Florida; skeletal remains found near Suwannee River State Park
Other possible victims
Bundy remains a suspect in several unsolved homicides, and is likely responsible for others that will never be identified. In 1987 he confided to Keppel that there were “some murders” that he would “never talk about”, because they were committed “too close to home”, “too close to family”, or involved “victims who were very young.”
- Eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr vanished from her Tacoma home in 1961 when Bundy was 14 years old. The Burr house was on Bundy’s newspaper delivery route. The girl’s father is certain he saw Bundy in a ditch at a construction site on the nearby UPS campus the morning his daughter disappeared. Other circumstantial evidence implicates him, but detectives familiar with the case have never agreed on the likelihood of his involvement. Bundy repeatedly denied culpability and wrote a letter of denial to the Burr family in 1986.
- Flight attendants Lisa Wick and Lonnie Trumbull were bludgeoned with a two-by-four in their apartment in Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill district in 1966, near the Safeway store where Bundy worked at the time. Trumbull died. Keppel, in retrospect, noted many similarities to the Chi Omega crime scene. Wick, who suffered permanent memory loss as a result of the attack, later contacted Ann Rule. “I know that it was Ted Bundy who did that to us,” she wrote, “but I can’t tell you how I know.” Bundy denied involvement, and no direct evidence implicates him.
- Rita Curran, a 24-year-old elementary school teacher and part-time motel maid, was murdered in her apartment on July 19, 1971 in Burlington, Vermont; she had been strangled, bludgeoned and raped. The location of the motel where she worked (adjacent to Bundy’s birthplace, the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers) and similarities to known Bundy crime scenes led retired FBI agent John Bassett to propose him as a suspect. No evidence firmly places Bundy in Burlington on that date, but municipal records note that a person named “Bundy” was bitten by a dog that week and long stretches of Bundy’s time—including the summer of 1971—remain unaccounted for. Curran’s murder officially remains unsolved.
- Bundy was widely believed responsible for the 1973 murders of Katherine Merry Devine and Brenda Baker, both 15 years old, in Millersylvania State Park near Olympia, Washington. DNA analysis led to the arrest and conviction of William E. Cosden for Devine’s murder in 2002. The Baker homicide remains unsolved; Bundy told Keppel he had no knowledge of either case.
- Rita Lorraine Jolly, 17, disappeared from West Linn, Oregon (a suburb of Portland), in June 1973; Vicki Lynn Hollar, 24, disappeared from Eugene, Oregon, two months later. Bundy confessed to two homicides in Oregon without identifying the victims. Oregon detectives suspected that they were Jolly and Hollar, but were unable to obtain interview time with Bundy to confirm it. Both women remain classified as missing.
- Carol Valenzuela, 20, was last seen hitchhiking near Vancouver, Washington, on August 2, 1974. Her remains were discovered two months later in a shallow grave south of Olympia along with those of an unidentified female; both had long hair parted in the middle. In August 1974 Bundy drove from Seattle to Salt Lake City and could have passed through Vancouver en route, but there is no evidence that he did. The case remains open.
- Melanie Suzanne “Suzy” Cooley, 18, disappeared April 15, 1975, after leaving Nederland High School in Nederland, Colorado, 50 miles (80 km) west of Denver. Her bludgeoned and strangled corpse was discovered by road maintenance workers two weeks later in Coal Creek Canyon, 20 miles (32 km) away. While gas receipts place Bundy in nearby Golden on the day Cooley disappeared and Cooley is included on the list of Bundy victims in most Bundy literature, Jefferson County authorities say the evidence is inconclusive and continue to treat her homicide as a cold case.
- Shelley K. Robertson, 24, failed to show up for work in Golden, Colorado on July 1, 1975. Her nude, decomposed body was found in August, 500 feet (150 m) inside a mine on Berthoud Pass, near Vail, by two mining students. Gas station receipts place Bundy in the area at the time, but there is no direct evidence of his involvement; the case remains open.
- Nancy Baird, 21, disappeared from a service station in Farmington, Utah, 20 miles (32 km) north of Salt Lake City, on July 4, 1975 and remains missing. Bundy specifically denied involvement in this case during the Death Row interviews.
- Minutes before his execution, Hagmaier queried Bundy about unsolved homicides in New Jersey, Illinois, Vermont (the Curran case), Texas, and Miami, Florida. Bundy denied involvement in any of them.