Theodore Robert "Ted" Bundy, born Theodore Robert Cowell (November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989), was an American serial killer active
between 1974 and 1978. He twice escaped from county jails before his final apprehension in February 1978. After more than a decade of vigorous
denials, he eventually confessed to over 30 murders, although the total of victims is unknown. Estimates range from 26 to over 100, the general
estimate being 35. Typically, Bundy would bludgeon his victims, then strangle them to death. He also engaged in rape and necrophilia. The state
of Florida executed Bundy in 1989.
Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell at the Elizabeth Lund Home For Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont, to Eleanor Louise Cowell.
While the identity of his father remains a mystery, Bundy's birth certificate lists a "Lloyd Marshall" Bundy's mother would later tell of grandparents,
Samuel and Eleanor Cowell, claimed him as their son. He grew up believing that his mother was his older sister. Bundy biographers Stephen
Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth wrote that he learned Louise was actually his mother while he was in high school.
For the first few years of his life, Bundy and his mother lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1950, whom he still believed was his sister, moved
to live with relatives in Tacoma, Washington. Here, Louise Cowell had her son's surname changed from Cowell to Nelson. In 1951, one year after
their move, Louise Cowell met Johnny Culpepper Bundy at an adult singles night held at Tacoma's First Methodist Church. In May of that year, the
couple were married, and soon after Johnny Bundy adopted Ted, legally changing his last name to "Bundy".
Johnny and Louise Bundy had more children, whom the young Bundy spent much of his time babysitting. Johnny Bundy tried to include his stepson
in camping trips and other father-son activities, but the boy remained emotionally detached from his stepfather. Bundy was a good student at
Woodrow Wilson High School, in Tacoma, and was active in a local Methodist church, serving as vice-president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship.
He was also involved with a local troop of the Boy Scouts of America.
Socially, Bundy remained shy and introverted throughout his high school school was unable to understand social behavior, stunting his social
development. He maintained a facade of social activity, but he had no natural sense of how to get along with other people, saying: "I didn't know
what made things tick. I didn't know what made people want to be friends. I didn't know what made people attractive to one another. I didn't
know what underlay social interactions."
In 1965, Bundy graduated from Woodrow Wilson High. Awarded a scholarship by the University of Puget Sound, he began that fall taking courses
in psychology and Oriental studies. After two semesters at UPS, he decided to transfer to Seattle's University of Washington.
While he was a university student, Bundy worked as a grocery bagger and shelf-stocker, as well as other odd jobs. As part of his course of
studies in psychology, he would later work as a night-shift volunteer at Seattle's Suicide Hot Line, a suicide crisis center that served the greater
Seattle metropolitan and suburban areas. He met and worked alongside former Seattle policewoman and fledgling crime writer Ann Rule, who
would later write a biography of Bundy and his crimes, The Stranger Beside Me.
He began a relationship with fellow university student "Stephanie Brooks" , whom he met while enrolled at UW in 1967. She ended the
relationship after her 1968 graduation and returned to her family home in California. She was fed up with what she described as Bundy's
immaturity and lack of ambition. Rule states that, around this time, Bundy decided to pay a visit to his birthplace, Burlington, Vermont. According to
Rule, he visited the local records clerk and finally uncovered the truth of his parentage.
After his discovery, Bundy became a more focused and dominant person. In 1968, he managed the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller's
Presidential campaign and attended the 1968 Republican convention in Miami, Florida as a Rockefeller supporter. He re-enrolled at UW, this time
with a major in psychology. Bundy became an honors student and was well liked by his professors. In 1969, he started dating Elizabeth Kloepfer,
a divorced secretary with a daughter, who fell deeply in love with him. They would continue dating for more than six years, until he went to prison
for kidnapping in 1976.
Bundy graduated in 1972 from UW with a degree in psychology. Soon afterward, he again went to work for the state Republican Party, which
included a close relationship with Gov. Daniel J. Evans. During the campaign, Bundy followed Evans' Democratic opponent around the state, tape
recording his speeches and reporting back to Evans personally. A minor scandal later followed when the Democrats found out about Bundy, who
had been posing as a college student. In the fall of 1973, Bundy enrolled in the law school at the University of Puget Sound, but he did poorly. He
began skipping classes, finally dropping out in the spring of 1974 at the same time young women began to disappear in the Pacific northwest.
While on a business trip to California in the summer of 1973, Bundy came back into the life of his ex-girlfriend "Stephanie Brooks" with a new look
and attitude; this time as a serious, dedicated professional who had been accepted to law school. Bundy continued to date Kloepfer as well, and
neither woman was aware the other existed. Bundy courted Brooks throughout the rest of the year, and she accepted his marriage proposal. Two
weeks later, however, shortly after New Year's 1974, he unceremoniously dumped her, refusing to return her phone calls. A few weeks after this
breakup, Bundy began a murderous rampage in Washington state.
Currently no evidence indicates when or where Bundy began killing people. Many experts, believe Bundy may have started in 1961, when Bundy
was 14 years old, though Bundy always denied killing her. The day before his execution, Bundy told his lawyer that he made his first attempt to
kidnap a woman in 1969, and implied that he committed his first actual murder sometime in 1972. At one point in his death-row confessions with
Keppel, Bundy said he committed his first murder in 1972. In 1973, one of Bundy's friends saw a pair of handcuffs in the back of Bundy's
Volkswagen. He was for many years a suspect in the December 1973 murder of Kathy Devine in Washington state, but DNA analysis led to William
Cosden's arrest and conviction for that crime in 2002. Bundy's earliest known, identified murders were committed in 1974, when he was 27.
Shortly after midnight on January 4, 1974, Bundy entered the basement bedroom of 18-year-old "Joni Lenz", a dancer and student at UW. Bundy
bludgeoned her with a metal rod from her bed frame while she slept and sexually assaulted her with a speculum. Lenz was found the next
morning by her roommates in a coma and lying in a pool of her own blood. She survived the attack but suffered permanent brain damage. Bundy's
next victim was Lynda Ann Healy, another UW student (and his cousin's roommate). In the early morning hours of February 1, 1974, Bundy broke
into Healy's room, knocked her unconscious, dressed her in jeans and a shirt, wrapped her in a bed sheet, and carried her away.
Co-eds began disappearing at a rate of roughly one a month. On March 12, 1974, in Olympia, Bundy kidnapped and murdered Donna Gail Manson,
a 19-year-old student at The Evergreen State College. On April 17, 1974, Susan Rancourt disappeared from the campus of Central Washington
University in Ellensburg. Later, two different co-eds would recount meeting a man with his arm in a cast—one that night, one three nights earlier—
who asked for their help to carry a load of books to his Volkswagen Beetle. Next was Kathy Parks, last seen on the campus of Oregon State
University in Corvallis, Oregon, on May 6, 1974. Brenda Ball was never seen again after leaving a Tavern in Burien on June 1, 1974. Bundy then
murdered Georgeann Hawkins, a student at UW and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, an on-campus sorority. In the early morning hours of June
11, 1974, she walked through an alley from her boyfriend's dormitory residence to her sorority house. She was never seen again. Witnesses later
reported seeing a man with a leg cast struggling to carry a briefcase in the area that night. One co-ed reported that the man had asked for her
help in carrying the briefcase to his car, a Beetle.
Bundy's Washington killing spree culminated on July 14, 1974, with the daytime abduction of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund from Lake Sammamish
State Park in Issaquah. That day, eight different people told the police about the handsome young man with his left arm in a sling who called
himself "Ted". Five of them were women whom "Ted" asked for help unloading a sailboat from his Beetle. One of them went with "Ted" as far as
his car, where there was no sailboat, before declining to accompany him any farther. Three more witnesses testified to seeing him approach Ott
with the story about the sailboat and to seeing her walk away from the beach in his company. She was never seen alive again. Naslund
disappeared without a trace four hours later.
King County detectives now had a description both of the suspect and his car. Some witnesses told investigators that the "Ted" they encountered
spoke with a clipped, British-like accent. Soon, fliers were up all over the Seattle area. After seeing the police sketch and description of the Lake
Sammamish suspect in both of the local newspapers and on television news reports, Bundy's girlfriend, one of his psychology professors at UW,
and former co-worker Ann Rule all reported him as a possible suspect. The police, receiving up to 200 tips per day, but did not pay any attention
to a tip about a clean-cut law student.
That autumn, Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah law school. On Sept. 2, while
on the way, he picked up a hitchhiker in Idaho, raped her and strangled her to death; her identity
remains unknown and no body was ever found. Nancy Wilcox disappeared from Holladay, Utah, on
October 2, 1974. Wilcox was last seen riding in a Volkswagen Beetle. On October 18, 1974, Bundy
murdered Melissa Smith, the 17-year-old daughter of Midvale police chief Louis Smith; Bundy raped,
sodomized and strangled her. Her body was found nine days later. Next was Laura Aime, also 17, who
disappeared when she left a Halloween party in Lehi, Utah, on October 31, 1974; her naked, beaten and
strangled corpse was found nearly a month later by hikers on Thanksgiving Day, on the banks of a river in
American Fork Canyon.
In Murray, Utah, on November 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch narrowly escaped with her life. Claiming to be
Officer Roseland of the Murray Police Department, Bundy approached her at the Fashion Place Mall, told
her someone had tried to break into her car, and asked her to accompany him to the police station. She
Years later on Florida's death row, Bundy would describe a part of himself that, from a young age, was fascinated by images of sex and violence.
In early prison interviews, Bundy called this part of himself "the entity." As a teen, Bundy would look through libraries for detective magazines and
books on crime, focusing on sources that described sexual violence and featured pictures of dead bodies and violent sexuality. Before he was
even out of high school, Bundy was a compulsive thief, a shoplifter, and on his way to becoming an amateur criminal.
The fragmented remains of Ott and Naslund were discovered on September 7, 1974, off Interstate 90 near Issaquah, one mile from the park.
Found along with the women's remains was an extra femur bone and vertebrae, which Bundy would identify as that of Georgeann Hawkins
shortly before his execution. Between March 1 and March 3, 1975, the skulls and jawbones of Healy, Rancourt, Parks and Ball were found on
Taylor Mountain just east of Issaquah. Years later, Bundy claimed that he had also dumped Donna Manson's body there, but no trace of her was
Lynette Culver, a 12-year-old girl, went missing on May 6, 1975. In a crime similar to the later murder of Kimberly Leach, Bundy lured her from her
junior high school in Pocatello, Idaho, took her to a Holiday Inn where Bundy had a room, raped her and drowned her. Back in Utah, Susan Curtis
vanished from the campus of Brigham Young University on June 28, 1975. (Bundy confessed to the Curtis murder minutes before his execution.)
The bodies of Cunningham, Culver, Curtis and Oliverson have never been recovered.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, investigators were attempting to prioritize their enormous list of suspects. They used computers to cross-check
different likely lists of suspects. "Theodore Robert Bundy" was one of 25 people who turned up on four separate lists, and his case file was
second on the "To Be Investigated" pile when the call came from Utah of an arrest.
the police to be burglary tools. Bundy remained calm during questioning, explaining that he needed the mask for skiing and had found the
handcuffs in a dumpster. Utah detective Jerry Thompson connected Bundy and his Volkswagen to the DaRonch kidnapping and the missing
witnesses. They identified him as "Officer Roseland" and as the man lurking about the night Debby Kent disappeared. Following a week-long
authorities were pursuing murder charges, however, and Bundy was extradited there to stand trial.
On June 7, 1977, in preparation for a hearing in the Caryn Campbell murder trial, Bundy was taken to the Pitkin County courthouse in Aspen.
During a court recess, he was allowed to visit the courthouse's law library, where he jumped out of the building from a second-story window and
escaped, but sprained his right ankle during the jump. In the minutes following his escape, Bundy at first ran and then strolled casually through
the small town toward Aspen Mountain. He made it all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain without being detected, where he rested for two
days in an abandoned hunting cabin. But afterwards, he lost his sense of direction and wandered around the mountain, missing two trails that led
down off the mountain to his intended destination, the town of Crested Butte. At one point he talked his way out of danger after coming face-to-
face with a gun-toting citizen who was one of the searchers scouring Aspen Mountain for Ted Bundy. On June 13, 1977, Bundy stole a car he
found on the mountain. He drove back into Aspen and could have gotten away, but two police deputies noticed the Cadillac with dimmed
headlights weaving in and out of its lane and pulled Bundy over. They recognized him and took him back to jail. Bundy had been on the lam for six
Now that he was back in custody, Bundy worked on a new escape plan. He was being held in the Glenwood Springs, Colorado, jail while he
awaited trial. He had acquired a hacksaw blade and $500 in cash; he later claimed the blade came from another prison inmate. Over two weeks,
he sawed through the welds fixing a small metal plate in the ceiling and, after dieting down still further, was able to fit through the hole and
access the crawl space above. An informant in the prison told guards that he had heard Bundy moving around the ceiling during the nights before
his escape, but the matter was not investigated. When Bundy's Aspen trial judge ruled on December 23, 1977, that the Caryn Campbell murder
trial would start on January 9, 1978, and changed the venue to Colorado Springs, Bundy realized that he had to make his escape before he was
transferred out of the Glenwood Springs jail. On the night of December 30, 1977, Bundy dressed warmly and packed books and files under his
blanket to make it look like he was sleeping. He wriggled through the hole and up into the crawlspace. Bundy crawled over to a spot directly
above the jailer's linen closet — the jailer and his wife were out for the evening — dropped down into the jailer's apartment, and walked out the
Bundy was free, but he was on foot in the middle of a bitterly cold, snowy Colorado night. He stole a broken-down MG, but it stalled out in the
mountains. Bundy was stuck on the side of Interstate 70 in the middle of the night in a blizzard, but another driver gave him a ride into Vail. From
there he caught a bus to Denver and boarded the TWA 8:55 a.m. flight to Chicago. The Glenwood Springs jail guards did not notice Bundy was
gone until noon on December 31, 1977, 17 hours after his escape, by which time Bundy was already in Chicago.
1978, He later stole a car which he abandoned in Atlanta, Georgia before boarding a bus for Tallahassee, Florida, where he arrived on January 8,
1978. There, he rented a room at a boarding house under the alias of "Chris Hagen" and committed numerous petty crimes including shoplifting,
purse snatching, and auto theft. He grew a mustache and drew a fake mole on his right cheek when he went out, but aside from that, he made
no real attempt at a disguise. Bundy tried to find work at a construction site, but when the personnel officer asked Bundy for
homicidal violence erupted. Bundy entered the Florida State University Chi Omega sorority house at approximately 3 a.m. and killed two also
University student Cheryl Thomas.
On February 9, 1978, Bundy traveled to Lake City, Florida. While there, he abducted, raped, and murdered 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, across the
Florida panhandle. On February 15, 1978, shortly after 1 a.m., Bundy was stopped by Pensacola police officer David Lee. When the officer called in
a check of the license plate, the vehicle came up as stolen. Bundy then scuffled with the officer before he was finally subdued. As Lee took the
unknown suspect to jail, Bundy said "I wish you had killed me." The Florida Department of Law Enforcement made a positive fingerprint
identification early the next day. He was immediately transported to Tallahassee, where he was later charged with the Chi Omega murders.
Conviction and execution
Circuit Court Judge Edward D. Cowart presiding. Despite having five court-appointed lawyers, he insisted on acting as his own attorney and even
cross-examined witnesses, including the police officer who had discovered Margaret Bowman's body. He was prosecuted by Assistant State
Attorney Larry Simpson.
Two pieces of evidence proved crucial. First, Chi Omega member Nita Neary, getting back to the house very late after a
date, saw Bundy as he left, and identified him in court. Second, during his homicidal frenzy, Bundy bit Lisa Levy in her to
the photographs of Levy's wound. Bundy was convicted on all counts and sentenced to death. After confirming the
sentence, Cowart gave him the verdict:
Bundy was tried for the Kimberly Leach murder in 1980. He was again convicted on all counts, principally due to fibers found in his van that
matched Leach's clothing and an eyewitness that saw him leading Leach away from the school, and sentenced to death. During the Kimberly
Leach trial, Bundy took advantage of an old law still on the books in the state of Florida that allowed a "declaration" in court to constitute a legal
marriage. Bundy proposed to former coworker Carole Ann Boone, who had moved to Florida to be near Bundy, in the courtroom while questioning
her on the stand. She readily accepted and Bundy announced to the courtroom that they were married. Following numerous Washington and
never returned to Florida. The current whereabouts of Boone and her daughter are unknown.Washington and never returned
However, during the same period, Bundy was often visited by Special Agent William Hagmaier of the Federal Bureau best friend. Eventually, Bundy
confessed to Hagmaier many details of the murders that had until then been unknown or unconfirmed. In October 1984, Bundy contacted former
King County homicide detective Bob Keppel and offered to assist in the ongoing search for the Green River Killer by providing his own insights and
analysis. Keppel and Green River Task Force detective Dave Reichert traveled to Florida's death row to interview Bundy. Both detectives Bundy's
own mind, however, and were primarily pursued in the hope of learning the details of unsolved murders which Bundy was suspected of committing.
Bundy contacted Keppel again in 1988. At that point, his appeals were exhausted. Bundy had beaten previous death warrants for March 4, 1986,
July 2, 1986, and November 18, 1986. With execution imminent, Bundy confessed to eight official unsolved murders in Washington State for which
he was the prime suspect. Bundy told Keppel that there were actually five bodies left on Taylor Mountain, not four as they had originally thought.
Bundy confessed in detail to the murder of Georgeann Hawkins, describing how he lured her to his car, clubbed her
one point, a legal advocate working for Bundy asked many of the families of the victims to fax letters to Florida Governor Robert Martinez and
ask for mercy for Bundy in order to find out where the remains of their loved ones were. All of the families refused. Keppel and others reported
that Bundy gave scant detail about his crimes during his confessions, and promised to reveal more and other body dump sites if he were given
"more time." The ploy failed and Bundy was executed on schedule.
The night before Bundy was executed, he gave a television interview to Dr. James Dobson, psychologist and head of the evangelical Christian
organization Focus on the Family. During the interview, Bundy made repeated claims as to the pornographic "roots" of his crimes. He stated that,
while pornography did not cause him to commit murder, the consumption of violent pornography helped "shape and mold" his violence into
"behavior too terrible to describe." He alleged that he felt that violence in the media, "particularly sexualized violence," sent boys "down the
road to being Ted Bundys." In the same interview, Bundy stated:
"You are going to kill me, and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography,
and you are doing nothing about that."
According to Hagmaier, Bundy contemplated suicide in the days leading up to his execution, but eventually decided against it.
At 7:06 a.m. local time on January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida. His last words
were, "I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends." Then, more than 2,000 volts were applied across his body for less than two minutes.
He was pronounced dead at 7:16 a.m. Several hundred people were gathered outside the prison and cheered when they saw the signal that
Bundy had been declared dead.
DaRonch caught it in the air just before it would have cracked her skull. She then got the door open and tumbled out onto the highway, thus
escaping from her would-be killer.
drama club was putting on a play in the auditorium. The strange man approached the drama teacher and then a student, asking both to come out
to the parking lot to identify a car. Both declined. The drama teacher saw him again shortly before the end of the play, this time breathing hard,
with his hair mussed and his shirt untucked. Another student saw the man lurking in the rear of the auditorium. Debby Kent, a 17-year-old
Viewmont High student, left the play at intermission to go and pick up her brother, and was never seen again. Later, investigators found a small
key in the parking lot outside Viewmont High. It unlocked the handcuffs taken off Carol DaRonch.
In 1975, while still attending law school at the University of Utah, Bundy shifted his crimes to Colorado. On January 12, 1975, Caryn Campbell
disappeared from the Wildwood Inn at Snowmass, Colorado, where she had been vacationing with her fiancé and his children. She vanished
somewhere in a span of 50 feet between the elevator doors and her room. Her body was found on February 17, 1975.Next, Vail ski instructor Julie
Cunningham disappeared on March 15, 1975, and Denise Oliverson in Grand Junction on April 6, 1975. While in prison, Bundy confessed to
Colorado investigators that he used crutches to approach Cunningham, after asking her to help him carry some ski boots to his car. At the car,
Bundy clubbed her with his crowbar and immobilized her with handcuffs, later strangling her in a crime highly similar to the Hawkins murder.
It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that current be passed through your body until you are
dead. Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It is an utter tragedy
for this court to see such a total waste of you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of
yourself. I don't feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself.
While awaiting execution in Starke Prison, Bundy was housed in the cell next to fellow serial killer Ottis Toole,
the murderer of Adam Walsh. FBI profiler Robert K. Ressler met with him there as part of his work third person,
and only in hypothetical terms. Writing in 1992, Ressler spoke of his impression of Bundy in comparison to his
reviews of other serial killers: "This guy was an animal, and it amazed me that the media seemed unable to
After the interview, Keppel reported that he had been shocked in speaking with Bundy, and that he was the
kind of man who was "born to kill." Keppel stated:
He described the Issaquah crime scene (where Janice Ott, Denise Naslund, and Georgeann Hawkins had been
left) and it was almost like he was just there. Like he was seeing everything. He was infatuated with the idea
because he spent so much time there. He is just totally consumed with murder all the time.
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