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The Killers: Ted Bundy

Murders committed: At least 28

"Society wants to believe it can identify evil people ... it's not practical ... If someone does something antisocial and deviant, that is a manifestation of something that is going on inside. Once they actually do something, then they can be labeled. Predictions can't be made until that point is reached."

Always in search of an identity, Ted spent a great deal of his life constructing elaborate social masks in an attempt to fit in. He spent a lifetime fooling others that he was a charming, intelligent, courteous man who simply desired the finer things in life. He wanted to be seen as suave, stylish, respectable, and wealthy.

There are some who spoke of an unsettling temper. But many were duped by his act.

Born in Philadelphia to a family of very modest means, Ted never really knew the identity of his father. His mother, Eleanor, changed her name to Louise Cowell and claimed to be his sister. Ted grew up believing his grandparents were his parents.

There are many stories of Ted's ferocious temper and deviant behavior, even in childhood. It is unknown which are truth and which are merely urban legends. Perhaps one of the more interesting events from Ted's childhood (if it is to believed) is the one told of his aunt...

Late one night, his aunt, then fifteen, woke with a start. Standing next to her bed was her nephew Ted, grinning widely. Sitting up, she discovered she was surrounded by a variety of kitchen knives, all arranged around the contours of her sleeping body.

Ted Bundy was only three years old.

At the age of four Ted and his mother moved to Tacoma, Washington to live with relatives. A year after the move to Washington State, Louise Cowell married an army cook by the name of Johnnie Culpepper Bundy, whose last name Ted would assume for the rest of his life.

Most of Ted's childhood was defined by shyness and studiousness. He maintained good grades and was described as well dressed and well mannered. In 1965, Ted won a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound. A year later he transferred to the University of Washington, where he began his intensive studies in Chinese.

While in school he held a variety of odd jobs, none of which lasted very long.

Stephanie Brooks was Ted's first girlfriend. Sophisticated and from a wealthy family, Ted became committed to proving himself worthy of her interest. Quite often this involved elaborate and outlandish lies. Eventually, Stephanie broke off their relationship. Ted was devasted. He became obsessed.

It was also around this time that Ted discovered the truth of his identity. The information shocked him. He felt betrayed. Turning his anger into resolve, he quickly changed himself from a shy and introverted person to a focused and aggressively dominant man. He was driven to prove himself to the world and, most likely, to Stephanie Brooks. Ted became a man on a mission. He re-enrolled at the University of Washington and studied psychology, a subject where he performed exceptionally well. It wasn't long before Bundy earned honors as a student and became well liked by his professors.

Between 1969 and 1972 Ted's life seemed to change for the better. He had big plans for his future. He applied to several law schools and became very active in politics. By volunteering on various campaigns Ted began to form bonds with politically powerful people in the Washington Republican Party. He did volunteer work at the Seattle Crisis Center. From all appearances, he was an upstanding member of the community: bright, driven and affable. He was even commended by the Seattle Police for rescuing a three-year-old boy from drowning in a lake. But beneath all the accomplishments and charm, a bitter hostility toward women grew inside him.

While on a business trip to California for the Washington Republican Party in 1973, Ted ran into his old sweetheart, Stephanie Brooks. Stephanie was surprised and impressed by Ted's transformation. Gone was the shy, tentative Ted she had dated five years earlier. Instead, he was confident and mature, almost cocky. They continued to meet, unbeknownst to Ted's current girlfriend, and Stephanie fell in love with him.

Ted would often bring up the topic of marriage with Stephanie, all while continuing his other relationship back in Seattle. After six months of courting and flattering, things suddenly changed. Where once Ted lavished affection upon Stephanie, he suddenly grew cold and hostile. In a matter of weeks he changed from loving boyfriend to callous jerk. Stephanie was undoubtedly confused by this sudden change in Ted. Then with no warning or explanation, Ted cut off all contact with her. She was devastated, unable to figure out where things went wrong.

His plan of revenge worked. He had patiently and lovingly drawn her toward him for the sole purpose of ending their relationship… as cruelly as possible. He had rejected Stephanie as she had rejected him those many years earlier.

This was, perhaps, an early glimpse of Ted's growing hatred toward women. A hatred so strong that he had the patience to plan and enact his emotional revenge for nearly six months.

Soon after the authorities began to discover the bodies of murdered young women.

Over the next two and a half years it is believed that Ted Bundy took the lives of at least twelve women and as many as twenty five. In most of the cases he raped then beat them to death. Their remains were often left in park wilderness areas in Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Washington.

Ted was finally caught and arrested with the cooperation of his girlfriend in 1975. A surviving victim testified at his trial and in 1976 he was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to 15 years in the Utah State Prison with the possibility of parole. Despite substantial circumstantial evidence (and an illegal search), Ted could not be charged with the many murders he had undoubtedly committed.

While incarcerated, investigators continued to search for anything that might connect Ted to the murders. Detectives eventually discovered hair samples in his car and upon examination by the FBI they were found to be characteristically similar to two of the murder victims. Further examination of one of the victim's remains (Caryn Campbell) revealed that her skull bore impressions that matched the crowbar discovered in Bundy's car at the time of his arrest. Colorado police filed charges against him on October 22, 1976, for the murder of Campbell.

In the spring of 1977 Bundy was transferred to Garfield County Jail in Colorado to be tried. Ted claimed that his representation was inadequate and insisted on representing himself. The judge was convinced to allow it given Ted's obvious intelligence and law education. He had six months to prepare and often needed to be transported to the library in Aspen to complete his research. What the authorities didn't know was that all along Ted was planning an escape.

In June, 1977 Bundy made good on this plan. Leaping from an open second-story window in the Aspen courthouse, Ted was able to disappear into the crowds. The police had neglected to put him in handcuffs or leg irons and he was dressed for court as a civilian. He hid for several days in a hunters cabin, but provisions were scarce and he feared discovery. Six days later, attempting to flee Aspen in a stolen car, Bundy was chased down by a pair of police officers and caught. From this point on, Ted was required to wear cuffs and leg irons whenever taken from his cell.

But Ted was nothing if not persistent. Seven months later he managed crawl up into the ceiling of the county jail and find his way to the custodian's apartment. When morning came and the apartment was empty, Bundy dropped from the ceiling and casually walked out the front door. It took the police fifteen hours to even discover that he had gone missing.

First heading for Chicago, then Tallahassee, Florida, Ted changed his name to Chris Hagen. He settled into a one bedroom apartment near Florida State University. There is much conjecture as to why Bundy went to Florida. Some think it was a random destination, others believe he chose it because of its committment to capital punishment and a subconscious desire to be caught.

From all appearances, however, Ted seemed to enjoy his life in Tallahassee. He would drop in on classes that interested him and stole anything he needed. Theft became Bundy's main means of creating a comfortable life. He was surprisingly adept and often used stolen credit cards to feed and clothe himself.

It was January 14th, 1978 that Ted seemed to lose control. Unlike his previous crimes, he went on a murderous rampage. In the early hours of a Saturday morning, Bundy broke into the Chi Omega Sorority House and savagely attacked the sleeping students inside. It was a brutally violent spree that resulted in the rape and murder of two girls and the bludgeoning of two others. Upon fleeing the house, he was spotted by a returning student.

That same night, less than a mile away, Ted attacked yet another woman in her apartment and left her for dead. Unfortunately for him, she survived the attack. Police didn't get a good description of the victim's attacker but they were able to recover a black ski mask. The same type of mask found in Bundy's car three years earlier.

There was only a little in the way of physical evidence… but what there was, was definitely admissible: stray hairs left in the mask and vicious bite marks on one of the victims. The police did not know it was Ted Bundy but they were confident that once they caught this assailant they would be able to convict him.

Almost a month later, on February 11th, the parents of twelve-year old Kimberly Leach called the police. They hysterically explained how their daughter had gone missing. A neighborhood friend told the authorities that they had seen her get into a car but was ultimately unable to describe the make or color. Eight weeks later Kimberly's body was discovered in a state park. Her remains yielded little in the way of clues.

That same week, another young girl, Leslie Parmenter, was approached by a man in a white van. He tried to convince her to accompany him but she grew suspicious of his behavior. Finally, her older brother arrived to pick her up and the man drove off. Unfortunately for Ted, she was the daughter of a police detective, and convinced her brother to write down the license plate number. The plates turned out to be stolen… as was the van they were on. When Leslie's father convinced his children to look at some mug shots, Bundy was revealed to be the man driving the van. The detective had almost lost his daughter to the notorious serial killer.

Less than a week later a chance encounter with police led to Ted Bundy's arrest. At first, Ted led them on a chase. After several miles he suddenly pulled over and surrendered himself. When the officer tried to put on the handcuffs Bundy attacked. He managed to fight his way free and began to run. The officer fired and Ted dropped to the ground as if hit. When the officer approached, Ted turned and attacked again. Fortunately, it was to no avail. Bundy was over-powered and taken into custody.

"I deserve, certainly, the most extreme punishment society has, and I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me."

Over the next two years Ted Bundy would be tried for the murders of the two sorority students and Kimberly Leach. In each case he was given the death penalty. On January 24, 1989, after countless appeals he was finally executed by electrocution. He spent his last hours confessing to the murders of 28 women.

"I want to master life and death..."

- Ted Bundy

Windows Media
(68 seconds, 2.2MB)

(68 seconds, 2.2MB)