Ted Bundy described himself as “the coldest son of a bitch you ‘re ever going to meet.” His actions prove that assertion to be true.

ted bundyState Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Authorities in the Pacific Northwest were in a panic during the spring and summer of 1974. Women in colleges across Washington and Oregon were disappearing at an unprecedented pace, and law enforcement had few clues as to who was behind it.

Six women had been kidnapped in just six months. Panic reached a fever pitch in the area when Janice Ann Ott and Denise Marie Naslund vanished from the swarmed beach at Lake Sammamish State Park in broad daylight.

But the boldest of the kidnappings was also the first real break in the case. The day Ott and Naslund disappeared, several other women remembered being approached by a man who had tried and failed to lure them to his car.

They told the police about an impressive young man with his arm in a sling. His car was the brown Volkswagen Beetle, and his name was Ted.

After releasing this description to the public, four people identified the same Seattle resident Ted Bundy and contacted the police.

These four people included Bundy’s ex-girlfriend, a close friend of his, one of his co-workers, and a professor of psychology who taught Bundy.

But the police were flooded with tips, and Ted Bundy was dismissed as a suspect, thinking it unlikely that a clean-cut law student with no adult criminal record could be the offender; he did not fit the profile.

These types of judgments have benefited Ted Bundy many times throughout his criminal career as one of the most infamous serial killers in history, which in the 1970s saw him killing at least 30 victims across seven states.

At a while, he fooled everyone — the cops who had not believed him, the jail guards whose facilities he had infiltrated, the people he had exploited, the woman who had married him after he had been caught — but he was, as his final lawyer put it, “the very essence of heartless evil.”

Ted Bundy’s Childhood

Young Ted BundyEnglish: Associated students, Woodrow Wilson High School / Public domain

Ted Bundy was born in Vermont, across the country from the Pacific Northwest communities that he would one day terrorize.

His mother was Eleanor Louise Cowell, and his father was unknown to him. His grandparents, ashamed of their daughter’s unmarried pregnancy, raised him as their child. For almost all of his childhood, he believed that his mother was his sister.

His grandfather would hit Ted and his mother daily, and when Bundy was five years old, she would escape with her son to live together with relatives in Tacoma, Washington. 

There, Eleanor got married to a hospital cook Johnnie Bundy, who formally fathered the young Ted Bundy.

Bundy disliked his step-father, and would later describe him horrifying to a girlfriend, saying he wasn’t very bright and made little money.

The rest of Bundy’s childhood is uncertainly little known as he gave different biographer conflicting accounts of his early years. He defined, in general, an ordinary life filled with dark hallucinations that had a strong effect on him, although the degree to which he behaved is still unclear.

Other accounts are similarly perplexed. Although Bundy described himself as a lonely man who would spy on women in the seedy streets at night, those who remember Bundy at high school describe him as well known and well-loved.

College Years And His First Attack

Ted Bundy graduated from high school in 1965 and then enrolled at the nearby University of Puget Sound. He spent only one year there before moving to the University of Washington to study Chinese.

He dropped out briefly in 1968 but quickly re-enrolled as a psychology major. During his time out of school, he visited the East Coast, where he probably first learned that the woman he believed to be his sister was his mother.

Then, back at UW, Bundy started dating Elizabeth Kloepfer, a Utah divorcee who worked as a secretary at the School of Medicine on campus. Later, Kloepfer was among the first to report Bundy to the police as a suspected murderer in the Pacific Northwest.

Among the four people who named Bundy was former Seattle police officer Ann Rule, who met Bundy around the same time while they were both working at Seattle’s suicide hotline crisis centre.

Rule would later write one of Ted Bundy ‘s final biographies, The Stranger Beside Me.

Bundy was admitted to the Puget Sound Law School in 1973, but he stopped classes after some months. Then, in January 1974, the kidnappings began.

Ted Bundy’s first known attack was not a murder, but rather an assault on 18-year-old Karen Sparks, a student and dancer at the University of Washington.

Bundy broke into her condo and pummeled her unconscious out of her bed frame with a metal rod before sexually assaulting her with the same object. His assault left her with permanent disabilities and in a 10-day coma.

Ted Bundy’s First Murder Across Seattle

The next victim of Ted Bundy, and his first recorded murder, was another UW student, Lynda Ann Healy.

Bundy broke into Healy ‘s apartment in the early morning a month after his attack on Karen Sparks, knocked her unconscious, then dressed her body and carried her to his car. She was never again seen, but part of her skull was found years later in one of the locations where Bundy dumped his bodies.

Bundy subsequently continued to target women students in the area. He developed a technique: to approach women while wearing a cast or otherwise looking impaired, and to ask them to help him put something in his car.

He would then pummel them unconscious before tying them, raping them and murdering them, dumping their bodies in the woods at a remote spot. Bundy would frequently revisit these sites for sex with their decaying bodies. Bundy would in some cases behead his victims and keep their skulls in his apartment, sleeping alongside his trophies.

“The ultimate possession was, in fact, the taking of the life,” Ted once said. “And then . . . the physical possession of the remains.”

He explained: “Murder is not simply a crime of lust or violence. “It’s starting to own. You belong to them. [Victim] will be part of you and you [two] will always be one. You will always be drawn back to the grounds in which you kill them or leave them.

Over the next five months, Bundy has kidnapped and executed five women college students in the Northwest Pacific: Donna Gail Manson, Susan Elaine Rancourt, Roberta Kathleen Parks, Brenda Carol Ball, and Georgann Hawkins.

In response to this rash, the police called for a major investigation and asked a range of government departments to help hunt for missing people.

One such organization was the Department of Emergency Services in Washington State, where Bundy served. There, Bundy met Carole Ann Boone, a two-time divorced mother of two that for years he would date on and off as the murders proceeded.

Ted Bundy in courtDonn Dughi / State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Utah Relocation And Arrest For Kidnapping

More witnesses produced descriptions that matched Ted Bundy and his car as the manhunt for the abductor continued. Just as some bodies of his victims were discovered in the woods, Bundy was accepted into Utah law school and moved to Salt Lake City.

He continued to rape and murder of young women while living there, including a hitchhiker in Idaho and four teenage girls in Utah.

Kloepfer knew that Bundy had moved to the area, and she called the police a second time to reaffirm her suspicion that Bundy was behind the killings when she learned about the Utah murders.

There was now a mounting pile of evidence pointing toward Ted Bundy, and the name of Bundy appeared at the top of the suspect list when Washington investigators compiled their data.

Unaware of the growing interest in him by law enforcement, Bundy continued to kill, travelling from his home in Utah to Colorado to kill more young women there.

seized from ted bundy carKmsullivan12 / CC BY-SA

Finally, in August 1975, while driving through a suburb of Salt Lake City, Bundy was pulled over and police discovered masks, handcuffs and blunt objects inside the car. Although that was not enough to apprehend him, he was put under surveillance by a police officer, who discovered that Bundy was still a suspect in earlier killings.

The officers then found his Beetle, which he had sold by then, where they uncovered the hair of three of his victims. They put him in a lineup with this evidence, where he was identified by one of the women he ‘d tried to abduct.

He was convicted of kidnapping and assault and sent to prison while the police tried to establish a murder case against him.

Ted Bundy escapes prison in Aspen

But arrest did not deter Bundy from murdering. Soon, for the first time in his life, he was able to escape from custody. He fled from the law library at the courthouse in Aspen, Colorado, in 1977.

He had been allowed to enter the library during a break in his preliminary hearing because he served as his lawyer. He was researching the laws relating to his case, nominally. But the fact that he was his counsel also meant that he was unshackled-and he took it when he saw his chance.

He leapt from the second-floor window of the library and reached the running field, disappearing into the trees before the guard came back to check on him.

He planned to make his way to Aspen Mountain and broke into a cabin, then a supply trailer. But resources were limited, and it wasn’t long before he scrapped his dream of vanishing into the wild.

He stole a car back in Aspen, thinking he ‘d set some distance between himself and the prison cell he ‘d fled.

But the reckless pace at which he left Aspen made him visible and he was noticed by police officers. He was recaptured after being on the lam for six days.

The Chi Omega Killings At Florida State

Only six months later Bundy ‘s second escape took place, this time from a prison cell.

After carefully examining a prison map, Bundy discovered his cell was directly below the prison chief jailer’s living quarters; the two rooms were divided only by a crawl space.

Bundy traded to get a small hacksaw with another prisoner, and when his cellmates were exercising or showering, he pounded away at the walls, scraping off layer after layer of plaster.

He rendered small crawl space — very tiny. In an attempt to lose weight he purposely started cutting back on meals.

He thought ahead too. Unlike last time when his escape had failed because he was out in the outside world without resources, he stowed away a small pile of money that Carole Ann Boone, the woman who would later marry him in prison, smuggled to him.

He did not dawdle this time; he immediately robbed a car and left town, making his way to Florida.

Bundy ‘s goal had been to maintain a low profile, but life in Florida posed unexpected challenges. He couldn’t get a job, he couldn’t produce identification; he was back to grifting and stealing for money. And there was simply too strong a compulsion towards violence.

On January 15, 1978, Bundy broke into a Chi Omega sorority house on campus at the Florida State University two weeks after his escape.

Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman victims of Ted BundyState Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

He sexually assaulted and killed Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy within just 15 minutes, pummeling them with firewood and strangling them with stockings. He then attacked Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler, all of whom sustained horrific injuries, including fractured jaws and missing teeth.

He then broke into Cheryl Thomas ‘s apartment, which had lived several blocks away, and beat her so badly that she permanently lost her hearing.

Bundy, still on the run on 8 February, kidnapped 12-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach from her middle school and killed her, hiding her body on a pig farm.

Again, his reckless driving captured the police’s attention. Realizing that his plates belonged to a stolen car, they pulled him over and found in his vehicle the IDs of three dead people, tying him to the FSU crimes.

Bundy told the arresting officer, “I wish you had killed me.”

Ted Bundy VolkswagenDCTWINKIE5500 / CC BY-SA

Trial And Execution

Bundy sabotaged himself throughout the trial by ignoring his lawyers’ advice and taking over his self-defence. Even those entrusted with working with him were disturbed by him.

“I would describe him being as close to being like the devil as anyone I ever met,” said Joseph Aloi, an investigator for the defence.

Ultimately, in Florida’s Raiford Jail, Bundy was convicted and sent to death row, where he was assaulted by other inmates – including the four-man gang rape – and he planned a child with Carole Ann Boone, whom he had married while he was being trialled.

On 24 January 1989, Bundy was eventually electrically executed. Hundreds of people came to celebrate his death outside the courthouse.

“I believe like the electric chair is too good for him after what he has done to the victims — bludgeoning, strangulation, degrading their bodies, torturing them,” said Eleanor Rose, mother of Denise Naslund.

While the true number of victims of Bundy remains uncertain, even though he admitted to several killings before his death. Despite physical evidence, Bundy denied certain killings and referred to others never justified.

In the end, this all led Bundy to be accused of having murdered 30 to 40 women, making him the most notorious and terrifying serial killer in the history of America — and even the very “definition of heartless evil.”


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