Ted Bundy (Theodore Robert Bundy) was debatably the worst serial killer of all time and his true crimes served as inspiration for the movie, American Psycho.
Who was Ted Bundy?
Raised in a traditional family and living a childhood that most would consider the ‘American Dream’ whilst attending Church every Sunday, Bundy was a black sheep who became one of the most notorious serial killers of all time.
Despite his brutal crimes, he became somewhat of a celebrity. Some considered him a mastermind due to his intelligence, high iQ of 136 and he became very liked with a unique charisma, influence and attraction.
Ted Bundy Education; He earned an undergraduates degree in psychology and also studied law, something he later utilized to represent himself at his public trial in Florida. He also had some brief work with the Seattle crime commission that gave him insight into crime statistics, learning weaknesses of police investigations.
His name became the backbone of true crime stories.
“There is nothing in my background that would lead one to believe I was capable of committing murder” -Ted Bundy
True Crimes of Ted Bundy
In January 1974, a college student named Lynda Anne Healy, who was studying at the University of Washington, was discovered missing from her Seattle apartment when she didn’t show up for work the following morning.
In June 1974, close to where Healy was abducted, another young student went missing. Georgann Hawkins disappeared whilst walking the half a block from a sorority house to her apartment.
Between the two missing person cases, there were a wave of similar victims disappearing without a trace. Around one per month. The four women were Donna Gail Manson, Susan Elaine Rancourt, Roberta Kathleen Parks, and Brenda Carol Ball. Although it was unknown to police at the time because they were only dealing with missing persons, Bundy had promoted himself to serial killer.
With six unsolved disappearances in less than six months, authorities scrambled to try and find a suspect, but to no avail. The women had vanished without a trace and there was not a single slice of evidence to lead them to anywhere or anyone.
The following month on a July Sunday afternoon, there were all kinds of events going on at Lake Sammamish State Park with 40,000 people in attendance. Right under everyone’s noses, two women, Denise Naslund and Janice Ott, vanished into thin air.
With so many people there, police knew this could be a report that may provide some leads, and they were right. There were reports from girls that a man with a cast had approached them and asked for help with loading his sail boat onto his car. The reports ultimately lead to a police sketch and a possible vehicle ID. One person even overheard the mystery man and Janice introduce themselves to one another. He said: “Hi, I’m Ted”.
With 42,000 vehicles matching the description and not knowing whether ‘Ted’ was a first name, last name, nickname or if it was even a real name, investigators narrowed their search down to about 100 potential suspects.
August 8, 1974, Elizabeth Kloepfer, developed many suspicions about her boyfriend, Ted Bundy. From being told that he stalked a sorority girl to finding women’s underwear and an unexplained collection of house keys in a dish to a knife under the passenger seat of his car.
These suspicions led her to share the possible connection between her boyfriend and the person police were looking for. Unfortunately, when police showed his picture to the witnesses from Lake Sammamish State Park, 8 of them positively stated he was not the man they saw. This only complicated matters for police.
In September 1974, Ted Bundy moved down to Utah, a place that he’d always been fond of. Eventually he got baptized and became a member of the church.
Just weeks after Bundy moved there, two girls strangely disappeared. Nancy Wilcox and Laura Amie.
November 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch was approached by a police officer asking her to accompany him back to her car that was suspected to have been broken into. Nothing seemed to be out of place, but the police officer convinced her to come in his uncover police car (a Volkswagen Beetle) to the police station. The authoritative figure was actually Bundy, who managed to lure her to an isolated road.
After a few minutes and getting one of her wrists restrained in handcuffs, she broken free, escape the vehicle and managed to flag down an oncoming car and escape. Bundy was infuriated, but couldn’t do anything.
4 hours later; Debra Kent was abducted from a Salt Lake City carpark on the way to her car. The only thing found at the scene was a key. Police discovered that it was the key for Carol DaRonch’s handcuffs.
January 12, 1975; Caryn Ilene Campbell disappeared from Aspen, Colorado. This abduction and murder was strange in itself as Aspen is a not a place where murder is common. Julie Cunningham and Denise Oliverson also vanished without a trace in the areas of the Colorado mountain range, from Aspen to Vail to Grand Junction.
It wasn’t until later that there was any connection until an investigator looked into missing persons from other states.
She went to her room to get a magazine, but she was never seen again. Five week later her nude body was found three miles away and animals meddling with her body, forensics were able to pinpoint her time of death to about two hours after her disappearance.
All leads and trails went cold until March 5, 1975. In Taylor Mountain, Seattle, a group of student foresters uncovered bodies hidden in the park. They discovered the skull of Brenda Ball, one of the first six victims that were recorded in Bundy’s murders.
After initiating search and rescue, three more bodies were discovered just hundreds of feet apart. That of Susan Rancourt, Roberta Parks and Bundy’s first recorded murder, Lynda Anne Healy. A few miles from there, the bodies of Denise Naslund and Janice Ott were found. The two girls that were abducted from Lake Sammamish State Park.
The problem was, with the remains of the victims being ravished by animals over the months and technological capabilities for forensics, there was very little evidence found other than concluding they were in fact murders and not just missing persons cases. At this point, police attributed all missing persons who had been murdered to the same person and they were now dealing with a serial killer, but his identity was still a complete mystery.
Sometime after the disappearances of the three girls from Colorado, Police officer Bob Hayward was patrolling a local residential area in Salt Lake City and spotted a VW Beetle driving down the road with its lights off. The police officer pulled the vehicle over after a short chase and the driver was arrested, identified as Ted Bundy.
Following a search of his vehicle, police discovered tools of the kidnapping trade including handcuffs, a ski mask and strips of material for bounding victims.
With Bundy matching the description of the man who attempted the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch, she was called in to try and pick him out of a line-up. Bundy changed his appearance in the days leading up, trimming his hair, switching his parting to the other side, and made himself look completely different.
DaRonch came in and knew who it was immediately. Soon after he was charged with kidnapping. With a ‘Ted’ in custody, police starting sharing information across state lines and the pieces started to fit together and triggered the first multi-state conference of its kind.
February 23, 1976; Bundy stood trial and waved his right to a jury. Instead he went into court with his fate in the hands of Judge Hanson. After Bundy’s defense council grilling DaRonch on the stand for hours, the judge had made a decision. Bundy was convicted.
October 21, 1976; Investigators had searched Bundy’s Salt Lake apartment and found a brochure for the Wild Wood Inn, which is the same place Caryn Ilene Campbell disappeared from. Combining enough circumstantial evidence, they had enough to move in.
While Bundy was serving time in Utah State Prison, three men walked into his cell on Oct 21st and served him with a warrant for his arrest for the murder of Caryn Ilene Campbell in Colorado.
His crimes under Utah law would have incurred the death penalty in 1976, but only facing a kidnapping case in the state of Utah, they allowed him to be extradited to Colorado where he faced a more serious charge.
While serving time in Aspen jail whilst awaiting trial, Bundy would spend time in the courthouse library on the second floor to research law. On the morning of the court proceedings, Bundy was there again in preparation for his case. Convincing the staff he was a model citizen and totally innocent, he wasn’t handcuffed or shackled and was given the opportunity to roam free. A mistake authorities wouldn’t make again when a high profile potential serial killer was in their custody. Next, the unthinkable happened.
#1 Escape from the Courthouse
June 7, 1977; The courthouse staff rushed around the library and other areas in the courthouse, but Bundy was nowhere to be seen. Here’s what they didn’t know…
Bundy had spent weeks of preparation and planning. He calculated the distance from the library window to the ground and the courthouse to the mountain range. He spent weeks jumping from the top of his cell bunk over and over again to strengthen his legs for the library window jump. He even practiced changing him clothes as fast as possible and running from one end of his cell to the other, equalling the same distance from the courthouse to the mountain range.
Immediately police raced out the court house and up the streets of Aspen on foot and in their vehicles. With only two roads in and out, they set up road blocks and were confident he would be trapped in the mountain ski town.
With no sign of him after a day, police intensified their search with 150 officers, blood hounds, and locals even took to the mountain woods with loaded rifles in an attempt to hunt Bundy down. By day three, there was no sign of him and being an interstate fugitive, the FBI took control of the search for Ted Bundy.
“If I could have kept on hiking, I would have been long gone, but a very cold sleet and rainstorm hit me and I got very cold and went into a state of shock. Three, four days of high altitude and cold got to me and my mind got weak.” -Ted Bundy
#1 Escape Apprehension
On the sixth day of eluding authorities, Bundy walked back into Aspen because he was cold and hungry, he hi-jacked a vehicle and was pulled over by an officer that saw him driving erratically, likely due to him being weak, disorientated and delirious from the extreme temperatures and lack of nutrition.
The officer that apprehended him didn’t recognized him right away because he’d lost 25lbs (11.3kg), had a stubble and was wearing glasses.
Bundy spoke of how lucky people were to catch him and how stupid they were as well as how intellectually superior he was to them. Chuck Leidner stated in a video:
“Those things may be true, but you’re the one in jail and those are the ones who are on the outside.”
What Leidner failed to include in his calculations is that Bundy not only managed to escape a courthouse by luring the staff into a false sense of security of him not being a risk, but he evaded capture for nearly a week with zero resources and was outnumbered by about 200 to 1. This actually validates Bundy’s claims of being intellectually superior.
When court proceedings resumed in the following days, Bundy went back to his cell that night and was provided with a typical jail meal.
#2 Escape from the Cell
January 1, 1978; The next morning when the guard came back, he saw that Bundy hadn’t touched his dinner. The officer entered the cell to pull back the covers to make sure Bundy was okay, but he was greeted by a pile of books and Bundy was gone. Again.
Taking advantage of his weight loss, he reduced his weight even further to below 140lbs (63.5 kg) and slid through a hole in the ceiling that was made for a light fixture that he managed to hack through to make enough space to climb out.
He got into the jailer’s apartment, took an outfit to disguise himself and walked right out the front door. This time, Bundy didn’t have police on his trail after a few minute. He was hours ahead and this time, they had absolutely no idea where he was.
After 3 days, police from multiple states reached out to all him friends and family and scrambled to try and find him, but it was as if he’d disappeared and authorities didn’t know if he was in Colorado, Utah, Washington or dead. The latter being the least likely.
On January 5, 1978, a federal warrant was issued and he became of the FBI’s most wanted men in America.
With two weeks passing since Bundy’s disappearance he could have been anywhere and police had absolutely nothing to go on.
January 14, 1978; News broke in Tallahassee, Florida of four women being murdered after a mysterious man slipped into a sorority house. It was a quadruple homicide that was sloppy and extremely violent.
Margaret Bowman, who was beaten, strangled and sexually molested, died in her bed. Further down the hall, Lisa Levy endured a similar fate. A few more doors down the same hallway, Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiner also suffered attack, but they survived.
While the Sheriff and police were outside, they got a call over the radio about a disturbance from a duplex that sounded like someone was being really beaten up. The Sheriff sent an investigator the six blocks away.
The investigator discovered Cheryl Thomas had been brutalized and was laying beaten in her apartment in a pool of blood.
After ambulances and police rushed all five girls to hospital, it would have been convincing to the killer that they were all dead, but the two from the sorority house and the last victim pulled through and survived.
February 9, 1978; It was 40 days since Ted Bundy escaped the Colorado jail and with the brutal attacks on five women still fresh on their minds, police were notified of another missing person.
This time Bundy took his crimes to a whole new level.
By mid-morning, 12-year-old Kimberley Diane Leach was missing from Lake CIty Junior High School and authorities deployed 75 State Troopers, Florida Division of Forestry workers and others, but she was gone and the search yielded no results.
February 15, 1978; 6 days later, a police officer got an inkling about a slow traveling car and decided to pull it over. The driver tried to speed off, then attempted to resist arrest, forcing the officer to strike him over the head with his revolver. It was 29-year-old Kenneth Misner who was identified with his ID.
When media covered the story, police got a strange phone call from a man. They attended his home and verified his identity. It was Kenneth Misner. They had no idea who they have in custody now as the mystery man refused to give his name.
February 21, 1978; The mystery man went through harsh police interrogations and in exchange for a phone call, he identified himself as Theodore Robert Bundy.
Connecting him to the sorority house murders and the disappearance of Kim Leach in Florida, as well as the previous murders across the North West and having one of America’s most wanted men in custody, it became a media frenzy. Bundy told authorities:
“When you find the person that committed these crimes that you think I committed, that person is going to be wanted for murders of women in the three digits in six states.”
Ted Bundy Sentenced to Death
May 9, 1979; Bundy’s trial began in Florida and became the first of its kind. It was flooded with media and publicly filmed for the nation to watch and was the biggest publicized trial in history.
The prosecutors wanted Bundy to enter a guilty plea which would have seen him going to prison for the rest of his life. The prosecutors expected Bundy to take the deal, but when they attended court on June 1, 1978, Bundy stood up and announced he was not happy with his council as they saw no way out of a conviction for him and Bundy became co-council on his own case, despite not being a qualified lawyer.
The trial was gigantic and took weeks to conclude, but it did so with Theodore Robert Bundy being sentenced to death for the murder of Kim Leach.
After his conviction, the truth finally came out. He confessed to around 30 murders across seven states. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Colorado, Utah, and Florida. About 10 of which were buried.
But that was only the beginning. What Bundy shared in an attempt to ‘cleanse his soul’ was nothing anyone could have expected. He had never even confessed to a single crime he was convicted of, but when the world woke up one morning, they discovered that Bundy had shared his secrets and the nature of his crimes were beyond anything people could have comprehended.
Bundy’s Last Day
His mother was completely in shock at the confessions of her serial killer son as were authorities and the public that were struck with the news that soon flooded nationwide.
Bundy admitted how he killed his victims and shared that around 12 of the 30 were decapitated and in some cases the heads were separated from the bodies.
When committing murder, his eyes would turn jet black and he was consumed by something far more powerful than his will power, described by him as an entity that needed to be fed.
Bundy also shared that every man he’d met that was compelled to commit violent crimes were consumed by pornography with any exceptions.
He would sexually assault and beat his victims into unconsciousness and even performed necrophilia. The bodies were completely unrecognizable when he was finished.
In the days leading up to his execution, he and investigators were discussing cases he was involved in and with comments he previously made about the man being responsible being wanted for murders in the three digits, there’s no telling how many people Bundy really killed. It could have been 30, it could have been 100.
The unfortunate part of the case, at least for criminologists, psychologists and mental health experts is that he fled to Florida where the death penalty was available as the harshest punishment.
Keep Bundy alive would have offered incredible insight into the mind of a serial killer and he could have been used as a form of research to try and get closer to understanding the structures and foundations of mental illness, but he is gone now and his story and true crimes become core research for such investigators.
There was a Netflix documentary created in a four part episode which illustrates his crimes and story and Ted Bundy’s true crimes also served as the inspiration for the 2000 horror thriller, American Psycho. Christian Bale also has a striking resemblance to Ted Bundy, but the movie is only loosely based on his crimes.
Though there have been many notorious serial killers over the years, some with more reported murders than Bundy, such as Pedro Alonso López, Alexander Pichushkin (the Russian Chessboard Killer) and the Colombian serial killer with the most kills of all time, Luis Garavito, Bundy still ranks at the top.
Here is Theodore Robert Bundy’s final interview just hours before he was executed at Florida State Penitentiary. He was successfully executed by electric chair on January 24, 1989 when a switch was flipped to administer 2,000 volts of electricity by an anonymous executioner.