Bundy’s Execution: Some Thoughts

I was thirteen years old when Ted Bundy was electrocuted on Friday, January 24, 1989. It was the middle of my eighth grade year and I was completely oblivious to the media circus taking place over 500 miles south of me in Starke, Florida. Such was the hysteria surrounding the event that shock-jock Howard Stern even asked Floridians to turn off their electricity so 2000 volts would be available to execute America’s most hated killer. My life had never intersected with the man who had been accused of murdering at least thirty-six women throughout the United States. I was in no way connected to his crime spree or his self-directed demise.

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Standing accused in court.

Despite the distance between us, on the day Ted Bundy died, I was just one year older than two of his victims. Both Lynette Culver of Pocatello, Idaho and Kimberly Leach of Lake City, Florida were twelve when they were kidnapped and brutally murdered. Their lives had not truly begun nor had they even started to discover themselves. Both girls were abducted near their middle schools, places where they should have been safe. At such a young age, it’s truly impossible to imagine danger lurking in such an unexpected place. Lynette’s body was never found, but Kimberly was located in an abandoned pig shed 35 miles from where she was abducted. She had been brutally assaulted and strangled. The medical examiner posited that she was strangled to death while being assaulted.

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Kimberly Leach

Though such young victims weren’t necessarily Bundy’s preferred “type” of victim, most having been in their late teens or early twenties, he was clearly not adverse to taking advantage of any young female who crossed his path. That is truly something to consider when recognizing that anyone could have been susceptible to the murderous rage of a psychopathic personality. As Bundy so succinctly said, “We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow.”

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Bundy’s VW Bug

For those who have been asking, here are some photos I took of Bundy’s ’68 Bug when it was being shown at the Crime & Punishment museum in Washington, D.C.

Notice anything missing??

Bundy and the 1970’s investigation

During an era where serial killers were emerging as a phenomenon in the United States, police departments throughout the country were finding it difficult to identify them. Serial killers are known for primarily murdering strangers and having few ties to their victims. This makes it a very difficult job for investigators who are accustomed to following up on connections between perpetrators and their prey. Police were able to gradually follow the few clues that Ted unwittingly left behind, but it took time and a great deal of manpower to catch the man behind the madness.

Bob Keppel, King County (WA) Investigator

During the 1970’s when Ted was on the prowl, lack of communication between law enforcement officials made it difficult to connect the crimes of serial offenders. Often times, personnel in various police departments refused to cooperate with those in other locations, leading to a great deal of hostility and animosity. To their detriment, criminals were able to benefit from the oversights between jurisdictions. Ted was known to travel a great deal so that his crimes weren’t connected. In fact, until the famed “Aspen Summit” in November of 1975 where Robert Keppel, Jerry Thompson, Michael Fisher, and thirty other investigators met and compared notes on each area’s crime sprees, very little sharing had occurred to connect Ted Bundy’s crimes.

Just a normal guy

Serial killing differs greatly from other types of murders in that most serial killing victims are strangers to their killers. Therefore, investigators had no links to follow to quickly suss out their culprit. Ted didn’t know any of the women he killed and because he left little forensic evidence behind, wearing gloves and a ski mask, detectives had little to go on. In fact, when investigators searched his room at a Salt Lake City rooming house, no usable fingerprints were located, not even prints belonging to Bundy. This truly shows the lengths to which Bundy would go to avoid capture.

Something notable about the “Ted Murders” investigation (so named after Ted used his real name when abducting women at Lake Sammamish) was the use of a computer in collating suspect names and vehicles. By the 1970’s, computers had come a long way from their preliminary origins, but they were still rudimentary compared to today’s technology. Washington state police had a large amount of data they needed to collate. Rather than taking the time to manually separate the various names and vehicle information, they turned to the King County payroll computer. It was a mechanical behemoth by today’s standards, but it served its purpose and compiled several lists, one of which compared local residents named Ted to those who also owned VW Bugs. Ted’s name was on that list along with 25 other men who matched the criteria. This was later determined by the time he had become an official suspect after his arrest in the attempted kidnapping of Carol DaRonch.

Carol DaRonch, Ted’s only known Utah survivor

Something else that benefited Bundy was that he didn’t look like a killer. He was clean-cut, wore nice clothing, and appeared to have a great deal of ambition. Some people even thought he was good-looking. He certainly never had problems getting dates with women once he became an adult. Ted was a dedicated Republican and his ambition to become a lawyer made him seem motivated and intelligent to outsiders. He was able to dress the part because he was an expert thief and stole most of the clothing he owned. It has also been suggested that police thought it was highly unlikely that someone who looked like Ted would be a serial killer.
For all of the limitations that science provided during Bundy’s active killing spree, he was eventually linked to several murders through small things that built up slowly over time. Ted was identified in a police line-up by attempted kidnapping victim, Carol DaRonch, the handcuffs that were linked to DaRonch’s kidnapping was tied to Debi Kent’s murder, he used his real first name at the Lake Samammish abduction site around crowds of people, his girlfriend Liz reporting him to both Utah and Washington state police, among other connections. Despite the lack of sophisticated forensics and technology, Bundy’s mistakes and cockiness were what eventually got him caught and ended his brutal killing spree. It wouldn’t have been possible to tie him to the crimes without the dedication and hard work of the detectives and officers who worked tirelessly to bring him to justice.

Criminology Podcast Season 3: Teddy B. Edition

When I attended CrimeCon this past May, the last thing I expected was to meet and collaborate with the hosts of the Criminology Podcast. Mike Morford (aka “Morf”) & I met through Twitter prior to the trip, so meeting him in person was a no-brainer. In fact, he was the first familiar face I saw when I arrived. Next to him sat Mike Ferguson (“Ferg”) of True Crime All The Time and True Crime All The Time Unsolved fame. Morf introduced me to Ferg as the host of this blog and a true Bundy fanatic. This lead to a conversation about working on a script for Season 3 of their joint podcast because they wanted to discuss Ted Bundy.

In thoroughly researching Bundy, I drew a great deal of information from this blog, but also from various other books about Bundy’s life. A few include: “Ted and Ann,” “The Only Living Witness,” “The Phantom Prince,” and “The Stranger Beside Me.”

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Mike Ferguson (far left), Mike Morford (center), me, and Mike Gibson (right) of True Crime All the Time fame.

Now that you know the story behind the story, click below and dive into the details of a killer who continues to actively live in on in the media.

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/true-crime-all-the-time/criminology

Teddy Bloody Teddy

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Over 2 decades after Ted Bundy was executed for the death of Kimberly Leach, investigators stumbled across a vial of his blood in 2011. All evidence from Bundy’s trial for the Columbia County, Florida murder was thought to have been destroyed, but somehow his blood vial was kept in evidence. Authorities uploaded his DNA profile to the FBI’s Combined DNA System (CODIS) in hopes of connecting Bundy to the murders of several unsolved cases throughout the United States.

One of Bundy’s eight-year-old neighbors in Tacoma, Washington has been missing since 1961, when Ted was fourteen. Though not suspected in Ann Marie Burr’s disappearance at the time, detectives on the cold case paid attention to Bundy once he was arrested in 1978. His childhood home had been just blocks away from Burr’s. Ann Marie was also Ted’s uncle Jack’s piano student, so it’s likely the two knew each other in passing. Unfortunately, the child’s body has never been found and Bundy never admitted to her kidnapping.

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Ann Marie Burr

Two flight attendants were brutally beaten with a piece of lumber in 1966 in their apartment. Lonnie Trumbull died from the attack and Lisa Wick survived, with no memory of the event. During his conversations with Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen Michaud, he advised them (in third person) how a burgeoning killer would have used a piece of wood to brutally beat women, particularly the killer’s initial victims. Stalking them and battering the women was probably Bundy’s early method of operation. Detectives hoped to match Bundy to the DNA left behind during the crime to close it.

When Ted was visiting family in Philadelphia, PA in 1969, he admitted to visiting the area where the women were vacationing during his time there. Nearby, in Ocean City, New Jersey, Susan Davis and Elizabeth Perry drove down the Garden State Parkway returning home to Pennsylvania. Later in that same day, their blue 1965 convertible Chevrolet was found abandoned on the side of the road. The car was towed, but there was no sign of the women. Two days later, their bodies were found near the parkway. They had been stabbed to death and dumped together. Though Bundy admitted being in the area during that time and visiting the same beach the women attended, he was never connected to the murders.

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There are likely many other possible murders that Bundy committed during his reign of terror. To date, no murders have been solved by the vials of blood located. Some surmise the sample had degraded too much over the past forty years to have been of any use. There is little information about how it was stored during all that time. Though not a viable source of evidence connecting Bundy at this time, as science advances, it may be more feasible that we will eventually determine further murders Bundy committed.

Bundy’s 1975 Arrest

On August 16, 1975, Ted Bundy was arrested in Granger, Utah for evading capture from a local police officer. In the police report listed below, Robert Hayward explains details of Bundy’s capture, including the “burglary tools” found in his car. Mention of this his missing passenger seat is also included.

“UTAH Highway Patrol Incident Report

Type of Incident: Attempt to Evade

Reporting: Sgt. Robert A. Hayward

Division: Special Operations

At about 2:30 A.M. on Saturday morning, August 16 [1975], a gray Volkswagen went by me while I was sitting in my patrol car in front of my house. I looked at the license plate and did not recognize it.

About ten minutes later…as I was going up Brock Street in Granger, a car took off north bound on Brock Street at a high rate of speed…I was in pursuit…at a high rate of speed. We ran the stop sign at Brock and LeMay and again at the entrance to the 35th South off Brock Street…I had the red spotlight on him when he ran the stop sign at Brock and LeMay, but he just went as fast as possible.

Bob Hayward, Utah State Trooper

…I pulled up on him fast, and he pulled over into a gas station. He produced his drivers license which identified him to be Theodore Robert Bundy, 565 1st Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah, dob 11/24/46. The man wearing dark pants, a dark turtle neck with long sleeves, and sneakers. He stated that he was lost in the subdivision, but he had been there and again came back in about ten minutes…

I looked in the front seat and there was not a seat on the passenger side, so I looked a little closer and discovered the front seat was lying in the back seat on its side. On the floor were some tools such as a jimmy bar about 14 inches long…

I called for a County car to come over and they sent a Deputy and a Sergeant. They talked to Mr. Bundy and he told them he had been out west to the drive-in theater to see “The Towering Inferno.” We checked at the theater and that movie was not playing, so he just said he was lost.

The deputies looked in the car and asked if there was a gun in it. I said not to my knowledge, but that I had not looked that closely and perhaps we should check farther. After that, they came up with a few other items of interest that a person coming from a movie normally would not carry such as an ice pick, a pair of handcuffs, silk stockings with holes cut in for the eyes and nose, and other items that a burglar might carry.

Ted’s “burglary kit” found during the search.

They called for a detective car and Deputy Ondrak came over and took the items into custody. We impounded the car and I took Mr. Bundy to the County Jail and booked him on the charge of ‘Attempting to Evade a Police Officer.’ The time of booking was approximately 3:30 A.M.”