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.
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