A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy

Patrick Lynch - May 3, 2017

Ted Bundy’s name inevitably pops up whenever there is a discussion about American serial killers. He murdered over 30 people in at least seven states and escaped custody on two occasions (once in prison, once in a courtroom). Bundy was finally tracked down, sentenced to death and executed via the electric chair in Florida in 1989. He was a cold-blooded killer who used his charm to seduce his female victims. A significant number of his victims willingly entered his Volkswagen Beetle; few survived the ordeal.

Not content with merely killing women, he tortured and raped them and occasionally performed depraved acts with the corpses. Bundy decapitated at least 12 of his victims and derived a sick pleasure from his gruesome deeds. An attorney on his last defense team described him as: “the very definition of heartless evil.” In this article, I look at 6 odd facts about this vile human being.

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Gary Ridgway The Green River Killer. The Seattle Times

1 – He Helped the Green River Killer Task Force

In a bizarre situation akin to Silence of the Lambs (where Hannibal Lecter worked with the FBI to catch Buffalo Bill), Bundy helped the police catch the infamous Green River Killer. In fact, the strange event was the inspiration for the book and movie. Detective Robert Keppel received a letter from a man who wanted to be part of the Green River task force. The man was none other than Ted Bundy. Even more bizarre is the fact that Keppel is one of the people who took the serial killer down.

Of course, Bundy’s motives were typically selfish and sick. He wanted to relive his glory days as a predator on the loose and was clearly aroused when hearing the details of the sick Green River Killer’s deeds. It is important to note that while Bundy didn’t provide any insights that led to the eventual capture of Gary Ridgway, he did provide Keppel with useful information on how a killer’s mind works.

For example, he told the police to set up a sex-slasher film festival and set up video surveillance on attendees. Although Keppel said he couldn’t do that, Bundy was adamant that the footage would help identify future murderers. Bundy provided even more pertinent help when he correctly stated that Ridgway would return to the scenes of the crimes; this is because Bundy did the same thing. Although the police set up surveillance along the Green River, media presence ruined the whole stakeout according to Keppel. He said one of the Seattle media outlets had a helicopter in the sky looking at the undercover vehicles. It effectively acted as Ridgway’s eye in the sky.

The Green River killings stopped in 1983, but the police finally got their man in 2001. Gary Ridgway was caught, and DNA evidence linked him to four of the murders. He pled guilty to 48 murders in total. As part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, another conviction was added to make it 49. He later confessed to a total of 71 murders.

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy talking to his lawyers. Bizarrepedia

2 – Escape Artist

Bundy’s innate desire to kill, along with a keen sense of self-preservation, opportunism, and intelligence, allowed him to escape custody on two separate occasions. In March 1976, Bundy was sentenced to between 1 and 15 years in prison for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. He was sent to Utah State Prison, and officials really should have known what to expect in future because, in October 1976, Bundy was caught carrying an ‘escape kit’ in the prison yard. At that time, he was already a suspect in several murders; that’s what makes his first escape all the more astonishing.

He was charged with the murder of Caryn Campbell and transferred to Aspen in January 1977. When the time came for his preliminary hearing, Bundy chose to act as his own attorney. Rather than using it as an excuse to show off his intelligence, Bundy did this because of a legal loophole. As Bundy was an attorney, the judge ordered the removal of his handcuffs and leg shackles.

During a recess, he asked for permission to research in the courthouse’s law library. Bundy hid behind a bookcase and escaped out of a window. He jumped from the second story, sprained his ankle on landing and hobbled to the Aspen Mountains. Bundy spent three days in the mountains before stealing a car. However, police saw his car weaving in and out of the lane, and the exhausted killer was back in custody.

His second escape plan was more successful but also unnecessary. Although he was still in prison for the kidnapping, it was increasingly likely that he would be acquitted in the murder trial. Nonetheless, Bundy hatched an escape plan which involved a hacksaw and a detailed floor plan of the prison. With $500 he had smuggled over the course of six months, Bundy launched his next great escape.

He used the blade to saw a gap of 30cm between the steel bars in his cell’s ceiling. He deliberately lost 35 pounds in weight while in prison to ensure he could squeeze through the gap. After multiple test runs, Bundy made his way through the crawl space in the ceiling after leaving a pile of books on his bed to simulate his body on December 31, 1977. Then he broke into the head jailer’s apartment, stole a set of clothes and made his way to freedom. It took 17 hours for the prison to realize he was gone. By then, Bundy was in Chicago and getting ready to kill again. He murdered at least four more women before being captured on February 12, 1978.

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Bundy in 1978 in Florida as an indictment is read against him. People

3 – Bundy the Life Saver

In what a complete contradiction of everything Bundy was, he once saved the life of a 3-year-old boy. The incident happened in 1970 when the boy apparently wandered away from his parents and fell in Seattle’s Green Lake. Bundy was one of the first people to spot the child drowning and dived into the lake to save him.

It remains a mystery: Why did someone with no regard for human life save a boy? Perhaps he was just trying to ‘fit in’ like fictional serial killer Dexter. It should be noted at that point; there is a possibility that Bundy had yet to kill. He told different stories about his first killings over the course of his life. Bundy claimed that he did not kill anyone until 1971, yet he told a psychologist that he killed two women in Atlantic City in 1969.

If that isn’t odd enough, there is also the small matter of Bundy working in a Suicide Hotline in Seattle in the 1970s. Again, there is no doubt that he did it to gain sick sexual satisfaction. Bundy often helped talk young women through difficult situations, and he even wrote a rape prevention pamphlet. On top of everything else, he worked as the assistant director of the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission.

Clearly, he enjoyed working on the suicide hotline as it gave him power over life and death; this is something he craved. It is extremely likely that he enjoyed toying with vulnerable women on the phone just as he did in real life later on. While police have never found a connection between his killings and the women he spoke to while working on the hotline, Bundy suggested he committed other murders, so there is a possibility that he used his charm to meet, and kill some of these women.

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Picture of Stephanie Brooks. YouTube

4 – His Victims Were Based On a Template of his Ex-Girlfriend

This fact doesn’t come as a surprise to those who study serial killers. It is common for these deranged individuals to choose victims based on lost love or even a parental figure (usually the mother). When it comes to Bundy, the ‘template’ was his one-time girlfriend, Diane Edwards, more commonly known by the pseudonym Stephanie Brooks.

She was a fellow classmate at the University of Washington, and they started dating in 1967. At that time, Bundy had no real direction in life and soon dropped out of college and worked in a number of minimum wage jobs. Soon after, Brooks dumped Bundy and returned home to California. She did not want a relationship with someone who had no ambition and was immature.

Bundy had another tempestuous relationship (with Elizabeth Kloepfer) after that but he was heartbroken when Brooks left him. Ultimately, he appeared to turn his life around and returned to the University of Washington where he graduated with a degree in psychology. Bundy rekindled his relationship with Brooks in 1973, and she was amazed at his transformation from layabout into a serious and dedicated professional.

At that stage in his life, it appeared as if Bundy was destined for a fine legal and political career. After his graduation in 1972, he joined the reelection campaign of Washington Governor Daniel Evans. Although he only achieved average scores on Law School Admission Tests, Bundy was accepted into the law schools of the University of Utah and UPS. He gained admission mainly due to letters of recommendation from important people including Evans.

Bundy even discussed marriage with Brooks as their relationship blossomed, but one day in January 1974, he broke off all contact. Eventually, he coldly answered one call and hung up, never to speak to her again. According to Bundy, he never forgave Brooks for the initial breakup and just wanted to prove that he could have married her. By now, Bundy had stopped attending law school, and women started to disappear.

All of his victims have a similar appearance to Brooks. They were all white females aged 15-25, college students from middle-class backgrounds and they all had long, straight dark brown hair with a parting down the center. Former police officer and crime writer Ann Rule worked alongside Bundy on numerous occasions, and there were plenty of opportunities for him to kill her. Fortunately for Rule, she did not resemble Brooks, so she was never a likely victim.

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Bundy and Ann Marie Burr. Pinterest

5 – He Killed Earlier Than Originally Thought

Perhaps it is incorrect to include this as a ‘fact, ‘ but it seems extremely likely that Bundy began killing before 1974. Although he is believed to have killed over 30 women, Bundy once told a police officer to “Add one digit to that, and you’ll have it.” Maybe it is an idle boast, but Bundy had never revealed when he first started killing and offered various versions of his murderous spree throughout the course of his life.

There is a belief that he murdered Ann Marie Burr in 1961 when Bundy was just 14 years of age. As a child, he already displayed disturbing behavior which included sexual deviancy and animal mutilation. According to one family story, Bundy took knives from the kitchen and laid them around his aunt as she was sleeping; he was 3 years old at the time. While he was never a suspect in the kidnapping of Burr (who has never been found), Bundy did live close to the Burr home at the time.

Alas, DNA tests in 2011 did not reveal any evidence of Bundy as the perpetrator. He denied his involvement, and when the Burr family wrote to him before his execution, he replied and said he was a normal 14-year-old kid with no desire to hurt anyone. According to Burr’s family, however, Bundy actually knew Ann Marie, and the duo was on friendly terms. As a result, she would have no reason to fear him; this would make a kidnapping easy. In an interview with Keppel, Bundy said there were some crimes that even a serial killer would not admit to; one committed at a young age, one with a child victim and one committed close to home. Burr’s abduction and subsequent murder would fit all three criteria.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Bundy was a pathological liar. For example, he told a psychologist that he murdered women in 1969 but told someone else that his first killings didn’t happen until 1974. Bundy once said that the estimate of 35 victims was accurate yet on another occasion, he said it was over 100. Keppel believes the total was far higher than originally believed and says that while Bundy knows that, the killer doesn’t know how many victims died at his hand nor does he even know why he killed them. What we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty is that Bundy started killing long before 1974.

A Killer in Plain Sight: 6 Facts about Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Revellers outside Florida State Prison on the morning of Bundy’s execution. Gizmodo

6 – There Was a Party When He Died

It seems that no matter how crazy, evil or depraved someone is, there is always another person willing to overlook their flaws. In Bundy’s case, Carol Ann Boone chooses to overlook the fact that he was on trial for a series of brutal murders. Ever the opportunist, Bundy took advantage of an unusual Florida law whereby a marriage declaration in court in the presence of a judge is a legal marriage. During the trial, he called Carol Ann Boone as a witness and married her on the witness stand.

Boone maintained that Bundy was innocent for a very long time and even gave birth to his daughter in 1982. When he was sentenced to death for the third time in 1980, Boone stood up in court and shouted: “Tell the jury they were wrong.” She stood by her man until he confessed to a number of murders. One theory says it was only at that point when she realized her mistake, so she decided to divorce him. Another possibility is that she was hurt by his relationship with a woman called Diana Weber. Boone even refused to accept his final pre-execution call.

In some cases, when a Death Row inmate is about to be executed, there is a group of people protesting outside the prison as they believe the death penalty is barbaric and wrong. In Bundy’s case, even the most vehement anti-death penalty protester would surely think twice about complaining? Certainly, there was something of a party atmosphere on the morning of January 24, 1989; the day that Bundy faced Florida’s electric chair, nicknamed ‘Old Sparky.’

By 6 am that morning, the roads that led to Florida State Prison were extremely busy as around 500 people gathered outside and held a celebration right around the time that Bundy was getting his head shaved. The brash and confident Bundy was now a complete wreck and refused his last meal of steak and eggs. Some people sold ‘smoked’ Bundy burgers outside while vendors sold t-shirts commemorating the event. Meanwhile, the psychopath wept and was apparently hysterical when led to the chair.

The electric current surged through him for about a minute, and smoke came up from his right thigh. Apparently, he died with a smile on his face. Once the people outside heard about his death, they started chanting and banging frying pans. Then there were fireworks. Finally, the monster had been removed from the Earth.


Sources For Further Reading:

All That’s Interesting – The Crimes Of Gary Ridgway, The Green River Killer Who Murdered Up To 71 Women

Business Insider – From Troubled Childhood To Electric Chair: The Full Timeline Of Ted Bundy’s Life And Murder Spree

History Collection – 40 Disturbing Facts About Ted Bundy

The Sun – How Many People Did Ted Bundy Kill?

Heavy – Diane Edwards, Ted Bundy’s Girlfriend: How She Changed Him

Vanity Fair – Inside Ted Bundy’s Real-Life Relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer

All That’s Interesting – Elizabeth Kloepfer Was Ted Bundy’s Girlfriend — While His Murder Spree Was Unfolding

Women Health Magazine – Who Was Ted Bundy’s Wife Carole Boone From ‘Falling for a Killer,’ And What Happened To Her?

AETV – What Was Ted Bundy’s Execution Like?