Cultured, handsome, charming – these were some of the adjectives used to describe Ted Bundy. In other words, he could have been a ladies’ man or even a lady-killer if he so desired. However, these descriptions pertained to only one side of him. The other, darker, side of Ted Bundy was described as an “insatiable killer” who was suspected of having committed his first murder when he was only 14 years old. In fact, those who were able to read about him were one in saying that he was not only infamous but that he actually personified the devil when he was already “strangling and mutilating his victims, displaying their lopped-off heads in his apartment and sleeping with their corpses until putrefaction made it unbearable” (Chua-Eoan).
It was also established that he sexually assaulted his hapless victims by using “crowbars or hairspray bottles.” The fact was, Ted Bundy, who was executed on January 24, 1989 and who was suspected of killing at least 30 and as much as 100 females, confessed to have had committed 28 murders.
His victims were all females (Celebrity Morgue).
Two decades after his death and almost forty years after he was supposed to have committed his first murder, Ted Bundy still intrigues students of criminology who have yet to establish the real reason which drove Ted Bundy over the edge and go on a killing spree. He was alleged to have murdered more than 35 women in the states of Washington, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon. This was the reason why police authorities in these five states spent years trying to locate and arrest him for the purpose of investigating said murder cases (Federal Bureau of Investigation). It is felt that perhaps a certain level of understanding could be acquired by looking at the circumstances which surrounded the birth and the life of Ted Bundy.
Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946. His mother, Louise Cowell, moved into the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Vermont when she was already six months pregnant and gave birth three months after. One account was that his father was a veteran of the Air Force but Ted did not know about it while he was growing up. As a matter of fact, shortly after giving birth, his mother brought him to her parents’ home in Philadelphia where he was led to believe as he was growing up that his mother was only his sister and that his grandparents were actually his parents (Bell). This led some people to harbor the suspicion that his mother may have actually carried on an incestuous relationship with his grandfather, Sam. In other words, Ted may have been sired by his own grandfather. According to these people, Ted’s incestuous birth might have been one explanation of his actions (Predator).
When Ted was four years old, his mother, who was still posing as his older sister, brought him with her to Tacoma, Washington where they lived with some of their relatives (Bell). Upon reaching Washington, his mother changed his name to Nelson for some unknown reasons. Thus, he became Theodore Robert Nelson (Predator). While in Washington, his mother met and fell in love with Johnnie Culpepper Bundy, a military cook. After their marriage in May of 1951, Ted became Theodore Robert Bundy after assuming the last name of his stepfather (Serial Killer Calendar). Ted, therefore, had been Theodore Robert Cowell from birth to age four, then Theodore Robert Nelson from age four to five, and finally, Theodore Robert Bundy from age five up to the time of his death. Those who have studied his case wondered if perhaps the confusion which surrounded his birth and early childhood could have traumatized him and eventually caused him to act the way he did (Predator).
When his mother gave birth to four children by his stepfather, Ted became their babysitter. He was expected to spend most of his time after school taking care of them. During those years, his stepfather tried to involve Ted in father-son activities like camping trips in order to establish a stronger bond between them. However, it was Ted who maintained his emotional detachment by staying aloof. In a book entitled “Ted Bundy: Conversation with a Killer,” Hugh Avnesworth and Stephen Michaud wrote that after some time, Ted just grew more uncomfortable with his stepfather and would rather spend his time by himself. For some people, that desire to be left alone could have developed in him an inability to successfully interact with other people (Bell).
Consequently, Ted became shy. He failed to develop self-confidence and became uncomfortable in social gatherings. According to Michaud and Avnesworth and their book, Ted Bundy was
not like other children, he looked and acted like them, but he was haunted by something else: a fear, a doubt – sometimes only a vague uneasiness – that inhabited his mind with the subtlety of a cat. He felt it for years, but he didn’t recognize it for what it was until much later (Bell).
Ted Bundy, therefore, was aloof and different and suffered humiliation as a result. In spite of his circumstances, however, he was a good student who maintained a high grade-point average in high school and even in college. He even became more gregarious, popular, and developed into a “well dressed and exceptionally well mannered” individual. Nevertheless, the popular Ted Bundy was more interested in extra-curricular activities than in going out with the opposite sex (Bell).
Unfortunately, his high school years were tainted with a couple of incidents wherein he was suspected to have engaged in acts of burglaries. However, after successfully avoiding being charged, Ted Bundy graduated in 1965 from the Woodrow Wilson High School. However, although everything appeared normal during his high school years, Ted Bundy was actually engaging more and more in theft and even admitted to being “socially retarded.” After high school, he spent two uneventful semesters at the University of Puget Sound. Then he moved to the University of Washington at the start of school year 1966 (Predator).
Although he supported himself by taking on low-paying jobs such as those of a shoe clerk or a bus boy, his performance was characterized as inconsistent, frequently moving from one job to another, only staying in one position for a short period of time. In contrast, however, his performance in school was said to be consistent – earning high grades – until 1967 when he met and fell in love with the sophisticated Stephanie Brooks who came from a rich family from California and who “was everything he had ever dreamed of in a woman.” It was believed that his ensuing relationship with Stephanie was what changed his life forever (Bell). Stephanie was said to be a “beautiful young woman who wore her long, dark hair parted in the middle.” It later struck investigators that the physical description of Stephanie Brooks greatly resembled the looks of most of Ted Bundy’s victims (Predator).
She was believed to be Ted’s first love. As a matter of fact, many suspected that it was Ted’s first sexual involvement with the opposite sex. He was also somewhat overwhelmed by the fact that Stephanie, who came from a rich and sophisticated family, would show an interest in him. However, their relationship was doomed from the start. First, they did not share many things in common. In fact, they had different views on many things. Second, Ted’s infatuation was not really returned fully by Stephanie. In other words, he was in love with her more than she was with him. Stephanie liked Ted but in her view, he was not focused enough on his plans for the future. Ted tried everything in his power in order to save the relationship. He did everything just to impress her. He would even resort to lying if he believed that his lies would do the job. Even his effort to obtain a scholarship to Stanford University in California was aimed at making a good impression on Stephanie (Bell).
However, his stay at Stanford only served to expose his immaturity and after Stephanie’s graduation from the University of Washington in 1968, she immediately broke off with Ted. In her view, Ted was not a good husband material because of the serious flaws which she had observed in his character. The break-up simply devastated Ted. He never recovered from it. He became depressed, lost interest in everything, including his academic activities, and eventually left school altogether. He tried writing her in order to stay in touch and attempt to get her back but she was no longer interested in him. Finally, observers believed that his obsession with Stephanie was one of the factors that led him to resort to the evil acts that later shocked the whole world (Bell).
It was also believed that his discovery about the true circumstances of his birth somehow aggravated the situation. It was 1969 and Ted Bundy was drifting around after dropping-out of school when he decided to check his birth records in Burlington, Vermont, his birthplace. He learned from his records that his registered father was one Lloyd Marshall and his mother was actually the older sister who raised him (Predator). The effect of this discovery on Ted was never known for certain. However, after leaving his birthplace, he returned to Washington and again tried to get back together with Stephanie. His effort, however, failed. After Stephanie rejected him once again, Ted returned to the University of Washington a driven man. He excelled in his academics and became an honor student. He also worked hard in extra-curricular activities, particularly in local politics by becoming actively involved in political campaigns (Predator).
Unknown to most people, his “psychopathic nature” was already being revealed. Only, those who were witnessing Ted’s actions did not realize it at the time. An example of a trait common to psychopaths that Ted had already shown was his act of “stealing without any sense of guilt” including the thrill that he enjoyed as a result of the “excitement and danger that stealing and shoplifting present[ed]” to him. Another was his evolution from being a shy to a dominant and a highly focused individual. He appeared driven to everyone, as if he just needed to prove his worth to everybody. Between 1969 and 1972, Ted did not only appear normal but a changed man. He showed signs of being more confident with every hope for a bright future. While working for a degree in psychology, he started sending out his applications to law schools of his choice. He also became actively involved in local politics, working for the re-election of the Republican governor of Washington and contributed valuable time working as a volunteer at a crisis clinic. At one time, the Seattle Police Department even commended him after he saved a three-year-old boy he saw drowning in a lake (Bell).
He met a quiet, shy divorcee who had a daughter and was working as a secretary with whom he carried on a relationship which lasted for five years. Her name was Meg Anders (Lohr). She later became known as Elizabeth Kendall, the pseudonym which she used when she wrote “The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy.” She was deeply in love with Ted and made it known to him that she wanted to be his wife because she believed that he would be a good father to her daughter. Unfortunately, Ted made it known from the start that he was not yet contemplating marriage. In spite of his refusal to marry her and her suspicions that Ted was seeing other women simultaneously, she still entertained the idea that Ted would ultimately stick with her forever and become the father of her daughter (Bell).
Unknown to Elizabeth, Ted was also keeping in touch with Stephanie through letters. He was finally able to reconcile with her in 1973 after they met while he was on a trip to California in connection with the Washington Republican Party. Stephanie was probably convinced that Ted had already changed because he was certainly more mature and more confident. She fell in love with Ted again and the two started talking about marriage. However, just as Stephanie was already seriously considering a future with Ted, the latter suddenly showed a drastic change in behavior. A new Ted who was “cold and despondent” appeared. In other words, Ted made it appear that all of a sudden, he had lost whatever interest he used to have in Stephanie. He wanted her to know that he did not want anything to do with her anymore so he stopped seeing her altogether. What Stephanie did not know was that Ted had only been exacting his revenge on her all along (Bell).
By February 1974, Ted Bundy stopped seeing Stephanie altogether, “dumping” her just like he was dumped by her before. However, Ted’s revenge did not end there. In fact, it had already started even before he “dumped” Stephanie, having taken place on January 4, 1974. His first victim was Joni Lentz, 18 years old. She was living in a house in Seattle, sharing a room with some roommates. Her roommates never suspected anything when she did not join them for breakfast. However, later in the day, some of her roommates became concerned when she still did not make an appearance. So they decided to see if anything was wrong with her. When they found her, she was lying in a pool of her own blood, a metal rod which was broken off from her bed imbedded in her vagina. Since she was still breathing, her friends immediately called the paramedics and reported the matter to the police. When the paramedics arrived, Joni was comatose but alive. Miraculously, however, she survived (Lohr).
On January 31, 1974, Lynda Ann Healy, 21 years old, became Ted Bundy’s next known victim. Lynda was a weather forecaster who was at the same time studying law at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her superior at the office called one of her roommates, advising her that Lynda did not report for work and please check on her. When the roommate went down to the basement bedroom being occupied by Lynda, she saw a bed that was made up and a bicycle parked in the corner of the room. However, when night came and Lynda still did not show up, her parents worriedly contacted the police and requested an investigation into her apparent disappearance. When police officers assigned to investigate her case entered her room, they found blood-soaked bed sheets and pillowcases, as well as a night gown whose neckline had dried blood on it. Unfortunately, as in Joni Lentz’ case, police investigators were unable to identify any suspect (Lohr).
During the months that followed, seven more disappearances were reported. These occurred in the states of Washington, Oregon, and Utah. The victims bore striking similarities: “slender Caucasian female, [and] wore her hair parted in the middle.” All of them vanished during the night. Although no suspect was apprehended, investigators were able to establish that a Volkswagen could have been involved, with a handsome man driving it. Witnesses also stated that he was seen to be wearing a cast if not on his leg, then on his arm. Some women also came out to state that they were approached by the man described and recalled him telling them that his name was Ted. However, police could still not determine what happened to the women who disappeared. A break in the cases occurred in August 1974 when police investigators found two bodies four miles from Washington’s Lake Sammamish. According to the investigators, the victims, who were later identified as Janice Ott and Denise Naslund, were killed “during a crazed sexual frenzy.” Although investigators could not find enough evidence, the similarities which were observed between the cases and those which occurred in Oregon were enough to alert investigators from Utah. Soon, investigators from Washington, Utah, and Oregon started working together and agreed among themselves that the murders were committed by the same perpetrator (Lohr).
On November 8, 1974, police had their first real break when Carol DaRonch, an 18-year-old from Salt Lake City, became the subject of an attempted kidnapping by a man who was driving a Volkswagen car. Carol, who was able to escape, provided police investigators with a description of the perpetrator as well as the car he was driving. While the case was being investigated, another girl, 17-year-old Debby Kent, was reported to have disappeared from her school, the Viewmont High School in Bountiful, Utah. A tan Volkswagen bug was seen by a witness speeding away from the parking lot of the school. However, nothing came out of the investigations and the killing stopped. Nothing occurred for four months (Lohr).
After a hiatus of four months, the perpetrator again struck, this time in Colorado. Police reports showed that at least four women disappeared under mysterious circumstances. One of the bodies of the missing women was found one month later several miles from where she was last seen. The autopsy which was conducted on the body found that the victim was murdered after a sexual assault. A blunt object was determined to be the murder weapon. Meanwhile, in Washington, the body of Lynda Ann Healy was found in the Taylor Mountains, together with the bodies of those women who also mysteriously disappeared (Lohr).
Finally, on August 16, 1975, Ted Bundy was arrested “for suspicion of burglary” in Granger, Utah. His arrest followed when he sped away from a highway patrolman who wanted to look at his plate number by turning on the spotlight of the police car. When Bundy pulled the car off to the side of the highway, the officer identified him through his identification. However, he was placed under arrest because “a pair of handcuffs, a length of rope, a crowbar, a ski mask, an ice pick, and a nylon stocking” was found in his car. Later, police investigators took serious note of his striking similarities with the suspect in Carol DaRonch’s attempted kidnapping. However, with Bundy denying his involvement in the case and without strong evidence to implicate him, police could not charge him in connection with the case even after DaRonch and other witnesses picked him up out of a line up. What they did, however, was to investigate his background extensively (Lohr).
After several weeks, however, other witnesses identified him as the man who gave them the name Ted and who was walking around with his leg or arm in a cast. Police later established that Bundy used to frequent the Taylor Mountains as shown by his familiarity of the area while a search of his apartment yielded some amounts of plaster of Paris for making casts. Police were also able to trace the gas purchases made by Bundy in the towns where victims had disappeared. In spite of his persistent denials, Bundy’s trial for the attempted kidnapping of Carol DaRonch was started on February 23, 1976. He was found guilty and was sentenced to an imprisonment of 15 years (Lohr).
Meanwhile, on October 22, 1976, the police in Colorado also charged Ted Bundy with having murdered 23-year-old Caryn Campbell whose battered body was discovered on February 17, 1975. In connection with this case, Ted Bundy was extradited to Colorado in April 1977. He was incarcerated in the Garfield County Jail while waiting for his November 14 trial. However, when he was granted library privileges for the purpose of preparing for his trial, he made good his escape on June 7, 1977 by jumping out of a window. However, pursuing police officers recaptured him after eight days as he was about to leave town using a stolen car. Ted Bundy, however, escaped again on December 30, 1977. He purposely ate very little so that he could shed 30 pounds and squeezed his thin body through a small hole in the ceiling which was provided for a light fixture. He then made his way into the closet of the adjoining apartment occupied by his jailer. From there, he walked as casually as he could out of the building. His absence was only realized after 15 hours. Bundy proceeded to Chicago where he boarded a plane bound for Florida (Lohr).
He rented an apartment which was located near the Florida State University and subsisted by stealing. He grew a beard and used the alias Chris Hagen. Unfortunately, Bundy could not contain his urge to kill so that on January 14, 1978, a Saturday, he again went to work. He attacked four students who were staying at the Chi Omega House by entering their rooms and knocking them into unconsciousness. Unfortunately, the injuries suffered by two of them were so severe as to cause their deaths. One of the victims was found to have been “beaten with a club, raped, and strangled.” Bite marks were also found on both her nipples and buttocks and a hair spray can made of metal was used to sexually assault her. It was established that the other victims were similarly attacked (Lohr).
Bundy again struck on February 9. The victim was Kimberly Leach, 12 years old. Her parents reported her missing but an extensive search failed to find her. Six days after, a man who appeared to be casing a residential area aboard an orange Volkswagen bug was apprehended by a police officer after establishing that the car he was driving was stolen. When his identification was established, investigators immediately took dental impressions for the purpose of comparing them with the bite marks found on the Chi Omega victim. His fate was finally decided when his dental impressions matched the bite marks on the victim. He was convicted for two counts of murder on July 23, 1980 and sentenced to death. A third death conviction was later obtained in connection with the death of Kimberly Leach. Her remains were discovered several weeks after Bundy’s arrest (Lohr).
Ted Bundy appealed his conviction for almost 10 years. However, he was finally executed on January 24, 1989, at 7 o’clock in the morning at Starke State prison in Florida (Fortune City.com). After his execution, his family requested that his remains be cremated. Afterwards, they spread his ashes over the mountains of the state of Washington where the corpses of some of his victims were found (Lohr). In retrospect, the case compelled law enforcement officers to change their manner of investigating homicide cases. The computer was introduced as an important tool for detecting cases of serial killings and organizing and compiling voluminous information as evidence of Bundy’s crimes spread over several states (law.jrank.org).
In interview with a psychologist, James Dobson, prior to his execution, Ted Bundy explained that pornography played a very vital role in molding his behavior. However, according to him, alcohol broke his restraints and enabled him to kill his very first victim. According to him, he started reading “soft-core pornography” at the age of 12 and it became a deadly habit with the passing of time. He said that his “experience with pornography … is once you become addicted to it, …I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material.” After several years, his desires which were fueled by his reading of pornographic materials found expression when he committed his first murder (Corpus).
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Celebrity Morgue. “Ted Bundy, Serial Killer.” 15 June 2009.
Chua-Eoan, Howard. “TED BUNDY, 1978.” 15 June 2009.
Corpus, Leilani. “What we learned from Ted Bundy.” March 1989. 15 June 2009.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Theodore Robert Bundy.” 15 June 2009.
Fortune City.com. “Ted Bundy.” 15 June 2009.
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Paradise, On The Move, Beginning Of The End.” 15 June 2009.
Lohr, David. “Ted Bundy: The Poster Boy of Serial Killers.” 6 October 2002. 15 June 2009.
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Cite this Analysis of Ted Bundy’s Life and Crimes
Analysis of Ted Bundy’s Life and Crimes. (2017, Jan 31). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/ted-bundy/