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Serial Killer Profile: Ted Bundy

The name Ted Bundy has become one of the most notorious names in crime in the United States. Shortly before his execution in 1989, he admitted being responsible for 30 homicides over the course of four years, but his actual victim count - to this day - remains unknown, and some believe his kill count may exceed the number he admitted to. But just who was the notorious Ted Bundy, and what was his story? Read on for our serial killer profile of Theodore Robert Bundy.

Image courtesy of The New Yorker.

Bundy was born on November 24, 1946 under the last name Cowell to mother Louise Cowell in Burlington, Vermont. Bundy's father was never certainly identified, as Louise claimed that she was seduced by a sailor and that he was the father to Ted. Initially, Bundy was raised in Philadelphia by his maternal grandparents in an effort to avoid the stigma that surrounded birth out of wedlock. He was raised under the impression that his grandparents were actually his parents, and that his mother was his older sister. While being interviewed, Bundy admitted that he had resentment towards his mother for neglecting to tell him about his father and for keeping his parentage from him. In 1950, Louise left Philadelphia with Ted and they moved to Washington to live with her cousins, but not before changing her surname to Nelson. The following year, Louise met Johnny Culpepper Bundy and by the end of the year, the two were married and Johnny Bundy formally adopted Ted to be his son. Louise and Johnny went on to have four more children, and as much as Johnny tried to include Ted in family activities, Ted stayed distant from the rest of the group. Ted later went on to say that he chose to be alone the majority of the time, because he was unable to understand interpersonal relationships and that he had no idea how to create friendships. Although this didn't stop him from starting a relationship during his college years with fellow classmate Stephanie Brooks. After dropping out of college and working for the Rockefeller campaign, Brooks ended the relationship with Bundy, stating that he was immature and had a lack of motivation. It is believed, by psychiatrists, that this was a turning point in the developmental stages of Bundy's life.

While Ted Bundy would later go on to share details of his crimes and confess to 30 murders, he told different stories of his crimes to different people, and for whatever reason, refused to share details of his early crimes. Because of this, no one has been able to pin point an exact crime as the beginning of his eventual crime spree. He claimed once that his first kidnapping occurred in New Jersey in 1969, but that he did not commit his first murder until two years later in Seattle. But to homicide detectives, he claimed his first murder was in 1972 in Seattle, and another the following year in Washington - a hitchhiker. The frightening thing is that circumstantial evidence points to Bundy's first abduction and murder was in 1961 of Ann Marie Burr, when Bundy was only a fourteen year old boy. Bundy repeatedly denied the claim. But Ted Bundy's first documented murder was in 1974 at the age of 27. Bundy himself admitted that he had mastered the skills of homicide, and that he knew how to leave minimal evidence at the crime scene.

1974 - the beginning of Ted Bundy's warpath of kidnapping, raping, burglary and murder; the majority of which were young females and women. In the first week of January, Bundy entered into the apartment of sleeping Karen Sparks, and proceeded to beat her until she was unconscious with a metal rod from her bed frame- the same metal rod he used that same metal rod to sexually assault her. She remained unconscious for ten days afterwards, but survived with permanent disabilities. Just a few weeks later, Bundy broke into the apartment of Lynda Ann Healy - another fellow student at University of Washington, and beat her unconscious just before dressing her up and whisking her away. In the months that followed, it seemed like female college students were disappearing every month. Students at UW were just disappearing, and detectives and police were growing increasingly concerned. With no real leads or evidence, and the fact that there didn't seem to be anything that linked any of the girls together, it seemed like the only basis they had to go off of was the fact that all the missing girls seemed to be young, white, attractive college students. Nineteen year old Donna Gail Manson disappeared on March 12th, followed by Susan Rancourt on April 17th, Roberta Kathleen Parks on May 6th, Brenda Carol Ball on June 1st, Georgann Hawkins disappeared on June 11th - as you can see, there was very little time between each disappearance, and there was little evidence for the police and detectives to really work with to link the crimes to their committer. However, witnesses did come forward after the disappearance of Georgeann Hawkins in June, saying that a man was in the alley behind the dormitory on crutches and with a cast on his leg. They said he was struggling to carry a briefcase, and that the man had asked one of the women to help him bring the briefcase to his light brown Volkswagen Beetle. This would later become a common thread between many of the cases - this same colored Beetle was reported at many of the crime scenes.

On July 14th, it all came together when five women claimed that a handsome young man with his arm in a sling - introducing himself as Ted - asked them for their help in unloading a sailboat from his tan or bronze colored Beetle. Four of the women refused to help, and the one that did agree to help saw that there was no sailboat and fled the scene. In September and the months that followed, skeletal remains were being discovered and they were later identified as the victims of Bundy's doing, and the bones were found on a mountain where Bundy frequently hiked. In August of 1974, Bundy was accepted into the University of Utah Law School and ended up moving to Salt Lake City. The following month, a new string of homicides began. In Idaho, Bundy raped and strangled a still-unidentified hitchhiker. A month later, Bundy took sixteen year old Nancy Wilcox with the intention of "de-escalating" his urges by raping and releasing her, but he ended up "accidentally" strangling her while trying to silence her from screaming,

Bundy's victim count continued to rise over the following months, Melissa Anne Smith was found nine days after her disappearance, Ann Aime disappeared one night leaving a cafe, Caryn Eileen Campbell disappeared while walking to her hotel room... the list of people who fell victim to Bundy's hands continued to grow, and with it, the police were beginning to grow increasingly suspicious about Bundy. June 28th of 1975 became the final confession from Bundy - Susan Curtis had disappeared from her university and her body was never found. But it certainly wasn't the end of his crime spree. After fleeing to Florida, Bundy picked up his crazy antics right where he left off, starting small with things like stealing credit cards from women's shopping carts and shoplifting, and eventually escalating to breaking into a sorority house and bludgeoning a female and beating another senseless before tearing off her nipple, biting into her butt cheek, and sexually assaulting her with a hair misting bottle. He broke another woman's jaw and lacerated her shoulder, and broke the jaw and caused a concussion (among other damage) to another woman.

On February 12th, Bundy stole a car and began to flee to Tallahassee after being broke and owing money for rent. He was pulled over near the Alabama state line by a police officer who said that Bundy's Beetle was listed as stolen. Bundy kicked the police officer's legs out from under him and took off running before getting caught and arrested. When police were able to check out the stolen car, they found three identifications belonging to college students, 21 stolen credit cards, and a stolen tv set.

The information that Bundy ended up telling, through his court cases and interviews, is pretty chilling. Bundy said that when it came to stealing, the thrill was actually possessing what he had stolen, and being able to hold it in his hands knowing that he wanted it, and he went out and got it. When it came to murder, Bundy said first it was a to silence the victims and to prevent being caught for the crimes he committed against them. But soon afterwards, he admitted, they would just become a part of the adventure. "The ultimate possession was, in fact, the taking of the life. And then ... the physical possession of the remains."

Ted Bundy was placed on death row and was sentenced to execution by electric chair on January 24th, 1989. The night before his execution, Bundy spoke of suicide and how he did not want the state to have the satisfaction of watching him die. As he was being executed, hundreds of people were gathered in the pasture across the street from the prison, and there were cheers, as the hearse carrying Bundy's body left the prison. Bundy's body was cremated and his ashes were spread in an undisclosed location in the the Cascade Range in Washington. He admitted to only the 30 homicides, but subtly hinted at (and was suspected of) many more - some suggest upwards of even 100. While the world may never know just how many women have died at the hands of Bundy, it's obvious why Bundy became known as one of the most notorious serial killers of our time.


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