The Lady-Killer

Ted Bundy was an infamous serial killer whose six state murder spree spanned 4 years and claimed the lives of 30 or more young women. Some believe the actual number of victims could be as high as 100 or more. Ted Bundy was known for being an attractive charmer, and a bit of a chameleon, with an ability to blend in wherever he was. He used this to gain the confidence of his young victTed Bundy Mug ShotCredit: Florida State Archivesims.

Childhood and Early life of a Serial Killer

Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946 at the Elizabeth Lund Home For Unwed Mothers in Vermont. He never knew his father's identity. After his birth his mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell (commonly known as Louise), took him home to Philadelphia where he was raised as the adopted son of Samuel and Eleanor Cowell, Louise's parents.

The first true sign of Ted's malicious nature was shown at the early age of three. His Aunt Julia, then a teenager, was awakened from a nap to find herself surrounded on the bed by kitchen knives. Ted was standing by the bed, smiling. According to Julia, she was the only one to think that this was strange behavior and nothing was done.

In 1950 Louise and her son left Philadelphia to live with cousins in Tacoma, Washington. There she met Johnny Culpepper Bundy. They were married and Johnny formally adopted Ted. The couple had four children of their own, but Ted remained distant from his step-father. He seemed to hold him in disdain because he didn't make very much money. Money and prestige were very important things to Ted Bundy.

While in high school, he was arrested twice on suspicion of auto theft and burglary, but those arrests were stricken from his record at the age of 18, as is customary in most states. After graduating high school in 1965, Bundy seemed to turn his life around. He started volunteering at the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller's presidential campaign. He dated a college co-ed, but the relationship was eventually broken off by the girl. (Later he was to win her back to the point of engagement only to dump her. Bundy simply wanted to prove he could have married her if he had chosen to. Some people believe that all of Ted's victims were similar in appearance to his college girlfriend. This fact was repeatedly denied by Bundy.)

In 1969 Bundy became involved with a young divorcee in a relationship that would last for years. He became an honor student as a psychology major at UW and was well-regarded by his professors. He even took a job at Seattle's Suicide Hotline crisis center. In 1973, on the basis of several letters of recommendation, Ted Bundy was accepted into the law school of the University of Utah. Everyone could see that Ted Bundy had turned the corner into respectability. But everyone was wrong.

Ted Bundy's Serial Killing History: Washington State and Utah

There is no way to know for sure when Bundy began killing women. Some believe he may have started as a teenager. His earliest known murders were in 1974. Ted Bundy was 27.

Just after midnight on January 4, 1974, Ted Bundy attacked a student at UW in her basement bedroom, bludgeoning her with a metal rod from her bed frame and then sexually assaulting her with the rod, causing extensive internal damage. She survived the attack, but was left with permanent brain damage. A month later, Bundy turned his attentions to Lynda Ann Healy, a radio weather broadcaster. She had the dubious honor of being Ted Bundy's first confirmed serial killer victim. After that, about one female college student began disappearing each month, all victims of Bundy. Most of the crime scene investigations revealed sightings of a man wearing a cast or sling and driving a brown Volkswagen Beetle.

On July 14, 1974, Ted Bundy abducted two women from Lake Sammamish State Park. Five female witnesses described Bundy and enabled the police to put together a composite sketch which was printed in newspapers and broadcast on television. Four people turned in Bundy's name as a suspect, including his divorcee girl-friend. But the police were getting up to 200 tips a day, and it just didn't seem like a clean-cut charming law student could possibly be their killer. And in August 1974, Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah Law School, and his hunting ground changed.

Shortly after his move, young women began disappearing in Utah. In November, Bundy abducted Carol DaRonch by impersonating a law officer. She managed to escape. Possibly upset that his murder, and to him fun, was foiled, he moved on to the Viewmont High School where he took Debra Kent, a 17 year old student when leaving a theater production at the school. He was spotted there by several people.

Ted Bundy's Arrest and First TrialTed Bundy at Press ConferenceCredit: Florida State Archives

In an odd quirk of fate, Ted Bundy was arrested in August 1975 by a Utah Highway Patrol Officer for failing to pull over for a routine traffic stop. When the officer noted the front passenger seat was missing, he searched the car and found several items, including a pair of handcuffs, that ultimately connected him to the November DaRonch kidnapping. On October 2, 1975, Bundy was picked from a lineup by Carol DaRonch and also by witnesses from Viewmont High School. The police didn't have enough evidence to connect Bundy to the Kent disappearance, but more than enough to charge him with the aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault on DaRonch. After his trial in February 1976, Bundy was found guilty and sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. Then the police gathered enough evidence to link him to one of his victims, Caryn Campbell, and Ted Bundy was faced with his first murder charge.

Ted Bundy's Escapes

Ted Bundy was a master manipulator. By electing to serve as his own attorney, he was granted certain privileges. One being the use of the law library and the other being the fact that his handcuffs and leg shackles were removed during court sessions. On June 7, 1977, Ted Bundy used these privileges to escape from the Pitkin County Courthouse during a recess by jumping from a second story window. He managed to remain a fugitive for six days before being pulled over for reckless driving and recaptured.

But Bundy had the taste for freedom. Devising another plan, he managed to obtain a hacksaw and saw a one foot square from his cell's ceiling. He had to lose 35 pounds to make his plan workable. Then on December 30, when most of the jail's workers were off for Christmas break, Bundy made his escape. This time his capture was not so easy. Ted Bundy went to Florida.

Florida: The Last Hunting Ground for Serial Killer Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy in CourtCredit: Florida State ArchivesAccording to his later testimony, Bundy had every intention of going straight. His intentions lasted only two weeks. In the very early morning hours of January 15, 1978, Ted Bundy attacked four women in the Chi Omega sorority house in Tallahassee, two of which survived the attack. On that same early morning, he traveled eight blocks to add another victim, who also survived. Ted Bundy was making up for lost time with five attacks all in one day. Then only weeks later he killed 12 year old Kimberly Diane Leach.

Thinking that the policy were growing too close, Bundy stole a car (ironically a Volkswagen Beetle) and headed for the Florida Panhandle. Three days later he was arrested after a "wants and warrants" check showed his Beetle to be listed as stolen.

This time he didn't escape. Ted Bundy's days of being an infamous serial killer were over. After three trials, and as many convictions, he was sentenced to death by electrocution three times. After many years of appeals and legal manipulations, the sentence was finally carried out.

Ted Bundy died on January 24, 1989, by execution in the electric chair.