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King County detective Bob Keppel took this photograph as he stood next to Brenda Ball’s skull on Taylor Mountain near Seattle. In this dense underbrush on the lonely mountain, searchers also found the skulls of Roberta Kathleen Parks, Lynda Ann Healy, and Susan Rancourt.
IN MAY OF 1975, Ted Bundy had invited some old friends from the Washington State Department of Emergency Services to visit him at his apartment on First Avenue in Salt Lake City. Carole Ann Boone Anderson, Alice Thissen, and Joe McLean spent almost a week with him. Ted seemed to be in excellent spirits and enjoyed driving his friends around the Salt Lake City area. He took them swimming and horseback riding. He and Callie took them one night to a homosexual nightclub. Alice Thissen was somewhat surprised that, although Ted said he had been there before, he seemed ill at ease in the gay club.
The trio from Washington found Ted’s apartment very pleasant. He’d cut pictures out of magazines and tried to duplicate the decor he favored. He still had the bicycle tire, hung from the meat hook in his kitchen, and he used that to store knives and other kitchen utensils in a mobile effect. He had a color television set, a good stereo, and he played Mozart for them to accompany the gourmet meals he prepared.
During the first week in June 1975, Ted came back to Seattle to put a garden in for the Rogerses at his old rooming house, and he spent most of his time with Meg. She still made no mention of the fact that she’d talked with both the King County Police and the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office about him. The cases of the missing women in Washington were no longer being played up in local papers.
Because neither King County nor the Seattle Police Department could spare the detectives detailed to the Task Force during the summer when so many of their investigators were on vacation, the Task Force was to be disbanded until September.
Meg and Ted decided to marry the following Christmas, and although they had only five days together in June, they made plans for her to visit him in Utah in August. Meg was almost convinced she had been wrong, that she had allowed Lynn Banks to cloud her mind with suspicion that couldn’t have any basis in fact. But time was growing short, far shorter than either Meg or Ted realized.
If anything was bothering Ted Bundy’s conscience during that summer of 1975, he didn’t show it. He was working as a security guard, still managing the building he lived in, and, though he sometimes drank too much, it wasn’t out of the norm for a college student. But his grades in law school had continued to drop. He wasn’t beginning to live up to the potential of a man with his I.Q., and boundless ambition.
It was close to 2:30 A.M. on August 16 when Sergeant Bob Hayward, a stocky, balding twenty-two-year veteran of the Utah Highway Patrol, pulled up in front of his home in suburban Granger, Utah. Bob Hayward is the brother of Captain “Pete” Hayward, the homicide detective chief in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, but his duties are quite different. Like Washington State’s, Utah’s Highway Patrol deals only with traffic control, but Hayward has the kind of sixth sense that most longtime cops have, the ability to note something that seems just a hair off center.
In the balmy August predawn, Hayward noticed a light-colored Volkswagen Bug driving by his home. The neighborhood was strictly residential, and he knew almost everyone who lived along his street, and he knew the cars of the people that usually visited them. There was rarely any traffic at this time, and he wondered what the Volkswagen was doing there.
Hayward threw on his Brights so that he could catch the license plate on the Bug. Suddenly the Volkswagen’s lights went out, and it took off at high speed. Hayward pulled out, giving chase. The pursuit continued through two stop signs and out onto the main thoroughfare, 3500 South.
Hayward soon was just behind the slower car, and the Volkswagen pulled into an abandoned gas station parking lot and stopped. The driver got out, and walked to the rear of his car, smiling. “I guess I’m lost,” he said ruefully.
Bob Hayward is a gruff man, not the sort of highway patrolman that a speeder or reckless driver would choose to meet. He looked closely at the man before him, a man who appeared to be about twenty-five, who wore blue jeans, a black turtleneck pullover, tennis shoes, and longish, wild hair.
“You ran two stop signs. Can I see your license and registration?”
“Sure.” The man produced his I.D.
Hayward looked at the license. It had been issued to Theodore Robert Bundy, at an address on First Avenue in Salt Lake City.
“What are you doing out here at this time of the morning?”
Bundy answered that he had been to see The Towering Inferno at the Redwood drive-in and was on his way home when he’d become lost in the subdivision.
It was the wrong answer. The drive-in Bundy mentioned was in Hayward’s patrol area, and he’d driven by earlier that night. The Towering Inferno was not the picture playing there.
As the burly sergeant and Bundy talked, two troopers from the Highway Patrol pulled up in back of Hayward’s car, but remained inside, watching. Hayward seemed to be in no danger.
Hayward glanced at the Volkswagen, and noticed that, for some reason, the passenger seat had been removed and placed on its side in the backseat.
He turned back to Bundy. “Mind if I look in your car?”
“Go ahead.” The highway patrol sergeant saw a small crowbar resting on the floor in back of the driver’s seat, and an open satchel sitting on the floor in front. He played his flashlight over the open satchel, and saw some of the items inside: a ski mask, a crowbar, an ice pick, some rope, and wire.
They looked like the tools of a burglar.
Hayward placed Ted Bundy under arrest for evading an officer, frisked him, and handcuffed him. Then he called Salt Lake County for backup from a detective on duty.
Deputy Darrell Ondrak had the third watch that night, and responded to 2725 W. 3500 South. He found troopers Hayward, Fife, and Twitchell waiting with Ted Bundy.
Bundy maintained that he gave no permission to search his car. Ondrak and Hayward say that he did.
“I never said, ‘Yes, you have my permission to search,’” Ted insisted, “but I was surrounded by a number of uniformed men: Sergeant Hayward, two highway patrolmen, two uniformed deputies. I wasn't exactly quaking in my boots, but … but I felt I couldn’t stop them. They were intent and hostile and they’d do what they damn well pleased.”
Ondrak looked in the canvas satchel. He saw the ice pick, a flashlight, gloves, tom strips of sheeting, the knit ski mask, and another mask—a grotesque object made from a pair of pantyhose. Eye holes had been cut in the panty portion and the legs were tied together on top. There was a pair of handcuffs, too.
Ondrak checked the trunk and found some large, green plastic garbage bags.
“Where’d you get all this stuff?” he asked Ted.
“It’s just junk I picked up around my house.”
“They look like burglar tools to me,” Ondrak said flatly. “I’m going to take these items, and I suspect the D.A. will be issuing a charge of possession of burglary tools.” According to Ondrak, Ted simply replied, “Fine.”
Detective Jerry Thompson met Ted Bundy face to face on that early morning of August 16, 1975. Thompson, tall, good-looking, perhaps five years older than Bundy, was later to become an important adversary, but now they barely glanced at each other. Thompson had other things to do, and Bundy was intent on bailing out and going home. He was released on P.R. (personal recognizance).
It was the first time in his adult life that Ted Bundy had ever been arrested, and it had been such a chance thing. Had he not driven by the home of Sergeant Bob Hayward, had he not tried to run from the pursuing policeman, he would have been home safe.
Why had he run?
On August 18, Thompson glanced over the arrest reports for the weekend. The name “Bundy” caught his eye. He’d heard it someplace before, but he couldn’t quite place it. He hadn’t even known the name of the man brought in early Saturday morning. And then he remembered. Ted Bundy was the man that the girl from Seattle had reported in December of 1974.
Thompson carefully read over the arrest report. Bundy’s car was a light-colored Volkswagen Bug. The list of items found in the car now struck him as much more unusual. He pulled out the DaRonch report, and the Debby Kent file.
The handcuffs found in Bundy’s car were Jana brand. The handcuffs on Carol DaRonch’s wrist were Gerocal, but he wondered just how many men routinely carried handcuffs with them. There was the crowbar, similar to the iron bar that DaRonch had been threatened with.
Ted Bundy was listed as being five feet, eleven inches tall, weighing 170 pounds. He was a law student at the University of Utah … yes, that’s what his girlfriend from Seattle had said too. He’d been arrested in Granger, which was only a few miles from Midvale, where Melissa Smith had last been seen alive.
There were more similarities, more common threads in front of Thompson than he’d yet had in his ten months of trying to find the man with the Volkswagen—“Officer Roseland.” On August 21, Ted was arrested on the added charges: possession of burglary tools. He did not appear to be visibly upset by the arrest and had deft explanations for the items found in his car. The handcuffs? He’d found them in a garbage Dumpster. He’d used the pantyhose mask as protection under his ski mask against the icy winds of ski slopes. And didn’t everyone own crowbars, ice picks, and garbage bags? He seemed amused that the detectives would consider any of these things burglary tools.
It was a posture that Ted Bundy would assume over and over again as the years passed. He was an innocent man, accused of things that were unthinkable for him.
The arrest by Sergeant Hayward on August 16 was the catalyst to a flurry of intense activity in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office during late August and September of 1975. Captain Pete Hayward and Detective Jerry Thompson felt they had their man in the DaRonch kidnapping, and suspected that Ted Bundy might well be the man who had taken Melissa, Laura, and Debby.
Ted readily signed a permission-to-search form on his First Avenue apartment, and accompanied Thompson and Sergeant John Bernardo as they scrutinized the neat rooms. It was not a forced search. There was no search warrant listing specific items. In essence, this meant that the detectives had no authority to remove anything from Ted’s apartment, even if they should come across something they felt might be evidence. If they saw something suspicious, they would have to go to a judge and obtain a search warrant listing those items.
Thompson glanced up at the bicycle wheel suspended from the meat hook and at the assortment of knives hanging from it. Then he glanced at a chopping block.
Following Thompson’s glance, Ted said mildly, “I like to cook.”
The detectives saw the rows of law textbooks. A few months later, a Washington detective would comment to me that the Utah investigators had found a “weird sex book” in Ted’s library. When I asked Ted about it later, he told me that he had Alex Comfort’s Joy of Sex, and I laughed. I had a copy too, as did thousands of other people. It was hardly Krafft-Ebing.
There were other items in the apartment, seemingly innocuous, but meaningful in the probe going on. There was a map of ski regions in Colorado, with the Wildwood Inn in Aspen marked, and a brochure from the Bountiful Recreation Center. Questioned, Ted said he’d never been to Colorado, that a friend must have left the map. He thought he must have driven through Bountiful, Utah, but felt someone else had dropped the brochure in his apartment.
Thompson insists today that he found patent leather shoes in Bundy’s closet on that first visit, but when he returned later with a search warrant, they were gone. A television set and a stereo he had seen were also absent.
If the two detectives had expected to find something solid to tie Ted with the murdered Utah victims, they were to be disappointed. There were no women’s clothes, jewelry, or purses.
When they had searched the whole place, Ted agreed to allow them to photograph his Volkswagen Bug, parked in the rear of the building. It had dents and rust spots, and a tear at the top of the rear seat.
Bernardo and Thompson left. They felt they were closer to unraveling the truth, but were somewhat disconcerted by Ted Bundy’s casual attitude. He certainly didn’t appear concerned.
One of Ted’s women friends in Salt Lake City was Sharon Auer. She put him in touch with attorney John O’Connell, a tall, bearded man who affected a cowboy hat and boots. A respected criminal defense attorney in the Mormon city, O’Connell immediately put a lid on Ted’s conversations with detectives. The lawyer called Thompson and said that Bundy would not come to their offices as scheduled, on August 22.
Although Ted would not talk to detectives any longer, his mug shot, along with several others, was shown to Carol DaRonch and the drama teacher, Jean Graham, who had seen the stranger just before Debby Kent vanished forever.
It had been ten months, but Mrs. Graham chose Bundy from the stack of photos almost immediately. His mug shot showed him clean shaven. She said that Ted Bundy was a ringer for the man she’d seen, and all that was missing was a mustache.
Carol DaRonch was not as definite. The first time she thumbed through the packet of photos, she set Ted’s picture aside, but did not comment on it. When Thompson asked her why she had separated that photo from the others, she seemed reticent.
“Why did you pull that one out?” Thompson asked.
“I’m not sure. It looks something like him … but I really couldn’t say for sure.”
The next day, Bountiful detective Ira Beal showed her a lay-down of drivers’ license photos. In this group, Ted was depicted as he had looked in December 1974 and appeared quite different than the man in the mug shot taken in August of 1975. Ted was a man with a chameleonlike quality, his appearance changing dramatically in almost every picture taken of him, apparently through no conscious effort on his part.
Carol looked at the second set of pictures. This time, she chose Ted Bundy’s picture almost at once. She, too, remarked that he had had a mustache when she encountered him on November 8, 1974.
The kidnap victim’s identification of Bundy’s Volkswagen was less clear. Several times she had seen photos of it, and by the time she was taken to view it, it had been sanded, the rust spots painted over, and the tear in the back of the seat mended. It had also been scrubbed and hosed down inside and out.
Ted Bundy would never again be out of the constant attention of law enforcement agencies. He was not in jail, but he might as well have been. Surveillance units watched him continually during September of 1975, and wheels were turning behind the scenes. His gasoline credit card records had been requested, his school records were subpoenaed, and, probably the most disastrous move as far as his future freedom was concerned, Utah detectives had contacted his fiancee, Meg Anders.
Police crime-scene photographs of Lynda Ann Healy’s basement room in the house she shared with several other female students.
Ted Bundy with his lawyers at the first trial in Florida. June 25, 1979. (©Bettmann/Corbis)
This photograph was taken at Lake Sammamish State Park on Sunday, July 14, 1974. It shows a small group of people, one section of the park where there were 40,000 people picnicking, sunning, and swimming on the day Janice Ott and Denise Naslund vanished. Although the King County Police scrutinized scores of photographs like this, they never spotted a handsome, tanned man in a white tennis outfit.
I FLEW HOME, leaving Miami behind in the grip of a warm, pelting rain. I had to change planes in St. Louis, and there too, that city was crisscrossed with violent thunderstorms. We sat on the ground for two hours, waiting for a break in the storm. At length, we were the last plane allowed off the ground as lightning seemed to split the air only feet from the wing tips. The plane bucked and shook as if the pilot had no control, and we dropped, dropped, and then flew ahead. I was frightened. I had seen how very tenuous life can be.
When we finally left the storms of the Midwest behind us, I turned to the man beside me, a Boeing engineer, and asked him if he had been afraid.
“No. I’ve already been there.”
It was a strange answer. He explained that he had been clinically dead as a youth, crushed beneath a car after he and several friends had hit a utility pole.
“I watched from somewhere up above and saw the troopers lift the car off someone. Then I saw that it was me lying there. I wasn’t afraid, and I didn’t feel any pain—not until I woke up in the hospital three days later. Since then, I’ve known that the soul doesn’t die, only the body, and I’ve never been afraid.”
I had seen nothing but death in Miami, heard nothing but death—and death seemed to lie ahead for Ted. Hearing the stranger’s words was somewhat comforting. Ted had written in his last letter, “There’s nothing wrong with my life that reincarnation couldn’t improve upon.”
It seemed to be his only option left.
I believed that the verdict had been the right verdict, but I wondered if it had been for the wrong reasons. It had been too swift, too vindictive. Was justice still justice when it manifested itself as it had in the less than six hours of jury deliberation? Was this the delayed justice that should have come before? Perhaps there was no way that it could have been done cleanly, concisely, in a textbook case.
The people had spoken. And Ted was guilty.
“TED” HAD SURFACED, allowed himself to be seen in broad daylight, and approached at least a half dozen young women, beyond the missing pair. He’d given his name. His true name? Probably not, but for the media who pounced on the incredible disappearances it was something to headline. Ted. Ted. Ted.
Indeed, the dogged pursuit of reporters seeking something new to write was going to interfere mightily with the police investigation. The frantic families of the missing girls from Lake Sammamish were besieged by some of the most coercive tactics any reporter can use. When families declined to be interviewed, there were some reporters who hinted that they might have to print unsavory rumors about Janice and Denise unless they could have interviews, or that, even worse, families’ failure to tell of their exquisite pain in detail might mean a lessening of publicity needed to find their daughters.
It was ugly and cruel, but it worked. The grieving parents allowed themselves to be photographed and gave painful interviews. Their daughters had been good girls—not casual pickups—and they wanted that known. And they wanted the girls’ pictures shown in every paper, on every TV news show. Maybe that way, they could be found.
The police investigators had little time to spend giving out interviews.
Technically, the missing girls’ investigations fell within several different jurisdictions: Lynda Ann Healy and Georgeann Hawkins were within Seattle’s city limits and that probe was headed by Captain Herb Swindler and his unit. Janice Ott, Denise Naslund, and Brenda Ball had gone missing in King County, and Captain J. N. “Nick” Mackie’s men were now under the heaviest stress in looking for a solution to the latest vanishing. Thurston County’s Sheriff Don Redmond was responsible for the Donna Manson case, in conjunction with Rod Marem of the Evergreen State College Campus Police. Susan Rancourt’s case was still being actively worked by Kittitas County and the Central Washington University Campus Police, and Roberta Kathleen Parks’s disappearance was being investigated by the Oregon State Police and the Corvallis, Oregon, City Police.
The hue and cry from the public to produce, and produce some answers quickly, grew every day and the impact on the detectives was tremendous. If there could not be an arrest— or many arrests—the layman, bombarded with nightly television updates and front page stories, failed to understand why, at the very least, the bodies of the missing girls could not be found.
For the King County Police, the abductions and probable murders of three girls in the county meant thirty-five percent of their average yearly workload occurring in one month. Although the county population equals Seattle’s half-million people, the population is spread out, most of it in small towns, rural and sylvan and not as catalytic to violent crimes as the crowded city.
There were only eleven homicides in the county in 1972, nine closed successfully by year’s end. In 1973 there had been five, all cleared. Although the homicide unit in 1974 handled armed robberies in addition to murder cases, a field working sergeant and six detectives had been able to deal effectively with the caseload. The disappearance of, first, Brenda Ball, and six weeks later, Janice Ott and Denise Naslund, would force drastic restructuring of the unit.
Mackie was a highly competent administrator. He was not yet forty when he took over as head of the Major Crimes Unit. He had reorganized the jail’s administration, and accomplished much, but his background was not heavily oriented toward actual investigative work. The field detectives were headed by Sergeant Len Randall, a soft-spoken blond bear of a man who made it a practice to join his men at major crime scenes.
For the main part, the King County detectives were a young group. The only man in the unit over thirty-five was Ted Forrester, who wore his appellation, “Old Man,” with grudging good nature. He handled the southeast end of the county—farmland, old mining towns, woods, and the foothills of Mount Rainier. Rolf Grunden had the south end, urban part of the future megalopolis of Seattle-Tacoma. Mike Baily and Randy Hergesheimer shared the southwest, also principally urban. Roger Dunn’s sector was the north end of the county, the area between Seattle’s city limits and the Snohomish County line.
The newest man in the unit was Bob Keppel, a slender, almost boyish looking man. It was in Keppel’s sector that the Lake Sammamish disappearances had occurred—the territory east of Lake Washington. Until July 14, 1974, Keppel had handled only one homicide investigation.
In the end, as the years passed, the “Ted” case would weigh most heavily on Bob Keppel’s shoulders. He would come to know more about “Ted,” more about his victims, than any of the other investigators in the county, with the possible exception of Nick Mackie.
By 1979, Bob Keppel’s hair would be shot with grey, and Captain Mackie invalided out of law enforcement with two crippling coronaries. Captain Herb Swindler would undergo critical open heart surgery. It is impossible to pinpoint just how much stress comes to bear on detectives involved in an investigation of the scope of the missing girls’ cases, but anyone who is close to homicide detectives sees the tension, the incredible pressure brought on by their responsibility. If a corporation president carries the responsibility of bringing in or losing profits, homicide detectives—particularly in cases like the “Ted” disappearances—are truly dealing with life and death, working against time and almost impossible odds. It is a profession that brings with it the occupational hazards of ulcers, hypertension, coronary disease, and, on occasion, alcoholism. The public, the victims’ families, the press, and superiors all demand immediate action.
The scope of the search for Denise Naslund and Janice Ott drew all of the King County’s Major Crimes Unit’s manpower into the eastside area, along with Seattle detectives, and personnel from the small-town police departments near Lake Sammamish State Park: Issaquah and North Bend.
In a sense, they had a place to start now—not for Janice and Denise alone, but for the six other girls they felt sure were part of the deadly pattern. “Ted” had been seen. Perhaps a dozen people came forward when the story hit the papers on July 15: the other girls who had been approached, who shuddered to think that they had come so close to death, and the people at the park who had seen “Ted” talk to Janice Ott before she’d walked away with him.
Ben Smith, a police artist, listened to their descriptions and drew a composite picture of a man said to resemble the stranger in the white tennis outfit. He erased, drew again, tediously trying to capture on paper what was in the minds of the witnesses. It was not an easy task.
As soon as the composite appeared on television, hundreds of calls came in. But then “Ted” seemed to have had no particularly unusual characteristics. A good-looking young man appearing to be in his early twenties with wavy blondish-brown hair, even features, no scars, and no outstanding differences that might set him apart from the thousands of young men at the beach. The broken arm—yes—but the detectives doubted that it was really broken. They were sure the sling was off now, thrown away, after it had served its purpose.
No. “Ted” apparently was so average looking that he, perhaps, had counted on his prosaic appearance, allowed himself to be seen, and was now taking a perverse pleasure in the publicity.
Again and again, the detectives probed. “Think. Try to picture something special about him, something that stands out in your mind.”
The witnesses tried. Some even underwent hypnosis in the hope they would remember more. The accent, yes, slightly English. Yes, he’d spoken of playing racquetball while he chatted with Janice Ott. His smile, his smile was something special. He spoke with excellent grammar. He’d sounded well-educated. Good. What else? Tan, he was tan. Good. What else?
But there was nothing else, nothing beyond the strange way he had stared at a few of the almost victims.
There was the car, the off-shaded brown VW Bug of indeterminate vintage. All Bugs looked alike. Who could tell? And the one witness who had walked out to the parking lot with “Ted” hadn’t actually seen him get into the Bug. He’d leaned against it as he explained that his sailboat wasn’t at the park. It could have been anyone’s car. No, wait, he had gestured toward the passenger door. It must have been his car.
No one at all had seen Janice Ott get into any car on the lot.
There was Janice Ott’s ten-speed bike, yellow Tiger brand. It wasn’t the kind of bike that could be quickly disassembled for ease of transporting. A full-size ten-speed would not fit into the trunk of a VW without sticking out. Surely someone must have noticed the car with the bike, either on a rack or protruding awkwardly from the car.
But no one had.
The lakefront park was closed to the public as police divers, looking like creatures from another planet, dove again and again beneath the surface of Lake Sammamish, coming to the top each time shaking their heads. The weather was hot, and, if the girls’ bodies were in the lake, they would have bloated and surfaced, but they did not.
County patrolmen, Issaquah police, and eighty volunteers from the Explorer Scouts Search and Rescue teams, both on foot and on horseback, combed the 400-acre park, finding nothing. Seattle police helicopters circled over the area, spotters looking down vainly for something that would help: a brilliant yellow bike or the bright blue backpack Janice had borrowed to use on Sunday, the girls themselves, their bodies lying unseen by ground parties in the tall vegetation east of the parking lot.
Sheriff’s patrol cars cruised slowly along all the back roads wending through the farmland beyond, stopping to check old barns, sagging deserted sheds and empty houses.
In the end, they found nothing.
There were no ransom notes. Their abductor had not taken the women away because he wanted money. It became more and more apparent as the weeks passed that the man in white was probably a sexual psychopath. The other women had vanished at long intervals. Many detectives believe that the male, too, operates under a pseudo-menstrual cycle, that there are times when the perverse drives of marginally normal men become obsessive and they are driven out to rape or kill.
But two women in one afternoon? Was the man they sought so highly motivated by sexual frenzy that he would need to seize two victims within a four-hour time span? Janice had vanished at 12:30. Denise around 4:30. It would seem that even the most maniacally potent male might have been exhausted and satiated after one attack. Why then would he return to the same park and take away another woman only four hours later?
The pattern of attacks had appeared to be escalating, the abductions coming closer and closer together, as if the awful fixation of the suspect needed more frequent stimuli to give him relief. Perhaps the elusive “Ted” had had to have more than one victim to satisfy him. Perhaps Janice had been held captive somewhere, tied up and gagged, while he went back for a second woman. Perhaps he had needed the macabre thrill of a double sexual attack and murder—with one victim forced to wait and watch as he killed the other. It was a theory that many of us could scarcely bear to contemplate.
Every experienced homicide detective knows that if a case is not resolved within twenty-four hours, the chances of finding the killer diminish proportionately with the amount of time that passes. The trail grows colder and colder.
The days and weeks passed without any new developments. The investigators didn’t even have the victims’ bodies. Denise and Janice could be anywhere—100 or 200 miles away. The little brown VW had only a quarter of a mile to travel before it reached the busy I-90 freeway leading up over the mountains to the east, or into the densely populated city of Seattle to the west. It was akin to looking for two needles in a million haystacks.
On the chance that the women had been killed and buried somewhere in the vast acres of semi-wild land around the park, planes went aloft and made images with infrared film. It had worked in Houston in 1973 when Texas investigators searched for the bodies of teenage boys slain by mass killer Dean Coril. If earth and foliage have been recently overturned, the already dying vegetation will appear bright red in the finished print, long before a human eye can detect any change at all in trees or bushes. There were some suspicious areas, and deputies dug delicately and carefully. They found only dead trees and nothing beneath them in the ground.
Home movies had been shot at several of the big company picnics held at Lake Sammamish on July 14, and the film was quickly developed. Detectives studied the subjects in the foreground but focused most intently on the background, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man with his arm in a sling. They didn’t smile at the laughter and playfulness on the screen. They kept watching for the man who might have been just out of focus. He wasn’t there.
Reporters checked out Lake Sammamish State Park on the Sunday following the abductions. They found, in spite of the spectacularly sunny day, a day much like the Sunday of a week before, that there were few picnickers or swimmers. Several of the women they talked to who were there pointed out guns hidden under their beach towels. Some carried switchblades and whistles. Women went to the restroom in teams of two or more. Park Ranger Donald Simmons remarked that the crowd was about a twentieth the size he expected.
But, as the weeks passed, people forgot or put the two disappearances out of their minds. The park filled up again, and the ghosts of Denise Naslund and Janice Ott didn’t seem to be haunting anyone.
No one, that is, but the King County Police detectives. Cases Number 74-96644, 74-95852, and 74-81301 (Janice, Denise, and Brenda) would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Richard B. Jarvis, a Seattle psychiatrist specializing in the aberrations of the criminal mind, drew a verbal picture of the man now known as “Ted,” a profile based on his years of experience. He felt that, if the eight missing girls’ cases were interrelated, if the girls had been harmed, that the assailant was probably between twenty-five and thirty-five, a man mentally ill, but not the type who would draw attention to himself as a potential criminal.
Jarvis felt that “Ted” feared women and their power over him, and that he would also evince at times “socially isolative” behavior.
Jarvis could see many parallels between the man in the park and a twenty-four-year-old Seattle man who had been convicted in 1970 for the murders of two young women, and for rape and attempted rape involving other girls. That man, designated a sexual psychopath, was currently serving a life term in prison.
The man Jarvis referred to had been a star athlete all through school, popular, considerate and respectful of women, but he had changed markedly after his high school girlfriend of long standing had rejected him. He later married, but began his sexual prowlings after his wife filed for divorce.
A sexual psychopath, according to Dr. Jarvis, is not legally insane, and does know the difference between right and wrong. But he is driven to attack women. There is usually no deficiency in intelligence, no brain damage, or frank psychosis.
Jarvis’s statements made an interesting sidebar in the Seattle paper that ran the story. Later, much later, I would reread that story and realize how close he had come to describing the real killer.
During the very few moments when detectives working on the cases had time to talk, we tossed back and forth possible evaluations of who “Ted” might be. He obviously had to be quite intelligent, attractive, and charming. None of the eight girls would have gone with a man who had not seemed safe, whose manner was not so urbane and ingratiating that their normal caution and all the warnings since childhood, would have been ignored. Even though force, and probably violence, came later, he must have, in most of the cases, gained their confidence in the beginning. It seemed likely that he was, or had recently been, a college student. He was apparently familiar with campuses and the way of life there.
The device used to gain the girls’ trust—beyond his appearance and personality—was certainly his illusion of comparative helplessness. A man with one arm broken, or a leg in a full cast, would not seem much of a threat.
Who would have access to casts, slings and crutches? Anyone perhaps, if he sought them out—but a medical student, a hospital orderly, an ambulance attendant, or a medical supplies firm employee seemed the most apparent.
“He’s got to be someone who seems above suspicion,” I mused. “Someone that even the people who spend time with him would never connect to ‘Ted.’”
It was a great theory, and yet it made finding that man even more impossible.
The astrology pattern, even though it had accurately predicted the weekend that the next disappearances would occur, was too ephemeral to trace. Maybe the man didn’t know that he was being affected by those moon signs, if indeed he was.
I was now shuttling charts full of strange symbols to Herb Swindler from R.L. Herb was taking a lot of ribbing from detectives who didn’t believe in “any of that hocus pocus.”
Both the King County Police and the Seattle Police were being deluged with communications from psychics, but none of their “visions” of the spots where the girls would be found proved accurate. A search for “a little yellow cottage near Issaquah” proved fruitless, as did the effort to locate a “house full of sex cultists in Wallingford” and a “huge red house in the South End full of blood.” Still, the information from clairvoyants was about as helpful as the tips coming in from citizens. “Ted” had been seen here, there, everywhere— and nowhere.
If the astrological moon pattern was to be believed, the next disappearance was slated to occur between 7:25 P.M. on August 4, 1974, and 7:12 P.M. on August 7th—when the moon was moving through Pisces again.
It did not.
In fact, the cases in Washington stopped as suddenly as they had begun. In a sense, it was over. In another sense, it would never be over.
AS I WRITE THIS, it has been six years since Ted Bundy was sentenced, for the third time, to die in Florida’s electric chair. In my naïveté in 1980, I ended The Stranger Beside Me by suggesting that the Ted Bundy story was at last over. It was not. I vastly underestimated Ted’s ability to regenerate in both spirit and body, to pit his will and mind continually against the justice system. Nor was I able to extricate Ted from my mind simply by putting him and my feelings about him on paper. The relief that I felt when I wrote the last line was immense. This book was a healing catharsis after a half-dozen years of horror.
But the next half-dozen years have forced me to accept that some significant part of my consciousness will be inhabited by Ted Bundy and his crimes, for as long as I live. I have written five books since The Stranger Beside Me, and yet when my phone rings or a letter comes from somewhere far away—several times a week still—the questions are invariably about “the Ted book.”
My correspondents fall generally into four categories. Laymen have contacted me from as far away as Greece, South Africa and the Virgin Islands, consumed with curiosity about Ted Bundy’s eventual fate. Most of them ask, “When was he executed?”
Police investigators call wondering where Ted Bundy might have been on a particular date. (Ted’s comments to Pensacola detectives that February night he was captured in 1978 are well-remembered by homicide detectives all over America. Although officially a murder suspect in only five states, Ted told Detectives Norm Chapman and Don Patchen that he had killed “in six states” and that they should “add one digit” to the FBI’s victim estimate of thirty-six.)
The calls that surprised me most were from Ted’s burgeoning “fan club,” unofficial but passionately vocal. So many young women who had “fallen in love” with Ted Bundy and who wanted to know how they could contact him to let him know how much they loved him. When I explained that he had married Carole Ann Boone, my words fell on deaf ears. I finally asked them to read my book once more, asking, “Are you sure that you can tell the difference between a teddy bear and a fox?”
Almost as fervent were the religious readers who hoped to get word to Ted so that they might prevail upon him to repent before it was too late.
Finally, there were the callers that Seattle policemen refer to as “220’s,” people deranged to greater and lesser degrees, who imagined that they had some bizarre connection to Ted.
The latter were the most difficult to deal with. An elderly woman came to my door near midnight, regal and impeccably dressed, and yet distressed because “Ted Bundy has been stealing my nylons and my pantyhose. He’s been coming into my house since 1948 and he takes my personal files. He’s very clever, he puts everything back so that you can scarcely tell it’s been moved …”
It did no good to point out that her “thefts” had begun when Ted was still a toddler.
Her visit did, however, make me realize that I could no longer have my home address printed in the phone book.
In ways that I could never have imagined, Ted Bundy changed my life. I have flown two hundred thousand miles, lectured a thousand times to groups ranging from ladies’ book study clubs to defense attorneys organizations to police training seminars to the FBI Academy—always about Ted. Some questions are easy enough for me to answer. Some may never be answered and some provoke more and more questions in an endless continuum.
If, indeed, Ted claimed to have murdered in six states—then which state was the sixth? Had there really been a sixth state—a hundred and thirty-six victims or, God help us, three hundred and sixty victims? Or had it been, for Ted, a game to play with his interrogators in Pensacola? His cunning jousts with police were always akin to Dungeons & Dragons, and he so delighted in outwitting them, watching them scurry around to do what he considered his bidding.
There may well have been myriad other victims, and yet it is an almost impossible task to deduce precisely where Ted Bundy was on a particular date in the late sixties and early seventies. I have tried to isolate periods of that time almost twenty years ago now, and so has Bob Keppel, the onetime King County detective who knows as much about Ted as any cop in America. But Ted was always a traveler, and an impulsive wanderer at that. He would say he was going one place, and head somewhere else. He hated to be made accountable for his whereabouts—by anyone—and he reveled in popping up to surprise those who knew him.
The year 1969 found Ted visiting relatives in Arkansas, and attending classes at Temple University in Philadelphia, his childhood home. In 1969, a beautiful dark-haired young woman was stabbed to death far back in the “stacks” of the library, at Temple. That case, more than a decade unsolved, came back to a Pennsylvania homicide detective when he traced Ted’s journeys in my book. In the end, he could only conjecture. No one could place Ted in that library on that evening.
Even more haunting is the unsolved murder of Rita Curran in Burlington, Vermont, on July 19, 1971. Each born in Burlington, Rita Curran and Ted Bundy were twenty-four years old that summer. Ted had, of course, been raised on the opposite coast while Rita grew up in the tiny community of Milton, Vermont, daughter of the town’s zoning administrator.
Rita was a very lovely but shy young woman. Her dark hair fell midway down her back. Sometimes, she parted it on the left side, sometimes in the middle. A graduate of Burlington’s Trinity College, she taught second grade at the Milton Elementary School during the school year. Like Lynda Ann Healy, Rita spent much of her time and energy working with deprived and handicapped children. Although she was well into her twenties, she hadn’t really lived away from home until the summer of 1971. She had worked as a chambermaid at the Colonial Motor Inn in Burlington for three previous summers, but this year was the first she’d taken an apartment there rather than commuting from her parents’ Milton home ten miles north.
She was attending classes in teaching remedial reading and language at the University of Vermont’s graduate school, and shared the apartment on Brookes Avenue with a female roommate. Rita Curran had no steady boyfriend— and that was probably one of her reasons for spending the summer in Burlington. She was hoping to meet a man who would be right for her. She wanted to be married—to have children of her own—and she’d laughed to friends, “I’ve gone to three weddings this year—all the bachelors in Milton are taken!”
• • •
On Monday, July 19, 1971, Rita changed bedding and vacuumed rooms at the Colonial Motor Inn from 8:15 A.M. to 2:40 P.M. That evening, she rehearsed with her barbershop quartet until ten. Rita Curran’s roommate and a friend left her in the apartment on Brookes at 11:20 to go to a restaurant. Both the front and back doors were unlocked when they left. Burlington, Vermont, was hardly a high-crime area.
People didn’t lock doors.
When Rita’s friends returned, the apartment was quiet and they assumed she had gone to sleep. They talked for an hour and then Rita’s roommate walked into the bedroom. Rita Curran lay nude. Murdered. She had been strangled manually, beaten savagely on the left side of the head, and raped. Her torn underpants were beneath her body. Her purse, contents intact, was nearby.
Burlington detectives traced the escape route of the killer and found a small patch of blood near the backdoor leading off the kitchen. He had, perhaps, dashed through the kitchen and out through the shed as Rita's roommate came in the front door. A canvass of neighbors was fruitless. No one had heard a scream or a struggle.
In 1971, there were approximately 10,000 homicides in America. What intrigued retired FBI special agent John Bassett, a native of Burlington, when he read about Ted Bundy was the remarkable resemblance between Rita Curran and Stephanie Brooks, the fact that Rita had died of strangulation and bludgeoning to the head and the proximity of the Colonial Motor Inn where Rita worked to an institution that had wrought so much emotional trauma in Ted Bundy’s life: the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers.
The Lund home was right next door to the motel.
I had always assumed that Ted’s trip to Burlington had occurred in the summer of 1969 when he journeyed east, but John Bassett’s call made me wonder. It was in the fall of 1971 when Ted spoke to me of “finding out who I really was.”
If Ted was in Burlington in July of 1971, if he walked past the building where he was born, if he, perhaps, checked into the Colonial Motor Inn, there are no records whatsoever to confirm or deny it.
There is only a blurred notation in the Burlington “dog-catcher’s” records that note a person named “Bundy” had been bitten by a dog that week.
In talking with Bassett, with Rita Curran’s parents, and with a detective from the Burlington Police Department, I, too, was fascinated by so many similarities, but there was little I could do to confirm their suspicions about Ted Bundy. Meg Anders wrote in her book The Phantom Prince that she saw Ted sometimes that summer and sometimes he didn’t show up for dates. She had begun to notice a moodiness in him.
But was Ted gone long enough to make a trip to Vermont? And is it simply too easy to imagine Ted Bundy’s shadow wherever a beautiful dark-haired woman died by strangulation and blows to the left side of the head?
There are many commonalities between Rita Curran’s murder and those that came later and were attributed to Ted.
How many victims were there for Ted Bundy? Will we ever know?
A dozen or more young women have called me since 1980, absolutely convinced that they had escaped from Ted Bundy. In San Francisco. In Georgia. In Idaho. In Aspen. In Ann Arbor. In Utah. . .
He could not have been everywhere, but, for these women, there are terrified memories of a handsome man in a tan Volkswagen, a man who gave them rides and who wanted more. They are sure that it was Ted who reached for them, and declare that they never hitchhiked again. For other women, there is a man with a brilliant smile who came to their door, ingratiating, and then angry when they would not let him in. “It was him. I’ve seen his picture, and I recognized him.”
Mass hysteria? I think yes, for most. For some, I wonder.
There have been other calls that left no doubt in my mind. Lisa Wick, nearing forty now, called me. Lisa was the stewardess who survived a bludgeoning with a two-by-four as she slept in a basement apartment on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle in the summer of 1966. Her roommate, Lonnie Trumbull, died. Like so many of the later victims who were struck repeatedly on the head as they slept, Lisa Wick lost weeks of memory forever.
Lisa did not call to tell me that she had read my book. She called to say that she could not read my book. “I try to pick it up and read it, but it is impossible. When my hand touches the cover, when I look at his eyes, I get sick to my stomach.”
Somewhere, buried in her deepest forbidden memory, Lisa Wick knows that she has seen those eyes before. But long after her physical injuries have healed, her mind remains bruised, and protects itself. “I know that it was Ted Bundy who did that to us but I can’t tell you how I know.”
There have been no calls from Ann Marie Burr, who would be thirty-one if she were alive. From the night she disappeared from her own home in Tacoma in August of 1962, there has been no sign of her. And yet I have had more calls, with information, and with question, about Ann Marie than any of the other victims.
A young woman, whose brother was Ted Bundy’s best boyhood friend said, “We lived right across the street from the Bundys and when that little girl disappeared, the police were all over our street. They searched the woods up at the end of the street many times. They questioned everybody because we lived so close to the Burrs’ house.”
An older woman, now living in a retirement home, who lived near the Burrs in 1962 remembered, “He was the paperboy. Ted was the morning paperboy. That little girl, Ann Marie, used to follow him around like a puppy. She really thought he was something. They knew each other all right. She would have gone with him if he asked her to crawl out the window.”
It is so long ago. Twenty-four years.
A young woman called from Florida one day, an assistant in the State Attorney General’s Office. “I’m a Chi Omega,” she began, “and I read your book.”
I said, “I was a Chi Omega too—”
“No,” she interrupted. “I mean I was a Chi O at Florida State. I was there in Tallahassee that night, in the house when he got in.”
We talked about how it could have happened, with all those girls, thirty-nine of them and a housemother. How could anyone have done so much damage, so quietly in such a short time?
“He had already scouted it out that afternoon I think,” she mused. “For some reason, we were all gone Saturday afternoon, even the housemother. The house was empty for a couple of hours. When we came home, the housemother’s cat was acting spooked, and its hair was standing on end. It ran through our legs and out the door and it didn’t come back for two weeks.”
She said that some of the girls had felt the presence of a kind of evil that night. The Chi O’s had wondered only a little while about the cat’s behavior, but, later that night, at least two of the girls who were upstairs in the sleeping area had experienced stark terror, a free-floating dread with nothing to pin it to.
“Kim had a sore throat, and she went to bed early. She got up sometime during the night to go down to the bathroom to get a drink of water because she was coughing. She saw that the lights were out in the hallway. They were almost always on, and it was pitch-dark but she just had a little way to walk to touch the switch. But she said she suddenly felt such unreasoning terror, as if something awful was waiting for her. She had a terrible cough and she really needed a drink of water, but she backed into her room and locked the door. She didn’t come out until the police banged on the door later.
“And, it must have been a little bit after that, Tina started down the backstairs to the kitchen to get a snack. It was the same kind of thing. She couldn’t seem to make her feet go down those stairs. She started to shake, and she ran back to her room too. She’d felt something—or someone—waiting down below. …”
I had always believed that Margaret Bowman had been Ted’s designated victim that January night in 1978. Margaret looked very much like Stephanie Brooks. She was a beautiful girl with the same long, silken dark hair. It would have been easy enough for Ted to have spotted her on the Florida State campus, or walking near The Oak and the Chi O House or even at Sherrod’s. But how could Ted have known which room Margaret Bowman slept in?
I asked my Chi Omega caller that. “How did he know just where to go?”
“We had a room plan posted—”
“A room plan?”
“Like a blueprint of the house. Each room had a number, and the names of the girls who had that room were written in.”
“Where was it?”
“In the foyer. Near the front door, on the wall there. We took it down after.”
Posted on the foyer wall, right there in the one area of the sorority house where dates and delivery men and strangers could read it and pinpoint exactly which room each girl occupied. It would have been propitious for a man stalking a particular girl.
The Chi Omegas, beseiged by the press, ousted from their rooms by investigators dusting for prints, gathering evidence, and testing for blood, were evacuated from the huge house on West Jefferson and farmed out around Tallahassee with alumnae. They came back two weeks later, just about the same time the housemother’s cat deemed the house safe again.
I have not been back to the Chi O House in Tallahassee, but I have returned many times to the Theta House on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, with screenwriters or magazine photographers, who want to see where Georgeann Hawkins vanished.
The alley behind Greek Row looks the same, with students constantly moving back and forth. Night or day, fraternity boys are still shooting basketballs at hoops nailed to telephone poles. The cars parked along there are newer models than those in the police photos but otherwise, nothing has changed, not even the sorority itself that was Georgeann’s destination.
But when one considers an extrasensory awareness of danger or evil, I know I felt it in the narrow space between the Theta House and the fraternity just to the south of it. On the hottest, sunniest days, the air is icy, the pine trees there are crippled and blunted, and I want very much to be away from it, from the cement steps where Georgeann was to have perched while she threw pebbles at her roommate’s window.
Fear made some of Georgeann’s sorority sisters drop out of school for a time. A dozen years later, Georgeann Hawkins is still missing. The sorority girls inside the Theta House seem oblivious to what happened to her. They were only five or six in 1974. For them, Georgeann Hawkins might well have vanished in the 1950s.
Ted Bundy’s rooming house on 12th N.E. looks exactly the same as it did the day he moved out and headed for Salt Lake City. The old rooming house the next block over, where the woman was raped by a man in a dark watch cap, has been razed to make room for the University of Washington’s new law school buildings.
Farther north on 12th N.E., the green house where Lynda Ann Healy disappeared in 1974 has been painted a dull brown. The main floor is a preschool now, and, in the front window, someone has pasted a decal of, eerily, a huge smiling teddy bear.
Donna Manson has never been found. The campus at Evergreen State College is even more heavily thicketed with fir trees today. In Utah and Colorado, the missing are still gone: Debby Kent and Julie Cunningham and Denise Oliverson.
No more evidence has been found. Not an earring. Not a bicycle. Not even a faded piece of clothing. All things that were secret a dozen years ago remain hidden.
When Ted was delivered by helicopter back to the bleak walls of the Florida State Prison northwest of Starke, he joined over two hundred inmates on Death Row, the building housing more condemned men than any other state prison. Compared to Utah’s Point-of-the-Mountain and the jails where he’d been incarcerated in Colorado, Raiford was a long step down in the amenities of prison life.
Starke, Florida, is the closest town of any size, with a population of about a thousand people. Approaching from the east, it appears to be a shantytown, economically depressed. The houses move from shack to middle-class closer to the hub of Starke where the main intersection is marked by a Western Auto Store.
About three miles west of town, the prison looms on the left, and there is a neat sign reading “Florida State Prison.” Just past the sign, visitors turn into the main driveway and proceed one hundred yards to the parking lot and the brick administration building.
The prison is fifty yards beyond. It is not a modern concrete fortress. It is an old prison, stucco and faintly greenish white, not unlike the pallor of the inmates it holds.
The grounds are perfectly manicured, with bright flower beds. The driveway and the parking lot are paved with carefully troweled cement.
Richard Dugger is the superintendent of the Florida State Prison. He is, in a sense, a “lifer” too. Dugger was born on the prison grounds when his father was the warden. He was raised here. He is Ted Bundy’s contemporary, a tremendously fit, tautly muscled athlete—the antithesis of the standard movie portrayal of the potbellied, semi-comedic Southern warden. Dugger has been described as a rigid man who goes by the book. He is certainly a no nonsense prison superintendent.
Dugger runs his prison meticulously. Trustees keep the flat grounds of Florida State Prison a tentative oasis in the midst of inhospitable sandy soil. There is a farm, as most prisons have with cows, pigs, and whatever will grow to add to the prison menu.
For Ted, born on Lake Champlain, nurtured on the Delaware River and raised on Puget Sound—Ted, who craved water and trees and the smell of salt air coming off some sound or bay or ocean, this last stop on his downward spiral had to be hell.
Raiford sits smack dab in the middle of a triangle of roads surrounding nothing. There are no waterways at all. The air outside dries the membranes of the nose and throat, or smothers with mugginess. Beyond the grounds, the vista is endless and barren. There is a factory down the road, the vegetation is scrabbly palms, and whatever will grow without water and with too much sun.
The Okefenokee Swamp is approximately fifty miles north of Raiford. Gainesville (the city Ted once dismissed when his pin stuck there on a map because it had no large waterways) is thirty-five miles south. The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are east and west, each an easy hour and a half’s drive for a free man.
It probably didn’t matter at all what it was like around Raiford. Ted Bundy would not spend time outside the walls. With his history and expertise at escape, every precaution would be taken so that he would not demonstrate his talents at Raiford. This was something of a disappointment to a number of burly guards who muttered that they’d sure as hell like to see the bastard make a run for it—as they’d “enjoy splattering Bundy all over a wall.”
Ted was not destined to be a popular prisoner. Not so much because of the crimes for which he’d been sentenced, but because of his attitude. Ted Bundy was a star and that rankled both guards and fellow convicts.
When he wrote to me from the Utah State Prison, Ted had confided that he was welcome in the “general population”—a sought-after “prison lawyer.” He had not done very well for himself when he played lawyer in Miami. His counsel was tainted now. Besides, in this Southern prison, he was isolated among all those men struggling not to die. He was alone in a cell most of the time, a cell once occupied by John Spenkelink, the convict who had been executed six days before Ted chose to tear up his “admission of guilt” on May 31, 1979, throwing away what proved to be his last good chance to elude the death penalty. He would have been locked up forever, but he would have lived.
If it was a gamble. Ted had lost.
Less than a year later, Ted sat in the dead Spenkelink’s cell, a short walk from “Old Sparky,” the electric chair that would soon hold the record for electrocuting more convicted killers than any other since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on the death penalty in 1976.
But Ted was not alone in this ugly life he’d come to. When Carole Ann Boone spoke her surreptitious vows of marriage in Kimberly Leach’s murder trial on February 9, she had meant them. She would stick by her “Bunnie.”
Carole Ann did not, however, take Ted’s name. She remained “Boone.” After the two widely publicized Florida trials, the name Boone was notorious enough. She and her son, Jamie, who was in his early teens, a dark, good-looking young man, who impressed news people at the Miami trial as being an exceptionally nice kid, chose to live not in Starke but in Gainesville.
Carole Boone is an intelligent woman, with advanced degrees and an impressive job resume. She had spent her financial as well as her emotional reserves, however, in her fight to save her new husband. Ted at least was housed, fed, and clothed. Carole Ann and Jamie were on their own.
No one has ever questioned that Carole Ann believed in Ted’s innocence. I have often wondered if she truly expected that Ted would be freed, that they would one day be able to settle down like a normal family. Her obsession with him had landed her in Gainesville, Florida, on public assistance, at least temporarily. She became only one of hundreds of prisoners’ wives clogging the employment market.
But it did not seem to matter. Nothing mattered but the fact that she was still close to Ted. She was Mrs. Theodore Robert Bundy, and each week she could journey up through Starke, turn at the Western Auto Store, and go three miles out the dusty two-lane road to see her husband. From time to time, she would write to Louise Bundy to tell her how Ted was doing. But in essence, Carole Ann had become everything to Ted, as he had been for her for so many years now.
Whatever he asked for, she would try to give him.
The Stranger Beside Me was published in August of 1980. I had not written to Ted, and he had not contacted me since his ebullient phone call just before his Miami trial. As I wrote this book, I had been startled to find a great deal of anger surfacing from someplace inside me where I had unknowingly repressed it for years.
I thought that I had juggled my ambivalence about Ted very well. But listing the murders, detailing the crimes, and being closeted for months in my office where the walls were papered with the photographs of young women who had died grotesquely changed me. I thought that sometime I would write to Ted, but I wasn’t ready when I finished the book. And I wasn’t ready when I went out on a media tour for Stranger in August of 1980.
In seven weeks, I flew to thirty-five cities, and, in each, talked to interviewers from radio, television, and newspapers about Ted Bundy. Some of them had never heard of him. Some, in surprisingly distant cities, had watched his trials on television.
The night shows were different. Many listening to their radios out there in the darkness were unable to sleep, for one reason or another. The callers’ voices were more emotional than daytime listeners,’ and opinions were expressed more freely. Many of them were angry but their rage was polarized.
In Denver, on a midnight-to-3:00 A.M. talk show, the host left me on the phone, and on the air, for fifteen minutes with a man who bragged that he had murdered nine women “because they deserved it”—disconnecting him only when the man threatened to “blow me away” with his .45 because I was being “unfair” to Bundy.
The host walked me downstairs, pointing out the bulletproof glass in the lobby, and helped me into a cab with a perfect stranger who, fortunately, turned out to be most protective as he raced me to my hotel. (Four years later, the host of that late-night talk show was shot and killed in front of his own townhouse.)
In Los Angeles, I had a similar threat because I was “too kind” to Ted Bundy.
But, for the most part, readers understood what it was I was trying to convey, and I was grateful for that.
My itinerary took me to Florida in September. The closest I came to the Florida State Prison was the day I was in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Just as I went off the air in a radio station in Tampa, an urgent call came in from a man. The host said that I could not talk, but gave the caller the number of the next station where I would be interviewed.
But when I arrived in St. Petersburg, there was only a message. A man who would not give his name had said it was urgent that he speak with me, that I would know why, but that he could not stay on the phone.
The next day, I was in Dallas. I never found out who the caller was. Ted? Or possibly just a “220”?
The St. Petersburg Times interviewer had told me that he’d come up with a novel approach for reviewing my book. He had sent it to Raiford and asked Ted to criticize it, on its literary merits only, promising him the usual thirty-five-dollar payment that book critics received.
Ted would have loved that, I thought, if Vic Africano let him do it. Ted had not responded, but the book had not been returned.
In late September, after weeks on the road, I came home to Seattle for a few days to rest up for the second half of the tour. There was a letter waiting for me, a letter postmarked “Starke, Florida,” and dated the day after I had been in Tampa. The handwriting was as familiar to me as my own.
It was, of course, from Ted.
Since you have seen fit to take advantage of our relationship, I think it only fair that you share your great good fortune with my wife, Carole Ann Boone. Please send her $2500—or more—to: [he gave her address] as soon as possible.
Curiously, my immediate reaction was one of guilt. Emotion without rationale: What have I done to this poor man? And then I remembered that I had never once lied to Ted. I had my book contract months before he was a suspect, I told him about it when he became a suspect, and I reiterated the details of my contract to him many times in letters. He knew I was writing a book about the elusive “Ted,” and still he had chosen to keep in touch with me, to write me long letters and to call often.
I believe that Ted felt that I could be manipulated into writing the definitive “Ted Bundy is innocent” book. And I would have done that, if I could have. But the Miami trial had exposed his guilt with such merciless clarity. I had written what I had to write. Now, he was furious with me, and demanding money for Carole Ann.
That he had lied to me—probably from the first moment I met him—had not occurred to him.
When I reconsidered, I had to smile. If Ted thought that I was basking in riches, he was woefully mistaken. My advance payment for the book that one day became The Stranger Beside Me had been $10,000, spread over five years, with a third of it going to pay my expenses in Miami.
I glanced in my checkbook. I had twenty dollars in the bank. There would be more coming, of course. My book was selling very well, but I was learning as all authors do that royalty payments come only twice a year. In 1975, I had offered Ted a portion of book royalties, if he should choose to write a chapter or two from his viewpoint, and he had declined.
I reduced his request to a simple equation. I had four children to support. Carole Ann Boone had only one. Even if I had had the money Ted requested, it did not seem fair, somehow, that I should help support Carole Ann.
I started to write to Ted to explain my feelings, and then, for the very first time, I truly realized that he could not, would not, understand or empathize or even care what my situation was. I had been meant to serve a purpose in his life. I had been the designated Bundy PR person, and I had failed to produce.
For six years, I didn’t write to Ted again. Nor he to me.
Ted Bundy, who had been all over the news for five years, virtually disappeared for months. The word was that he was in his cell, poring over law books, preparing for appeals. There were three books published about Ted in 1980, including mine, and the man who once yearned to be governor of Washington became instead a nationally known criminal, his chilling eyes staring back from newsstands and bookshelves all over America.
There was yet another book in 1981. The woman I called “Meg Anders,” the woman who had been with Ted longer than any other, published her story, titled The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy.
Meg’s real first name is Liz. She used that and the fictitious surname “Kendall” as her pen name. She did not realize, perhaps, that becoming an author had made her a public figure. Seattle papers immediately printed her true name, and her hope for anonymity for herself and her daughter, fifteen in 1981, was destroyed.
Liz/Meg had received a call from Ted at Pensacola Police headquarters on the same Thursday night in February 1978 when I did. In her book, she intimated that Ted had confessed to her the kidnappings of Carol DaRonch and Debby Kent and the murders of Brenda Ball, Janice Ott, and Denise Naslund. She quoted Ted as saying that the police were “years off” when they speculated about when he had begun to kill.
Liz wrote that she asked Ted if he ever wanted to kill her, and said he admitted he had tried to kill her once. He had allegedly left her asleep in her hide-a-bed after closing the damper on the fireplace and putting towels against the door crack. She had awakened, she wrote, with streaming eyes, choking in a smoke-filled room.
Liz Kendall’s book, published by a Seattle firm, may well have caused her more grief than comfort. Families of the victims bombarded radio stations where she was interviewed, demanding to know why, if Ted had confessed to her, she had not told the police. Many callers reduced Liz to tears, as she tried to explain that everything was being taken out of context. No, Ted had never actually confessed to her.
At the end of June 1980, Liz got a last letter from Ted, mailed not from the Florida State Prison, but forwarded by Carole Ann Boone. Oddly, Ted berated Liz for going to the police and telling them “fairly uncomplimentary” things about him. Why would he have been so angry at that late date? I can remember so well having lunch with Ted in January 1976 when he told me that he knew it had been Liz who turned him in to the Salt Lake County Sheriff, adding, “But I love her more than ever.”
Whatever Ted’s reason for castigating Liz, he called her weeks later and apologized. That, she wrote, in the ending of her book, was the last time she heard from him.
Of all the lives that Ted Bundy damaged irrevocably, beyond those of the women he murdered, Liz’s may head the list. She was—is—a very nice woman, fighting a hostile world. She loved Ted for a long time. She may still.
• • •
There are no authorized conjugal visits in the Florida State Penitentiary, no cozy trailers or rooms where inmates may share intimacy with their spouses. The visitors’ room in Death Row is well-lighted, utilitarian, with tables and stools bolted to the floor, redolent of wax, cigarettes, disinfectant, and sweat.
But there are ways around the rules. One of my periodic callers is a woman who visits a relative on the Florida State Penitentiary’s Death Row. Like most visitors, she was fascinated to catch a glimpse of the infamous Ted Bundy. And she has learned a great deal about how certain activities are accomplished in the Death Row visitors’ area.
“They bribe the guards,” she explains. “Each prisoner who wants sex with his wife or girlfriend puts up five dollars. After they get a kitty of about fifty or sixty dollars, they draw lots. The winner gets to take his lady into the restroom or behind the water cooler and the guards look the other way.”
“Have you seen Ted?” I asked her. “What does he look like now?”
“You bet I have. He’s real thin. Some of them say he’s just gone crazy in there … just purely crazy … that they have to keep him doped up with Thorazine all the time. …”
My caller was afraid of Ted Bundy. “His eyes. He just kept staring at me and staring at me and he never blinks.”
But Ted had not gone crazy. He was planning and studying and working things out in his head, just as he always had. There was the mythic “Ted” who terrified female visitors, and there was the real Ted, who, if he’d had a white shirt, a tie, and a suit, could still have sat easily at the governor’s right hand.
During the summer of 1982, Carole Ann Boone wore a jacket when she went to the prison to visit her husband, despite the baking heat of northern Florida’s July and August. Tall and large-boned, it was easier for her to hide a growing secret than it would be for a more petite woman.
She was putting on weight. That in itself wasn’t unusual. Women whose men are locked behind bars, who subsist on low incomes, frustration, and meager hope, often eat too much. But Carole Ann’s weight was all around the middle, and to their chagrin, prison authorities saw that her silhouette was unmistakable.
Carole Ann Boone was pregnant, carrying Ted Bundy’s child.
The two of them, together against the world, had managed to marry by subterfuge. Now, they had accomplished the conception of a child the same way.
October 1982 was a landmark month for Ted Bundy. First of all, his new attorney, Robert Augustus Harper, Jr., of Tallahassee, asked the Florida Supreme Court to overturn Ted’s conviction in the murders of Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman: Supreme Court Case No. 57,772 (Circuit Court No. 78-670).
Harper cited the controversial bite-mark evidence and deemed the hypnosis of a prosecution witness highly suspect. Further, Ted’s attorney claimed that his client had had inadequate legal help at the time of the Miami trial. (This, when Ted had told me so gleefully just before trial that that was one area in which he would never have an appeal. He had been delighted with his attorneys then.)
“Bite-mark evidence is here to stay. . . but at the same time, there are certain standards that have to be set out,” Harper argued. “Richard Souviron was out to get famous on this case.”
Harper also attacked Nita Neary’s testimony because it came after hypnosis. “You can see that a creation of memory occurred. That point where her memory has been created by a pseudo-scientific process is improper.”
Assistant Attorney General David Gauldin argued for the state that fairness of the trial was the bottom line. “I think he got a fair trial, and I think the jury was untainted. . .He hired and fired lawyers at will, all of them publicly provided.”
The six Florida Supreme Court justices did not say when they might make a judgment on whether Ted would get a new trial in the Chi Omega killings.
A new cycle had begun. Ted was attacking again, seeking a new trial and back in the game. Carole Ann, ponderously and proudly pregnant, visited him regularly that October. As the month neared its close, she entered a private birthing center where she bore Ted his first child: a daughter. That was all even the most assiduous reporter found out. No birthweight. Certainly no name. Only “Baby Girl Boone.”
Carole took the infant along when she visited Ted. He was very proud of his progeny. Ted’s genes had prevailed. The baby looked just like him.
On May 11, 1984, James Adams, a black sharecropper’s son, died in the electric chair in Raiford Prison. He was the fourth man to die since John Spenkelink.
A month later, the Florida Supreme Court announced its findings on Ted Bundy’s appeal in a thirty-five-page document.
Ted had lost.
Justices Alderman, Adkins, Overton, McDonald, and Ehrlich had swept away Robert Harper’s arguments. The fact that the public and press had attended pretrial hearings, had not, in their opinion, denied Ted the right to a fair trial.
He had been granted a change of venue from Leon County, and the jury had already been selected and sequestered when the crucial pretrial hearings were held. But then again, Ted had claimed he’d been deprived of a fair trial because he had to ask for a change of venue, (the press’s fault) and lost his right to be tried in the locality where the charged crimes were committed. His two complaints were at counter-purposes. But they were both denied, making it a draw.
On a more salient issue, the court ruled that Nita Neary’s description of the man she’d seen in the Chi Omega house had not materially changed after she was hypnotized. The hypnotist could not have suggested that she describe Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy wasn’t even a suspect when Nita Neary was hypnotized. Nor did the court feel that the newspaper pictures she later saw of Ted Bundy had influenced her. The man she saw opening the front door, with an oak club in one hand, had been in profile. The news photos were all full face.
Ted had also argued, through Harper, that he had been unfairly tried when the Dunwoody Street attack on Cheryl Thomas was joined with the Chi Omega crimes. But the court found the crimes were “connected by proximity in time and location, by their nature, and by the manner in which they were perpetrated.”
Point by point, Ted Bundy lost in this appeal. No, the Grand Jury had not been prejudiced against him when they handed down the original indictment. He had had adequate opportunity to raise his objections in a timely manner. He had always, always had legal counsel. No, he could not have a new trial because he’d been denied Millard Farmer. Nor could he have a new trial because the jury had known that he was an escapee when he arrived in Florida.
The Florida justices disputed Ted’s claim against the Forensic odontologist, Richard Souviron—that Souviron had erred in saying that it had been Ted Bundy’s teeth that left the imprints in Lisa Levy’s buttocks. “… We find that it was proper for the expert to offer his opinion on the issue of a bite-mark match. this was not an improper legal conclusion. All facets of appellant’s argument on the bite-mark evidence are without merit. . .”
In the sentencing phase, the dry legal terminology cannot hide the horror: “Next Bundy claims that the trial court erred in finding that the capital felonies were especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel. There is no merit to this argument. The victims were murdered while sleeping in their own beds. . .The trial court also recounted the gruesome manner in which the victims were bludgeoned, sexually battered, and strangled. These circumstances are more than sufficient to uphold the trial court’s finding that the capital felonies were especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel. . .”
Although it would seem a moot point—now that Ted knew that there would be no new trial in the Chi Omega and Cheryl Thomas cases—he proceeded with his appeal on the Kimberly Leach case: Case No. 59, 128.
But his mind was obviously working on other levels and other possibilities too.
Ted was thin, but he was probably in the best shape he’d been in in years. He did wind sprints, one-hundred-yard dashes, whenever he was allowed out in the exercise yard, or into the long corridors.
And he cultivated his neighbors, tuning in on the grapevine that blooms so lushly with information throughout a cellblock.
Gerald Eugene Stano resided on the cell to one side of Ted. Ottis Elwood Toole was on the other side. Stano, 32, had admitted to killing thirty-nine young women, mostly hitchhikers and prostitutes, between 1969 and 1980. It was rumored that many of his victims wore blue—a color often favored by Stano’s brother, whom he hated. Convicted of ten murders, he had, like Ted, been sentenced to death three times over. Toole, 36, most infamous as Henry Lee Lucas’s sometime lover/sometime murder partner, had admitted to Jacksonville Detective Buddy Terry that it was he who had kidnapped and murdered Adam Walsh.
Adam was six years old when Toole spotted him near a Sears store in Hollywood, Florida. Toole had, for some reason known only to him, decided that he wanted to “adopt” a baby. He had searched all day and found no little babies, so he’d taken Adam. When the little boy resisted, Toole told Terry that he’d killed him and thrown his body into an alligator filled canal. Adam’s father, John Walsh, searched tirelessly for his child, and then relentlessly lobbied before Congress until they passed the Missing Children’s Act.
The movie Adam has been shown many times on television.
Ted’s I.Q. alone nearly equaled Stano’s and Toole’s combined.
In the summer of 1984, following Ted’s heavy losses to the Florida Supreme Court, he came perilously close to repeating his Houdini-like Colorado escapes. Prison officials arrived to do a surprise shakedown of his cell just in time. They found hacksaw blades secreted there. Someone from the outside had to have brought them in to Ted. That person was never named.
But somehow, someone had gotten the metal blades through all the security checks. The bars in Ted’s cell looked secure, but careful perusal showed that one bar had been completely sawed through at both the top and bottom, and then “glued” back with an adhesive whose main component was soap. Could Ted have ever reached the outside? Even if he’d managed to cut through another bar or two, and wriggled free of his cell, there were so many obstacles. The entire prison is surrounded by two ten-foot-high fences, with electric gates that are never opened at the same time. Rolls of sharp barbed wire bales top the walls and occupy much of the “pen” around the Death Row cellblocks. The guards are in the tower … waiting.
And that is what Ted would have faced after (and if) he managed to get past all the safeguards inside Death Row itself, a building separated from the rest of Raiford Prison.
If he had somehow managed to shed his bright orange T-shirt that marked him a resident of Death Row, and obtained civilian clothing, how would he have passed through the electric gates? When one gate opens, the other has already clanged shut. How would he have gotten the hand-stamp? Every visitor into the dangerous bowels of the Florida State Prison is required to have his hand stamped, like teenagers leaving a dance. The colors change from day to day, without any discernible pattern.
When the visitor leaves, he must hold his hand under a machine that reveals “the color of the day.” Without the stamp—or with the wrong color—the alarm bells sound. …
The hacksaw blades were confiscated, Ted was moved to another cell, and it was “tossed” more frequently than before.
He had been “inside” for more than four years. His child was almost two. There had been no execution date set. He waited, and studied, and played the games that all prisoners play—that Ted Bundy, in particular, played. He’d do anything to put something over on those in authority.
• • •
On May 9, 1985, the Florida Supreme Court ruled once again on Ted’s request for a new trial, this time in the case of Kimberly Leach.
Ted’s points of law were essentially the same that they had been in the Chi Omega case. Only the characters were different. An eyewitness had been hypnotized, prospective jurors had been excluded because they opposed the death penalty. Ted claimed the judge couldn’t have determined if the child’s murder was “heinous and atrocious” because Kimberly’s body had been too decomposed to tell, having lain so long in an abandoned pigsty.
Supreme Court Justice James Alderman wrote the unanimous decision. “After weighing the evidence in this case, we conclude that the sentence of death imposed was justified and appropriate under our law.”
In that May of 1985, I was on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, scarcely a hundred miles away from Raiford, talking, still talking, about Ted Bundy, showing the same one hundred and fifty slides that I have shown so many times. I was speaking to cops at a two day seminar sponsored by the University of Louisville’s School of Justice Administration. The term “serial murder” was relatively new, and seemed to have been coined for Ted Bundy, even though there had been a few dozen more men who had racked up horrific tolls since Ted’s incarceration. Ted Bundy remained the celebrity serial killer.
As I spoke to the three dozen detectives on the South Carolina Island in the Atlantic Ocean, I mused that Ted had truly become a coast-to-coast antihero. Less than a month before, I had given the same presentation, on the Pacific Ocean, to the American College of Forensic Psychiatry.
Hilton Head marked a reunion of sorts. The University of Louisville had gathered many of the players from the long search for Bundy. Jerry Thompson and Dr. Al Carlisle from Utah, Mike Fisher from Colorado, Don Patchen from Tallahassee. Myself. Bob Keppel would have been there too, except that he was weighed down by his duties as advisor to a task force mobilized to find yet another serial killer in Washington State: the Green River Killer.
It was ironic. Keppel had moved on from the King County Police’s Homicide Unit to be the chief criminal investigator for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. He liked his new job. On a long flight to Texas a few years ago—when we were both headed for a VI-CAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) conference— Keppel had confided, “One thing I never want to do again is to work under that boiler-room pressure of a serial killer task force.”
Starting in January of 1984, he had been doing just that, looking for the murderer of not eight but at least forty-eight young women. Tracking Ted Bundy, Keppel had been through the fire, and the knowledge he’d gained made him invaluable to the Green River Task Force. He could not say no—and he hadn’t.
He went back to “the boiler-room.”
Ted Bundy was alive. He was several years older than I was when I first met him, but despite everything that had happened, he looked far younger than his chronological age. If he were free, he could still stroll a college campus and not look out of place. Whatever sins might excoriate his soul, they did not mark his handsome face. Only the gray strands that threaded through his still-thick wavy hair betrayed that he would soon be forty years old.
After seven years with no date set for execution, it seemed that Ted wasn’t going to die. At least not in the electric chair in Raiford Prison. The threat of the chair had been somehow so much more palpable in Judge Cowart’s courtroom in the long summer of 1979.
Ted gave interviews to writers and talked occasionally to judiciously selected criminologists. Led down endless corridors, through myriad electronic devices and doors into a little room with one door and one window looking out toward the guard captain’s office, Ted expounded for hours on his opinions, theories, and feelings. He considers himself an expert on the mind of the serial killer, and offered to share his expertise with detectives in current investigations. If Warden Dugger would allow it, Ted would be happy to appear on videotape for conferences and seminars.
He was considered an escape risk. Always. Within the next year, he had his cell changed once again because he was found with contraband, this time a mirror. Mirrors can be used for all manner of activities in prison.
When I visited him in the Utah State Prison in 1976, he had been neither cuffed nor shackled. In the Florida State Prison, he leaves his cell on Death Row only after his hands have been cuffed behind him, and his ankles shackled. Once he is safely in the tiny room where he is allowed interviews, his hands are cuffed in front of him. He wears jeans, brand-name running shoes, and the ubiquitous orange T-shirt of the death wing.
He seems open and cooperative, but there are things he will not speak of, and he ducks his head and laughs nervously as he demurs, “I can’t talk about that.” He will not talk about Carole Ann. He is most protective of his daughter, who is almost four years old now.
He has “forgiven” me. He describes me to questioners as “a decent-enough person—who was only doing her job.”
• • •
Suddenly, on February 5, 1986, after it seemed that Ted would be caught up in the maze of legal proceedings forever, Florida Governor Bob Graham signed Ted Bundy’s death warrant. The date for his execution was announced: March 4.
One month to live.
The media, who had virtually forgotten Ted Bundy, pursued him as avidly as ever. I had a lecture to give the night the news broke. My topic was, again, Ted Bundy.
But before and after—because they could not talk to Ted and because some comment seemed necessary—I was interviewed by the Seattle affiliates of ABC, NBC, and CBS. What did I think? How did I feel?
I wasn’t sure. I felt shocked mostly. And I felt removed from Ted, almost as if I had never known him—as if he were some invention, some fictional character I had once written about. And I knew, leadenly, that it must be. If Ted was not executed, he would, somehow, find a way to escape.
Ted had fired his last lawyer, Robert Harper, just as he eventually dismissed all the others. He had been representing himself, and he had filed an appeal for new trials with the U.S. Supreme Court, which was to have been heard on March 7, three days after he was now scheduled to die. On February 18 he represented himself again before the Supreme Court by delivering a handwritten appeal for a stay of execution. Justice Lewis R. Powell refused to block the execution, but he gave Ted a second chance. He turned down Ted’s somewhat amateurish request “without prejudice” and instructed him to obtain proper legal counsel “to file an application that complies with the rules of this court.”
No one had ever gone to the Florida electric chair on the first death warrant signed, but that was no guarantee that Ted Bundy would not set a new record.
In Lake City, where Kimberly Leach had been kidnapped, thousands of residents signed a petition supporting Ted’s execution. A nurse whose daughter had attended Lake City Junior High with Kimberly said, “Many of those who signed said they would like to sign twice and would pull the switch if given the chance. …”
Richard Larsen, the Seattle Times reporter (and now associate editor) who wrote one of the 1980 Bundy books, received one of many letters sent to newspapers around America. It appeared to be an official communique from the “Office of the Governor, Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee, Florida, 32304.”
It was two pages long, beginning, “Florida Gov. Bob Graham today signed a cooperative agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority for more electricity to be used in the coming execution of convicted killer Theodore Bundy … The power sales contract with TVA will provide ten additional megawatts of energy to Florida Power & Light in order to ensure Bundy is executed using the maximum voltage and amperage allowed …
“In addition to the temporary contract for electricity, Graham urged Florida residents to reduce their electrical usage for a five-minute period beginning at 6:57 A.M. EST March 4, 1986. Bundy is scheduled to be executed at 7:00 A.M. on that date.
“If citizens of the state can turn off all non-vital air conditioning, televisions, electric dryers and washers during that brief period, we could have as much as five additional megawatts to pump into the chair…
“Reddy Communications of Akron, Ohio—owners of the popular Reddy Kilowatt logo—will prepare a special gold medallion for the event with the inscription, ‘Die Quicker Electrically.’ The medallions will be on sale … Proceeds will help defray the tremendous costs associated with Bundy’s prosecution, incarceration, and ultimate execution …”
It was, of course, a macabre prank, and had not come from Graham’s office. Yet, it reflected the sentiment of Florida residents about Ted. Their feelings had not changed much since his Miami trial.
As the March 4 date drew nearer, it seemed that Ted was going to die within the week.
And then, on February 25, a Washington, D.C., law firm announced that it would represent Ted without payment. Polly J. Nelson, an attorney from the firm, however, said that they had not yet decided if they would request a stay of execution.
“… We’re investigating whether it’s advisable …”
On February 27th the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution—until April 11, 1986.
Assistant State Attorney Jack Poitinger, who was chief of detectives in Leon County in January 1978 when the Chi Omega attack took place, predicted that it would be a long time before Ted was actually electrocuted. “Ted’s used to manipulating the system all along. He’ll do nothing until the eleventh hour and come forth with a flurry of things.”
Inside Raiford Prison, the word was that Ted Bundy would probably be executed sometime in the fall of 1986. One week before the date listed on his final death warrant, the lights will dim in Raiford as the chair is tested. That is not a macabre rumor. It really happens.
In the early morning of the date itself, whenever that date would be, Ted would be led down the long, long walk to “Old Sparky,” and a black rubber mask pulled down over his face. So that he would not see death coming? Or, more likely, so that witnesses would not glimpse his face as the electricity jolts through his body.
It seems ironic that Ted Bundy is in such superb physical condition. He has become a vegetarian. Because Florida State Prison dieticians do not cater to individual requests, it was necessary for him to change his religious affiliation once again. Born and raised a Methodist, converted to Mormonism just before his first arrest, he is now an avowed Hindu. He admits that it is a pragmatic conversion. As a Hindu, he has the legal right to be served a vegetarian and fish diet.
His muscles are defined, his lung capacity is excellent, and his vegetarian diet prevents atheromatous deposits from clogging his arteries. When he dies, Ted Bundy will be in perfect health.
Ted touched so many lives, in one way or another. Since this book was published, I have met a hundred people who once knew him—in separate segments of his compartmentalized world. All of them look a little stunned still. Not one has confided that he seemed destined for a bad end. And I have met a hundred more people who knew the victims. As I bend my head to autograph a book, someone murmurs, “I knew her—Georgeann … or Lynda … or Denise.” Once someone said, “That was my sister,” and twice, “She was my daughter. …”
I did not know what to say to them.
Nor did I know what to say to Ted when I wrote to him for the first time in six years. I wasn’t even sure why I wrote, except that it seemed to me that we had unfinished business. I mailed my letter the day after his death sentence was announced. I have had no answer. He may have torn up my letter.
People go on as best they can. Several of the parents of Ted’s victims have died early, succumbing to heart attacks. The remains of Denise Naslund and Janice Ott were lost when the King County Medical Examiner’s Office moved. Their bones were cremated mistakenly with those of the unidentified dead. For Eleanore Rose, Denise’s mother, it was only the last in a series of blows. She had waited years so that she could give her daughter a proper burial. Denise’s room and her car remain as they were on July 14, 1974. Shrines.
One of my callers about Ted was the Mormon friend who persuaded Ted to join the church in Utah in 1975. Even though Ted had not obeyed the no-smoking/no-drinking/no-drugs tenets of the Mormons, he had seemed earnest and sincere and good. The Mormon missionary remembered how incensed they had both been over the murders of Melissa Smith and Laura Aime.
“We sat there at my kitchen table, and the newspapers were spread out between us, with all the headlines about the dead girls. And I remember how angry Ted was. He kept telling me that he’d like to get his hands on the man that would do something like that—he’d see he never had a chance to do it again. …”
—ANN RULE March 2, 1986
Ted Bundy posing as Florida State University graduate student Ken Misner in the Pensacola Police Department after his arrest there on February 15, 1978. He has a scrape on his left cheek from a scuffle with Officer David Lee.
THE TED BUNDY WHO “DIED” and was reborn as Chris Hagen in Tallahassee on January 8, 1978, had been a man of unusual accomplishment. While much of his life had seemed to fit into the flat wasteland of the middle class, there was also much that did not.
His very birth stamped him as different. The mores of America in 1946 were a world removed from the attitudes of the ’70s and ’80s. Today, illegitimate births make up a substantial proportion of deliveries, despite legalized abortions, vasectomies, and birth control pills. There is only token stigma toward unwed mothers and most of them keep their babies, merging smoothly into society.
It was not that way in 1946. Premarital sex surely existed, as it always has, but women didn’t talk about it if they indulged, not even to their best friends. Girls who engaged in sex before marriage were considered promiscuous, though men could brag about it. It wasn’t fair, and it didn’t even make much sense, but that’s the way it was. A liberal at that time was someone who pontificated that “only good girls get caught.” Programmed by anxious mothers, girls rarely doubted the premise that virginity was an end in itself.
Eleanor Louise Cowell was twenty-two, a “good girl,” raised in a deeply religious family in northwest Philadelphia. One can only imagine her panic when she found she had been left pregnant by a man she refers to today as only “a sailor.” He left her, frightened and alone, to face her strict family. They rallied around her, but they were shocked and saddened.
Abortion was out of the question. It was illegal—carried out in murky rooms on dark streets by old women or doctors who’d lost their licenses. Furthermore, her religious training forbade it. Beyond that, she already loved the baby growing within her. She couldn’t bear the thought of putting the child up for adoption. She did the only thing she could. When she was seven months pregnant, she left home and entered the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont.
The maternity home was referred to by waggish locals as “Lizzie Lund’s Home for Naughty Ladies.” The girls who came there in trouble were aware of that little joke, but they had no choice but to live out their days until labor began in an atmosphere which was—if not unfriendly—seemingly heedless of their feelings.
After sixty-three days of waiting there, Theodore Robert Cowell was born on November 24, 1946.
Eleanor took her son back to her parents’ home in Philadelphia and began a hopeless charade. As the baby grew, he would hear Eleanor referred to as his older sister, and was told to call his grandparents “Mother” and “Father.” Already showing signs of brilliance, the slightly undersized little boy whose crop of curly brown hair gave him a faunlike appearance did as he was told, and yet he sensed that he was living a lie.
Ted adored his grandfather-father Cowell. He identified with him, respected him, and clung to him in times of trouble.
But, as he grew older, it was clear that remaining in Philadelphia would be impossible. Too many relatives knew the real story of his parentage, and Eleanor dreaded what his growing-up years would be like. It was a working-class neighborhood where children would listen to their parents’ whispered remarks and mimic them. She never wanted Ted to have to hear the word “bastard.”
There was a contingent of Cowells living in Washington State, and they offered to take Eleanor and the boy in if they came west. To ensure Ted’s protection against prejudice, Eleanor, who would henceforth be called Louise, went to court on October 6, 1950, in Philadelphia and had Ted’s name legally changed to Theodore Robert Nelson. It was a common name, one that should give him anonymity and that would not draw attention to him when he began school.
And so, Louise Cowell and her son, four-year-old Ted Nelson, moved 3,000 miles away to Tacoma, Washington, where they moved in with her relatives until she could get a job. It was a tremendous wrench for Ted to leave his grandfather behind, and he would never forget the old man. But he soon adjusted to the new life. He had cousins, Jane and Alan Scott, who were close to his age and they became friends.
In Tacoma, Washington’s third-largest city, Louise and Ted started over. The beauty of Tacoma’s hills and harbor was often obscured by smog from industry, and the downtown streets infiltrated by honky-tonk bars, peep shows, and pornography shops catering to soldiers on passes from Fort Lewis.
Louise joined the Methodist Church, and there at a social function she met Johnnie Culpepper Bundy—one of a huge clan of Bundys who reside in the Tacoma area. Bundy, a cook, was as tiny as Louise, neither of them standing an inch over five feet. He was shy, but he seemed kind. He seemed solid.
It was a rapid courtship, marked principally by attendance at other social functions at the church. On May 19, 1951, Louise Cowell married Johnnie Bundy. Ted attended the wedding of his “older sister” and the little cook from the army base. He was not yet five when he had a third name: Theodore Robert Bundy.
Louise continued working as a secretary and the new family moved several times before finally buying their own home near the soaring Narrows Bridge.
Soon, there were four half-siblings, two girls and two boys. The youngest boy, born when Ted was fifteen, was his favorite. Ted was often pressed into babysitting chores, and his teenage friends recall that he missed many activities with them because he had to babysit. If he minded, he seldom complained.
Despite his new name, Ted still considered himself a Cowell. It was always the Cowell side of the family to which he gravitated.
He looked like a Cowell. His features were a masculinized version of Louise Bundy’s, his coloring just like hers. On the surface, it seemed the only genetic input he’d received from his natural father was his height. Although still smaller than his peers in junior high school, Ted was already taller than Louise and Johnnie. One day he would reach six feet.
Ted spent time with his stepfather only grudgingly. Johnnie tried. He had accepted Louise’s child just as he had accepted her, and he’d been rather pleased to have a son. If Ted seemed increasingly removed from him, he put it down to burgeoning adolescence. In discipline, Louise had the final word, although Johnnie sometimes applied corporal punishment with a belt.
Ted and Johnnie often picked beans in the acres of verdant fields radiating out through the valleys beyond Tacoma. Between the two of them, they could make five to six dollars a day. If Bundy worked the early shift at Madigan Army Hospital as a cook—5 A.M. to 2 P.M.—they would hurry out to the fields and pick during the heat of the afternoon. If he worked a late shift, he would get up early anyway and help Ted with his paper route. Ted had seventy-eight customers along his early morning route and it took him a long time to work it alone.
Johnnie Bundy became a Boy Scout leader, and he frequently organized camping trips. More often than not, however, it was other people’s sons who went on the outings. Ted always seemed to have some excuse to beg off.
Oddly, Louise had never directly confirmed to Ted that she was, in fact, his mother and not his older sister. Sometimes he called her Mother, and sometimes just Louise.
Still, it was clear to everyone who knew them that this was the child she felt had the most potential. She felt he was special, that he was college material, and urged him to start saving for college when he was only thirteen or fourteen.
Although Ted was growing like a weed, he was very slender—too light for football in junior high. He attended Hunt Junior High, and did turn out for track, where he had some minor successes in the low hurdles.
Scholastically, he did much better. He usually managed to maintain a B average, and would stay up all night to finish a project if need be.
It was in junior high that Ted endured some merciless teasing from other boys. Some who attended Hunt Junior High recall that Ted invariably insisted on showering in privacy in a stall, shunning the open showers where the rest of his gym class whooped and hollered. Scornful of his shyness, the other boys delighted in creeping up the single shower stall and pouring cold water down on him. Humiliated and furious, he chased them away.
Ted attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Tacoma and became a member of the largest graduating class of that school to date. The class of 1965 had 740 members. Any search of records on Ted Bundy at Woodrow Wilson is fruitless. They have disappeared, but many of his friends remember him.
A young woman, now an attorney, recalls Ted at seventeen. “He was well known, popular, but not in the top crowd, but then neither was I. He was attractive, and well dressed, exceptionally well mannered. I know he must have dated, but I can’t ever remember seeing him with a date. I think I remember seeing him at the dances, especially the TOLOS, when the girls asked the boys to dance. But I can’t be sure. He was kind of shy, almost introverted.”
Ted’s best friends in high school were Jim Paulus, a short, compact young man with dark hair and horn-rimmed glasses who was active in student politics, and Kent Michaels, vice president of the student council, a reserve football team member, and now an attorney in Tacoma. Ted often skied with them, but, despite his awakening interest in politics, he did not hold a student body office.
In a class with almost 800 members, he was a medium-sized fish in a large pond. If not among the most popular, he at least moved near those at the top and he was well liked.
Scholastically, he was getting better. He consistently drew a B plus average. At graduation, he was awarded a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
Ted wrote an unusual note in a classmate’s copy of The Nova, Wilson High’s yearbook:
The sweetness of the spring time rain runs down the window pain [sic.] (I can’t help it. It just flows out)
Theodore Robert Bundy
The only fact that might mar the picture of the clean-cut young graduate in the spring of 1965 was that Ted had been picked up at least twice by juvenile authorities in Pierce County for suspicion of auto theft and burglary. There is no indication that he was ever confined, but his name was known to juvenile caseworkers. The records outlining the details of the incidents have long been shredded—the procedure followed when a juvenile reaches eighteen. Only a card remains with his name and the offenses listed.
Ted spent the summer of 1965 working for Tacoma City Light to save money for college, and he attended the University of Puget Sound for the school year 1965-66.
After working in the sawmill the next summer, Ted transferred to the University of Washington, where he began a program of intensive Chinese. He felt that China was the country that we would one day have to reckon with, and that a fluency in the language would be imperative.
Ted moved into McMahon Hall, a dormitory on the University campus. He had yet to have a serious involvement with a woman, although he had yearned for one. He was held back by his shyness and his feeling that he was not socially adept, that his background was stultifyingly middle-class, that he had nothing to offer the kind of woman he wanted.
When Ted met Stephanie Brooks in the spring of 1967 at McMahon Hall, he saw a woman who was the epitome of his dreams. Stephanie was like no girl he had ever seen before, and he considered her the most sophisticated, the most beautiful creature possible. He watched her, saw that she seemed to prefer football jocks, and hesitated to approach her. As he would write a dozen years later, “She and I had about as much in common as Sears and Roebuck does with Saks. I never considered S. with any more romantic interest than I considered some elegant creature on the fashion page.”
But they did share one common interest. Skiing. Stephanie had her own car, and he managed to hitch a ride to the mountain summits east of Seattle with her. As they rode back from a day’s skiing, he studied the beautiful, dark-haired girl behind the wheel. He had told himself that Stephanie outclassed him, and yet he realized that he was infatuated with her. He was both bemused and thrilled when she began to spend more and more time with him. His preoccupation with intensive Chinese was pushed temporarily into the background.
“It was at once sublime and overpowering,” he recalled. “The first touch of hands, the first kiss, the first night together. … For the next six years, S. and I would meet under the most tentative of circumstances.”
Ted had fallen in love. Stephanie was a year or so older, the daughter of a wealthy California family, and she was, quite possibly, the first woman to initiate him into physical lovemaking. He was twenty years old. He had very little to offer her, a young woman who’d been raised in an atmosphere where money and prestige were taken for granted. And yet she stayed with him for a year, a year that may have been the most important in his life.
Ted worked a series of menial, low-paying jobs to pay his way through college: in a posh Seattle yacht club as a busboy, at Seattle’s venerable Olympic Hotel as a busboy, at a Safeway store stocking shelves, in a surgical supply house as a stockboy, as a legal messenger, and as a shoe clerk. He left most of these jobs of his own accord, usually after only a few months. Safeway personnel files evaluated him as “only fair,” and noted that he had simply failed to come to work one day. Both the surgical supply house and the messenger service hired him twice, however, and termed him a pleasant, dependable employee.
Ted became friends in August of 1967 with sixty-year-old Beatrice Sloan, who worked at the yacht club. Mrs. Sloan, a widow, found the young college student a lovable rascal, and Ted could talk her into almost anything when they worked at the yacht club together for the next six months, and they remained friends for many years after. She arranged for his job at the Olympic Hotel, a job that lasted only a month. Other employees reported they suspected he was rifling lockers. Mrs. Sloan was somewhat shocked when Ted showed her a uniform that he had stolen from the hotel, but she put it down as a boyish prank, as she would rationalize so many of his actions.
Beatrice Sloan heard all about Stephanie, and understood Ted’s need to impress this marvelous girl. She loaned him her car often, and he returned it in the wee hours of the morning. Once, Ted told her he was going to cook a gourmet meal for Stephanie, and the widow loaned him her best crystal and silver so that he could create the perfect setting. She laughed as he imitated the precise English accent he planned to use as he served the meal he’d cooked himself.
She felt that Ted needed her. He’d explained that his family life had been very strict, and that he was on his own now. She allowed him to use her address when he applied for jobs and as a reference. Sometimes he had no place to sleep except in the lounge of McMahon Hall, a dormitory he still had a key for. He was a “schemer,” she knew, but she thought she could understand why. He was only trying to survive.
Ted entertained her. Once, he put on a black wig and he seemed to take on an entirely different appearance. Later, she would catch a glimpse of him on television during Governor Rosellini’s campaign, and he was wearing that same wig.
Even though Mrs. Sloan suspected that Ted was sneaking girls up into the “crow’s nest” at the yacht club for what she called hanky-panky, and even though she also suspected him of taking money sometimes from the drunken patrons of the club who had to be driven home, she couldn’t help liking the young man. He took the time to talk to her, and he bragged to her that his father was a famous chef, and that he planned to go to Philadelphia to visit an uncle who was high up in politics. She even loaned him money once and then wished that she hadn’t. When he wouldn’t pay it back, she called Louise Bundy and asked that she remind Ted. Louise had laughed, according to Mrs. Sloan, and said, “You’re a fool to loan him money. You’ll never get it back. He’s a stranger around here.”
Stephanie Brooks was a junior when she met Ted in the spring of 1967, and she was in love with Ted through the summer and into 1968. But not as much in love as he was. They dated often—dates that did not require much money: walks, movies, hamburger dinners, and sometimes skiing. His lovemaking was sweet and gentle, and there were times when she thought it might really work out.
But Stephanie was pragmatic. It was wonderful to be in love, to have a college romance, and to stroll through the wooded paths of the campus hand-in-hand, as the Japanese cherry blossoms gave way to the rhododendrons and then to the brilliant orange of the vine maples. The skiing trips up to the Cascades were fun, too, but she sensed that Ted was foundering, that he had no real plans or real prospects for the future. Consciously or unconsciously, Stephanie wanted her life to continue as it always had. She wanted a husband who would fit into her world in California. She just didn’t believe that Ted Bundy fit that picture.
Stephanie found Ted very emotional and unsure of himself. He didn’t seem to have the capacity to decide what his major was going to be. But, more than that, she had a niggling suspicion that he used people, that he would become close to people who might do favors for him, and that he took advantage of them. She was sure that he had lied to her, that he had made up answers that sounded good. That bothered her. It bothered her more than his indecision, and his tendency to use people.
Stephanie graduated from the University of Washington in June 1968 and it seemed that that might be a way to ease out of the romance. Ted still had years to go, and she would be in San Francisco, starting a job, back among her old friends. The affair might just die of lack of nourishment due to time and distance.
But Ted won a scholarship to Stanford in intensive Chinese for the summer of 1968. He was only a short drive down the Bayshore Highway from her parents’ home, and so they continued to date throughout the summer. Stephanie was adamant when the time came for Ted to return to the University of Washington. She told him that their romance was over, that their lives were headed on divergent paths.
He was devastated. He could not believe that she was really through with him. She was his first love, the absolute personification of everything he wanted. And now she was willing to walk away from him. He had been right in the first place. She was too beautiful. Too rich. He should never have believed he could have her.
Ted returned to Seattle. He no longer cared about intensive Chinese. Indeed, he cared about very little. Yet, he still had a toehold on the political scene. In April of 1968, he’d been appointed Seattle chairman and assistant state chairman of the New Majority for Rockefeller, and he’d won a trip to the Miami convention. His mind filled with his break with Stephanie Brooks, Ted went to Miami, only to see his candidate plowed under.
Back at the University, he took courses—not in Chinese, but in urban planning and sociology. He didn’t come close to his previous excellence, and he dropped out of college. During the fall of 1968, Ted had worked as a driver for Art Fletcher, a popular black candidate for lieutenant governor. When there were death threats against Fletcher, the candidate was housed in a secret penthouse location. Ted became not only a driver, but a bodyguard, sleeping in a room close by. He wanted to carry a gun, but Fletcher vetoed that.
Fletcher lost the election.
It seemed that everything Ted had counted on was crumbling. In early 1969, he set out on travels that might help him understand his roots. He visited relatives in Arkansas and in Philadelphia, where he took some classes at Temple University. Yet all the while the real purpose of his trip burned in his mind.
His cousins, Alan and Jane Scott, with whom he’d grown up in Tacoma, had hinted at it. He himself had always known it, sensed the truth hidden there in memories from his earliest years. He had to know who he was.
Ted went to Burlington, Vermont, after checking records in Philadelphia. His birth certificate was in the files there, stamped with the archaic and cruel “illegitimate.” He had been born to Eleanor Louise Cowell. The name of the father was given as Lloyd Marshall, a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, an Air Force veteran, a salesman born in 1916.
So his father had been thirty years old when he was born, an educated man. Why had he left them alone? Had he been married? What had become of him? There is no information on whether Ted tried to find the man who had gone out of his life before he was even born. But Ted knew. He knew that what he had always sensed was true: Louise was, of course, his mother. Johnnie Bundy wasn’t his father, and his beloved grandfather wasn’t his father either. He had no father.
Ted had continued to write to Stephanie, with only sporadic response. He knew she was working for a brokerage firm in San Francisco. As he headed back toward the West Coast, he was obsessed with getting to Stephanie. The knowledge that his mother had lied to him wasn’t a complete surprise. It wasn’t a surprise at all, and yet it hurt. All those years.
It was a bright spring day in 1969 when Stephanie walked out of her office building. She didn’t see Ted. There was suddenly someone behind her, someone putting his hands on her shoulders. She turned around and there he was.
If he had expected that she would be delighted to see him, that their romance could be resumed, he was to be harshly disappointed. She was moderately glad to see him, but nothing more than that. Ted seemed to be the same drifting young man she’d always known. He wasn’t even enrolled in college anymore.
Had she accepted him back at that point, some of his humiliation might have been tempered. But she couldn’t. She asked how he had gotten to San Francisco, and he was vague, mumbled something about hitchhiking. They talked for a while, and then she sent him away, for the second time.
She expected to never see him again.
DURING THAT SPRING OF 1974, I had rented a houseboat in Seattle to use as an office, subletting the creaky little one-room structure that floated precariously on logs in Lake Union, a mile south of the University District. I was fully aware now that two college girls were missing, that Kathy Devine had been murdered, and I was beginning to sense that police felt a pattern was emerging, but the public remained unaware. Seattle averages about sixty homicides a year, King County vacillates from two or three to a dozen annually, and Thurston County rarely exceeds three. Not a bad percentage for areas highly populated, and things appeared to be normal. Tragic, but normal.
My ex-husband had suffered a sudden grand mal epileptic seizure. His cancer had metastasized to the brain. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized for several weeks. My youngest daughter, Leslie, then sixteen, took a bus to Seattle every day after school to care for her father. She didn’t think the nurses were attentive enough. I worried. She was so lovely, looked so much like the girls who were disappearing, and I was frightened to have her walk even half a block alone in the city. She was insistent that it was something she had to do, and I held my breath each day until she was home safe. I was experiencing the kind of dread that soon every parent in the area would feel. As a crime writer, I had seen too much violence, too much tragedy, and I saw “suspicious men” wherever I went. I have never been afraid for myself. But for my daughters, oh yes, for my daughters. I warned them so much that they finally accused me of getting paranoid.
I gave up the houseboat. I didn’t want to be that far away from my children, not even during the daytime hours.
On April 17 it happened again. This time the girl who vanished was 120 miles away from Seattle, far across the looming Cascade Mountains that separate the verdant coastland of Washington from the arid wheatfields of the eastern half of the state.
Susan Elaine Rancourt was a freshman at Central Washington State College in Ellensburg, a rodeo town that has retained the flavor of the Old West. One of six children in a close family, Susan had been a cheerleader and homecoming queen in LaConner, Washington, High School.
She differed from the other missing girls in that she was a blonde, a blonde with long hair and blue eyes. She had the sort of stunning figure that most teenaged girls pray for, not to mention teenaged boys. Perhaps her early development had contributed to her shyness and eclipsed the fact that Susan had a superior, scientifically oriented intelligence.
When the rest of her family moved to Anchorage, Alaska, it took courage on Susan’s part to stay behind to attend college in Ellensburg. She’d known she’d have to pay most of her own way. With five other siblings to raise, her family just didn’t have the money to foot all her college bills.
The summer before her freshman year, Susan worked two full-time jobs, seven days a week, to save money for tuition. She’d always known that her career would be in the field of medicine. Her high school grades, straight A’s, and her college aptitude scores verified that she was a natural. At Ellensburg, Susan Rancourt was majoring in biology, still getting a straight 4.0 gradepoint average, and working a full-time job in a nursing home. She was a young woman any family could be proud of.
Where Lynda Healy had been cautious, and Donna Manson had been heedless of danger, Susan Rancourt was frankly afraid of the dark, of being out alone. She never went anywhere without her roommate after the sun had set.
Never, until the evening of April 17. It had been a busy week for her. Midterm finals were being held, but she learned of an opportunity open for would-be dorm advisors. With that job, her expenses could be cut a great deal. Besides, it would give her a chance to meet more students and to break out of her self-imposed shell of shyness. So she took a chance.
Susan was only five feet two and weighed 120 pounds, but she was strong. She jogged every morning and she’d gone to karate classes. Perhaps she’d been foolish to think she couldn’t protect herself on a crowded campus even if someone did approach her.
At eight o’clock that evening, she took a load of clothing to a laundry room in one of the campus dorms and walked off to the advisors’ meeting. The meeting was over at nine, and she planned to meet a friend to see a German film and then return to the laundromat to put her clothes in the dryer at ten o’clock.
But no one saw Susan after she left the meeting. Her friend waited and waited, and then finally went into the film alone, looking back toward the entrance several times for the familiar sight of Susan’s figure.
Susan’s clothes remained in the washer until another student who needed to use it impatiently removed them and set them on a table, where they were discovered a day later.
Susan Rancourt’s failure to return to her dorm was reported at once. Susan had a boyfriend, but he was far away at the University of Washington in Seattle, and she dated no one else. She just wasn’t the type not to come home at night, and she surely wouldn’t have missed a final exam. She’d never even skipped a class.
Campus police officers noted the outfit she’d worn when she had last been seen: gray corduroy slacks, a short-sleeved yellow sweater, a yellow coat, and brown “hush puppy” shoes. And then they attempted to retrace the route she would have taken from the advisors’ meeting back to the dormitories a quarter mile away.
The quickest and most common route led up the mall, past a construction area, across a footbridge over a pond, and then under a railroad trestle near a student parking lot.
“If someone watched her, followed her, and meant to grab her,” one officer commented, “it would have been here, under the trestle. It’s dark as hell for about twenty feet.”
But there should have been something left of Susan there. For one thing, she’d been carrying a folder full of loose papers that would have scattered in every direction in a struggle. And, shy as she was, Susan Rancourt was a fighter, adept at karate. Her friends insisted that there was no way she would have given up quietly.
Beyond that, the path back to Barto Hall, where the film was being shown, was the route most students took. At nine at night, there would have been steady, light traffic. Someone should have seen something unusual but no one had.
Susan had had only one physical imperfection. She was very nearsighted. On the night of April 17, she had worn neither her glasses nor her contact lenses. She could have seen well enough to make her way around the campus, but she would have had to walk up quite close to someone to recognize him, and she might well have missed a subtle movement in the shadows beneath the trestle.
With the disappearance of Susan Rancourt, other coeds came forward with descriptions of incidents that had vaguely disturbed them. One girl said she’d talked to a tall, handsome man in his twenties outside the campus library on April 12, a man who had one arm in a sling and a metal brace on his finger. He’d had trouble managing his armload of books and had dropped several. “Finally, he asked me if I’d help him carry them to his car,” she recalled.
The car, a Volkswagen Bug, was parked about 300 yards from the railroad trestle. She’d carried his books to the car, and then noticed that the passenger seat was missing. Something—she couldn’t even say what—had caused the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end, something about that missing seat. He seemed nice enough, and they’d talked about how he’d been injured skiing at Crystal Mountain, but, suddenly, she just wanted to be away from him. “I put the books on the hood of his car, and I ran. …”
A second girl told a story very like the first. She had met the man with an injured arm on the seventeenth, and had carried some packages wrapped in butcher paper to his car for him. “Then he told me that he was having trouble getting it started and asked me to get in and try the ignition while he did something under the hood. I didn’t know him. I didn’t want to get in his car, and I just made some excuse about being in a hurry and I left.”
The son of an Oregon district attorney, visiting on campus, remembered seeing a tall man with his arm in a sling standing in front of Barto Hall around 8:30 on the evening of the seventeenth.
The reports didn’t seem all that ominous. Any time a crime or a disappearance occurs, ordinary incidents take on an importance for “witnesses” who want to help. The statements were typed and filed away, and the search for Susan Rancourt continued.
In this case, as in many others, a minute detail would provide mute testimony to the fate of the missing girls. With Donna Manson, it had been her camera left behind. With Susan, it was her contact lenses and her glasses, glasses that she’d probably meant to carry with her to the movie on the night she vanished, and her dental floss. When her mother looked into her medicine cabinet and saw the dental floss, she felt her heart thud. “She was such a creature of habit. She never went anywhere overnight without dental floss. …”
• • •
Captain Herb Swindler, a massive bulldog of a cop, a veteran in homicide investigations, had taken over command of the Crimes Against Persons Unit of the Seattle Police Department in the spring of 1974. I had known Herb for more than fifteen years. In the late fifties he was the patrol officer who had responded first to a complaint from a mother in West Seattle, after someone had taken indecent liberties with her young daughter. I was the most rookie of policewomen who was called in to question the child. I’d been twenty-one then, and admittedly somewhat embarrassed at the questions I had to ask the little girl about the “nice old man” who boarded with the family.
I remember how Herb teased me because I’d blushed— the standard razzing that new policewomen received—but he’d been gentle with the child and her mother. He was a good cop and a thorough investigator, and he’d moved up rapidly through the ranks. Now, the buck stopped in Herb’s office. Most of the missing girls’ cases had seemingly originated in Seattle, and he was wrestling day and night with the mysteries that seemed to have no clues and no answers. It was as if the man responsible was taunting the police, laughing at the ease with which he’d abducted the women, leaving no trace of himself.
Swindler is a talkative man, and he needed a sounding board. I filled that need. He knew I wouldn’t talk to anyone outside the department, knew I’d followed the cases as meticulously as any detective. Certainly, I was a writer looking for the big story. But I was also the mother of two teenaged daughters, and the horror of it all, the agony of the parents, kept me awake nights. He was confident I wouldn’t publish a word until the time was right—if ever.
During those months in 1974, I talked to Swindler almost every day, listening, trying to find some common denominator. My territory took me up and down the coast, and I often knew of cases in other cities, cases 200 miles away in Oregon, and I reported any disappearance that might tie in to the Seattle cases.
The next girl to walk away forever lived in Oregon. On May 6, Nineteen days after Susan Rancourt vanished, Roberta Kathleen “Kathy” Parks had spent an unhappy and guilt-ridden day in her room in Sackett Hall on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, 250 miles south of Seattle. I knew Sackett Hall. I’d lived there myself when I attended one term at O.S.U. back in the 1950s. It was a huge, modern dormitory complex on a campus that was then considered a “cow college.” Even then, when the world didn’t seem to be so fraught with danger, none of us would ever go to the snack machines in the cavernous basement corridors alone at night.
Kathy Parks wasn’t very happy at Oregon State. She was homesick for Lafayette, California, and she’d broken up with her boyfriend, who’d left for Louisiana. On May 4 Kathy had argued in a phone call with her father, and, on May 6 she learned that he’d suffered a massive heart attack. Her sister had called her from Spokane, Washington, with the news of their father’s coronary, and then called back some hours later to say that it looked as though he would survive.
Kathy, whose major was world religions, felt a little better after the second call, and she agreed to join some of the other residents of Sackett Hall in an exercise session in the dorm lounge.
Shortly before eleven, the tall, slender girl with long ash-blond hair left Sackett Hall to meet some friends for coffee in the Student Union Building. She promised her roommate she would be back within the hour. Wearing blue slacks, a navy blue top, a light green jacket, and platform sandals, she left Sackett for the last time. Kathy never made it to the Student Union Building. Like the others, all of her possessions were left behind: her bike, clothing, and cosmetics.
This time, no one had seen anyone suspicious. No man with his arm in a sling. No Volkswagen Bug. Kathy had never talked of being afraid or of receiving obscene phone calls. She had been a girl so subject to wide mood swings that the question of suicide arose. Had she felt so guilty about fighting with her father, perhaps believing that she had caused his heart attack? Guilty enough to have taken her own life?
The Willamette River, which wends its way near Corvallis, was dragged, and nothing was found. Had she chosen another means of self-destruction, her body, would surely be located soon, but it was not.
Lieutenant Bill Harris, of the Oregon State Police Criminal Investigation Unit, was stationed on the O.S.U. campus, and he headed the probe in Oregon. He had had a tragic homicide in Sackett Hall a few years before, where a coed was found stabbed to death in her room, but his successful investigation had resulted in the arrest of a male student who lived on an upper floor. That youth was still in the Oregon State Penitentiary.
After a weeklong search, Harris was convinced that Kathy Parks had been abducted, probably seized as she walked between the great masses of lilac bushes blooming along the path between Sackett Hall and the Student Union Building. Gone, like all the others, without a single cry for help.
Police bulletins with pictures of the four missing girls were tacked up side by side on the office walls of every law enforcement agency in the Northwest, smiling faces that looked enough alike to be sisters. Yet only Herb Swindler was absolutely convinced that Kathy Parks was part of the pattern. Other detectives felt Corvallis was too far away for her to be a victim of the same man who prowled Washington campuses.
There was to be only a short respite. Twenty-six days later, Brenda Carol Ball, an acquaintance of my elder daughter, disappeared. Brenda, twenty-two, lived with two roommates in the south King County suburb of Burien. She had been a Highline Community College student, until two weeks before. She was five feet three, 112 pounds, and her brown eyes sparkled with her zest for life.
On the night of May 31-June 1, Brenda went alone to the Flame Tavern at 128th South and Ambaum Road South. Her roommates had seen her last at 2 P.M. that Friday afternoon when she told them that she planned to go to the tavern, and mentioned that she might catch a ride afterward to Sun Lakes State Park in eastern Washington and meet them there.
She did go to the Flame and was seen there by several people who knew her. No one remembers exactly what she was wearing, but her usual garb was faded blue jeans and long-sleeved turtleneck tops. She seemed to be having a good time, and stayed until closing at 2 A.M.
Brenda asked one of the musicians in the band for a ride home, but he explained he was heading in another direction. The last time anyone remembers seeing Brenda Ball, she was talking in the parking lot with a handsome, brown-haired man who had one arm in a sling.
Because Brenda, like Donna Manson, was a free spirit, given to impulsive trips, there was a long delay before she was officially reported missing. Nineteen days passed before her roommates became convinced that something had happened to her. They’d checked with her bank and become alarmed when they learned that her savings account hadn’t been touched. All of her clothing was still in their apartment. Her parents, who lived nearby, hadn’t heard from her either.
At twenty-two, Brenda was the oldest of all the missing women, an adult who had proved herself capable and cautious in the past. But not now. It seemed that Brenda too had met someone she should not have trusted. Brenda was gone.
But the stalking was far from over. Even before Brenda Ball was reported as a missing person to King County Police, the man law enforcement officers sought was on the prowl again, about to strike audaciously, virtually in full view of dozens of witnesses—and still remain only a phantom figure. He would thumb his nose at police, leaving them as frustrated as they had ever been in the series of crimes that had already both galled and horrified them. Many of the detectives searching for the missing girls had daughters of their own.
It was almost as if it was some kind of perverse game of challenge on the part of the abductor. As if, each time, he would come a little further out of the shadows and take more chances to prove that he could do what he wanted and still not be caught, or even seen.
Georgeann Hawkins, at eighteen, was one of those golden girls for who luck or fate had dealt a perfect hand until that inexplicable night of June 10. Raised in the Tacoma suburb of Sumner, Washington, she’d been a Daffodil Princess and a cheerleader. She attended Lakes High School and, like Susan Rancourt, she was an honor student. Vivacious and glowing with good health, Georgeann had a pixie-like quality to her loveliness. Her long brown hair was glossy and her brown eyes lively. Petite at five feet two inches tall and 115 pounds, she was the youngest of the two daughters of the Warren B. Hawkins family.
While many good students tend to find the University of Washington’s curriculum much more difficult than that of high school and drop to a comfortable C average, Georgeann had continued to maintain a straight A record. Her biggest worry during that finals week of June 1974 was that she was having a difficult time with Spanish. She considered dropping the course, but, on the morning of June 10, she had phoned her mother and said she was going to cram for the next day’s final as hard as she could, and she thought she could handle it.
She already had a summer job lined up in Tacoma and she’d discussed it by phone with her parents at least once a week.
During rush week in September of 1973, Georgeann had been tapped by one of the top sororities on campus, Kappa Alpha Theta, and lived in the big house among several other Greek houses along 17th Avenue N.E.
Residents of the sororities and fraternities along Greek Row visit back and forth much more freely than they did back in the fifties when it was strictly forbidden for members of the opposite sex to venture above the formal living rooms on the first floor. Georgeann frequently dropped in to see her boyfriend, who lived in the Beta Theta Pi House six houses down from the Theta House,
During the early evening hours of Monday, June 10, Georgeann and a sorority sister had gone to a party where they’d had one or two mixed drinks. Georgeann explained that she had to get back to study for her Spanish exam. But first she was going to stop by the Beta House and say goodnight to her boyfriend.
Georgeann was cautious. She rarely went anywhere on campus alone at night, but the area along 17th Avenue N.E. was so familiar, so well-lighted, and there was always someone around she knew. The fraternal organizations front the street on each side, with a grassy island running down the middle. Trees, in full leaf in June, do block out some of the street lights. They’ve grown so tall since they were planted back in the twenties.
The alley that runs in back of the Greek houses from 45th N.E. to 47th N.E. is as bright as day, lit by street lights every ten feet or so. June 10 was a warm night, and every window facing the alleyway was open. It is doubtful that any of the student residents were asleep, even at midnight. Most of them were cramming for finals, with the aid of black coffee and No-Doz.
Georgeann did go to the Beta House, a little before 12:30 A.M. on June 11. She visited with her steady boyfriend for a half hour or so, borrowed some Spanish notes, and then said goodnight and left by the backdoor to walk the ninety feet down to the backdoor of the Theta House.
One of the other Betas heard the door slam and stuck his head out his window, recognizing Georgeann.
“Hey George!” he called loudly. “What’s happening?”
The pretty, deeply tanned girl wearing blue slacks, a white backless T-shirt, and a sheer red, white, and blue top, craned her neck and looked back. She smiled and waved, talked for a moment or two about the Spanish exam, and then, laughing, called, “Adios.”
She turned and headed south toward her residence. He watched her for about thirty feet. Two other male students who knew her recall that they saw her traverse the next twenty feet.
She had forty feet to go—forty feet in the alley brightly lit. Certainly, there were some murky areas between the big houses, filled with laurel hedges and blooming rhododendrons, but Georgeann would have stayed in the middle of the alley.
Her roommate, Dee Nichols, waited for the familiar sound of pebbles hitting their window. Georgeann had lost her key to the backdoor, and the sorority sister would have to run down the stairs and let her in.
There was no rattling of pebbles. There was no sound, no outcry, nothing.
An hour passed. Two hours. Worried, Dee called the Beta House and learned Georgeann had left for home a little after 1:00 A.M. She awoke the housemother, and said softly, “Georgeann’s gone. She didn’t come home.”
They waited through the night, trying to find some reasonable explanation for why Georgeann might be gone, not wanting to alarm her parents at 3:00 A.M.
In the morning, they called the Seattle Police.
Detective “Bud” Jelberg of the Missing Persons Unit took the report, and rechecked with the fraternity house where she’d been seen last, then called her parents. Usually, any police department will wait twenty-four hours before beginning a search for a missing adult but, in view of the events of the first half of 1974, the disappearance of Georgeann Hawkins was treated very, very seriously immediately.
At 8:45 A.M. Detective Sergeant Ivan Beeson and Detectives Ted Fonis and George Cuthill of the Homicide Unit arrived at the Theta House, 4521 17th N.E. They were accompanied by George Ishii, one of the most renowned criminalists in the Northwest. Ishii, who heads the Western Washington State Crime Lab, is a brilliant man, a man who probably knows more about the detection, preservation, and testing of physical evidence than any other criminalist in the western half of the United States. He was my first teacher of crime scene investigation. In two quarters, I learned more about physical evidence than I had ever before.
Ishii believes implicitly in the theories of Dr. E. Locarde, a pioneer French criminalist who states, “Every criminal leaves something of himself at the scene of a crime—something, no matter how minute—and always takes something of the scene away with him.” Every good detective knows this. This is why they search so intensely at a crime scene for that small part of the perpetrator that he has left behind: a hair, a drop of blood, a thread, a button, a finger or palm print, a footprint, traces of semen, tool marks, or shell casings. And, in most instances, they find it
The criminalist and the three homicide detectives covered that alleyway behind 45th and 47th N.E.—that ninety feet—on their hands and knees.
And found nothing at all.
Leaving the alley cordoned off, and guarded by patrolmen, they went into the Theta House to talk with Georgeann’s sorority sisters and her housemother.
Georgeann lived in Number Eight in the house, a room she shared with Dee Nichols. All of her possessions were there, everything but the clothes she’d been wearing and her leather purse, a tan “sack” bag with reddish stains on it. In that purse she had carried her I.D., a few dollars, a bottle of Heaven Sent perfume with angels on the label, and a small hairbrush.
“Georgeann never went anyplace without leaving me the phone number where she’d be,” Dee said. “I know she intended to come back here last night. She had one more exam and then she was going home for the summer on the thirteenth. The blue slacks—the ones she was wearing—were missing three buttons. There was only one left. I can give you one of the buttons like it from our room.” Like Susan Rancourt, Georgeann was very myopic. “She wasn’t wearing her glasses or her contacts last night,” her roommate recalled. “She’d worn her contacts all day to study, and after you’ve worn contact lenses for a long time, things look blurry when you put glasses on, so she wasn’t wearing them either.”
The missing girl could have seen well enough to negotiate the familiar alley, but she would have seen nothing more than a vague outline of a figure more than ten feet away. If someone had been lurking in the alley, someone who had learned Georgeann’s name after hearing the youth call to her from the Beta House window, he could easily have used a soft “George—” to call her close to him. And she would have had to walk very close indeed in order to recognize the man who beckoned to her.
Perhaps so close that she could have been seized, gagged, and carried off before she had a chance to cry out?
Surely, anyone looking down the alley would have been alerted at the sight of a man carrying her away. Or would they? There are always high jinks during finals week, anything to break the tension, and strong young men frequently pick up giggling, squealing girls, playing “caveman.”
But no one had seen even that. Georgeann Hawkins may have been knocked out with one blow, chloroformed, injected with a swift-acting nervous system depressant, or just pinioned in powerful arms, a hand held tightly over her mouth so that she couldn’t even scream.
“She was afraid of the dark,” Dee said quietly. “Sometimes, we would walk all the way around a block just to avoid a dark spot along the sidewalk. When he got her, I know that she was hurrying back here. I don’t think she had a chance.”
The sorority sister who had attended the party earlier in the evening with Georgeann remembered that they’d parted on the corner of 47th N.E. and 17th N.E. “She stood and waited while I walked to our house, and I yelled to her that I was O.K., and she yelled back that she was O.K. All of us kind of checked on each other like that. She went into the Beta House and that’s the last time I ever saw her.”
It was incomprehensible then, and it is still incomprehensible to Seattle homicide detectives, that Georgeann Hawkins could vanish so completely within a space of forty feet. Of all the cases of missing girls, it is the Hawkins case that baffles them the most. It was something that couldn’t have happened, and yet it did.
When the news of Georgeann’s disappearance hit the media, two witnesses came forward with stories of incidents on June 11 that were amazingly similar. An attractive sorority girl said that she’d been walking in front of the Greek houses on 17th N.E. at about 12:30 A.M. when she’d seen a young man on crutches just ahead of her. One leg of his jeans had been cut up the side, and he appeared to have a full cast on that leg.
“He was carrying a briefcase with a handle, and he kept dropping it. I offered to help him, but I told him I had to go into one of the houses for a few minutes, and, if he didn’t mind waiting, I’d come out and help him get his stuff home.”
“And did you?”
“No. I was inside longer than I thought, and he was gone when I came out.”
A male college student also had seen the tall, good-looking man with the briefcase and crutches. “A girl was carrying his case for him, and, later on, after I’d taken my girl home, I saw the girl again, walking alone.”
He looked at a picture of Georgeann Hawkins, but said he was positive she wasn’t the girl he’d seen.
At this time, the notation in the Susan Rancourt file in Ellensburg about the man with his arm in a sling was not generally known. Only after publicity about the man with his leg in the cast was disseminated would the two incidents so far apart be coordinated. Coincidence, or part of a sly plan to throw young women off guard?
Detectives canvassed every house on each side of 17th N.E. At the Phi Sigma Sigma fraternity at 4520, just across from the Theta House, they found that the housemother recalled being awakened from a sound sleep between one and two on the morning of June 11.
“It was a scream that wakened me. It was a high-pitched scream … a terrified scream. And then it just stopped, and everything was quiet. I figured it was just kids horsing around, but now I wish … I wish I’d …”
No one else heard it.
Lynda … Donna … Susan … Kathy … Brenda … Georgeann. All gone as completely as if a seam in the backdrop of life itself had opened, drawn them in, and closed without leaving so much as a mended tear in the tapestry.
Georgeann Hawkins’s father, his voice breaking, summed up the feelings of all the desperately worried parents who waited for some word. “Every day, I’m a little bit lower. You’d like to hope, but I’m too realistic. She was a very friendly, very involved youngster. I keep saying ‘was.’ I shouldn’t say that. It’s a job raising kids. You steer them along, and we figured we had both our kids over the hump.”
Any homicide detective who has ever tried to cope with the anguish of parents who realize intuitively that their children are dead, but have not even the faint comfort of knowing where their bodies are, can attest to the fact that this is the worst. One weary investigator commented to me, “It’s rough. It’s damn rough, when you have to tell them that you’ve found a body, that it’s their kid. But it’s never over for the parents who just don’t know. They can’t really have a funeral, they can’t know that their children aren’t being held and tortured someplace, they can’t face their grief and get it over. Hell, you never get over it, but, if you know, you can pick your life up again, somehow.”
The girls were gone, and each set of parents tried to deal with it, and brought in the records that would mean the identification one day, perhaps, of a decomposed body. Dental records from all the years of paying for fillings and orthodontics so that their daughters would have good teeth to last a lifetime. The X-rays from Donna Manson’s broken bones, set clean and strong again. And, for Georgeann, X-rays taken when she’d suffered from Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease as a teenager, an inflammation of the tibia near the knee. After months of concern, her legs had grown long and shapely, marked only by slight bumps just below the knee.
Any of us who have raised children know, as John F. Kennedy once said, that “to have children is to give hostages to fate.” To lose a child to an illness, or even an accident, can be dealt with during the passage of time. To lose a child to a predator, an insanely brilliant killer, is almost more than any human should have to bear.
When I began writing fact-detective stories, I promised myself that I would always remember I was writing about the loss of human beings, that I was never to forget that. I hoped that the work I did might somehow save other victims, might warn them of the danger. I never wanted to become tough, to seek out the sensational and the gory, and I never have. I have joined the Committee of Friends and Families of Missing Persons and Victims of Violent Crimes, at the invitation of the group. I have met many parents of victims, cried with them, and yet I have somehow felt guilty—because I make my living from other people’s tragedies. When I told the Committee how I felt, they put their arms around me and said, “No. Keep on writing. Let the public know how it is for us. Let them know how we hurt, and how we try to save other parents’ children by working for new legislation that requires mandatory sentencing and the death penalty for killers.”
They are far stronger than I could ever be.
And so, I kept on, trying to find the answer to the awful puzzle, believing that the killer, when he was found, would prove to be a man with a record of violence, a man who should never have been allowed to walk the streets, someone who must surely have shown signs of a deranged mind in the past, someone who had been let out of prison too soon.
TED WROTE ME in October 1975 that he felt as if he were “in the eye of a hurricane,” and, indeed, he had been in the center of some manner of storm ever since his arrest in August. I hadn’t known of this arrest until he phoned me at the end of September, and he had shrugged it off, just as he had with Meg and his other Washington friends.
It would be a long time before I learned of the investigation that went on throughout the entire autumn. Once in a great while in the years ahead, a detective would let something slip, and then say hastily, “Forget I said that.” I didn’t forget, but I didn’t tell anyone what I’d heard, and I most assuredly didn’t write anything about it. Occasionally, odd bits and pieces would leak to the press, but the entire story would never be known to me until after the Miami trial, four years hence. As it was, having only fragments of the story, I tried to withhold judgment.
Had Ted been a complete stranger to me—as all the other suspects I’d written about had been—resolution of my feelings might have come sooner. I don’t believe it was because I was dense. Better minds than mine continued to support him.
As I wrote about other predators, I found myself wondering if any of those men could be responsible for the murders Ted was accused of. I checked to see where they were on the dates in question. But each man had solid alibis during the time of the “Ted” crimes.
By the fall of 1975, there were more than a dozen detectives in Washington, Utah, and Colorado working full-time investigating Ted Bundy: Captain Pete Hayward and Detective Jerry Thompson from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Detective Mike Fisher from the Pitkin County District Attorney’s Office in Aspen, Colorado. Detective Sergeant Bill Baldridge from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Detective Milo Vig from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Grand Junction, Colorado. Detective Lieutenant Ron Ballantyne and Detective Ira Beal from the Bountiful, Utah, Police Department. Captain Nick Mackie and Detectives Bob Keppel, Roger Dunn, and Kathy McChesney from the King County, Washington, Sheriff’s Office. Detective Sergeant Ivan Beeson and Detectives Ted Fonis and Wayne Dorman from the Seattle Police Homicide Unit.
Ted stated to Jerry Thompson and John Bernardo that he had never been to Colorado, and he explained away the maps and brochures of the ski areas by saying, “Somebody must have left them in my apartment.”
Mike Fisher, in checking Bundy’s credit card slips, found that that was not true. Moreover he was able to place Bundy’s car, the VW Bug, bearing two separate sets of plates, in Colorado on the very days that the victims in that state had vanished, and within a few miles of the sites of the disappearances.
The Chevron Oil Company duplicate records noted that Ted had purchased gas as follows: on January 12, 1975 (the day Caryn Campbell disappeared from the Wildwood Inn), in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. On March 15, 1975 (the day Julie Cunningham walked away from her apartment forever), in Golden, Dillon, and Silverthorne, Colorado. On April 4, 1975, in Golden, Colorado. On April 5 in Silverthorne. And on April 6 (the day Denise Oliverson vanished) in Grand Junction, Colorado.
But only once had “Ted” been seen, and that was in Lake Sammamish State Park on July 14, 1974. The King County detectives began to chart as much of Ted Bundy’s life as they could ferret out. That was why his law school records had been subpoenaed. Because their probe into Ted had been carried out with a minimum of fanfare, Detective Kathy McChesney had been very startled when I had called her at Ted’s behest. The investigators had not known that Ted was even aware that he was under suspicion in Washington.
At the same time that Ted’s Utah law school records were subpoenaed, his telephone records were requested from Mountain Bell in Salt Lake City, records going back to September 1974 when he’d first moved to Utah.
Kathy McChesney asked if I would come in for an interview in early November 1975. She had been given the assignment of interviewing the women Ted had known in Seattle, however peripherally.
Again, I repeated—this time for the record—the circumstances under which I’d met Ted, our work at the Crisis Clinic, our close, but sporadic, friendship over the intervening years.
“Why do you think he called you just before his arrest in Salt Lake City?” she asked.
“I think it was because he knew that I worked with you all the time, and I don’t think he wanted to talk to detectives directly.”
Kathy thumbed through a stack of papers, pulled one out, and said suddenly, “What did Ted say to you when he called you on November 20, 1974?”
I looked at her blankly. “When?”
“Last year on November 20.”
“Ted didn’t call me,” I answered. “I hadn’t talked to Ted since sometime in 1973.”
“Yes, we have his telephone records. There’s a call to your number a little before midnight on Wednesday, November 20. What did he say?”
I had known Kathy McChesney since we had both been in the King County Police Basic Homicide School in 1971 (she as a deputy sheriff and myself as an invited “auditor”). She had been promoted to detective, although she looked more like a high school girl, and she was sharp. I’d interviewed her countless times when she worked in the Sex Crimes Unit. I wasn’t trying to evade her question, but I was puzzled. It’s difficult to remember what you were doing on a particular date a whole year before.
And then it dawned on me. “Kathy, I wasn’t home that night. I was in the hospital because I’d had an operation the day before. But my mother told me about a funny call. It was a call from a man who wouldn’t leave his name, and … yeah, it was on November 20.”
That mystery was solved, but I have often wondered since if the events to follow might have somehow been different if I had been home to take that call. In the years ahead, I would receive dozens of phone calls from Ted—calls from Utah, Colorado and Florida—as well as scores of letters, and we would have several face-to-face meetings. I would be caught up in his life again, torn between complete belief in him and the doubts that grew stronger and stronger.
Kathy McChesney believed me. I’d never lied to her and I never would. If I’d known it was Ted who had called me, I would have told her.
Ted also made two other calls on the night of November 20, two calls between eleven and midnight. Although he had broken his “secret” engagement to Stephanie Brooks in January of that year and sent her away without any apologies or explanations, he had placed a call to her parents’ home in California at 11:03 P.M. Stephanie hadn’t been there. A woman friend of the family recalled that she talked to a friendly sounding man who asked for Stephanie. “I told him that Stephanie was engaged, and living in San Francisco … and he hung up.”
Ted had next dialed an Oakland residence where none of the occupants had ever heard of Ted Bundy or Stephanie Brooks. The couple who lived there had no contacts in Seattle or Utah, and the man who answered figured it had been a wrong number.
By the time Ted reached my number in Seattle, he’d been very upset, according to my mother. When I had wondered about the identity of the caller, Ted had never entered my mind. Now, as Kathy asked me about it, I knew that the timing of the midnight call might be imperative. Ted had called me twelve days after Carol DaRonch had escaped her kidnapper, and Debby Kent had vanished. It had been twenty days after Laura Aime disappeared and a month after Melissa Smith was abducted.
“I wish I’d been home that night,” I told Kathy.
“So do I.”
Kathy’s assignments took her to the elder Bundys’ residence in Tacoma. They believed none of the charges against their son. There would be no permission to search their home or the area around their cabin on Crescent Lake. What was unthinkable would not be helped along by the Bundys. And there was no probable cause to obtain search warrants.
Freda Rogers, Ted Bundy’s landlady for five years, was also fiercely protective of him. From the day he had located his room at 4143 12th N.E., by knocking on doors, Freda had liked him. He had been a good tenant, more like a son than a roomer, often putting himself out to help them. His room in the southwest corner of the old house had rarely been locked, and it was cleaned every Friday by Freda herself. Surely, if he had something to hide, she reasoned, she would have sensed it. “His things are all gone. He moved everything out in September of 1974. Look around, if you like, but you won’t find anything.”
Detectives Roger Dunn and Bob Keppel checked the Rogerses’ house from top to bottom, even climbing up into the attic. If anything had been hidden up there, the insulation would have been disturbed, and it had not been. They moved over the grounds with metal detectors, looking for spots where something might have been buried. Clothes? Jewelry? Parts of a bicycle? There was nothing.
Kathy McChesney talked with Meg Anders. Meg produced checks that Ted had written in 1974. They were not incriminating in the least. Simply small checks written for groceries. Meg’s own checks helped her to isolate what she had done on particularly important days and to determine whether she had seen her fiancé on those days.
Asked about the plaster of Paris she had seen in Ted’s room, Meg said she’d first seen it a long time ago, perhaps in 1970. “But I saw a hatchet under the front seat of his car, a hatchet with a pinkish leather cover, in the summer of 1974, and the crutches. I saw them in May or June of 1974. He said they belonged to Ernst Rogers.
“We’d been to Green Lake one day. I asked him about the hatchet, because it bothered me. I can’t remember what his explanation was, but it made sense at the time. It was in August of 1974. I’d just come back from a trip to Utah. He was talking about getting a rifle that day. The cleaver, and the meat tenderizer … I saw those when he was packing. And the Oriental knife. He said someone gave him the knife as a present.”
“Can you think of anything else that bothered you?” McChesney asked.
“Well, it didn’t then, but he always kept two pair of mechanic’s overalls and a tool box in the trunk of his car.”
“Did Ted have any friends at Evergreen College in Olympia?”
“Just Rex Stark, the man he worked with on the Crime Commission. Rex was on the campus in 1973 and 1974, and Ted stayed some nights with him when he worked in Olympia. Rex had a place on a lake there.”
“Did he have friends in Ellensburg?”
“Jim Paulus. He knew him from high school. And his wife. We visited them once.”
Meg knew of no one Ted might know at Oregon State University. No, there had never been any pornography in his room. No, he didn’t own a sailboat, but he had rented one once. Ted often liked to search out lonely country roads when they went on drives.
“Did he ever go to taverns alone?”
“Only O’Bannion’s and Dante’s.”
Meg consulted her diary. There were so many dates to remember.
“Ted called me from Salt Lake City, on October 18 last year, three times. He was going hunting with my father the next morning. He called me on November 8 after 11:00. (Salt Lake City’s time zone would make it after midnight there.) There was a lot of noise in the background when he called.”
Melissa Smith vanished on October 18. On November 8, Carol DaRonch was abducted at 7:30, and Debby Kent vanished at 10:30.
Recalling July 1974, Meg remembered that Ted had gone to Lake Sammamish State Park on July 7, the week before Denise and Janice disappeared. “He told me he was invited to a waterskiing party. When he came over later, he said he hadn’t had a very good time.”
In fact, there had been no party, although the King County detectives learned later that two couples who knew Ted from Republican Party functions had been at Lake Sammamish waterskiing, and they’d seen Ted walking along the beach alone. “We were surprised to see him there because he was supposed to be at a political meeting in Tacoma that weekend.”
Asked what he was doing, Ted had responded, “Just walking around.” They had invited him to join them skiing, but he’d demurred because he had no shorts with him. Ted had had a windbreaker slung around his shoulders. They had seen no cast.
On the next Sunday, the fourteenth, Meg, of course, had seen Ted early in the morning and then again sometime after six when he came to her home to exchange the ski rack and to take her out for hamburgers.
“My mother always keeps a diary,” Meg said. “My folks came up to visit me on May 23, 1974. On Memorial Day, the twenty-seventh, Ted went with us for a picnic on Dungeness Spit.”
“What about May 31?” Kathy McChesney asked. That was the night Brenda Ball had vanished from the Flame Tavern.
“That was the night before my daughter was to be baptized. My parents were still in Seattle and Ted took us all out for pizza, and then dropped us off before nine.” (Brenda had disappeared some time after 2 A.M., twelve miles south of Meg’s apartment five hours later.) Liane had been baptized at 5 P.M. the next day and Ted had arrived to attend the ceremony. Afterward, he stayed at Meg’s place until 11 P.M. “He was very tired, and he fell asleep on the rug that night too,” she told McChesney.
Meg furnished the name of a woman that Ted had dated during the summer of 1972, a woman who had caused her to break up briefly with her lover. This woman, Claire Forest, was slender, brunette, with her long, straight hair parted in the middle. When she was contacted by detectives, Claire Forest remembered Ted well. Although she had never been seriously interested in him, she said, they had dated often in 1972.
“He didn’t feel that he fit in with my … my ‘class.’ I guess that’s the only way to describe it. He wouldn’t come to my parents’ home because he said he just didn’t fit in.”
Claire recalled that she had once taken a drive with Ted, a drive over country roads in the Lake Sammamish area. “He told me that someone, an older woman—I think he said his grandmother—lived around there, but he couldn’t find the house. I finally got fed up with it and asked him what the address was, but he didn’t know.”
Ted, of course, had no grandmother near Lake Sammamish.
Claire Forest said that she had had intercourse with Bundy on only one occasion, and although he had always been tender and affectionate with her before, that sex act itself had been harsh.
“We went on a picnic in April on the Humptulips River, and I had quite a lot of wine. I was dizzy, and he kept dunking my head under. He was trying to untie the top of my bikini. He couldn’t manage it, and he suddenly pulled my bikini bottom off and had intercourse with me. He didn’t say anything, and he had his forearm pressed under my chin so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I kept telling him I couldn’t breathe but he didn’t let up the pressure until he was finished. There was no affection at all.
“Afterward, it was like it had never happened. We drove home and he talked about his family … everyone but his father.
“I broke up with him because of his other girlfriend. She was almost hysterical when she found me with him once.”
Claire Forest was not the only woman who would recall that Ted Bundy’s manner could change suddenly from one of warmth and affection to cold fury. On June 23, 1974, Ted had shown up at the home of a young woman, a woman who had known him on a platonic basis since 1973. She introduced him to a friend of hers, Lisa Temple. Ted didn’t seem particularly interested in Lisa, but, later, he invited the two women and another male friend to go on a raft trip with him on June 29. The two couples had dinner with friends in Bellevue on June 28, spent the night, and set out the next morning for Thorpe, Washington. The man who accompanied them was later to recall that, while searching for matches, he had found a pair of pantyhose in the glove box of Ted’s Volkswagen. He had grinned and thought nothing of it.
The raft trip had started out with great hilarity, but, halfway down river, Ted’s attitude had changed suddenly and he seemed to delight in tormenting Lisa. He insisted that she ride through the white water on an inner-tube tied behind the raft. Lisa had been terrified, but Ted had only stared at her coldly. The other couple was ill at ease too. Ted had put the raft into the water at Diversion Dam, a dangerous stretch where rafts were rarely launched.
They had made it, finally, through the rough water with both girls thoroughly frightened. Ted had had no money, so Lisa bought dinner in North Bend for the quartet. “He drove me home,” she remembers, “and he was nice again. He said he would be back about midnight. He did come back, and we made love. That’s the last time I ever saw him. I just couldn’t understand the way he kept changing. One minute, he was nice, and the next he acted like he hated me.”
Kathy McChesney located Beatrice Sloane, the elderly woman who’d befriended Ted when he worked at a Seattle yacht club.
“Oh, he was a schemer,” the old woman recalled. “He could talk me out of anything.”
Mrs. Sloane’s recollections of Ted and Stephanie corresponded with what Kathy had already learned about that early romance. There was no question that the woman had known Ted, and known him quite well. Kathy drove her around the University District and she pointed out addresses where Ted had lived when she knew him. She recounted the things she’d loaned him: the china, silver, money. She recalled rides she’d given him when he had no car. He seemed to have been like a grandson to her, a highly manipulative grandson.
“When was the last time you saw him?” McChesney asked.
“Well, I saw him twice, actually, in 1974. I saw him in the Albertson’s store at Green Lake in July, and he had a broken arm then. Then I saw him on the ‘Ave’ about a month later and he told me he was leaving soon to go to law school in Salt Lake City.”
The King County detectives contacted Stephanie Brooks, happily married now, and living in California. She recalled her two romances with Ted Bundy—their college days, and their “engagement” in 1973. She had never known about Meg Anders. She had simply come to the conclusion that Ted had courted her a second time solely to get revenge. She felt lucky to be free of him.
There seemed to be two Ted Bundys emerging. One, the perfect son, the University of Washington student who had graduated “with distinction,” the fledgling lawyer and politician, and the other, a charming schemer, a man who could manipulate women with ease, whether it be sex or money he desired, and it made no difference if the women were eighteen or sixty-five. And there was, perhaps, a third Ted Bundy, a man who turned cold and hostile toward women with very little provocation.
He had juggled his concurrent engagements with Meg and Stephanie so skillfully that neither of them knew of the other’s existence. Now, it seemed that he had lost them both. Stephanie was married, and Meg declared that she no longer wanted to marry Ted. She was deathly afraid of him. Yet, within a matter of weeks, she would take him back and blame herself for ever doubting him.
As far as women went, Ted always had a backup. Even as he sat in the Salt Lake County Jail, unaware that Meg had talked volubly about him to detectives, he had the emotional support of Sharon Auer. Sharon seemed to have fallen in love with him. I would soon realize that it was not prudent to mention Sharon’s name to Meg, or to speak of Meg to Sharon.
It is interesting to note that through all the trials, through all the years of black headlines that would label Ted a monster, and worse, he would always have at least one woman entranced with him, living for the few moments she could visit him in jail, running errands for him, and proclaiming his innocence. The women would change as time passed. Apparently, the emotions he provoked in them would not.
The last victim. Kimberly Leach disappeared from Lake City, Florida, on February 9, 1978. She was twelve years old. (AP/Wide World Photos)
HIS FIRST POSTCONVICTION LETTER was mailed on March 14, 1976, although he had mistakenly dated it February 14.
Thanks for the letters and the commissary contribution. I’ve been slow in returning letters since this most recent setback. Probably a function of my need to mentally rearrange my life. To prepare for the living hell of prison. To comprehend what the future holds for me.
He said he was writing to me as a “pump priming venture,” to help him begin to assess what lay ahead. He was confounded by the guilty verdict and scornful of Judge Hanson, intimating that the jurist had been influenced by public opinion rather than by the evidence presented. He expected to receive a five-to-life sentence, and felt that the Department of Adult Probation and Parole was doing its presentence report with bias.
“The report seems to be focusing on the Jekel [sic] and Hyde theory, a thing disputed by all the psychologists who have examined me.”
Ted said he had heard that the probation investigator seemed to believe that Ted had made some damaging admission to me in letters. Of course, he had not. I had had only those two letters from him before the trial, and, with his permission, had turned them over to King County Police detectives.
On March 22, Judge Hanson announced that he would delay sentencing for ninety days, pending a psychological evaluation. Ted wrote to me that night as he crouched on the floor with his back against the steel wall of his cell, trying to glean enough light from the hall fixture so that he could see to write. He did not seem to be particularly upset about the diagnostic evaluation which would take place at the Utah State Prison at Point-of-the-Mountain.
“If jail life is any indication, prison should be rich in the material that human suffering breeds, full of the startling tales which prisoners tell. For several reasons, I must take advantage of this opportunity and begin to draw upon this valuable reservoir of ideas. I will start writing.”
What Ted wanted from me was my editorial advice and for me to serve as his agent to help him sell the books he wanted to write about his case. He was anxious that we move rapidly in establishing our roles as collaborators and to agree on a percentage agreement on the distribution of the profits that would surely be forthcoming. He asked that I keep his proposal confidential until the time was right and that I correspond with him through his attorney’s office.
I didn’t know just what it was that he intended to write, but I responded with a long letter detailing the various avenues of publishing, and explaining the correct manuscript form for submission. I also repeated again the information about the book contract I already had with W. W. Norton on the missing girls’ cases, and stressed my belief that his story would have to be a part of my book, just how much I couldn’t know. I offered to share my profits with him, gauged by the number of chapters he might write in his own words.
And I urged him to wait a bit with his attempts to publish, for his own protection. His legal entanglements in Utah and Colorado were not over. Colorado was moving rapidly in their investigation, although the public, of which I was a part, knew few of the details. The discovery of the credit card purchases, however, had leaked out.
And I had news. I was about to take a trip to Salt Lake City as part of the preparation for a travelogue book I was editing for an Oregon publishing house. I would try to get clearance to visit him in prison.
That clearance would not be easy to come by. I was not a relative, and I was not on the approved list of visitors for Theodore Robert Bundy. When I called Warden Sam Smith’s office in the old prison in Draper, Utah, I was told that, if I called again when I arrived in Salt Lake City, they would make a decision. I was quite certain that the answer would be “no.”
On April 1, 1976, I flew to Utah. I had never flown in a jet, hadn’t flown at all since 1954, and the speed of the flight, and the knowledge that I could leave Seattle’s rain and be in a comparatively balmy Salt Lake City within a few hours made the trip all the more surreal.
The sun was shining, and a dusty wind blew puffs of tumbleweed over the brown landscape as I drove my rented car from the airport. I felt disoriented, much as I would three years later as I arrived in Miami, again because of Ted.
I called the prison and learned that visitors were not usually allowed on days other than Sundays and Wednesdays. It was Thursday, and already 4 P.M. I talked to Warden Smith, who said, “I’ll have someone from the diagnostic staff call you back.”
The call came. What was my purpose in wanting to visit Bundy?
“I’m an old friend.”
How long would I be in Utah?
“Only today and tomorrow morning.”
How old was I?
“Forty.” That answer seemed right. I was too old to be a “Ted Groupie.”
“O.K. We’re granting you a special visit. Be at the prison at 5:15. You’ll have one hour.”
The Utah State Prison at Point-of-the-Mountain was about twenty-five miles south of my motel, and I had barely enough time to find the right freeway, going in the right direction, and reach Draper, the post office stop, population 700. I looked to my right and saw the twin towers with guards armed with shotguns. The old prison and the landscape around it seemed to be all the same gray-brown color. A feeling of hopelessness seized me. I could empathize with Ted’s despair at being locked up.
I’d spent a summer working as a student intern at the Oregon State Training School for Girls when I was nineteen, and I’d carried a heavy ring of flat keys wherever I went, but that was a long time before. I’d forgotten the security needed to keep human beings behind walls and bars. The guard at the door told me I couldn’t take my purse inside.
“What can I do with it?” I asked. “I can’t lock it in my car because my keys are in it. May I bring my keys in?”
“Sorry. Nothing inside.”
He finally relented and opened up a glassed-in office where I could leave my car keys after I’d locked my purse in the rental car. I carried my cigarettes in my hand.
“Sorry. No cigarettes. No matches.”
I put them on a counter, and waited for Ted to be brought down. I felt claustrophobia I always feel in jails, even though my work took me into almost every jail in Washington sooner or later. I felt my chest tighten and my breath catch.
To get my mind off my cloistered feelings, I glanced around the waiting room. It was, of course, empty. It was not regular visiting hours. The dull walls and sagging chairs, seemed not to have changed in fifty years. There was a candy machine, a bulletin board, pictures of the staff, and a leftover religious Christmas card. To whom? From whom? Disciplinary notations on prisoners. For Sale notices. An application to sign up for self-defense classes. Who? The staff? The visitors? The inmates?
I wondered where we would talk. Through a glass wall via phones? Through steel mesh? I did not want to see Ted in a cage. I knew he would be humiliated.
Some people hate the smell of hospitals. I hate the smell of jails and prisons. They all smell the same: stale cigarette smoke, Pine-Sol, urine, sweat, and dust.
A smiling man walked toward me—Lieutenant Tanner of the prison staff—and asked me to sign in. But first, we moved through an electric gate that clanged heavily shut behind us. I signed my name, and Lieutenant Tanner saw me through a second electric gate. “You can talk here. You’ll have an hour. They’ll bring Mr. Bundy down in a few minutes.”
It was a hallway! A tiny segment of space between two automatic gates on either side. There were two chairs shoved against a rack of hanging coats, and, for some reason, buckets of varnish beneath them. A guard sat in a glass enclosure four feet away. I wondered if he would be able to hear what we said. Beyond me was the prison proper, and I could hear footsteps approaching. I looked away, the way one averts his eyes from someone crippled or malformed. I could not stare at Ted in his cage.
The third electric door slid open and he was there, accompanied by two guards. They searched him, patting him down. I was not searched. Had they checked me out? How did they know I had no contraband, no razor up my sleeve?
“Your I.D., ma’am?”
“It’s in the car,” I said. “I had to leave everything in the car.”
The doors opened again, and I ran back to the car to retrieve my driver’s license to prove who I was. I handed it to a guard and he studied it, then handed it back. I had not looked directly at Ted. We both waited. And now he stood in front of me. For a crazy instant, I wondered why prisoners wore T-shirts proclaiming their religious preferences. His was orange and said “Agnostic” on the front.
I looked again. No, it read “Diagnostic.”
He was very thin, wore glasses, and his hair was cut shorter than I had ever seen it. He smelled of acrid sweat as he hugged me.
They left us alone to talk in the funny coatroom-hall. The guard behind the glass across from us appeared to be disinterested. We were interrupted by a steady stream of people—guards, psychologists, and prisoners’ wives, headed for an Al-Anon meeting. One of the psychologists recognized Ted and spoke to him, shaking his hand.
“That’s a doctor who did a psychological profile on me for John [O’Connell],” said Ted. He told John, off the record, that he couldn’t see how I could have done it.”
Many of the people moving past us, wearing civilian clothes, nodded and spoke to Ted. It was all very civilized.
“I’m in the ‘fishtank,’” he explained. “There are forty of us in the diagnostic center. The judge ordered that I be held in protective custody, but I turned it down. I don’t want to be isolated.”
Still, he admitted to a good deal of trepidation on his arrival at Point-of-the-Mountain. He was aware that men convicted of crimes against women have a high mortality rate inside the walls. “They were lined up to see me when I arrived. I had to walk the gauntlet.”
But he had found prison much better than jail. He was rapidly becoming a “jailhouse lawyer.”
“I’ll survive inside—if I do—because of my brain, my knowledge of the law. They seek me out for legal advice, and they’re all in awe of John. I only had one really bad moment. This one guy—a killer who literally ripped out the throat of the man he killed—walked over to me and I thought I’d had it. He was only interested in knowing about John, in finding out how he could get John to represent him. I get along fine with all of them.”
He glanced at the locked gate behind me. “They left it open when you went for your I.D. I saw the coats here, the door open, and the thought of escaping flashed through my mind, but only for a minute.”
The trial just finished rankled Ted and he wanted to discuss it. He insisted that the Salt Lake County detectives had talked Carol DaRonch into identifying him. “Her original description of the man said he had dark brown eyes. Mine are blue. She couldn’t make up her mind about the mustache, and she said his hair was dark, greased back. She I.D.’d my car from a Polaroid, and the film was overexposed. It made the car look blue and it’s really tan. They showed her my picture so many times. Of course, she recognized it. But, in court, s
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