Who Was Ted Bundy?
Theodore "Ted" Bundy (November 24, 1946 to January 24, 1989) was a 1970s serial murderer, rapist and necrophiliac. He was executed in Florida's electric chair in 1989. His case has since inspired many novels and films about serial killers.
Victims: How Many People Did Ted Bundy Kill?
Ted Bundy admitted to 36 killings of young women across several states in the 1970s, but experts believe that the final tally may be closer to 100 or more. The exact number of women Bundy killed will never been known.
Death in the Electric Chair
On January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy was put to death around 7 a.m. at the Florida State Prison in an electric chair sometimes known as "Old Sparky." Outside the prison, crowds cheered and even set off fireworks after Bundy's execution.
Ted Bundy’s Wife and Daughter
In February 1980, Ted Bundy married Carole Ann Boone, a mother-of-two whom he’d dated before his initial arrest, in a Florida courtroom during the penalty phase of his trial. When Boone gave birth to a daughter in 1982, she named Ted Bundy as the father. Boone eventually realized Bundy was guilty of the crimes and stopped visiting him during the last two years of his imprisonment.
Family, Childhood and Education
Ted Bundy was born in Burlington, Vermont on November 24, 1946, starting life as his mother's secret shame. Eleanor Cowell was 22 years old and unmarried when she had her son Theodore, which humiliated her deeply religious parents. She delivered the child at a home for unwed mothers in Vermont and later brought her son to her parents in Philadelphia. To hide the fact he was an illegitimate child, Bundy was raised as the adopted son of his grandparents and was told that his mother was his sister. Eleanor moved with Ted to Tacoma, Washington, a few years later. In 1951, she married Johnnie Bundy and the couple had several children together. From all appearances, Bundy grew up in a content, working-class family.
Bundy showed an unusual interest in the macabre at an early age. Around the age of three, he became fascinated by knives. Bundy was a shy but bright child who did well in school, but not with his peers. As a teenager, a darker side of his character started to emerge. Bundy liked to peer in other people's windows and thought nothing of stealing things he wanted from other people.
While a student at the University of Washington, Bundy fell in love with a wealthy, pretty young woman from California. She had everything that he wanted: money, class, and influence. He was devastated by their breakup. Many of his later victims resembled his college girlfriend—attractive students with long, dark hair. His killings also usually followed a gruesome pattern. He often raped his victims before beating them to death.
He graduated from University of Washington with a degree in psychology in 1972 and had been accepted to law school in Utah. By the mid 1970s, Bundy had transformed himself, becoming more outwardly confident and active in social and political matters. Bundy even got a letter of recommendation from the Republican governor of Washington after working on his campaign.
Ted Bundy’s Victims
While there is some debate as to when Ted Bundy started killing, most sources say that he began his murderous rampage around 1974. Around this time, many women in the Seattle area and in nearby Oregon went missing. Stories circulated about some of the victims last being seen in the company of a young, dark-haired man known as "Ted." He often lured his victims into his car by pretending to be injured and asking for their help. Their kindness proved to be a fatal mistake.
In the fall of 1974, Bundy moved to Utah to attend law school, and women began disappearing there as well. The following year, he was pulled over by the police. A search of his vehicle uncovered a cache of burglary tools—a crowbar, a face mask, rope and handcuffs. He was arrested for possession of these tools and the police began to link him to much more sinister crimes.
In 1975, Bundy was arrested in the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch, one of the few women to escape his clutches. He was convicted and received a one-to-15-year jail sentence.
Two years later, Bundy was indicted on murder charges for the death of a young Colorado woman. He decided to act as his own lawyer in this case. During a trip to the courthouse library, Bundy jumped out a window and made his first escape. He was captured eight days later.
In December 1977, Bundy escaped from custody again. He climbed out of a hole he made in the ceiling of his cell, having dropped more than 30 pounds to fit through the small opening. Authorities did not discover that Bundy was missing for 15 hours, giving the serial killer a big head start on the police. He eventually made his way to Tallahassee, Florida.
There, on the night of January 14, 1978, Bundy broke into the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University. He attacked four of the young female residents, killing two of them. On February 9, Bundy kidnapped and murdered a 12-year-old girl named Kimberly Leach. These crimes marked the end of his murderous rampage as he was soon pulled over by the police that February.
How Was Ted Bundy Caught?
The most damning evidence connecting Ted Bundy to the two Chi Omega murders at FSU were bite marks on one of the bodies, which were a definitive match to Bundy. In July 1979, Ted Bundy was convicted for those crimes. He was given the death penalty twice. He received another death sentence the following year in the murder of Kimberly Leach.
Ted Bundy’s charm and intelligence made him something of a celebrity during his trial. Bundy fought for his life, spending years appealing his death sentence. He tried to take his case as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, but he was turned down. He also offered information on some of unsolved murders to avoid Florida's electric chair, but he could not delay justice forever. Ted Bundy was executed on January 24, 1989.
Where Is Bundy's Grave?
Bundy's body was cremated in Gainesville, and no public ceremony was held. Before he was executed he requested his ashes be scattered in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, where he murdered at least four of his victims.
Books and Movies on Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy’s life has been the subject of countless books and documentaries trying to shed light on this brutal killer's crimes. An infamous national figure since his Florida trials, he remained a source of fascination. A few of the most well-known include:
The Deliberate Stranger: Actor Mark Harmon played Bundy in this 1986 television movie.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: In May 2017, it was announced that Zac Efron would play Bundy in an upcoming independent film. Production began the following January.
The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy the Shocking Inside Story, published in 1980 by Ann Rule. A coworker of Ted Bundy’s at a crisis hotline, Rule describes how she gradually realized Bundy was a serial killer and then draws from their ongoing correspondence, which lasted until just shortly before Bundy’s execution.
Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, published in 1989 by author Stephen Michaud and journalist Hugh Aynesworth, this collection of stories was created from more than 150 hours of interviews with Bundy.
Defending the Devil: My Story as Ted Bundy’s Last Lawyer, published in 1994, was written by Polly Nelson, a newly-minted lawyer who was offered Bundy’s case pro-bono by the Washington, D.C. law firm where she worked just weeks before he was scheduled to be executed.
I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD That Changed My Life, published in 2016 by Rhonda Stapley, who was brutally attacked by Ted Bundy in Utah in 1974 but survived and, after battling PTSD, wrote a book about her experience.
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