Ted Bundy, the story: the unusual charm of a decent man

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When we think of the image of the serial killer, we probably have – at a symbolic level – the idea of a sort of Bogeyman who lives as an outcast of society, then carries out his murders to return to his darkness.

Case history actually teaches us that very often this is not the case; in reality these individuals mix with ordinary people and apparently lead a normal life.

In the case that we will deal with here, we can see how the killers could also be young men, bright and attractive, with a more than satisfactory existential situation.

The disappeared girls

February 1, 1974. Lynda Ann Healy, a 21-year-old resident of King County, vanishes into thin air.

Her family members alert the authorities; the police break into her house, where they find a small trace of blood and the back door open. There is no trace of the girl and no apparent explanation of what happened.

This will not be the only case.

Throughout 1974 young women keep disappearing between Washington state and Utah. At the end of the year there will be twelve disappearances of girls between 16 and 23 years old.

Things get worse when the corpses of some of them begin to surface. In many cases it is not possible to establish the cause of death, while in others there are signs of strangulation, sexual violence and blunt force injuries.

Strange circumstances also emerge from the testimonies collected in the investigations. In fact, it seems that in the vicinity of the places of the disappeared a boy has been seen several times wandering around with an arm in a plaster cast, asking for help.

The hypothesis that behind those deaths there is a single hand is increasingly gaining ground.

November 8, 1974. Carol Da Ronch, an 18-year-old student, is approached by a guy who introduces himself as a cop and gets her into the car. At one point he stops the car and begins to attack her. The young woman struggles and manages to escape.

Carol reports the situation to the investigators. Could it be she escaped the clutches of the man they are looking for, the man that has been terrorizing the area for months?

In 1975, reports of missing women continue to arrive but this time from the state of Colorado.

Subsequently their lifeless bodies are found.

August 16, 1975. Sergeant Bob Hayward stops a boy aboard a Beetle during a routine checkup. Inside the vehicle, a bar, a balaclava, handcuffs and an ice pick are found.

The man behind the wheel is named Ted Bundy, he’s 28 and works at the Seattle Crime Prevention Commission.

He is immediately arrested and Carol Da Ronch will recognize him as the subject he had attempted to attack her a few months earlier.

He will be incarcerated on kidnapping charges.

While in detention Bundy tries to escape but is caught again a few days later.

On December 30, 1977 he tries the escape again, this time succeeding. He arrives in Florida and creates a false identity, which guarantees him to act undisturbed. On January 14, 1978 he breaks into a student dormitory and kills two girls, raping and beating them to death.

During the same night he breaks into an apartment, hurling his fury on young Cheryl Thomas, breaking her jaw and skull. Fortunately, the girl will be able to survive.

On February 9, 1978 Kimberly Diane Leach, a 12-year-old girl, disappears from her residence in Lake City. Eight weeks later her body is found in a park.

The link with Bundy’s evasion is automatic.

On February 15, an agent, during a roadblock, manages to stop the wanted man, who was driving a stolen car. This time the arrest will be final.

Ted Bundy

Theodore Robert Bundy was born on November 24, 1946 in Burlington. Son of Eleanor Louise Cowell, a single mother, he grows up with her and her grandparents, Samuel and Eleanor. During childhood he is led to believe that his grandparents are his actual parents, and that Louise is his older sister.

Samuel is a violent and bossy man and Eleanor is constantly harassed by him, so much so that she ends up in depression.

In 1951, Louise leaves her parents’ home and brings Ted with her. She decides to move in with Johnny Culpepper Bundy a man she met in Tacoma and that she will eventually marry.

During his adolescence Theodore displays increasingly problematic behaviors, participating in fights and thefts.

In 1967 he meets a girl, Stephanie Brooks, and for two years he will try to bond romantically with her. After graduation, however, Stephanie decides to cut all ties with him. This episode deeply upsets Ted.

During these years the boy also discovers his true origins, realizing that he is the natural son of Louise and an unknown father. The situation becomes more and more bleak.

In this period the only thing that can lift him out of depression is study. He enrolls in university, taking courses in psychology and law. He is also passionate about politics, taking the Republican Party card.

Things begin to improve slowly, and over time Ted becomes a man appreciated in the community, being also protagonist of a heroic act, saving a child who was drowning in a park.

After a troubled period, he seems to have found his way and the following years pass smoothly.

In 1973 he returns with Stephanie Brooks, the girl who had left him four years earlier.

A few months later it is Bundy that decide to leave her and disappear. Later he will declare that he was back with her only in order to take revenge on her and leave her in the lurch.

After this event something snaps in him definitely and a long murderous chain begins.

His modus operandi consists in identifying young victims, all women, luring them by pretending to need help with an arm in plaster or posing as a policeman.

He gets them into his car, takes them to an isolated place, where he rapes and kills them, sometimes strangling them, other times hitting them with various blunt instruments.

In some cases he goes even further, raping lifeless corpses and beheading them in order to keep the heads in his apartment.

In the end, the confirmed victims will be thirty, although it is suspected that the total count may be greater.

The trial

At the trial Bundy decides to join his defense board and presents himself as his own advocate. During the debate his oratory skills and his histrionic character emerge, which however does not help to avoid the death sentence.

On January 24, 1989, he dies on the electric chair.

Ted Bundy has remained etched in the common imagination due to the obvious dissonance between the outward image of him and the gruesome murders he has committed over the years.

A man who used his intelligence and charisma for horrible and diabolical purposes.

The words that Judge Edward Cowart dedicates to him after delivering the final sentence fit perfectly with the persona of Ted Bundy:

“Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity, I think, as I’ve experienced in this courtroom.
You’re a bright young man. You’d have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner.”