Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Ted Bundy - The Charismatic Killer

File:FBI-360-Ted Bundy FBI 10 most wanted photo.jpg
Image attribution: author unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He was intelligent, charming, handsome, and polite. He had a degree in psychology and was studying law. He had worked at a suicide crisis hotline as well as on a number of political campaigns. He was also a necrophiliac serial killer who claimed the lives of at least 30 young women (though many experts believe that the true number of victims is significantly higher, maybe even as many as 100).

Today, Ted Bundy's name has become synonymous with evil. He is often held up as the perfect example of a charming, psychopathic killer with a heart of ice. And when you examine his crimes it isn't hard to see why.

Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont to a single woman by the name of Elanor Louise Cowell. He spent his early years believing that his young, unwed mother was actually his sister and that his grandparents were really his parents. It is unclear how much this deception contributed to the creation of the man Ted would later become.

Ted's grandfather was described as being violent and, after a while, his mother managed to escape by marrying a hospital cook, Johnny Culpepper Bundy. Both mother and son took the name Bundy.

Growing up, Ted was a quiet but seemingly well-balanced child who did reasonably well in school. He liked to keep himself to himself and once placed kitchen knives all around his aunt whilst she was sleeping. But all in all, there were no real indications that he would grow up to become anything other than a productive member of society.

In 1966, Bundy enrolled at the University of Washington to study Chinese. It was here that he would meet Stephanie Brooks, apparently the woman of his dreams. They dated for a while, but Stephanie eventually became dissatisfied with what she perceived as Ted's immaturity and lack of ambition. She dumped him, turning his world upside-down in the process. Bundy promptly dropped out of university and fell into a succession of low paying jobs that were far below his true abilities.

After a while, though, something seemed to change in Ted Bundy. He became more focused and confident. He re-enrolled at the University of Washington and threw himself into the study of his new major, psychology, graduating with honors in 1972, before being accepted into law school. He even managed to win back Stephanie Brooks, who could not help but be attracted to this new, ambitious Ted Bundy. It seemed that he now had everything he could possibly want: academic success, the woman of his dreams, and a promising career just around the corner. But appearances can all to often prove deceptive.

Without warning or explanation, Bundy dumped Stephanie Brooks, leaving her heartbroken. He started skipping classes, eventually dropping out of law school altogether. And young women started to go missing.

A large percentage of serial killers have what is referred to as an ideal victim type (IVT). This is a set of characteristics that a killer looks for in his (or, more rarely, her) victims. He or she may focus exclusively on one race or gender, or only target people working in a certain profession (e.g. prostitutes). For Ted Bundy, the ideal victim was a young, attractive, white female. They were often college students, and they often wore their hair parted down the middle - just like Stephanie Brooks (although lots of women wear their hair in this manner, so there is really no real reason to read too much into it).

Ted Bundy would generally approach his victim in a public place and lure them to a more secluded venue by faking injury (to elicit sympathy) or impersonating an authority figure (e.g. a police officer). Once he had them alone, he would overpower and restrain them, taking them elsewhere for the actual killing part. He would dump the bodies somewhere they would be hard to find and would often revisit the corpses to perform various acts of a sexual nature. He would continue to do this until the effects of decomposition made it no longer feasible.

After a while, police linked the disappearances of some of the women together and began to realize that they had a serial killer on the loose. They gathered together what little evidence they had and used it to create a profile of the killer. It described a good-looking male who called himself Ted and was seen driving a Volkswagen Beetle. Several witnesses stated that he had had his arm in a sling.

This wasn't much to go on, but the police released the profile to the public anyway, an act that resulted in them receiving hundreds of tips daily. Most of these proved to be red herrings, but a few people did phone in to name Bundy as a potential suspect. But the police found it hard to believe that such a charming, well-educated man could be the depraved killer they were hunting. Ted Bundy continued to kill, acting with apparent impunity.

On November 8, 1974, however, one of Bundy's intended victims, Carol DaRonch, managed to escape. He had claimed to be a police officer and had convinced her to get into his car. But she soon grew suspicious. A struggle ensued during which DaRonch managed to jump out of the car and run to safety.

9 months later, in August of 1975, Ted Bundy was pulled over by the police whilst driving. They found masks, handcuffs, and a crowbar in his boot and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Shortly afterwards, DaRonch identified him as the man who had tried to abduct her. He was sentenced to serve 1 to 15 years for aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault.

Slowly but surely, Ted Bundy was linked to other murders. He went on trial, choosing to represent himself. This allowed him to move between the courtroom and its library unshackled. When no one was looking, he jumped out of a second story window and escaped to freedom. He would remain at large for about a week.

After being recaptured, his movements were more restricted. But this didn't stop him. 7 months after his first escape he managed to pull himself up through the ceiling above his cell and crawl until he found a way down into the closet of the apartment of the chief jailer (who happened to be out on a date). Once Bundy was confident he was alone, he changed into some of the chief jailer's's clothes and casually walked out the front door.

This time he managed to elude capture for a couple of months. He made his way to Florida (where he was virtually unknown at the time) and tried to turn his back on crime. But fugitives need money and it is hard to get a legitimate job when you are on the FBI's most wanted list. He turned to petty theft to pay the bills.

On January 14, 1978, Bundy entered Florida State University's Chi Omega sorority house and brutally assaulted 4 women, killing two of them and leaving the others seriously injured. Another woman was attacked later that day.

On February 9, 1978, Bundy claimed his last victim - a 12-year-old girl - who he abducted, killed, and mutilated. He was caught a few days later and given 3 death sentences - one for each of the Florida murder victims. He proclaimed his innocence right to the end, but was nonetheless executed on January 24, 1989.

You might also be interested in:
Edmund Kemper - The Co-ed Killer, Gary Ridgway - The Green River Killer, John Wayne Gacy - The Killer Clown

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