1903: Arthur Alfred Lynch condemned 1795: Unspecified Robespierrists

1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer

January 24th, 2009 Headsman

Qu’est-ce que c’est?

It was 20 years today that Ted Bundy, the signature sexual psychopath in a golden age of serial killers,* rode the lightning in Florida’s Starke Prison.

Executed Today is pleased to mark the occasion with a conversation with Louisville crime writer Kevin M. Sullivan, author of a forthcoming2009 book on Ted Bundy … and a man who knows how the world looks from inside Bundy’s ski mask.

Ted Bundy is obviously one of the most iconic, written-about serial killers in history. Why a book about Ted Bundy? What’s the untold story that you set out to uncover?

The desire, or drive, if you will, to write an article about Ted Bundy and then create a 120,000 plus word book about the murders, was born out of my crossing paths with his infamous murder kit. Had Jerry Thompson [a key detective on the Bundy case -ed.] left Bundy’s stuff in Utah that May of 2005, well, it would have been an enjoyable meeting with the former detective, but I’m certain it would have all ended quietly there. Indeed, I doubt if I’d even considered writing an article for Snitch [a now-defunct crime magazine -ed.], much less a book about the killings. But it was having all that stuff in my hands, and in my home, and then being given one of the Glad bags from Ted’s VW that made it very real (or surreal) to me, and from this, a hunger to find out more about the crimes led me forward.

Ted Bundy’s gear, right where you want it — image courtesy of Kevin M. Sullivan. (Check the 1975 police photo for confirmation.)

Believe me, in a thousand years, I never would have expected such a thing to ever come my way. I can’t think of anything more odd or surreal.

ET: You mentioned that you think you’ve been able to answer some longstanding questions about Bundy’s career. Can you give us some hints? What don’t people know about Ted Bundy that they ought to know?

I must admit, when I first decided to write a book about the crimes, I wasn’t sure what I’d find, so the first thing I had to do was read every book ever written about Bundy, which took the better portion of three or four months.

From this I took a trip to Utah to again meet with Thompson and check out the sites pertaining to Bundy and the murders in that state. Next came the acquisition of case files from the various states and the tracking down of those detectives who participated in the hunt for the elusive killer.

Now, no one could have been more surprised than me to begin discovering what I was discovering about some of these murders. But as I kept hunting down the right people and the right documents, I was able to confirm these “finds” at every turn. And while I cannot reveal everything here, It’s all in the book in great detail. Indeed, you could say that my book is not a biography in the truest sense, but rather an in-depth look at Bundy and the murders from a vantage point that is quite unique. I wish I could delve further into these things now , but I must wait until it’s published.

The Bundy story has a magnetic villain and a host of victims … was there a hero? Was there a lesson?

The real heroes in this story are the detectives who worked day and night for years to bring Ted Bundy to justice. And if there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this, it is this: It doesn’t matter how handsome or articulate a person might be, or how nicely they smile at you, for behind it all, there could reside the most diabolical person you’ll ever meet! We need to remember this.

But how can you act on that lesson without living in a continual state of terror? Bundy strikes me as so far outside our normal experience, even the normal experience of criminality, that I’m inclined to wonder how much can be generalized from him.

Actually, (and I might say, thank God here!) people as “successful” as Ted Bundy don’t come our way very often. I mean, the guy was a rising star in the Republican Party in Washington, had influential friends, a law student, and certainly appeared to be going places in life. Some were even quite envious of his ascension in life. However, it was all a well-placed mask that he wore to cover his true feelings and intentions. On the outside he was perfect, but on the inside a monster. He just didn’t fit the mold we’re used to when we think of a terrible killer, does he?

Now, there are those among us — sociopaths — who can kill or do all manner of terrible things in life and maintain the nicest smile upon their faces, but again, just beneath the surface ticks the heart of a monster, or predator, or what ever you might want to call them. Having said that, I’m not a suspicious person by nature, and so I personally judge people by their outward appearance until shown otherwise. Still, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to see the “real” individual behind the person they present to us on a daily basis.

You worked with case detectives in researching your book. How did the Ted Bundy case affect the way law enforcement has subsequently investigated serial killers? If they had it to do over again, what’s the thing you think they’d have done differently?

They all agree that today, DNA would play a part of the investigation that wasn’t available then. However, in the early portion of the murders, Bundy made few if any mistakes, as he had done his homework so as to avoid detection. As such, even this wouldn’t be a panacea when it came to a very mobile killer like Bundy who understood the very real limitations sometimes surrounding homicide investigations.

I can’t help but ask about these detectives as human beings, too. Clearly they’re in a position to deal with the heart of darkness in the human soul day in and day out and still lead normal lives … is a Ted Bundy the kind of killer that haunts or scars investigators years later, or is this something most can set aside as all in a day’s work?

They are, first of all, very nice people. And you can’t be around them (either in person, or through numerous phone calls or emails) for very long before you understand how dedicated they are (or were) in their careers as police officers. They are honorable people, with a clear sense of duty, and without such people, we, as a society, would be in dire circumstances indeed.

Even before Bundy came along, these men were veteran investigators who had seen many bad things in life, so they carried a toughness which allowed them to deal with the situations they came up against in a professional manner. That said, I remember Jerry Thompson telling me how he looked at Ted one day and thought how much he reminded him of a monster, or a vampire of sorts. And my book contains a number of exchanges between the two men (including a chilling telephone call) which demonstrate why he felt this way

How about for you, as a writer — was there a frightening, creepy, traumatic moment in your research that really shook you? Was there an emotional toll for you?

Absolutely. But the degree of “shock”, if you will, depends (at least for me) on what I know as I first delve into each murder. In the Bundy cases I had a general knowledge of how Bundy killed, so there wasn’t a great deal that caught me by surprise, as it were. Even so, as a writer, you tend to get to know the victims very well through the case files, their family members or friends, and so on. Hence, I’ll continue to carry with me many of the details of their lives and deaths for the remainder of my life. And so, lasting changes are a part of what we do.

However, I did a story a few years back about a 16 year old girl who was horribly murdered here in Kentucky, and this case did cause me to wake up in the night in a cold sweat. Perhaps it was because I have a daughter that was, at the time, only a few years younger than this girl, and that some of what transpired did catch me off guard, so to speak, as I began uncovering just what had happened to this very nice kid.

Watch for Kevin M. Sullivan’s forthcoming The Bundy Murders: A Comprehensive History from McFarland in summer or fall of 2009.

* In fact, the term “serial killer” was coined in the 1970′s by FBI profiler Robert Ressler, as an improvement on the sometimes inaccurate category of “stranger killer”.

Additional Bundy resources from the enormous comment thread:

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Florida,History,Infamous,Murder,Popular Culture,Serial Killers,Sex,USA

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7,279 Responses to “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

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  1. 7251
    Joy Says:

    Kevin, Idk y but I’m more Interested In Bundy’s “possible” victims and those that were never found rather than those that were found.

    I read an article about Dee Scofield who disappeared from FL In 1976. It mentions that Bundy was “seen” In the area. FALSE! Bundy was Incarcerated In Utah at the time. I think some ppl wanted to believe he took her.


    Also, I don’t think Sandra Weaver was a Bundy victim. Most reports say she disappeared In July 1974, I’ve found a few that say she In July 1975 and another In January 1975. He supposedly confessed to It, but Idk.

    Do u think Bundy killed Debbie Smith In February 1976? It was before the DaRonch trial and he was out vail without his leash.

    Also If Bundy was In Washington In July 1974, that rules him out In Carlene Brown and Christy Gross cases.

  2. 7252
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Joy…

    No, I don’t believe Bundy killed her as he was under almost constant surveillance at that time. He had spent the holidays back home in Washington State and was followed constantly by the cops there. When he returned to Utah the police kept after him too. And the DaRonch trial began, I believe, on Feb. 23, 1976.

    Yeah, Bundy was far from Florida in ’76 lol!

    As to possible victims, well, they’re out there. But the chances of connecting them to Bundy is, in my opinion, rather remote. But who knows what the future might reveal.

    See ya!

  3. 7253
    Joy Says:

    I wish I knew more about Sandra Weaver. I kinda doubt she’s a victim.

    I wouldn’t be surprised If DNA links Bundy to a crime In a state we didn’t even know about. A state he didn’t even confessed to killing In. Who knows what LE Is up to. Maybe they are trying to link Bundy to a crime by his DNA but they haven’t made It public.

    Oba Chandler was linked to a 1990 homicide by DNA In 2014.

  4. 7254
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Joy…

    I can’t remember the particulars of the Weaver case, but I don’t think she was on Ted’s radar. I certainly didn’t find anything to link him to her disappearance.

  5. 7255
    Richard Duffus Says:

    If the Bundy or Boone family’s need for privacy should come into direct conflict with victims’ families’ need to know what happened to their daughters, who should prevail?

  6. 7256
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Interesting question, Richard.

    Well, the cops will would trump their desire to keep silent, but that’s a different situation than a family member wanting to know something. Personally, I think they should always answer such questions from those in need.

    But as far as the Bundy family, I don’t think they know anything. And I think the same probably goes for carol Boone.

  7. 7257
    Meaghan Says:

    @Joy — Do you happen to know the victim of that 1991 homicide? I wrote the entry for Oba Chandler on Executed Today.

  8. 7258
    Joy Says:


    Never met her, I found out about her while searching him earlier this year. Btw here’s the link; http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/police-oba-chandlers-dna-links-him-to-1990-south-florida-murder/2167262

  9. 7259
    Ted Montgomery Says:

    Hello friends,

    I hope you all had a great summer.

    Kevin has been kind enough to let me use this space to tell you I have a new book coming out in 10 days. It has absolutely nothing to do with Ted Bundy or serial murder, so I’ll keep this short. It’s about how different the Beatles’ music sounds on headphones. It’s a comprehensive review of their entire catalog, which uncovered countless hidden nuggets by listening on headphones. Beatles fans should love it and I believe it fills a void in the vast Beatles library. It’s called
    The Beatles on Headphones. Go here to learn more:
    Feel free to share this with the Beatles lover in your life.
    Thanks, Kevin, and everyone here. Looking forward to more robust conversations about TRB.

  10. 7260
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hello all…

    I’m very proud to be a part of a project with some of the very best true crimes writers in the United States today. It’s called the Notorious USA series, and it will eventually cover the most diabolical true crime case from every state in the nation. And I assure you, it’s something you won’t want to miss!

    Here’s the link…


  11. 7261
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    cases, actually, lol!

  12. 7262
    Meaghan Says:

    Congratulations, Kevin!

  13. 7263
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Why, thank you, Meaghan!

  14. 7264
    Fiz Says:

    Will they be available as physical copies, Kevin? I have a kindle but I don’t like it nearly as much as a book.

  15. 7265
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Fiz,

    Yes. They are all starting out as eBooks, they’re being turned into audio books, and will soon be in trade paper editions too. :)

  16. 7266
    Fiz Says:

    Oh good! Thank you, Kevin.

  17. 7267
    jrj Says:

    Jack the Ripper identified through DNA!


    Having followed this case for some years, I believe that if the DNA matching is in fact as stated, then crime’s most famous mystery has been solved.

  18. 7268
    laura Says:

    I saw this in the paper today – he was always a top suspect (so much so I read the police never looked elsewhere following his admittal into a mental asylum) and the timing of him being sectioned coincides with the killings stopping. Makes a lot of sense. I always thought him or the American Francis Tumbelty.

  19. 7269
    Meaghan Says:

    Color me skeptical. And I’m not the only one: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/has-jack-the-rippers-identity-really-been-revealed-using-dna-evidence-9717036.html

    Dr Louhelainen may be satisfied that he has found the culprit, but many other scientists are not, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique 30 years ago this week.

    “An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants and its power of discrimination; no actual evidence has yet been provided,” Sir Alec told The Independent.

  20. 7270
    jrj Says:

    I already added the caveat that “if the DNA matching is in fact as stated”. However, if “peer review” confirms that it is Aaron Kosminski’s semen stain, then IMO the “provenance of the shawl” becomes a non issue -it would be pretty difficult to manufacture a semen stain from someone who died in 1919 and who was implicated in the JtR murders by 2 or 3 key investigators of the crime -don’t ya think.

  21. 7271
    Meaghan Says:

    No, but I would still be unconvinced. Let’s say they really found Kosminski’s semen and the shawl was really Catherine Eddowes’s. All that proves is he may have been a customer–him and scores of others. She probably had DNA from several men on her clothes. It’s not like they was he often. And DNA aside Kosminski is not that great a suspect for several reasons if you want me to elaborate.

  22. 7272
    Meaghan Says:

    Lol should be “washed often”

  23. 7273
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    I don’t believe we’ll ever know the identity of Jack the Ripper.

    Just sayin’

  24. 7274
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    However, I did enjoy touring Whitechapel when I was there in 1972, lol!

  25. 7275
    jrj Says:

    Yea it’d jus be a coinkydink that the DNA from the located semen stain (it seems that a single semen “trail” was found) on a WC victim comes from a prime WC suspect.

  26. 7276
    Tony Says:

    This whole thing feels fishy to me for several reasons.

    How were they able to get their hands on Kosminski’s (confirmed) DNA after 120 years or so, in order to test the sample against whatever was found on the shawl? And why was Kosminski a suspect in the first place? If it’s because he had prior dealings with the women, then as Meaghan says, this only proves the association, not the murder.

    There’s also the little issue of due process, the suspect having the opportunity to confront his accuser, and so on. Clearly those conditions can never be met, after so much time, so Kosminski can never receive a “fair trial” from us.

  27. 7277
    Meaghan Says:

    I can’t find my copy of “The Complete History of Jack the Ripper” right now so I’m going off memory, but that book is EXCELLENT and anyone interested in Jack the Ripper should read it.

    The reason why Kosminski was a suspect in the first place was:

    1. The police were looking for crazy people of “foreign” or “Jewish” appearance, and he fit both those criteria. He was a Polish Jew. He was in VERY bad shape by the time he was committed to the asylum, and only worsened from there on out; he probably had schizophrenia.
    2. A witness who almost certainly saw Jack the Ripper with Catherine Eddowes identified Kosminski as the person he saw.

    There are a LOT of problems with that eyewitness ID. The witness, Joseph Lawende, only got a quick glimpse of the man on a darkened street and said at the time that he didn’t think he’d be able to recognize him again. Then, in 1890 or 1891 — that is to say, YEARS later — he picked Kosminski as the man he saw.

    Why the police decided to use Lawende as an identification witness is puzzling to me. There were other witnesses who got a better look at JTR than he did. But after a distance of years I wouldn’t really trust any of them. Regular readers of this blog will know the inherent weaknesses in witness identification.

    Now, let’s get to Lawende’s description of the man he saw. He thought the person was about thirty. Kosminski would have been 23 at the time. Lawende also described the person as looking and dressing a bit like a sailor — Kosminski was a hairdresser. Incidentally, I don’t see how that line of work would give a person that kind of anatomical knowledge JTR demonstrated in his grisly work. Kosminski’s height matches eyewitness descriptions, but Lawende and other witnesses described JTR as having a medium to “stout” build, while Kosminski was skinny.

    Other issues: Kosminski was committed to an insane asylum in 1891. So he had three years, in between the final Ripper murder (Mary Kelly in late 1888) and his confinement, when he was running around free and could have committed more murders. Why would he just stop? He’d committed five or six murders in only a few months. When you look at the photo of the Mary Kelly crime scene, that shows someone who was really having a lot of fun, not someone who was winding down. Furthermore, at the time he was committed to the asylum the doctors noted he had no history of violence and was not a danger to himself or others.

  28. 7278
    Meaghan Says:

    http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2014/09/5-reasons-aaron-kosminski-might-not-have-been-jack-the-ripper/ Thank you, Mysterious Universe.

  29. 7279
    KYGB Says:

    The Ripper is long dead now and so are the chances of ever figuring out who in the hell he (or she) was.

    But it is a very interesting case with some of the most fantastic suspects you can imagine.

    Like Laura, I’ve always been interested in one of the American suspects, Francis Tumblety. There are several compelling facts surrounding Tumblety’s connection to the Ripper murders. I don’t think he actually was the Ripper murderer. But you have to be interested in any person who was detained and imprisoned for both the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln AND the Ripper case.

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