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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6,808 Responses to “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

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  1. 6801
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    If you’re buying a car or an air conditioner, then yes. But book? Absolutely not.

    Personally, I will always answer questions, but that’s me. However, I don’t blame others for not doing the same. Writers don’t owe it to us to answer questions. That said, if you were purchasing the book at a signing, I’m sure she would answer a question or two. But does she owe it to you or me or anyone? No.

    The particular question you have is simple and is answered in the book. She gives the source, but is not responsible for the source. She just reported it. To say she needs to explain to you anything about it is absurd. To say that she should or you won’t purchase the book is a subtle form of control, and it’s not a good thing.

    Again, I enjoy answering folks, but let someone threaten me with not buying the book, or otherwise use control to get what they want, I won’t do anything for them.

    This is how it works, and this is how it should work.

  2. 6802
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    How about “But a book?”

  3. 6803
    Lexi Says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Concerning your comment earlier, you said “I’m not interested in Ted’s jail house friendships. ” I am interested. Should a bibliographer only write about things that interest them or try and cover all aspects and facts? Shouldn’t the decision on what to include be a more objective? (asked respectfully :-) )

    Thank you.

  4. 6804
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Lexi,

    Okay, let’s get started. You asked:

    “Should a bibliographer only write about things that interest them or try and cover all aspects and facts?”

    In my view, Bundy’s jailhouse experience while waiting to die has nothing to do with his upbringing and that which helped him transform into a killer; it had nothing to do with his reign of terror; it had nothing to do with the exhaustive manhunt for this elusive killer; and it had nothing to do with his final confessions which are in fact a part of the entire case.

    Now, you may be interested to learn what Bundy did for those years on death row. Well, he did very little; and certainly nothing of real importance. Some might disagree with me, but I know quite a bit about it and there’s just not much to it. The only things of interest have to do with those he dealt with concerning the murders with the confessions and the dealings he had with others like Ron Holmes, Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, etc.

    Given this, I had no interest to bore almost all the readers by putting in what is known in the business as “fluff”. Therefore, I only placed within the book that which was of true interest to the case, and to me, and to almost everyone who reads my book.

    Outside of a direct connection to the case, I have no interest with Bundy’s day to day mundane activities, and I believe most readers are the same way.

    This is what determines what goes into a book. :)

  5. 6805
    Richard A. Duffus Says:

    You didn’t tell us your were clairvoyant! Without examining any facts you can conclude that Bundy’s relationships in prison are irrelevant?

    Here’s an example from the Rolling case of what you call fluff:

    “Singlehandedly he [Lewis] has obtained what 2½ years of aggressive police work, millions of dollars and more than 100 of Florida’s best criminal investigators couldn’t—a confession in the Gainesville student murders case. And Bobby Lewis did it, say those who know, with characteristic ease.” (Valentine’s Day, 1993 issue of the Miami Herald)

    This also gives us the reason that law enforcement wouldn’t deal with Lewis. He could get the answers that they were paid to get but couldn’t. He made them look bad. This is true of any of the professionals involved in the case.

    You seem to think that Bundy sat in his cell with his hands folded in his lap waiting for the next professional to interview him. He in fact had an active mind and a need to stay busy. Prison officials were well aware that Bundy was executing a hidden agenda. Remember that they warned Keppel about that. That, in and of itself, is sufficient reason for any biographer to start probing to try to uncover that agenda.

  6. 6806
    KYGB Says:

    Bobby Lewis is insignificant in the Bundy case. The guy is a footnote in the story of Ted Bundy. Actually, he more like an asterisk in a footnote in the overall scheme of things.

  7. 6807
    KYGB Says:

    Judith Yates a reporter for the Nashville True Crime Examiner filed this story on October 8th 2012. The story is about inmates who father children. It contains the following excerpt…

    Quote on

    Ted Bundy, the convicted serial killer, fathered a child during visitation with Carole Boone; he was on Florida’s death row where conjugal visits were not allowed (An officer, who was employed on the row supervising Bundy, explained to this writer: Bundy secretly ejaculated into a balloon, passed it in a kiss to Boone, who held it between her breasts as she rushed to a fertility doctor. There was no staff bribe, as long suspected).

    Quote off

    I tend to not buy the Florida CO’s story, you’d think that this was a case of a CO trying to clear the “good name” of correctional officers at FSP

  8. 6808
    Kevin M Sullivan Says:

    I’m with you , KYGB: this story has bogus all over it. I’m sure Bundy paid and they looked the other way for a few minutes.

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