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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7,332 thoughts on “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

  1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all…

    My book, The Bundy Murders, is now an audio book on Amazon, Audible and iTunes…

    http://www.amazon.com/Bundy-Murders-Comprehensive-History/dp/B00OI1DIJ2/ref=tmm_aud_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1250921671

  2. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hey Allan…sorry about leaving one “l” out of your name above, lol!

  3. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all…

    This Wednesday, at 9:00 pm EST, I’ll be on True Murder, with Dan Zupansky. We’ll be discussing my book (coauthored with Gregg Olsen), Death of a Cheerleader. Here’s the link…

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dan-zupansky1

  4. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I have some free, complementary audiobook copies of my Bundy book now available. If you would like to have one, email me @: kevin_sullivan31@yahoo.com.

    Please leave a review on Amazon when you’re finished. You can leave it at the trade paper site or at Kindle for The Bundy Murders, and it will roll over to the audiobook site. This is very helpful to the writer.

    Thank you.

    Remember, these are audiobooks, and when I receive your email request, I’ll send you the code and the instructions.

  5. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all…

    Check out my new web page at WildBlue Press…

    http://wildbluepress.com/true-crime-author-kevin-m-sullivan/

    1. Tony says:

      “A newlywed disposes of his bride… but doesn’t know what to do with her head.”

      I’m intrigued.

  6. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all,

    Say, if you own the Kindle edition of my book, The Bundy Murders, you can purchase on Amazon the 12 hour audio version for only $3.99

    http://www.amazon.com/Bundy-Murders-Comprehensive-History/dp/B00OI1DIJ2/ref=tmm_aud_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1250921671

    1. Arnar Þór Þórsson says:

      Hi Kevin.

      Is there any possibility of purchasing a signed copy of your book ‘The Bundy Murders, A Comprehensive History’.

      This book is the only one missing from my collection and it would be just great getting a signed copy from you.

      Greetings from Iceland

      Arnar.

  7. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi Arnar,

    If you don’t have the book already, you can order it from Amazon, and I can sign a bookplate and mail it to you.

    The only other way to do it is to mail me the actual book, and enclose within the package a folded and stamped mailer with proper postage for weight, etc, and I’ll sign the book and get it right back to you in said mailer.

    So just let me know, and you can email me directly at :

    kevin_sullivan31@yahoo.com

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you. :)

    Kevin

  8. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all…
    Just a quick note to let you know, that my book, Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders, will be released on December 2, by WildBlue Press. It’s a diabolical tale of a madman running wild, and it’s death to anyone who crosses his path.
    Only $2.99, and available for pre-order…

    http://wildbluepress.com/vampire-richard-chase-murders-2/

  9. Sonia says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Have you ever heard about anything about Stephanie Brooks (the girl who broke it off with Bundy) and what her take on the whole relationship was? I know she was rich and all that but why was Bundy so taken with her? Like there’s other fish in the sea

  10. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi Sonia :)

    Yes, her real name is Diane Edwards, but I call her Carla Browning in my book.

    From what I have learned, Diane was a pretty woman and was, as you correctly assumed, from a wealthy San Francisco family. She was cultured and Ted Bundy was not from the same social /economic background and he found this attractive. I’m also sure he had very good feelings for her even though he was a true psychopath. And it did devastate him when she broke off the relationship.

    Of course, Bundy would win her back later, but this was only so he could get even with her by dumping her. Strange, isn’t it?

  11. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Here’s a nice link to photos and info on Bundy. I ran into this site completely by accident, and it has some pictures I’ve never seen before. In particular, there is a good shot of Lynda Healy’s housemates, and, like with my book, all of their real names are used.

    http://www.academia.edu/7870355/Ted_Bundy_a_visual_compendium_part_1_

  12. Meaghan says:

    Ooh, I found a picture of Georgeann Hawkins I’ve never seen before. *adds it to the Charley Project*

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      That’s great, Meaghan.

  13. Shelley says:

    Kevin: Excellent find. Thanks! Using that link I did find a website with that article where you don’t have to sign up for anything to download the PDF. This site also has another article written by Rob Dielenberg called “Ted Bundy: steps to murder” which is very good (so far) and has a picture of Ted and Samuel Cowell circa 1950 which I have never seen before.
    https://independent.academia.edu/RobDielenberg/Activity

  14. Shelley says:

    I misspoke. You do have to sign up to get the PDF. Didn’t realize I was still “logged in”. Regardless, it’s a good second article.

    He entitled that first article as “part 1″. I wonder if/when other parts will be published. I will be on the lookout.

  15. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hey Shelley

  16. Shelley says:

    Last comment refers to a previous post that had a link in it and is still waiting for moderation so what I said doesn’t make sense until it shows up. :)

  17. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Today is launch day for my book on Richard Chase. It’s a new edition by WildBlue press, newly edited with additional photos. Here’s the links:

    http://wildbluepress.com/vampire

    http://www.amazon.com/Vampire-The-Richard-Chase-Murders-ebook/dp/B00PMZ4BAI

  18. Arnar Þór Þórsson says:

    What do you guys make of this clip from youtube?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-OujblMRwA

    I personally think this is bs!

  19. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all!

    You can now follow me on Twitter

    @KevinMSullivan1

  20. Larry G says:

    Hey Kevin and all-Thanks for the link to the research paper on Bundy. It was fantastic, all the theories and maps were awesome. I’m the guy that has been trying to figure out exactly where the Issaquah hillside was, and if the guy is right, good to finally know. I’m 2,000 miles away so it’s not like I was ever going to make a trek up the hill, but I was very curious.

    I just wanted to point out that the “new” photo the author identifies as Georgeann Hawkins is not her–it’s a friend of hers Yvonne Timm/Spearing:

    https://www.facebook.com/147077095406678/photos/pb.147077095406678.-2207520000.1418321780./361262927321426/?type=3&theater

    Just wanted to point that out. Some of the new pictures of victims showing up on the “Remembering the Victims of Ted Bundy” Facebook page are fascinating. Pretty funny, I screen-captured pics of Denise Oliverson and Laura Aime and sent them to the administrator of that site and he posted them. It’s funny to see how many places around the web are using those screen shots from my PC now. It is also a testament that I am not crazy in my deep interest in Ted Bundy. So that’s good :).

    Happy Holidays.

  21. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi Larry G!

    Yeah, the site is a good one. He really worked hard on it and the interest is clearly there. I was so happy to see the pic of Healy’s housemates minus the one who was probably taking the picture.

    Good catch on the picture mistake, Larry.

    Don’t be a stranger :)

    Kevin

  22. Ted Montgomery says:

    No chance that Bundy confessed to John Henry Browne. Browne claims that he visited Bundy in prison in Florida, but there is absolutely no record of that visit. Just the fact that Browne’s “book” hasn’t seen the light of day should tell us all we need to know about the veracity of his claims. Just like “Chasing the Darkness,” which has never come out, even nearly four years after it was “completed.” A simple equation: Too many wild claims, too few facts to back them up.

  23. Fiz says:

    I did wonder about that book. Oh well!

  24. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi Ted, Fiz, and all!

    Browne did travel to Florida and met with Bundy, as did others from around the country. That said, if Bundy told Browne he killed a hundred women, I think we can take that with a grain of salt.

    Also, he he said he killed a man, don’t believe it. Bundy was terrified of confrontations with men, and avoided them at all cost.

    I haven’t heard a thing about Browne’s book, other than when it was first announced when all of this first hit the papers.

    As to Chasing the Darkness, I think after the deal was struck for Ted Bundy: The Death Row Tapes, which was shown on MSNBC in November 2012, it kinda ended there. And really, that’s fine, because that was exceedingly well done.

    And you know, when Mike McCann first contacted me about Chasing the Darkness, he had not yet obtained any of the files from the King County Archives, nor had he contacted Bob Keppel, so I encouraged him to do so with both. I told him Bob would be open to talking with him (he was), and that the archives would have everything he needed (it did). I also helped him get in contact with Jerry Thompson and mike Fisher, and he was able to get things going with others as well. And so, when one is doing a project, things can evolve, and I think that’s what happened with Chasing the Darkness. Instead of continuing down that road, they decided to go down the road of the death row tapes and build a story around them. Personally, I think it was a very wise decision. I haven’t spoken with Mike about any of this, but i think that’s probably what happened.

  25. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    “if he said he killed a man” it should read

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