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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7,704 thoughts on “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

  1. jane says:

    Why on earth would you think he’d never steal cash? There’s not a doubt in my mind that if he could steal something valuable – be it cash or otherwise – he’d do it. Is borrowing & knowing you’d never pay it back stealing? As Fiz mentioned, he “borrowed” money from an older lady and never paid it back. That lady called his mother who – it is reported – laughed it off and basically told her she’d been punked: good luck getting that dough back. Bart, I think you are romanticizing this creep, as if he had any scruples at all. He didn’t have a decent bone in his body as far as I can tell. He “borrowed” from Kloepner too – tuition, etc. I’ll bet she never saw that money again either.

    He had a pathological lack of respect for the boundaries of other people, be it “peeping” into their houses, stealing money or valuables, or “stealing” lives. Why you think he would be above taking their cash is beyond me.

  2. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all!

    Bundy was a user of people, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t steal; including cash. He was, in fact, an expert thief.

  3. jane says:

    Hi Kevin and all. I hope bloggers show up here on this spooky night. It’s the perfect night to blog on the topic waiting for the trick or treaters.

    Several books (more than one) mentioned that he had a beloved plant that he called “Fern” I believe (or another female name). He fussed over it and even took it to Utah. Seems like an insignificant thing to mention in books with so much high drama. Why would anyone even bring up this plant. UNLESS…..there is something subconcious about this plant that merited mention in their books.

    Remember Thompson’s encounted with Bundy at the Utah Law Library. He told JT “The evidence is there. Keep digging.”

    Knowing TB’s fondness for wordplay, it made me theorize what better place to hide souvenirs, such as jewelry, than in the dirt of that plant. Who would look there or empty out the dirt of a plant? “Keep digging. The evidence is there.” Why was more than one author putting information about A PLANT into their books? The subconscious mind is instinctive and intuitive, and I imagine something clicked with them without the authors really knowing why.that plant was worth mentioning.

    While it may be speculation, I think it’s ok to run with this kind of thing on a blog. Don’t you?.


  4. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi Jane,

    I think Bundy just liked plants. I don’t think it meant a lot more to him than that. I remember once being told how Bundy one day stopped his VW, entered a department store and took a small tree from the display window and walked out the front door and drove off with it.

    In other words…I think Bundy had good taste as a decorator! Lol!

  5. jane says:

    Fair enough. Still it would be a brilliant place to hide the unexplainable from a nosy girlfriend who’s already found your bag of different size women’s underwear.

    Rings & earrings: souveneirs that can be kept close by for reminiscences buried right there in the dirt. The pampering of the plant in front of people who noticed the pampering might be a double check that nothing is visible to visitors: “Hey Ted, there’s a gold earring in your plant.”

    Do you think the statement to Thompson: “The evidence is there. Keep digging.” (as reported by Thompson) meant nothing? It’s just an odd thing to say to a detective who is investigating him for murder, don’t you think?

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      I agree with you: It would be a good place to hide these things. And I’m not saying Bundy didn’t do that, or think of doing that. All we know for sure, is that he did like plants to some degree.

      The statement you’re referring to was uttered by Bundy to the Florida detectives. That said, Bundy did taunt Jerry Thompson, likening the gathering of evidence to the gathering of straws; and telling him he could build a broom that way lol!

      Of course, that’s exactly what Thompson did, and Ted got swept away by that broom.

      Bundy did have photographs of his victims stashed away in the utility room when Thompson and crew came to search his upstairs apartment at 565 First Avenue. Once he was out on bail, he got rid of them.

  6. jane says:

    Kevin – My Bundy books and DVDs fly out of the house in a week when I put them on sale at Amazon (including yours). That’s good news for your new book – I’m sure it will fly off the shelves. I don’t keep them because I have lots of books and limited space.

    I say this because I have no refernce in front of me right now but I’m pretty positive it’s what Bundy told Thompson outside the law library. He may have also said it to the Florida detectives. He said the “digging” comment and the “straws to make a broom” comment.

    Isn’t Thompson the person who gave you the garbage bag? Why doesn’t he join the conversation here?

    1. Kevin M Sullivan says:

      No, Bundy never made that statement to Thompson. He was actually taunting the detective and wouldn’t have offered such a statement. However, he was forthright with the Florida investigators and willingly gave them that info. And I compare the two meetings in my book.

      Yes, Jerry did give me the Glad bag from Bundy’s car. But no, Jerry wouldn’t want to answer questions here. He’s not that kind of person.

      See ya!

  7. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi All!

    The Kindle edition of my book, The Bundy Murders, is back at $3.99 for a limited time. But that means, once you purchase the Kindle edition, you can get the 12 hour audio book for only $3.99 too!

  8. Chuck Halverson says:

    I personally got a jail tour of the Garfield County jail by Ted Bundy after he was caught in Aspen. My dad got his EMT pagers recharged at the Sheriffs office in Glenwood Springs (the one he escaped out of ceiling) and we went on a Saturday and a guys was leaning out through the bars and somehow it being the 70’s (is all I can figure) The sheriff asked me if I wanted a tour. My dad somehow told me to go for it and this Bundy put his arm around my shoulders and I walked a short distance down a hall with him and back. I saw another guy watching TV (which I thought was strange being a kid seeing a TV in a jail)…The worst thing at that time for me was the jail door being shut behind me…The whole thing didn’t last more than 5 minutes and I really had no idea what he had done at the time I saw him. It wasn’t until the late 80’s when he started showing up in the news again that I recognized him after my parents reminded me of him. What bugs me the most is that when I met him he was in between murders and its weird I met someone who went to the chair……….

    1. Brad says:

      Hi all,

      This may or may not have been posted, check it out if you’re on the bundy trail.

  9. jane says:

    Wow Chuck. Sounds like a very relaxed attitude on the part of law enforcement. Wasn’t anyone afraid of a hostage-taking situation, especially with you being an unarmed child and the door clanging behind you? Apparently not.

    1. Chuck Halverson says:

      I know doesn’t it? Especially if they “surrounded Aspen” to catch him. Believe me, I thought of all the angles too even getting a bit ticked at my dad for letting it happen. He’s been gone for 12 years now. I was born in 1970, So I was at least 7 when it happened. I still remember the atmosphere being loose and jovial.

      1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

        Hey Chuck…

        Are you sure that was Bundy? I’m not so sure he would have had such freedom for that to happen. But no matter, that’s quite the story, and you certainly “brushed shoulders” with Bundy, as that’s where he was being housed.

        Glad you stopped by…


        1. Chuck Halverson says:

          Oh yes, I wouldn’t really have thought about it again, until my parents brought it up again in the late 80’s, asking if I remembered that jail visit and having the zap moment of connecting the events in Florida.

          1. Chuck Halverson says:

            events in Florida in the news I mean.

          2. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

            Thanks for sharing, Chuck. :)

  10. bart says:

    Sorry if this topic was raised earlier in this thread. Actually it is not my idea, but Richard Duffus “question mark” pointed out in our private correspondence. Namely did the families of Bundy’s FL victims sue the state of Colorado of ignoring the danger of Bundy after his first escape? And if not, why is that? It was/it is legally impossible to perform? Why wasn’t Bundy transferred into some Colorado maximum security prison? Colorado didn’t have the ones like this? :) At the time of his first escape Bundy wasn’t just a regular prisoner – like car thief – he was convicted on DaRonch case, major suspect in dozens of murders in Washington and Utah and awaiting trial for Caryn Campbell abduction and murder. Wasn’t the reaction of Colorado prison authorities after Bundy recapture weak and inadequate? Wasn’t it worth a lawsuit?

  11. Hal says:

    Just catching up on a load of messages – thanks to whoever posted the link to the recent documentary.

    Someone asked about DNA and Bundy’s parentage. I posted about this before – to the best of my knowledge, this question can be answered definitively by comparing Bundy’s DNA (in the file) to that of a step-sibling (presumably not already in evidence).

    If ‘Jack Worthington’ is Bundy’s father, the results would be as expected between half siblings. If Bundy’s biological father was Louise’s father, Bundy would have no DNA not shared by his siblings.

    There would be no doubt at all. If he was fathered by *any* blood relative of his mother’s, it would show up. The problem would be getting a half sibling to submit blood for testing, especially if they knew why. And for someone looking into Bundy at this late stage to have the desire to find out. It’s entirely possible, I suppose, that no one is interested.

    I’m not entirely sure about this, but from my limited knowledge of DNA, I also have a suspicion that they could work it out on Ted’s blood alone. His grandfather would be the source of 75% of his make-up, not 25% and I *think* specialists can determine that sort of thing.

    It’s also possible that the answer to this is known already, they just see no reason to announce it to the world.

  12. Shelley says:

    Pee Wee Gaskins was a serial killer with an interesting parallel to Bundy. While at the Florence County courthouse in South Carolina, a deputy had removed his handcuffs while he waited for his attorney and prosecutor, Pee Wee escaped by jumping thirty feet out of a second story window. He went into the swamps and evaded re-capture for a few weeks.

    Another parallel – Bundy wasn’t the only one caught by patrol officers. Here’s some more:

    Randy Kraft:
    An illegal lane change with a dead body in the passenger seat.

    Joel Rifkin:
    Driving his pickup truck without license plates with a dead body in the back.

    Cody Legebokoff:
    Officer suspected the vehicle of speeding and signaled for it to pull over and observed blood on his clothing.

    David Berkowitz:
    Parked his car near a fire hydrant and was issued a ticket that put him in the area of one of the killings and the police followed up on that.

    Larry Eyler:
    Stopped by a cop for parking on a highway. His passenger was tied up.

    There are other lesser known killers and other criminals.

    Hats off to alert patrol officers doing their job!

  13. bart says:

    Shelley, just such things used to happen to bad guys who are very mobile :) But it is just a joke and your parallels are interesting. Interesting is also the area of killer’s hunting grounds. I think Gary Ridgway operated within quite a small area. Comparing to Bundy (in this very aspect) he was just a midget. :)

  14. bart says:

    It is not very clever issue – not surprise from me lol. But assuming Bundy hated life-achievers, why he did not attacked wealthy and influential attractive women like businesspersons, laywers, managers etc? If I hate successful people , the ones who “made it” – I attack them – not young girls who are just coeds and maybe they come from rich families (like Kathy Parks, for instance) but unnecessarily on the path upwards towards success (well, Bundy terminated that path.) Probably young girls were more attractive to Bundy desires, but using this “I hate achievers” logic he could have stalked and attacked 30-40 years old successful ladies who still even back in early 70s – could look sexually attractive.

    1. Tony says:


      I think Bundy ‘hunted’ the sort of women he had access to. He most likely wouldn’t have been able to convince a lot of wealthy or affluent women to go off alone with him (or had access to the sort of events and locations where he would meet such women in the first place). College women and chicks hanging out at the beach/in bars were more his forte. Rich women would likely frequent swankier bars, and even schools for that matter, than Ted could have been confident of his ability to “blend in.”

    2. Kevin M Sullivan says:


      Bundy killed college woman and girls because that was who he wanted to kill. It had nothing to do with how successful one was. Read my book lol!

  15. bart says:

    Thanks, it was just a thought.
    But still there was this upper-class factor to who Bundy murdered. I think he “did it” in case of Caryn Campbell in Aspen. It is obvious he did know that wealthy people used to frequent that resort, he might have noticed kind of medical congress was going on inside and took Caryn as some affluent doctor wife, maybe even a doctor herself?. Anyway, there is still chance that he just wanted attractive girl to abduct and kill, and thoughts about her background never crossed his mind.

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      You’re wrong Bart. There was no “upper class factor” in who he murdered. This is just another one of your wild speculations. :)

      Caryn Campbell was young, pretty, with long dark hair, and Bundy just wanted to kill her. That’s all. It had NOTHING to do with money, class, or why or with whom she was with. Nothing at all. You are barking up the wrong tree, as we say here in America. :)

      1. 0000 says:

        I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss class issues as part of Bundy’s rage and sociopathy. Remember…he got revenge on “Stephanie” by dumping her after he seemed to be on a path to success. He did tend to kill young women of some means; after all, he hit a sorority house in one of his most brutal acts. That’s a bastion of privilege. He was very deeply ashamed of his family background.

        1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

          Oh, I’m not dismissing class as an issue with Bundy, as he felt inferior in so many ways, including what “class” he sprang from. That shouldn’t have bothered him at all, mind you, but like others aspects of Bundy’s life, he was beyond help in this area as well.

          My point to Bart was that from what I have learned about him, he killed women for three reasons: Race (they had to be white); college coeds (his first preference); and young white girls. From what I can tell, their monetary background just didn’t matter when it came to murder. If you go over name by name those he killed you’ll see them from all economic backgrounds. If anything, he had a “coed” thing, and a “library” thing, but again, that has nothing to do with class.

          He’s still a bit of a mystery, isn’t he?

          Take care

  16. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Or, “why she was there or with whom”.

  17. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    College coeds and those of college age, I should have said.

  18. bart says:

    Moreover, many Bundy victims didn’t come from wealthy families at all. Both Lake Sam victims for example. But OTOH Bundy was kind of an opportunity killer – in my opinion. If he could not get “the best” he needed – he took what (who) was “available”. I suspect there were many victims with whom Bundy was not “satisfied”. I also read that Bundy once said that he never really took from his murders the whole range of “gratitude” what he’d excepted. I wonder what the hell he excepted from it? What was his ideal murder / victim ?

    1. Kevin M Sullivan says:

      Bart, what am I to do with you? Lol!

      Bundy was an opportunity killer. But your thinking that he was looking for the “best” and then would settle for others is absurd. Absolutely absurd. Bundy WAS NOT out to kill rich women. If they came from wealthy families, that is just a fact that had nothing to do with why he snatched them.

      Bundy was into killing young white college age women and young white girls. That was the only criteria he had for hunting for victims

    2. NWgal says:

      Bart – think back to the day at Lake Sam. The place was full of all sorts of people – young, old, etc. There were plenty of children playing in the sand and water. It was one of our beautiful NW summer days! Who did Bundy go after? Young white women.

      The PNW is diverse. There are men and women of many cultures and ethnicities, especially in the Seattle area. If Bundy had focused, for example, on Asian women, he would have been able to be just as “successful”. He didn’t. If he had wanted to focus on homosexual men, same.

      He focused on young white women, and sometimes girls.

      My theory is this had something to do with his mother, who at college age gave birth to him out of wedlock, lied about it, and took him away from his family across the country to Tacoma where he landed in a blue collar rather than middle class family. He described his mother as very smart, able to go to college but without money. I believe he looked down on his stepfather, and was angry with his mother. I think the rage started there. He felt that much was taken away from he, and he deserved it. Hence the entitlement – stealing, lying to get what he wanted.

      Just my option.

  19. Kevin M Sullivan says:

    Or : that was the only criteria he had for hunting victims

  20. bart says:

    I think Bundy as a killer was driven by such a mixture of desires, motives and other factors – that more or less normal people cannot even imagine and clearly summarize it. There was anger towards girls perceived as subjects that he could not afford so as a kind wicked kid he wanted to destroy it so nobody could use it. There was his deep fantasy seeking a a way to be surfaced and acted, fuel by decades by his own imagination and detective stories / the they porn. There could be also class factor and even this repressed homosexuality factor that Richard Duffus emphasized in his book. Bundy killing rage was kind of endless mosaic. I think only Mr Hagmaier was able to really approach the inside of Bundy killling mind and “understand” it. Remember, each person who tried to study alive Bundy was asked by him to really “understand” him. That sounds a like madman’s request to understand a killer of dozens of young lives – but in his Bundy twisted mind he found kind of justification of all what he did. He was OK with it and looked for people who would agreed with him:) OK, have a good night, it is almost midnight in my time zone.

  21. jane says:

    Thanks, Hal, on your comments on DNA. You’re probably right and that the FBI has tested his parentage and just don’t care to divulge it at this point.

    Someone above mentioned the dumping of the “Stephanie” relationship. I don’t think revenge was the top motive for that relationship ending. “Stephanie”: would have been an impediment to his murderous hobby. From what we know about her, she’d have not put up with him leaving in the middle of the night without explanation, finding odd, ominous items like bags of other women’s clothing, hatchets and handcuffs in her/his car, etc. as Liz Kloepfner did. Liz was an enabler, no doubt the result of her self-admitted insecurity. She put up with anything from Bundy – even a threat to “break your f—— neck”. “Stephanie” doesn’t sound like someone who would put up with that crap for a minute.

    So I think he HAD to end it with “Stephanie” or give up his dead “lovers” – and he wasn’t about to do THAT!

  22. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Thanks Brad. :)

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