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:

On this day..

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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8,233 thoughts on “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

  1. Juan says:

    Dear Kevin,

    I would really like to read your second and third Bundy books but I do not have a device to read them on. Could I please buy them directly from you?

    Thank you,

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Hi Juan,

      Thanks so much for contacting me, and I appreciate your interest in my books!

      Unfortunately, I have no copies to sell you. You can, however, purchase them from Amazon, and this would be your best way to obtain them.

      Thanks again, Juan, for the contact.


      1. Juan says:

        Thank you, Kevin. Can I purchase paper copies of your second and third books off of Amazon? I already have a paper copy of your first book. I really hope to get your second and third books.

        Thank you,

        1. Kevin M Sullivan says:

          Yes, Juan, Amazon does have the paper copies. :)

          And feel free to join the conversation here with any questions or comments you have after reading the books.

          Take care,


  2. Paul says:

    Hi Kevin

    Good book. Out of interest, did you decide against including the testimony from the Florida record when it came to the brother and sister’s account of encountering Bundy in Jacksonville? Or perhaps the petrol attendant who chased Bundy out of his store when the credit card came back stolen? Or are these people you didn’t try to track down?

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Hi Paul,

      I covered the testimony of the brother and sister (they were the children of the chief detective in the city), in The Bundy Murders, and I didn’t think about adding portions of the trial transcript concerning them as I didn’t believe it would add anything new to the info already covered in my first book. I also mention in the preface of The Bundy Secrets that I was going to stay away from repeating info.

      I cover in The Bundy Murders about the gun totting manager and waitress who chased Bundy out of the restaurant after his stolen was rejected. Is that the one you’re referring to?

      1. Paul says:

        Oh ok. Yes, those are the ones I was referring to. Since I already knew a lot of the info from those transcripts in your latest book (although not word for word – but other books have covered them too), I thought those other testimonies might offer a little new information. If you saw it fit not to include them, obviously they yield nothing new.
        Although I’m really interested in the woman who saw Bundy’s van careen off the highway after he abducted Leach – there doesn’t seem to be enough out there on that, and I can ever pin down the direct source.
        Also. I find it really fitting how Bundy started screwing up in Florida. Everything he did was a roadblock – he encountered possible arrests multiple times, yet he could not make himself leave the State. And for the first time ever, he almost got brought down by a male in Jacksonville. It’s as if his status as a fugitive completely stripped him of his ‘mojo'; or whatever had worked so well for him in the past to make intelligent women leave with him completely vanished.

        1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

          Hey paul,

          Yeah, the woman who saw Bundy swerve on the road (and also saw him looking down at something in the van as his jaw was slack, was a doctor’s wife in the area. I can’t remember her name but it’s in The Bundy Murders. I found that bit of info from a newspaper account, and later found it in the record. But that’s about all the info she had.

          Yes, Bundy was undergoing a severe meltdown in Florida, and he was not the same kind of killer as he was in WA, Utah, and even Colorado.

  3. Jason Nelson says:

    Hi All.

    I am a couple of pages into The Bundy Secrets and I noticed how it may have been possible how Bundy took an item from a victim and gave it to a family member. In Kathy McChesney’s report on her interviews with Liz Kendall in August and September, Liz mentions how during the previous month, Bundy helped his brother Glen load a bike onto an aeroplane to take back to Washington but once he was confronted about this by Liz, he stated ‘what bike’? The previous month could have been July which coincides with the abduction and murders of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund. Was Janice’s bike ever found? Could the bike had been Janice’s who Bundy said could load into the trunk of his car before she was abducted? Given that Bundy did not want Liz to know about the bike, it is highly likely it was stolen.

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Hi Jason,

      I seem to recall (maybe in Keppel’s book) that they searched the arboretum in Seattle, but of course, Ott’s bike was never located. I’m certain they searched other spots too, but fairly long after the fact and to no avail. perhaps some kid or adult picked it up and the rest is history.

      1. Jason Nelson says:

        Thanks for the reply.

        Just out of interest, how did you verify the account given by Louise Cannon? Her account of Bundy was very revealing (as was the opinion of her co-worker on Bundy as well).

        1. Kevin M Sullivan says:

          Hi Jason,

          Yes, her testimony is very revealing. I received her name through another valid Bundy contact. And she’s also had contact with Utah detectives from those years. I was just extremely fortunate to be the first writer to interview her. Folks who know her know the story. But now with the publiction of The Bundy Secrets, many will read about this most interesting encounter.

          1. Kevin M Sullivan says:

            That should read “…now with the publication…” not “public aid” lol! On my IPhone

          2. Kevin M Sullivan says:

            Disregard the “public aid” correction as it looks like my original correction to my main comment took the first time. :)

  4. Sandy says:

    That’s so cool to know! Thanks.

  5. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hi all!

    If you follow this blog on a regular basis, you no doubt are aware about Maz UK, and how he informed us about Black Christmas and the Chris Hagen (or Chris Hayden) connection, and then he provided a link to the movie and the time the scene would appear. Well, seeing (and hearing) this answered the question in my mind how Bundy came up with that name. In my view (and the views of many others) Bundy didn’t just pull that name out of thin air. And so, because that info came to me just before I completed The Bundy Secrets, I added the info to the book. And then today, I discovered something…

    My Facebook friend, Mike Thompson, reminded me about our conversation on Facebook’s Messenger about this very subject from a little while ago! Well, I drew a complete blank, but after going back and checking, there it was. Mike had it nailed as well when he had seen the movie, and he too believed that’s where Bundy got the name. Now, because it’s interesting, I’m going to show you a bit of that exchange now:

    “Just read your latest Bundy book (Mike means my second book, The Trail of Ted Bundy). It got my attention when you started about Black Christmas. I emailed Ann Rule in 1997 when I first got on the internet about the connection of Black Christmas with Ted Bundy. I told her the plot and asked her what she thought about Ted getting his alias from the movie. Chris Hayden is the guy’s name in the movie but I always felt Ted misheard it and used Chris Hagen. Ann told me she had never heard that before and was unaware of the movie plot of killing coeds in a sorority house but she said that, in her words, “would be so like Ted to do that” ”

    So there you have it. I would have loved to have added this to the book as well, as it illustrates how things come to folks, sometimes in a flash. And the addition of the Ann Rule comment (she felt like I do: that Ted would have purposely used that name because of the movie), adds to the overall story as well. But at least I can mention Mike’s contribution here at Executed Today! Thanks Mike!

    1. Mike Thompson says:

      Thanks Kevin…I really appreciate it

      1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

        You’re welcome, Mike. :)

  6. Paul says:

    Looking forward to the new book

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Thanks, Paul! The Kindle edition was released last night at midnight, and the trade paper and audio book will soon follow.

      1. Brad says:

        Just started reading my kindle copy.

        1. Sandy says:

          I just started my Kindle copy, too!

  7. mlreamey says:

    There are new things in the archives check it

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      The archives contain a tremendous amount of information. It’s almost a bottomless pit of rich information on this most infamous case. And that’s why I finished off my trilogy of Ted Bundy reproducing many interesting parts of the record; with commentary from me, of course, lol!

  8. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    The story behind The Bundy Secrets…


    1. Brad says:

      Already preordered. Looking forward to it.

      Quick stupid question: any chance you might eventually put any of the files not in the book up online?

      1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

        No, Brad, but for diehard folks there’s always a trip to the archives. After three books, I’m finished putting in any additional work having to do with Theodore, lol! I’m just too busy with other true crime projects. :)

    2. Bridget says:

      I just pre ordered it Kevin. Looking forward to reading it.

      1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

        Thanks, Bridget. :)

  9. Bob says:

    Will your new book also be published ” the old fashioned way” for us “aging” fans?

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      lol! You’re funny, Bob! :)

      Yes, it will be published in trade paper, eBook, and as an audio book.

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