With a total of thirty confessed murders and many unconfirmed, Theodore Robert Cowell, later popularly known as Ted Bundy, was born in 1946, on the 24th of November. He was a bastard and his father remains unknown till date.
Ted was one of the most notorious and cold-hearted criminals, which was evident by the nature of his malfeasances. He kidnapped many women in a very short span of time, creating a mass panic amongst everyone. He changed many names throughout his life and was blessed with good looks. He also claimed, “I’m the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.”
Bundy was convicted for kidnapping, burglary, and murder; he was executed through electrocution on the 24th of January, in 1989 at the age of 42.
Table of Contents
Ted was born to Eleanor Louise Cowell, who at the time of Ted’s birth was at a home which took in and cared for unmarried mothers and to-be mothers. There’s no confirmation on who fathered him but as per the mother, she recalls him to be an ‘old war veteran with money’, although there were shocking suspicions on Eleanor’s father, as he was of an abusive and violent demeanor.
Bundy was raised by Eleanor’s parents as their own child for the first three years but the truth didn’t remain hidden from Ted. He was quite fond of his grandfather but very insensitive towards others and even animals. He was a racist and often physically abused his wife and his pet dog. He was even fond of his grandmother and remained quite angry with his mother for not telling him about his father.
Eleanor, later remarried and bore four kids. Ted’s new stepfather, tried to include him in family activities but Ted preferred staying aloof.
It was a suspicion that Ted was his grandfather’s son, born out of sexual abuse with Eleanor but no such evidence supporting this was gathered. His grandfather, Samuel Cowell was a very violent man, he was abusive towards his family members except for Ted, whom he loved dearly. Even ted was rather fond of him. It’s hence presumed that, that’s where Ted got his kick from. He was only three when he put knives all around her asleep aunt, who woke up to being surrounded by sharp knives and Ted smirking at her.
Ted got agitated on seeing his mother’s little sister oversleep, so much so that he ended up pushing her down the stairs. Apart from this, the violence in him was frequently seen when he went around plunging neighborhood cats by their tails and swinging them around. He also hit his pet dog and his wife. He had a lot of hatred towards Italians, Jews, Catholics and also blacks.
He even several times scared his family mates by talking to imaginary people and also showing fits of anger and sudden outbursts.
His biographers said that, Ted revealed how he used to go through trash and garbage in search of naked pictures of women. He even went in search of books, comics and other sources that portrayed sexual violence.
Bundy always chose to be left alone. He wasn’t a peoples person, neither preferred being in touch with anyone.
One would be surprised to see how educated Ted Bundy was. It was a case similar to that of doctors and psychiatrists turning out to be cannibalistic sociopaths. He was a student at University of Washington, where he majored in Chinese, in 1966. He also started dating a girl fellow classmate named Stephanie Brookes. He later dropped out and ended up becoming a bodyguard and driver of Arthur Fletcher and indulged in other low wage jobs. Soon Brookes parted ways with Bundy as she didn’t find him focused enough towards life. This left a deep impact on Bundy and he had a hard time dealing with the rejection.
He then joined The Temple University but only for one trimester.
During the 1970s, he felt a little ambitious and joined the University of Washington again, pursuing psychology and he did really well academically there.
Later in early 1973, he got into UW law school. Having really strong LORs, he got into the University Of Utah law school.
According to Bundy, as he told Polly Nelson, his last lawyer that, he made his first kidnapping in 1969 but his first murder was in 1971, Seattle but this contradicted with his statements made to his psychologist Norman, which revealed that he had already killed two females in Atlantic city. This still isn’t sure as he told different things to different people and earlier preferred remaining silent when asked about his very first crime.
To doctor Robert, he hinted that his first murder was in 1972 and second in 1973, both in Seattle. It is believed that he started killing at a very young age, probably when he was a teen. He constantly denied allegations against Ann Marie Burr, an eight-year-old, belonging to Tacoma. It’s believed that he abducted and killed her in 1961, when he was just 14. Although, if we go by the evidence his first crime was committed in 1974, when he was 27.
Ted and Brooke separated in 1974 and many believe that this separation was the main reason why ted became a full-fledged killer. On Jan 4 of 1971, he invaded Kelly Spark’s apartment and brutally beat her using a metal rod and later sexually assaulted her with the same. She was a student of UW and a dancer. What Ted did to her, caused severe internal injuries and left her unconscious for up to ten days and she became permanently disabled, both physically and mentally.
On the 1st of Feb same year, he targeted a radio broadcasting girl Lynda Healy. He beat her black and blue until unconscious and then clothed her in blue jeans, white blouse, and boots, then kidnapped her.
Ted’s rate of crime increased, so much so that each month a college student would go missing. Girls used to leave their dorms and apartments and would never return. Two females who reported the disappearances, described Ted as a man wearing arm sling, asking for help to load books to a brown Volkswagen beetle.
Disappearances continued until another witness came forward who described ted as a brown-haired man with an arm sling after a girl named Brenda got abducted on June 1.
On June 11, another UW graduate disappeared; witnesses claimed to see a man on crutches with a leg cast, struggling to carry a briefcase. The irony was such, that at this time Ted was working in crime prevention and published a pamphlet on rape prevention. He even worked with an agency that helped to find missing women. Since he often targeted hitchhikers, the number of women hitchhiking reduced drastically, females everywhere were scared and were living in fear. Similarities amongst the victims were being noticed but the police weren’t getting anywhere near on catching him. The victims were mostly young, good looking, white, college-going or graduates and with long hair, parted from the middle. During this time, he was also dating Carole Ann Boone who worked with him at the DES, searching for missing women. Boone is the woman Ted later married and had a daughter with.
On July 14th, he went to a beach in Issaquah, in the east of Seattle. He abducted two women. Five female witnesses reported that a man wearing tennis outfit, hanging an arm sling, speaking in a light accent and introducing himself as ‘Ted’ was roaming around asking for help to unload his sailboat, out of these five: four refused and one came along but then ran away when she didn’t see any sailboat in his car. In a conversation with Stephen Michaud and William Hagmaier, he stated that on 14th, at the beach, he managed to abduct Janice Ott and Denise Naslund. He also revealed that Ott was alive when he returned with Naslund and then he forced one to watch another get killed. He denied all this on the day of his execution.
In 1974 august, Ted moved to salt lake city, where he dated a dozen of women. While studying law in the university if Utah’s law school, he discovered that he wasn’t as smart (intellectually), as his other fellow mates, which disappointed him utterly.
In September 1974, he first raped and strangled a hitchhiker, who remains unidentified till date and then later in October, he kidnapped Nancy Wilcox and killed her.
On 27th October, a 17-year-old named Melissa, daughter of a police chief was found dead and naked. She went missing nine days prior to her discovery and reports confirmed that she must’ve been alive for up to seven days. On 31st October, Laura, another 17-year-old girl went missing and was found on 4th November by hitchhikers. Both Melissa and Laura were brutally raped and strangled using nylon stockings.
On November 8th, an 18-year-old Carol DaRonch was tricked by Ted. Ted spoke to her disguised as a police officer ‘officer Roseland’; he told Carol that someone tried to break into her car and asked her to come along with him to the police station in order to file a complaint. She agreed but soon realized that he wasn’t leading her to the station and just then, he pulled out handcuffs. While handcuffing her, he handcuffed the same hand which gave carol enough time to open the door and escape. This failed attempt of his, lead him to Debra, another 17 years old whom he kidnapped at a high school, where she had come to pick up her brother. He abducted her and ran away in his car. The investigation found out the keys to Carol’s handcuffs outside the auditorium where Debra was abducted.
Elizabeth Kloepfer, an ex-girlfriend of Ted’s, (who he was seeing when he came to Utah) by then had made multiple calls to the police reporting about Bundy. The police didn’t find any evidence but surely kept him on the suspicion list; soon Bundy returned to Seattle and spent some time with her. In 1975, Bundy started targeting Colorado’s girls. On Jan 12 (1975), a nurse named Caryn went missing while walking her way from the elevator to her room at an Inn. Shockingly, a naked body, severed with deep cuts and heavy injuries was found a month later, outside the inn. His next crime took place on 15th March, when he claimed the life of a 26-year-old ski instructor, whom he tricked to help him keep his ski boots in his car. He assaulted her and killed her by strangling. It was rather odd that, a few weeks later, he drove six hours just to visit her dead remains.
He then abducted a 25-year-old Denise on 6th of April and later on May 6, he kidnapped a 12-year-old, he drowned her and assaulted her before throwing her body away in a river.
His killings stopped just as his spree started all of a sudden, out of surprise very abruptly. The number of his killings kept on growing, and suddenly they stopped, instantaneously. His last murder, as he confessed before his execution; was on June 28. Susan Curtis disappeared from her university campus. Her body, like some other victims of his, were never discovered.
Ted Bundy Arrested
Officer Bob Hayward, caught hold of Bundy on august 16th in 1975. He spotted Bundy in his Volkswagen and noticed that the passenger seat had been moved to the rear seats. Bundy fled as fast as he could after seeing the police but Bob caught him. He found masks, handcuffs, ski mask, a crowbar and more. On being questioned, Bundy replied with explanations of how he procured all those items but Bob wasn’t satisfied and he immediately recalled similar car descriptions of Carol DaRonch and the name Bundy reminded him of Kloepfer’s calls regarding Ted Bundy being the killer. The police arrested him, reached his house and found missing stuff of many of his victims but due to a shortage of evidence and due to Ted’s own recognizance, the police had to release him. Ted went home and without even wasting second destroyed polaroids of his victims which he revealed, that the police missed while searching his house. Bundy was now on 24hr surveillance and three interviewers reached to interrogate Kloepfer. She revealed that her doubts grew out of objectionable and odd things that she found around his apartment. Even his behavior was rather odd, as she would find him sneaking under the blankets and examining her body using a torchlight. He used to be in debt all the time but it didn’t prevent him from having new and expensive stuff like televisions and stereos. When she questioned him, he often replied aggressively and told her not to tell anyone.
Ted sold his Volkswagen but the police captured it and searched it extensively; they caught hold of many samples that led them to finding out all the killings Ted committed. Some hair strands found matched Caryn’s, while others were of DaRonch’s and Melissa’s and finally DaRonch identified Ted when he was lined up with other potential suspects. She remembered him the very instant she laid eyes on him and exclaimed ‘Officer Roseland’. But even this didn’t help putting him behind the bars as he could go away because his parents paid $15,000 to bail him out.
A meeting of 30 detectives finalized, that the present evidence they collected was sufficient to charge him for murders and that now he could be put in jail at last. This meeting, of investigators from up to five states, met in Aspen and hence the meet up was named as ‘Aspin Summit’. Before being confined to prison solitarily, he was found hiding in the bushes with a whole, well planned and organized pack containing maps and a security card. In the meantime, he got charged for Caryn’s murder and was shifted to Aspen’s prison in Jan 1977.
Bundy had become a professional criminal by now. After committing so many sneaky murders and assaults he knew how to get his way out and run out of situations. When he was being transferred to Aspen, for his hearing; he had to fight for himself and got no attorney. Seeing this, the judge permitted him to not wear his handcuffs and shackles; this was a golden opportunity for him and he sought to escape. He asked ID he could pay a visit to the library, even though under high security with guards, he managed to break loose, open up a window and….. escape!!
Ted marched up the aspen mountains, reached a cabin where he stole food and also a rifle. He flew from there, reached Crested Butte and ended up getting lost. For approximately ten days he was walking aimlessly until he decided to go to Aspen back only to be noticed by police who caught him in a stolen car with maps and other materials which made them find out that he planned this escape. This was after six more days. Being put back to jail, he tried so many ways to escape that he lost around 30-35 pounds. He dug a hole, he practiced going in an out through that hole.
Ted now being a master at escape plans, planned out another escape. On a trial, he demanded a change of venue to Denver but was allotted Colorado Springs, where the 30th of December, he piled up his bed with blankets, papers, and files, climbed it up and reached a jailor’s cabin who was on a Christmas break and from there he marched out of the main door, free!!
He also changed his attire, he changed to casual, street clothes. Everyone noticed almost after 17 hours that Bundy was missing but by then, Bundy had already reached Chicago.
Decamping to Florida
On his escape, Ted reached Michigan. He stole a car there and drove to Atlanta. Soon he reached Florida by bus.
All the court proceedings and time spent in jail must’ve left some impact on Ted, so much so that after arriving to Florida he thought of getting rid of all the bad habits and starting afresh. He tried procuring a job with a changed name but failed to obscure one due to failure of showing identification and hence had to return to robbery and shoplifting. He stole credit cards from ladies’ purses and wallets.
He soon returned to killing and this time even more barbarically.
On January 15th of 1978, he broke into a sorority house and attacked 4 women: Bowman, Levy, Kleiner, and Chandler respectively. He started with Bowman, he left this 21 years old severely injured, leading to her death. He gruesomely killed the 20-year-old levy, tearing her body parts and biting her deeply, even she couldn’t survive the attack. Kleiner and chandler managed to live through; Kleiner had a broken jaw and was deeply bit, almost torn on the shoulder and Chandler too, had a broken jaw and several other deep injuries. He got scared from a flashlight of a vehicle and fled. The girls said that they were saved because of this flashlight but he didn’t flee for good, as he attacked another girl Cheryl, leaving her permanently deaf and with equilibrium damage that cost her, her dance career.
On the 8th of Feb same year, he tried abducting a 12-year-old but couldn’t, as her older brother came up but nothing could stop him from getting his hands on another 12 year old, Kimberly. He raped Kimberly and her body was found in a mummy state seven weeks later. It was found that she was killed with a knife stabbed in the neck.
Ted In Custody
Ted was finally taken into custody, after a mini-battle with a police officer named David Lee.
On the 12th of Feb, Ted flew from Tallahassee, mainly because of two reasons: he was low on cash to pay his rent and the police were definitely getting closer to him. He stole a car and drove away. David stopped Ted’s car on 15th of Feb after he found out that his Volkswagen beetle has been stolen. Totally unaware of who Lee had just caught, he took Ted under arrest but it was not easy, Ted kicked lee. They both struggled to get their hands on Lee’s gun; while lee got the gun, ted flew but lee fired and caught him down after a short chase. On the arrest, ted uttered that he wished Lee had killed him.
The few girls whom Ted sparred
Ted’s first-ever relationship was with Brookes, whose separation led him to this blood ridden path. He dated numerous women. He double-timed Kloepfer and Boone. He dated many women alongside both of them. He was one of the most good looking criminals, he had a charm and could attract the opposite sex. He married Boone, at the time when she used to testify on his behalf. He even declared that the two were married legally. They even had a daughter together, who was born in October 1981.
After the Leach trial, Ted finally started with the details of the killings. He gave detailed interviews giving accounts of the gory and brutal misdeeds he did. During these confessions, he always spoke in the third person so that he could avoid ‘confessing’. He opened up to enjoy being a thief and how Kloepfer was right all the way long that he stole all the expensive materials he owned. He confessed that it was this feeling of possession he got from stealing that made him switch towards rape and murder and do something bigger.
Sexual assaults for him were total control and possession. The murder was an adventure and later on, taking away someone’s life felt like having the ultimate possession to him.
His first execution was given for the sophomore killings. He even confessed that he had intercourse with the dead bodies of the victims of the sophomore when he revisited their corpses. He also washed the dead bodies hair, applied makeup and dressed them differently; saying that they could be whatever you want them to be.
Bundy was given a death sentence but it got postponed many times. He was ultimately executed on the 24th of Jan, in 1989 at 7:16 a.m., he was 42 years old. The police officers danced and lighted firecrackers while Bundy was being executed. All of them cheered loudly when his dead body was being taken out. He was cremated in Gainesville and as per his will, his ashes were scattered in Washington state’s cascade range.
Media – Books, Movie
Ted Bundy is one of the most prominent and notorious killers in the world. He obviously had a lot of influence on television, films, and books. He was a lionized criminal. Around seven films were pictured on him. He gained “mass” popularity when the celebrity Zac Efron was cast as him in the movie named, ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile’ in 2019. Other actors like Cary Elwes, James Marsters, Billy Campbell and more, have played his character.
Many books have been written on him, like that by Rule and Anne ‘the Stranger Beside Me’ and five more.
Tv series based on his life has been aired on amazon prime and Netflix.
Many other documentaries and TV shows have been made on him like: ‘Ted Bundy- Devil In Disguise’, ‘Ted Bundy-What Happened’ and more.