As a female in her mid-twenties living in the Tallahassee, Florida area, I felt it only fitting that I begin this blog with a post on one of the most infamous serial killers in our nation’s history and our own local boogeyman, Ted Bundy.
A story out of anyone’s nightmare, Ted Bundy’s short time spent in Tallahassee was a bloody, savage affair that is rarely, if ever, spoken of on Florida State’s campus or in town. The subject is so taboo that, though it would seem prime material, it is not even included in the campus ghost tour given to incoming freshman, which includes everything else from a crazed professor to a drowned student.
Known as “The Campus Killer” for his multiple campus abductions and his savage raid on a sorority house full of Florida State University students, Bundy confessed to over 30 (though it is suspected he committed over 100) homicides before he was executed via the electric chair on January 24, 1989.
The baby that would grow to become the formidable “Ted Bundy” was born Theodore Robert Cowell in the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont on November 24th, 1946 to a very young Eleanor Louise Cowell. Such homes were common during the the 1940’s and 50’s, when single parenthood was a scandal, and offered young women a place away from public scrutiny to grow large, give birth, and then usually give the baby up for adoption.
Eleanor Louise Cowell did not want to give her baby up for adoption, though it was 1946, and in order to avoid the social stigma associated with an illegitimate child Eleanor Louise decided to remain living in her childhood home, and allow her child to be raised as the son of her own parents, Samuel and Eleanor Cowell.
Young Theodore Bundy was taught to believe that his mother was his sister, and for the first four years of his life they live under the tyrannical reign of his grandfather Samuel Cowell, a known wife and family dog beater who was said to enjoy swinging stray cats around by their tails and periodically spoke out loud to non-existent entities. Samuel Cowell was known to delve into such a wild fury at any mention of young Theodore’s parentage that a few family members came to believe he may have been his real father.
Despite this hard reputation, Ted Bundy would later tell more than one of his various biographers that he was very close with his grandfather, going as far as to say he “identified with” and “respected” him. During these early years, Bundy began showing signs of disturbing behaviors akin to those of his grandfather: Eleanor Louise’s younger sister Julia once described waking up from a nap to discover herself surrounded by multiple kitchen knives with 3-year old Ted leering nearby.
In 1950, at the urging of several family members, Eleanor Louise Cowell dropped her first name, changed her last name to Nelson and moved to Tacoma, Washington into the home of her cousins Alan and Jane Scott and close to her brother and Ted’s uncle, Jack Cowell. Although 4 year old Ted accompanied Louise on this move, it is thought that he still believed her to be his sister at this point.
A year after moving with Ted to Washington, Louise attended a Singles Night at Tacoma’s First Methodist Church and met Johnny Culpepper Bundy, a hospital cook. By May of 1951 the two were married, and Johnny Bundy formally adopted the boy, changing his name once again, this time to Theodore Robert Bundy. Although Johnny tried to include his new stepson in various bonding activities such as camping, Ted Bundy remained distant from the man, later describing him as “not very bright” and saying he “didn’t make much money.”
If Bundy was as close to his grandfather Samuel Cowell as he made it appear he was, being taken out from under his roof and then being adopted by a stranger who he thought was his sister’s new husband, would have had a profound effect on the not-yet-six year old boy.
Bundy told various and contradicting stories about how he spent his time as a youth, however, one repeated detail is his development of an interest in violent pornography after searching through neighborhood garbage bins and finding graphic detective novels.
Vintage Detective Novels from the 1950’s and 60’s
In the late 50’s Bundy attended Mason Middle School, and as he grew older his reputation for disturbing behaviors expanded to include animal mutilations and episodes of violence. During the time of Bundy’s actions, animal mutilations were not widely known as one of the early warning signs for psychopathic behavior, and so while disturbing today, at the time, Bundy would not have garnered much attention for killing the stray cat or two.
Little is known about Bundy’s school years leading up to high school, but it is known that Louise and Johnnie Bundy had four children of their own and Ted spent a lot of time helping to care for them. The youngest of Louise and Johnnie’s children, Robert, was born in 1961 and due to Ted’s age at that time, he would later admit that he was closest with this sibling, feeling a sort of paternal-love for him.
In 1961 Ted Bundy began attending Woodrow Wilson High School, where he was a good student who classmates described as “well-known and well-liked.” Yet, Bundy obviously felt isolated, saying in interviews later that he “chose to be alone” and “didn’t know what made people chose to be friends.”
Many experts believe that Ted Bundy may have committed his first murder at the age of fourteen shortly after starting high school, killing 8 year old Ann Marie Burr on August 31st, 1961 after entering her home late at night through a window left ajar to accommodate a TV antenna and then leaving with her through the front door. For weeks prior to Ann Marie’s disappearance, her parents, Donald and Beverly Burr, had been awaken almost every night by noises in their backyard. Mistakenly, they assumed it was a raccoon or stray cat. Police now believe that this may have been Ted Bundy, developing his peeping tom habits, peering in at the Burr family as they prepared to sleep.
Ann Marie shared a bedroom with her younger sister Mary, whose arm was in a cast that August. At some point in the middle of the night on the 31st, Mary woke up crying and Ann Marie took her to their parent’s room. After comforting her daughter, Mrs. Burr sent both girls back to bed. This would be the last time she would lay eyes on young Ann Marie.
The next morning at 5 AM, Mrs. Burr awoke to find the front door hanging wide open, and young Ann Marie nowhere to be found. The only clues left behind were some grass clippings on the living room carpet, and a shoe print in the mud next to the window which was left ajar. Although he never officially admitted to this murder, Bundy was said to have known Ann Marie, who lived only a few blocks away from him and also took lessons with Bundy’s uncle, Jack Cowell, who was a music instructor.
Outside of school, Bundy pursued his only known athletic hobby, snow skiing, using stolen equipment and forged ski tickets. He also admitted to one biographer that as he entered high school he began consuming large quantities of alcohol and frequently wandering the neighborhood at night in search of un-draped windows where he could find women undressing.
It is also during this time that most accounts tell of Bundy learning of his true parentage. To one biographer, Bundy stated that he learned Louise was his mother and not his sister after a cousin told him the truth and called him a “bastard”, to another biographer he stated that he found the birth certificate on his own. As can be expected, Bundy expressed many times throughout his life that he immensely resented his mother for never telling him the truth and leaving it for him to find out on his own.
The University Years
After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1965, Ted Bundy was awarded a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington where he spent two semesters studying Psychology and Oriental Studies. Many biographers believe that Bundy was killing all through these early University years, although the earliest incident that Bundy ever hinted at, occurred in the early 1970’s.
The first possible attack attributed to Bundy as an adult, occurred just a year after he left high school. On the morning of June 24th, 1966, flight attendants Lisa Wick and Lonnie Trumbull were found in the apartment they shared in Seattle, Washington with their third roommate. They had been bludgeoned severely with a piece of lumber as they slept, a method very similar to later attacks by Bundy on the Chi Omega sorority house on Florida State University’s campus. Lonnie Trumbull died from her injuries and Lisa Wick suffered permanent memory loss from head injury inflicted upon her during the attack.
Although Bundy never admitted to this crime, the apartment of Lisa Wick and Lonnie Trumbull was in close proximity to the Safeway store where Bundy worked at the time and both girls were known to be regular customers there. Although she could not remember details of the crime, Lisa Wick would later write one of the Bundy biographers, Ann Rule: “I know that it was Ted Bundy who did that to us, but I can’t tell you how I know.”
Two months after the Trumbull/Wick attack, in August of 1966, Ted Bundy withdrew from the University of Puget Sound, and Enrolled in the University of Washington. There, he majored in Chinese studies and dormed in a building on campus called McMahon Hall on a floor specifically set aside for Chinese and Japanese studies majors.
In 1967 Bundy met his first substantial girlfriend, Stephanie Brooks, who also lived in McMahon Hall. Biographer Ann Rule, described Stephanie Brooks as an “attractive, wealthy junior and, like Bundy, an avid skier.” Surprisingly Bundy flourished while in a relationship with Brooks in an effort to show her he was her equal; other than his Safeway work he did multiple other odd jobs, and began to volunteer with the Republican Party, even attending the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami as a delegate for Nelson Rockefeller. Stephanie Brooks had dark hair, parted in the middle, and after Bundy’s capture (and somewhat during the investigation), it was noted that many of Bundy’s victims seemed to fit this exact description, especially the bit about the hair being parted down the middle. When asked about this similarity later, Bundy would deny that it was on purpose, or that it had anything to do with Stephanie Brooks. Stating that there was only one criteria that he looked for, “They had to be attractive. Always attractive.”
Despite Bundy’s success with the Republican Party under her guidance, in the spring of 1968, Stephanie Brooks graduated from the University of Washington, and ended the relationship between herself and Ted Bundy, stating she was frustrated with Bundy’s “immaturity and lack of ambition.” There are also multiple reports that Bundy had the habit of using Brooks’ credit card to make small purchases without asking her, and this combined with her realization that Bundy was floundering in school led her to part ways with him. Whether speculation that this break-up was a major turning point in Bundy’s path as a serial killer is true or not, we do know that he was effected by it greatly enough to drop out of the University of Washington.
Bundy traveled around the country after dropping out of college, visiting relatives in Colorado, Arkansas, and even as far east as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he stayed for one semester and Enrolled at Temple University. Sometime during the earlier months of 1968 Bundy visited his birth town of Burlington, Vermont and retrieved a copy of his birth certificate. Whether this was his first time finding out the truth of his parentage or not is widely disputed, however, at least one of his biographers, Ann Rule, believes it was.
However he found out, his true parentage was an extremely sore subject for Bundy. The following comes directly from his 1976 pre-sentencing investigative report:
“It is of interest that the subject displayed marked signs of hostility when asked about his early childhood. Specifically, when he was asked about his ‘real father’s whereabouts,’ his face became quite contorted and reddened and he paused momentarily. He then regained composure and replied rather succinctly and approximately: ‘You may say that he left my mother and me and never rejoined the family’.”
While on trial years later, Bundy would tell one of his attorneys, Polly Nelson, that during his traveling years he attempted to kidnap two women in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but failed. To psychologist Art Norman he stated that he successfully abducted and killed these two women. It is contradicting stories such as this one that make it so difficult to determine the true extent of Ted Bundy’s crimes.
In fall of 1968, Bundy found himself back in Washington state, where he met Elizabeth Kloepfer from Utah, a divorcee with a daughter who now worked as a secretary at the University of Washington School of Medicine. At a bar called the Sandpiper Tavern one night, Bundy saw the young woman and asked Kloepfer to dance, to which she replied “no”, causing him to ascend to the dance floor with someone else. Later that same night, however, intrigued by the handsome stranger’s request for a dance, Liz Kloepfer approached Ted Bundy and struck up a conversation:
“He had a distinctive way of speaking. Not really an Eastern accent, but more like a British one.”
James Doros, one of Ted Bundy’s brief college roommates had the following to say about his unique speaking pattern:
“His speech could be described as having a clipped, concise diction, similar to an Englishman who had been Americanized.”
Kloepfer was said to have fallen in love with Bundy at first sight and believed he would make the perfect father figure for her young daughter, Tina. She would prove so devoted to him that, years later, she would remain in a relationship with him even after reporting him to police a total of three times. It has been noted that Liz Kloepfer, like Stephanie Brooks, also had dark hair parted down the middle. Biographer Ann Rule suggested that perhaps it was not Stephanie, but Liz, who Bundy modeled all of his later victims after.
At Kloepfer’s urging, Bundy re-Enrolled at the University of Washington, this time majoring in Psychology at which he excelled and became an honors student and friendly with many of his professors.The director of Clinical Psychology Training for the University of Washington, Ronald Smith, taught Bundy as a student in two psychology courses and had the following to say about him:
“He distinguished himself academically in both courses. He was extremely bright, always well-dressed, very mature.”
Smith remembers Bundy coming to him with an interest in pursuing an honors thesis on the topic of mental illness and conditional decision making:
“He was a tormented soul in a lot of respects, and psychology would appeal to a person like him. He was not unusual for a very clever psychopath individual. He was able to inspire confidence in others and provide a very good front. Nobody who interacted with him actually suspected what was going on.”
As part of a requirement for his psychology degree, Bundy began volunteering at the Crisis Clinic — a nonprofit, 24-hour hotline — located at the time in an office building up on Capitol Hill. It was here where he first met and befriended future biographer and true crime writer, Ann Rule, who was a fellow volunteer.
To the homicide detective assigned to his case, Robert D. Keppel, Ted Bundy hinted that while a student at the University of Washington he killed one woman in Seattle in 1972, shortly before graduating, however, this is yet another crime that Bundy refused to provide more details regarding. After his graduation, Ted Bundy began working for Washington Governor Daniel Evans on his re-election campaign. For that entire next year, Bundy posed as a college student, shadowing Evan’s opponent, former governor Albert Rosellini, and recording his speeches for analysis by Evan’s team. After Evan’s re-election, Ross Davis, Chairman of the Washington State Republic Party, hired Ted Bundy as an assistant.
In the summer of 1973, Bundy began applying to Law Schools and during a trip to California on Republican Party business he rekindled his relationship with Stephanie Brooks, who agreed to date him again, impressed by his apparent transformation into a serious, dedicated professional, seemingly on the cusp of a distinguished legal and political career.
In August of that same year, Ted Bundy was accepted and Enrolled into the University of Puget Sound Law School. Still dating both Elizabeth Kloepfer and Stephanie Brooks, Bundy also claimed he managed to find enough time to commit another murder, this time a hitchhiker in the Tumwater, Washington area. Although he did admit to this murder, he refused to divulge any details and the victims name or the location of the remains was never uncovered.
Although neither of his girlfriends was aware of each other, Bundy’s new-found relationship with Brooks became more and more serious, and he flew her to Washington from California multiple times. They discussed marriage, and on one occasion Bundy introduced Stephanie Brooks to his boss Ross Davis as his fiancée.
Then, suddenly, in the fall of 1974, Bundy broke off all contact with Brooks, her phone calls went unreturned for an entire month before he suddenly picked up one day. After she demanded to know why Bundy had so suddenly ended their relationship without explanation, Brooks reported that in a flat, calm voice, Ted Bundy replied, “Stephanie, I have no idea what you mean …” and hung up. She never heard from him again. It’s speculated that Bundy searched out Brooks and rekindle the romance just to see if he could, then broke it off once he got her to agree to marriage. Bundy himself is quoted as saying “I just wanted to prove to myself that I could have married her.”
Throughout his last few years at the University of Washington, Ted Bundy was working for the Washington State Department of Emergency Services (DES) as an emergency manager, whose job is mainly to create framework for how a community would reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters such as fire and tornado. Bundy would still be working this job when he was arrested a few years later, and he was so well liked by his coworkers that many of them contributed money to his defense fund. Bundy also began a relationship with his co-worker at the DES, Carole Ann Boone, a twice-divorced mother of two who he dated while remaining in a relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer, and also, until he broke it off, Stephanie Brooks.
Terri Caldwell and Lynda Ann Healy
Shortly after midnight on January 4th, 1974, twenty-one year old Terri Caldwell turned off the TV in the living room of her home, and retired to her bedroom, set up in the basement. She was a dance student at the University of Washington in Seattle and rented her room in the house, along with three men. By this time Ted Bundy had perfected his skills as a peeping tom and according to published reports, the window on the south side of the house, when un-draped, afforded a view of Terri Caldwell’s bedroom, which may be what drew Bundy to that particular house. Further information was given by a roommate that one of the doors on that same side of the house was always left unlocked.
Sometime after 2 AM, Bundy broke into the basement apartment and bludgeoned Terri Caldwell while she slept with a metal rod he broke off the frame of her own bed, then assaulted her with a gynecological tool called a speculum. Around 2:30 PM the next day, one of the young men Caldwell rented with poked his head into her bedroom, saw her in bed, and assumed she was sleeping in or napping. However, at 7:30 PM the night of January 5th when it was realized Caldwell had still not risen from her bed, her roommates rushed to her bedside and found her bloody and barely alive.
It’s believed that when Bundy left her apartment in the early hours of that morning, he thought Terri Caldwell was dead. She was unconscious for 10 days, suffered severe internal injuries and permanent brain damage, but Terri Caldwell survived Bundy’s attack, becoming one of the only women he got his hands on to do so.
Less than a month later, on February 1st, 1974, twenty-one year old Lynda Ann Healy failed to show up to her morning job giving the ski reports over the radio. Another University of Washington student, she was described as having beautiful long auburn hair usually parted down the middle, and bright blue eyes. When her employer called her home to inquire as to why she hadn’t showed for her shift, her roommate Karen Skaviem, went into Lynda’s room and found the bed made and the room empty. Karen would tell authorities that the night before the two roommates had gone to a local bar called Dante’s, before returning home, watching a bit of television, and retiring to their rooms. Karen did note two things of interest: a “shadow” that “moved” just outside the window the night before but which she thought nothing of, and that the morning of February 1st, Karen had awoken to Lynda’s alarm still going off in her bedroom.
Over the next few hours it would be noted that not only was the outside door closest to her bedroom unlocked, but Lynda’s bicycle, her only mode of transport, was still locked up outside of the house. Furthermore, her roommates as well as her mother would note that Lynda was not the type of person who would have neatly made her bed in such a way, or not shown up to work without making a phone call.
When police officers finally got involved, after 6 PM the night of February 1st, they would initially assume that Lynda was acting like any other unpredictable college student and had simply shacked up with a new boyfriend for a day or two. The police left the house on this first visit without even looking around. Around 8 PM the phone rang and when one of Lynda’s roommates picked up there was no answer, only soft breathing. This would occur two more times that night before her roommates, frightened by the attack on Terri Caldwell and even more so by Lynda’s disappearance, would call the police and demand they send officers to the house once again.
Just before midnight a homicide detective from the Seattle Police Department arrived at the house. For the first time since she had been reported missing, he entered Lynda Ann Healy’s bedroom and pulled back the covers of her uncharacteristically made bed. There he found multiple blood stains on the pillow as well as a large blood stain on the sheets under the pillow. When he opened her closet, the detective found the nightgown Lynda had gone to bed in that night, with bloodstain on the back right under the neck. It was during this time that Lynda’s roommates and family realized the clothes Lynda had worn to the bar the night before, a white blouse, jeans, and a paid or shoes, were missing along with a red backpack.
Years later, before his execution, Bundy confessed to the abduction and murder of Lynda Ann Healy. But he didn’t stop there, Ted Bundy informed authorities that he had removed her head from her body before dumping it, and kept it for a number of days, before also disposing of it. The viciousness of this crime is another clue that points experts towards the conclusion that Ted Bundy had to have been killing prior to these first reported incidents, cutting the heads off of their victims is usually a behavior that a sexual killer escalates to, not something that they start out doing.
Shortly after the attacks, Bundy began skipping his classes at the University of Puget Sound Law School, and one of his girlfriends, Elizabeth Kloepfer, began noticing some strange behavior. Ted Bundy had always been a small time thief, but upon visiting his apartment one day, Elizabeth noticed he had a new television set, record player, and radio set. Pointing this out, Bundy grabbed her by the throat and said, “If you tell anyone I’ll break your fucking neck.” This was the first time he had shown any sort of violence towards her.
On a separate occasion, Bundy left Kloepfer’s apartment one afternoon, only to return a few minutes later to retrieve something he had stashed on the front porch. When Elizabeth Kloepfer opened her front door to see what Bundy was doing on her porch, he shoved something into his pocket and froze like a deer in headlights. Kloepfer questioned him about what he was doing, and when Bundy refused to answer, she reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of medical gloves. Confused, Kloepfer reports just starring at the gloves before Bundy snatched them out of her hands and ran off the porch without another word.
Apart from his work with the Suicide Hotline and the Department of Emergency Services, Ted Bundy also kept a part-time job selling medical equipment. It is believed by investigators that this is where he was able to obtain the speculum used to assault Terri Caldwell, as well as the fake casts and slings which he would begin to use in the coming months to trick women into approaching him.
Donna Gail Mason and Susan Elaine Rancourt
After attacking two University of Washington students in a row, Ted Bundy traveled South on March 12th, 1974 to a small college in Olympia, Washington called Evergreen State College where Bundy was known to play racquetball and had developed a strong sense of the layout of the campus. There, he abducted 19-year-old student Donna Gail Manson sometime between the time she left her house and the time she was meant to arrive at a jazz concert being held on campus. Donna Mason was considered at the time to be a “high risk” victim, meaning that she lived a life that put her into contact with many of her area’s seedy characters. According to reports, she regularly skipped classes, staying out late almost every night going on “visits” in which she would stay at a friend’s home for days at a time.
Donna Manson’s friends and family would describe her as a friendly, trusting girl, who would go out of her way to help and be friendly to strangers. One excerpt from her journal illustrates her tendency not to hesitate when interacting with members of society whom most people during her time would eschew. It reads:
“Paranoid speed freak hanging around waiting, just waiting alone he thinks security is after him, cant roll a joint. Asked a lot of questions. Lived out on Copper Point Road. Says he’s got a lot of hot shit. No doubt.”
It was Donna’s helpful and kind inclinations towards strangers that many believe made her a prime target for Bundy. Although the exact circumstances of her abduction remain unknown to this day, it is believed Donna was taken from the parking lot across the street from the jazz concert she was on her way to. In order to lure young women like Donna closer to his car, Bundy would utilize a fake arm or leg cast, and ask for assistance with loading something heavy into the back of his tan-colored VW Bug which he had removed the passenger seat from in order to more easily make his abductions. Elizabeth Kloepfer told detectives during one interview that she had noticed plaster of paris (used in making casts) in her boyfriend Ted Bundy’s bedroom, but since he had a seasonal job selling medical supplies, she thought nothing of this. If Bundy had attempted this same “cast” ruse with young Donna Gail Manson, friends and family of the young woman have stated that he would have been successful, given Donna’s friendly and social disposition. She would have never refused someone who genuinely needed help.
Although Lynda Ann Healy had gone missing the month prior to Donna’s disappearance, at this point, no connection had been established between the two incidents or the attack on Terri Caldwell. Due to Donna’s reputation and her “high-risk” categorization by the local police, her disappearance and the link to Ted Bundy would not be brought to the public eye until many years later. Then, before his execution in 1989, Bundy admitted to the abduction and murder of Donna Gail Manson, and although her remains were never discovered, he did provide this one, horrid detail:
“I left her body on Taylor Mountain, and incinerated her head in Liz Kloepfer’s fireplace. Of all the things I did to her, this is probably the one she is least likely to forgive me for. Poor Liz.”
Sometime in March, after he abducted and murdered Donna Gail Manson, Bundy admitted to Liz Kloepfer that he as floundering in his classes, “unable to concentrate”, and he told her planned on dropping out of the University of Puget Sound Law School at the end of the semester. After complaining that it was the “ambiance” of the Law School at the University of Puget Sound which clashed with him, Bundy convinced Liz that applying for admission into the Law School at the University of Utah was his best next step. Though worried about Bundy’s fidelity once in Utah, Liz was supportive of the move, even traveling back home to Utah as much as possible, staying with her parents and searching for an apartment close to the University of Utah for Bundy to live in.
With Tina gone most of the time now and his responsibilities with the Republican Party abandoned, Bundy was free to do what pretty much what he wished. By April, Ted Bundy had gone from skipping his classes at the University of Puget Sound Law School, to not attending entirely. This left him with more free time to learn the pathways and streets of nearby schools and towns. On April 17th, nineteen year old Susan Elaine Rancourt disappeared on the campus of Central Washington State College after leaving a meeting for students interested in being dorm councilors. Unlike the disappearance of Donna Manson, Susan’s disappearance was considered alarming right from the start.
Known as “Prudence Pureheart” amongst her friends and family, Susan Rancourt was a studious young woman who usually wore her long, dark-blonde hair parted down the middle. She didn’t date and would never run away for days at a time, missing class, work, and social appointments. Susan’s parents would also inform authorities that she had extensive dental work done in her early teen years, and that she would never leave her dorm for an extended period of time without her floss or toothbrush. The fact that Susan had put a load of laundry in the washer before leaving for her meeting further cemented for her loved ones that she had every intention of returning to her campus room and that something terrible had befallen her before she had.
In the ensuing weeks increasingly worrying headlines would plaster the front pages of the local newspapers: “Search continues for CWSC Coed”, “Reward Offered”, “Search for Coed is Planned”. What little was known about Susan Rancourt and her disappearance was repeated in every story- she was 5 feet, 2 inches tall, with long blonde hair and blue eyes who was last seen leaving Munson Hall on the Central Washington State College campus at 10 PM on April 17th, 1974.
Along with Donna Manson, before his execution, Bundy admitted to the abduction of Susan Rancourt, further revealing that she too had her head removed and held on to for days before it was disposed of.
Two Close Calls
A month after Susan Rancourt went missing, after the flood of news coverage of her disappearance, two Central Washington State College female students came forward with stories about a strange interaction they had around the same time with a young man in a cast who drove a tan or dark yellow Volkswagen Bug. One of the women, Kathleen D’Olivo described an incident that occurred the same night as Susan’s disappearance. Shortly before 10 PM when Susan would have been preparing for her walk home from Munson Hall, Kathleen was leaving the University’s Bouillion Library, headed towards her car which was parked in a nearby lot. She didn’t make it very far from the library when she heard a sound behind her like books hitting pavement. She related the following story to the police:
“It was a clear night, I don’t remember it being extremely cold or extremely warm. I turned around, and there was a man dropping books. He was squatting, trying to pick up the books and packages… I noticed he had a sling on one arm, and a metal hand brace on the other. I just noticed that he was unable to pick up that many things and I assumed that he was going into the library.”
When Kathleen approached the man and offered to help, he responded, “Yea, could you?”
“He was thin, his face is a blur to me, I don’t recall his features at all. He was dressed sloppily, not real grubby, but nothing outstanding. I thought he was going to the library. He was headed that way, so I thought that was there he was going. But that same sidewalk leads over a small man-made pond away from the library.”
Instead of heading down the path towards the library, the man in the cast and brace began to lead Kathleen D’Olivo over the bridge. This immediately confused Kathleen who asked, “Wait, where are we going?”
“Oh, my car is parked just right over there,” he said, pointing off in the distance towards a railroad overpass surrounded by tall grass. Judging the weight of the books she was carrying for him, Kathleen believed that if the man tried anything, she could hit him with one of the books.
“I was extremely cautious with him,” Kathleen would continue, “I never gave him the opportunity of walking behind me.” As they walked, the man explained that his injuries were due to a skiing accident.
Although the path they were on didn’t have any lights, the night was bright enough that Miss D’Olivo could make out that the car they were headed to was a Volkswagen Bug, which she described as brown in color. When they reached the car, the man dropped his keys and fumbled around on the ground for a moment before asking, “Do you think you could find it for me? Because I can’t feel anything with this thing on my hand.”
Smartly, Kathleen was hesitant to bend down next to the stranger, so she suggested stepping back from the car and attempting to see the reflection of the keys in the light. After spotting them and snatching them from the ground, Kathleen handed them over, wished the man a speedy recovery from his injuries, and hurried away.
It is speculated that just minutes after Kathleen D’Olivo ran off, Ted Bundy, back on the hunt, would come across Susan Elaine Rancourt walking back to her dorm after her meeting and successfully abduct her.
The second woman to come forward, 21-year old Jane Curtis, was also a student at Central Washington State College, and she too had first spotted the man outside of the Bouillon Library. An employee of the library, Curtis had been stacking books for about two hours and was eager to get home when she left the library through the front door around 8:30 or 9:00 PM, three days prior to Kathleen D’Olivo’s experience and Susan Rancourt’s disappearance.
“…there was this guy coming along and he had this huge stack of books, like eight or nine books (all hardbound), and he had a cast on his left arm… and all of a sudden he just kinda drops them, right in the direction I was walking… so I just, more or less, offered assistance.”
Jane Curtis went on to tell the police that the walk to the man’s car took them past the student parking lot usually used for the library, towards an old railroad trestle and patch of high grass. Jane noticed that the cast wasn’t one of plaster, but more like gauze wrapped around a splint, and when she asked him how he had hurt his arm, the man claimed that he had hit a tree while skiing on Crystal Mountain. Jane found this story hard to believe, being an avid skier herself and having intimate knowledge of Crystal Mountain, she just didn’t see how anyone could injure themselves in such a way by hitting a tree. Taking a closer look at the man as they walked towards his tan VW Beetle, Jane took note of his grubby overcoat and the “strange, sideways looks” he gave her every so often. “He didn’t seem like the skiing type,” she would later say.
When they arrived at the car, the man attempted to hand Jane the keys, and she heard him say, “Open it up.” Thinking this was a strange request, since his other hand was uninhibited, Jane refused. The man then opened the car, and presumably thinking he had already won, Bundy dropped the act and ordered her to “Get in.” Alarmed, Jane asked, “What?” and dropped the books she was carrying at his feet. Quickly trying to smooth things over, Bundy said, “Oh, sorry, I just meant, could you get in and start the car for me?” This too, Jane refused to do, and when she looked into the car and saw that it was missing the front passenger seat, she quickly made her escape. Looking back once, Jane Curtis said the man in the cast made no attempt to chase her, he just stood there, starring at her with “strange eyes.”
Investigators, meanwhile, would began to surmise that the attack on Terri Caldwell in her basement bedroom, and the disappearances of Lynda Ann Healy, Donna Gail Manson, and Susan Elaine Rancourt were all perpetrated by the same individual. The case would remain a difficult one however, due to the “stranger on stranger” nature of the crime as well as the lack of evidence and the fact that the crimes took place in multiple jurisdictions. The lack of progress in the cases served to both frustrate the police involved, and bolster the confidence and contempt for authority of Ted Bundy. With headlines abuzz and people on guard, Bundy traveled South to Oregon before claiming his next victim.
Roberta Parks, Brenda Caroll Ball, and Georgann Hawkins
Dr. Al Carlisle, a psychologist who worked with Bundy in 1976 described how he was able to morph into such a capable and planned killer in what seemed like so short a time:
“He lived his life in a compulsive manor, that was well ordered and exact. Events and actions, as well as conversations, were planned and rehearsed many times before they took place. It was very important to him to never be caught off his guard. Life was like a chess game for him. He always wanted to be two moves ahead of his opponent…”
Bundy believed (correctly, for a time) that if he had just killed in one area, the police would be looking for a killer there, and that it would leave him free to kill safely in another area. Nearly 250 miles from his usual hunting ground, Ted Bundy could not have been more than superficially familiar with the campus of Oregon State University, and yet this is where he found his next victim. On May 6th, 1974, Roberta Parks was feeling the effects of a hard week. That morning her older sister had phoned to inform her that their father had a minor heart attack, but that it was not necessary for her to come home. On top of that, Roberta was considering making the difficult decision of ending her long term relationship due to the fact that her boyfriend was ready to marry her, and Roberta wanted a few more years to discover herself.
In a letter to her boyfriend, postmarked May 7th, 1974, Roberta Parks would write what would become her last message to the man who loved her:
“I’m feeling down right now, due to a combination of things, I suppose… Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you – very much. When you come, please put your arms around me and make me feel everything’s OK. I’m needing the comfort of your presence now. I love you. Kathy.”
A friend of Roberta’s, Joanne Stevens, would tell detectives that Roberta took frequent walks in the evenings from her dorm at Sackett Hall on OSU’s campus, to the Student Union to get coffee or a soda. It is believed that Roberta Parks left her room in order to place her letter in the mail, and to take a walk to clear her head. Slightly after 11 PM on the night of May 6th, another friend of Roberta’s, Lorraine Fargo, would encounter Roberta as she was walking. Roberta told Lorraine that she, “just felt like being alone, taking a walk, and trying to straighten things out in her own mind.” She also admitted to Lorraine that she had skipped her classes all that week and that she had been drinking too much. Lorraine was the last person other than Ted Bundy to see Roberta Parks alive.
Although her family would offer a reward of $1,500, no one would ever come forward with any more information or details regarding Roberta’s abduction. On the eve of his execution, Bundy would also admit to Roberta’s abduction and murder, going on to state that like Lynda Ann Healy and Susan Rancourt, he had removed Roberta’s head and kept it for a number of days before disposing of it.
Ted Bundy’s next victim, although similar in appearance, was as different as she could be from the sweet, naive co-eds he had coerced in the past. Twenty-two year old Brenda Carol Ball had dropped out of college, believing she had plenty of time to decide what she would really be happy doing. A regular at The Flame Tavern, just south of Seattle near the airport, Brenda spent many of her evenings there, often staying until closing time, as she did on May 31st, 1974.
Ted Bundy spent most of May 31st with his girlfriend Liz Kloepfer, her daughter Tina, and Liz’s parents who were visiting town for Tina’s baptismal the next morning. The whole group went out for pizza that evening, and Liz remembers Bundy leaving her home around 10 PM that night.
Although no one who was interview by the police could remember exactly what she was wearing that night, or whether she had arrived at the bar with anyone else, many witnesses told police that Brenda Carol Ball seemed to be having a great time, laughing and drinking with the other regulars at The Flame. It has been established that before she left The Flame at 2 AM that morning, Brenda asked a friend of hers, one of the musicians in the band, for a ride home. The friend, however, turned her down, and there are multiple reports as to how Brenda ended up leaving the bar after that. One witness told authorities that Brenda left the bar alone and immediately went to the road to hitchhike, another told them that Brenda left in the company of an unknown male, and yet another witness reported last seeing her in the parking lot, speaking with a light-haired man with a sling on his arm. However she left the bar that night, Brenda Caroll Ball would never make it home.
The day after Ball’s disappearance, Bundy would fail to show up for the baptismal of Liz’s daughter, an instance that cause a great deal of strain on their relationship. Years later, during a phone call from prison, Liz Kloepfer would ask Ted Bundy about Brenda Ball, and whether her disappearance was why he had missed her daughter’s baptismal the next day. Bundy admitted that it was.
Due to her reputation as a free spirit among her friends, Brenda wouldn’t even be reported missing until 19 days after her abduction, when her roommates were contacted by her parents who also hadn’t heard from her. By this time, Ted Bundy had not only murdered Brenda and dumped her body, he had also already abducted his next victim.
After his time spent hunting on the campuses of Evergreen State College and Central Washington State College, Ted Bundy returned to The University of Washington, where his down-ward spiral began when he attacked Terri Caldwell and abducted Lynda Ann Healy. On June 11th, less than 10 days after his abduction of Brenda Carol Ball, Ted Bundy found himself stalking the area of campus known as Greek Row due to the abundance of fraternity and sorority houses on the street. Bundy first spotted 18-year old Georgann Hawkins as she stood in a brightly-lit ally outside of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, speaking with her friend Duane Covey who was hanging out the window off the second floor.
The Summer Semester of 1974 would mark the end of Georgann’s first year at The University of Washington, and while she was looking forward to the break and her return home, she still had a few more days of school left and intended to work hard. The following day, Georgann had an important Spanish test, but that night she decided to take a few hours off and attend a fraternity party. On the walk back to her dorm room, she stopped off to see her boyfriend, Marvin Gellatly, who was also a member of Beta Theta Pi. As she was leaving her boyfriend’s fraternity house, Duane Covey spotted her and yelled out the second floor window, wanting to know if she was ready for the Spanish test, which he was also scheduled to take. Duane told the police that their conversation lasted no more than ten minutes, but he did report one strange memory from that night: both he and Georgann had noticed laughter from further up the ally, just out of eyesight. Neither of them thought much of it, spoke further about their plans for the break until Fall Semester, and then said goodbye for the night.
Bundy later confirmed that he was present in that ally, that he overheard Georgann’s entire conversation with Duane Covey, and that it was indeed him, gleefully laughing, perhaps out of the idea that this would be Georgann Hawkins’ last night on earth.
In a series of audio tapes recorded prior to his execution, the abduction of Georgann is one of the few scenarios he describes in detail. Equipped with an arm cast and watching his victim from further down the ally, Bundy fumbled with a heavy briefcase as they approached each other. When they were near enough to speak without shouting, he asked her to help him to his car. Georgann agreed. Bundy also later confirmed that once near his car, he removed a crow bar from the undercarriage and struck her with such force that both her earrings and one of her shoes were knocked off. Hazy on all of the other details, or just unwilling to admit them, the only other thing Bundy would say about Georgann was how trusting she was. He relayed to the police that at one point, she awoke in his car, weak and delusional from the head wound, and began to speak to him as if he had taken her to help him study for the Spanish test scheduled for the next day.
Georgann’s body would never be found, however, before his execution, Ted Bundy indicated that he had severed her head and buried it and her body in the woods. After her disappearance, towards the end of June, a conference was held among representatives of over 30 different police departments around the state of Washington. Their goal was to determine whether there was a link between all of the missing women, and to share information in efforts to uncover something that may have been over looked. The conference ended with the investigation no further along than it had been.
On July 6th, a warm and bright Saturday, realizing she had less that 2 months left before the man she loved moved to Utah, Liz Kloepfer convinced Ted Bundy to take her on a rafting trip down the Yakima River. They had done so before many times since Liz bought Ted his own whitewater raft the previous Christmas. Flowing almost parallel with its gigantic cousin, the Columbia River, the Yakima River runs past Ellensburg, home to Central Washington University where Bundy snatched young Susan Elaine Rancourt. On this particular day, and perhaps in this particular environment, Bundy was not his usual, charming self. Though he started out talkative and pleasant, he rapidly descended into silence. When the couple stopped for lunch, they ate without a word said and then made their way back on the river. Liz was used to his moods, and her mind was on Bundy’s upcoming move, and so she was content just being with him outside on this beautiful day.
An hour after lunch, floating peacefully with her eyes closed, Liz suddenly found herself underwater in the swiftest, deepest part of the river. Ted had, without warning, pushed her out of the raft and into the icy cold water. Managing to swim and catch up with the raft and climb back in, Liz confronted Bundy angrily but later said, “His face had gone blank… I had the sense that he wasn’t seeing me… I could find no expression on his face.”
On the drive home, Bundy was back to what Liz perceived as normal, downplaying his actions as a harmless prank. Still, being so close to Central Washington U where he abducted the Rancourt girl had brought out a side of Bundy that Liz rarely saw, and only 8 days later he would be out hunting again.
A short drive east of Seattle lies a swimming, boating, and hiking area known by locals as Lake Sam. Near the town of Issaquah, Lake Sammamish is named after one of the many Native American tribes that were present in the area before our country’s colonization. On July 14th, 1974, it would be here that Ted Bundy both committed his most confounding crime, by managing to abduct two women within hours of each other, and made his worst mistake, leaving behind his first clues.
Although the citizens of Washington were beginning to talk about the series of missing girls throughout the State, no police or media outlet had come out and reported that these instances were all connected, and no bodies had been found, the fate of the missing women was still unknown and the people of Washington held on to hope. In fact, not much reporting had been done on the subject at all other than brief stories and updates regarding the disappearances on a local scale.
So, to say that the young women at Lake Sam were “on alert” that day would be inaccurate. Although some of them may have been up-to-date on the news and therefore more cautious, most of the women at the lake were more focused on swimming, sunning, and handsome young men. Which may explain why, although he was spotted by multiple people throughout the day at the lake (including an off duty DEA agent who reported seeing a young man dressed all in white “scooping” out chicks), Ted Bundy drew no unwarranted attention. Dressed in a short, white bathing suit (a popular style of the time), with his good looks and wavy, collar-length hair, Ted Bundy was described as handsome by almost everyone who knew him, potential victims and friends alike. He did not stand out among the dozens of other college-aged young men in the area, checking out ladies and enjoying the warm weather.
Five separate female witness from that day described Ted to authorities, reporting that a man with his arm in a sling or cast had approached them and requested help with either unloading or loading his sailboat. Four of the females had refused to follow him to the parking lot, stating various excuses such as friends or boyfriends waiting for them by the shore. One of the witnesses, Janice Graham, told authorities that she followed him as far as his car:
“He asked me if I could help him for a minute, unloading his sailboat from his car. We made our way through the really crowded parking lot and he said, ‘This is outta sight, I’ve never seen so many people here.’ He stopped many times to hold his arm against his chest, like it was hurting. He said he hurt it playing racquetball… then asked me if I’d ever played it… said it was a lot of fun. He pointed out his car, a VW bug, metallic-brown in color.”
To Miss Graham’s surprise, the VW had neither a sailboat, nor a trailer to carry a sailboat attached to it. When she asked about this, the man responded, “Oh, it’s at my parent’s house, just up the hill.” At this, Graham shook her head no, and told Bundy she could not accompany him that far, she was meeting her boyfriend and parents at the lake shortly. At that, Bundy smiled and began to walk with her back towards the lake, “Thanks for coming with me, I should have told you it was not in the parking lot.” Above all, Janice Graham would remember how pleasant he was, “He was very polite, very sincere, and he did not get mad when I told him I would not go with him.”
Around 12:30 PM, after striking out with several other women, Bundy approached 23-year old Janice Ott, while she read a book on her towel next to the lake. Two feet behind Janice Ott, 15-year old Sylvia Valint reclined on a blanket, and in order to pass the time while her skin soaked up the sun’s rays she listened in on the conversation, as 15-year old girls do, perhaps thinking the young man approaching the blonde in front of her was about to be amusingly turned-down.
“This guy came up to her. He is about 5’6, 5’7, medium build, blondish-brown hair to his neck, parted to the side, had a dark tan, arm in a sling. The cast started at the wrist and bent around the elbow. He had on white tennis shoes, white socks, white shorts, and a white t-shirt. He said ‘Excuse me, could you help me put my sailboat on my car because I can’t do it myself because my arm is broke.’ She said, ‘Well sit down and let’s talk about it… where’s the boat?’ He said, ‘It’s up at my parents’ house in Iassaquah.’ She said, ‘Oh really, I live up in Issaquah… Well, ok.’ Then she stood up and put her clothes on. She picked up her bike and said, ‘Under one condition, that I get to ride in the sailboat.’ He said, ‘My car is in the parking lot.’ Then she said something like, ‘Well, I get to meet your parents then.’ She told him her name was Jan. He introduced himself as Ted.”
Newly wed to Mr. James Ott who was away attending medical school, Janice Ott was living and working as a probation officer in Seattle. On July 14th, Ott spent most of her morning doing laundry at the Laundromat across the street from her apartment, then getting coffee with a friend of hers who worked there and was just getting off the night shift. Her friend remembers her mostly talking about missing her husband James, and how the lake would hopefully ease her mind. After coffee, Ott left a note for her roommates on the door saying she would be at Lake Sammamish until around 4 PM or so. When she failed to return home that evening, the authorities were called.
Boldly, a little under 4 hours after the 15-year old witness Sylvia Valint told the police that Janice Ott got up and wheeled her bike after the man in the sling, Ted Bundy was back at Lake Sammamish searching for another victim. Deciding to, or perhaps needing to, abduct two women in the same day wouldn’t be the only change of routine that Bundy would undergo on this day. Apart from this not being a college campus, Lake Sammamish was incredibly crowded on July 14th, Ted Bundy literally stole these women out from under the noses of hundreds of people. This environment was a far cry from his normal stalking grounds- dark, shaded pathways, and dimly-lit streets in neighborhoods near Greek Life. Strange also was his brazen use of the name “Ted.” All five of the women, including Janice Graham reported to the police that the shaggy-haired man had introduced himself as “Ted” and “Ted” was also the name Miss Valint told the police the man has given to Janice Ott when he approached her by the lakeside. Two of the five witnesses who came forwarded that day reported that they had their encounters with “Ted” at 4:15 and 4:20 respectively, which would have been after Janice Ott’s abduction, and both women reported that the man seemed just the slightest bit edgy.
Bundy’s second victim that afternoon, Denise Naslund was an 18-year old computer programming student with a rebellious side. She was at Lake Sammamish that day with her boyfriend Kenneth, and two of their friends, another couple, Bob and Nancy. All four of them had been drinking since noon, and on the way to the park, each of them had taken 4 Valiums.
Around 4:40 PM, the Valium was wearing off, but hours of drinking in the sun had made Denise Naslund and her friends sleepy. While the other three napped, Denise got up off the blanket and walked away without saying anything to anyone. Her friend Nancy would later say she had assumed that Denise had gotten up to go to the bathroom. This would be the last time anyone would see her. At 9 PM that night, Denise Naslund’s boyfriend Kenneth, having given up searching for her at the park, would drive to Denise’s mother’s home, hoping to find her there. When her mother heard of her disappearance, she phoned the police, pointing out the fact that Denise would never have left her car in the Lake Sammamish parking lot, especially not since in the trunk were her purse with her wallet, two things she would need anywhere she went. The police, having already heard from Janice Ott’s loved ones, were confounded as to how two women could have vanished in the same day, from the same crowded park.
To one of his biographers, Stephen Michaud, Ted Bundy claimed that Janice Ott had still been alive when he had returned with Denise Naslund to whatever nearby locale he used for the actual killings, and that he had forced one to watch while the other was killed. However, in 1989, right before his execution, he revoked that detail, saying it was a lie.
Authorities felt that two women disappearing under such similar circumstances was too much to ignore, and began conducting interviews with everyone who contacted them saying they were at Lake Sammamish that day. They also requested that people send in copies of any photos they may have taken that day, in hopes of spotting one of the missing women. In this manner, they learned of the man with the sling on his arm, who approached at least 5 other women on July 14th, and introduced himself as “Ted.” At least one of the 5 women who came forward mentioned to police the odd way in which Bundy pronounced some words, she described him as using a “British-sounding accent.” Through the interview with Janice Graham, they learned that the man drove a tan, or brown Volkswagen bug, and with her information combined with the several other eye-witness testimonies, police were able to put together a sketch of their suspects face, and provide the public with a description of a tan, good-looking man with shaggy light-brown hair, and through the pictures that were sent in, they found a photo of what appeared to be a man sitting in a tan VW bug.
After the incidents at Lake Sammamish, it became clear to everyone who had a badge that not only were the cases connected, but the unknown suspect who was previously taking girls at the rate of about 1 per month, was escalating. However, while they had yet to leave a physical clue for the authorities to grasp at, investigators were of the opinion that the suspect could not continue to behave in such a way without slipping up eventually. While Lynda Ann Healy’s case was initially handled by the Seattle Police Department, Janice Ott and Denise Naslund’s disappearances were handled by Issaquah Police, and all others were mostly handled by the King County Police Department. Eventually, due to various factors involving the preparedness necessary to handle an investigation of this size, all cases were handed over to the King County PD. The detective put on lead was Detective Robert D. Keppel.
Now retired, in 1974 Detective Keppel was a young and fairly new-hire for the King County Police Department. Just one week after being hired as a homicide detective, Keppel had his first encounter with the Bundy case, at the time called the “Ted Murders” due to the information learned at Lake Sammamish. After he and his partner were assigned the case, they launched directly into re-interviewing the witnesses from Lake Sammamish:
“We began to interview witnesses, and we were struck by the meticulousness of their recall. They remembered his gait, his manner of speaking and what he was wearing. And, of course, his first name. The only thing we didn’t have was a clue a to what happened to the two girls.”
Keppel says it was at this time that he became convinced that the same suspect was responsible for the attacks on the college co-eds and the missing girls from Lake Sammamish:
“…at Lake Sammamish… the ruse that was used there putting an arm in a sling and trying to have somebody help you with your sailboat…. that was similar to another ruse that was reported by two people (on the University of Central Washington campus) who had actually helped a guy on crutches who had dropped his books outside a library. He had asked them to help him carry the books to his car but, for some reason, they were able to escape what they felt was a dangerous situation. That was the one connection that made the lake victims look really close to the one victim at Central.”
As the details regarding the “Ted” murders began to reach the general public, Liz Kloepfer’s worried thoughts changed from questions of Ted’s fidelity to ones of a more disturbing nature. The media reports of the “Ted” suspected in the co-ed disappearances sounded eerily like her Ted, and that wasn’t all, the description of their cars matched perfectly. To top it all off, a co-worker of Liz’s showed her a newspaper article one afternoon which detailed the Lake Sammamish disappearances and the suspect “Ted”. Her co-worker had underlined the description of the suspects car and asked, “Doesn’t your Ted drive a VW?” Although the comment came off as a jest, the words troubled her nonetheless.
Sometime towards the end of July, at her friends urging, Liz called the police anonymously and reported her long-time boyfriend. She gave very little information regarding Bundy, and her tip was only one of hundreds pouring in at the time. Though Liz Kloepfer would eventually contact the authorities two more times, the first person Detective Keppel heard from was actually one of Bundy’s psychology professors from the University of Puget Sound. Bundy had stopped attending classes, however, he had made an impression on this professor and shortly after the Lake Sammamish description was released, he contacted the police with Bundy’s name, saying the following: “I have a weird guy in my class who drives a Volkswagen and who matches the composite drawing from your office.” Also that July, an anonymous call was made to Keppel’s team providing them with the make, model, and tag number to Bundy’s Volkswagen.
The case was almost broken wide open just 48 hours after the Lake Sammamish event, on July 16th, when a State Highway employee pulled off to the side on an old logging road to eat his lunch and smelled the scent of rotting flesh. The employee exited his vehicle and saw just a few yards away what he took to be the body of a deer, having died at least a day or two ago. Never imagining that the corpses was actually that of one of the two missing girls from Lake Sam, Denise Naslund or Janice Ott, the Highway employee returned to his truck, and drove away from the foul stench, only thinking of it again several months later.
Even though the police had now been provided Bundy’s name, his was just one of hundreds of “Ted” variations being submitted in the wake of the Lake Sammamish news coverage and without a criminal background, he was easily overlooked. Still, an avid follower of the news and especially the investigation of the missing co-eds, it can be assumed Ted was relieved to be leaving Washington and heading to Utah for a new start in a fresh area.
In August Bundy received his admissions letter from the University of Utah and on September 2nd, Labor Day of that year, he kissed Liz and Tina goodbye and took off in his tan VW towards the unsuspecting state of Utah. On his way to Utah, Bundy drove through Boise, Idaho where he claims he picked up a young hitchhiker wearing a green back pack. In an interview with authorities 14 years later, Bundy described how he drove with the 16-18 year old for two to three hours before taking a side road off the highway, attacking her with a crowbar, raping her, killing her, and dumping her body in the nearby river, possibly the Boise or Snake Rivers in Idaho. Although he could describe the series of events in detail, Ted Bundy was unable to recall a name or anything else about the young girl, other than that she had light brown hair. The hitchhiker was never identified and many investigators believe Bundy may have made up this story, in a last desperate attempt to stall before his eventual execution, hoping the police would take more time trying to find out who she was.
In the early morning hours of September 3rd, 1974, Ted Bundy arrived at his new home – a room rented on the second floor of 565 First Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah. Seven blocks from a cemetery, eight blocks from a hospital, and more tellingly, just 12 blocks from the University of Utah campus – Bundy’s new home was perfect for him, and he called Liz around 3 AM, just after arriving, to tell her so. After all, with her frequent trips home to visit her parents and look for housing options, she had been instrumental in helping him get there.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, more evidence of Bundy’s dirty work was about to rear it’s ugly head. On September 7th, a hunter named Elzie Hammons and his neighbor were grouse hunting along an old logging road off of Interstate 90 just about 10 miles from Lake Sammamish, when Elzie discovered parts of a skeleton, with a human skull detached and laying nearby. This was the same spot where the Highway Employee had parked and found what he thought was a deer corpse. The neighbors hurried back to where they had parked their truck, and found a group of teenagers target shooting. Seeing their startled looks, the teens asked what the matter was, and then had the two hunters half-convinced it had just been animal bones until they all decided to walk back to the location together. When they returned to the area, Hammons pointed out the skull and also stated that they found a “clump of long black hair. It looked fresh and shiny… about two feet long.” After that, the authorities were contacted. The hair was eventually determined to be Denise Naslunds, and along with her remains were those of Janice Ott and a third unknown victim. Although for many years the third victim would remain unidentified, Bundy would eventually admit to Detective Keppel that they were the bones of Georgann Hawkins, the co-ed who had tragically confused him for her Spanish tutor.
The animals of the Washington wilderness had spread the remains of the three girls over a wide area, still, over 400 separate pieces of evidence, from bone fragments to pieces of clothing, were recovered from the Issaquah crime scene. Authorities were no nearer to catching the culprit, but the discoveries on September 7th did at least put to rest all doubts that these women were running away or disappearing on purpose.
The Utah Spree Begins
While investigators continued their frantic search for their “Ted” suspect in Washington, Ted Bundy was setting up his life in Utah, and beginning his first semester at the University of Utah Law School. Although he had convinced his girlfriend Liz Kloepfer that moving to Utah was the start of the new him, one which would attend classes regularly and strive to do well in them, Bundy only ended up making it to class a handful of times his first semester. Due largely in part to the fact that starting towards the end of September that year, he began hunting for ideal locations and victims to fulfill his base desires. Exhilarated, feeling that he had escaped the net closing in around him in Washington, Bundy accelerated the rate at which he was taking his victims, claiming a total of 4 women in a less than 6-week-long period from the end of September through November 8th.
With blondish-brown hair that she wore parted down the middle, sixteen-year-old cheerleader Nancy Wilcox was Bundy’s ideal type. It was dangerous for her to walk alone as the sun was setting when Bundy was prowling so near, but she could not have possibly known this. The much-talked-about “Ted Murders” in Washington, were nowhere on the radar in Utah. In the late evening hours of Oct. 2nd, 1974, Nancy Wilcox left her home in Holladay, a small town just outside of Salt Lake City, to walk to the store for a pack of gum.
Years later, after his arrest, Ted Bundy described the night he encountered Nancy Wilcox, claiming that he hadn’t planned on killing her. After spotting her walking on the street, Bundy decided to rape her, but, having “turned over a new leaf” he thought it wouldn’t be necessary to kill her. He parked his car, grabbed a knife from his glove compartment, and ran up behind the young girl. After forcing her into a nearby orchard, Bundy tried to remove Nancy Wilcox’s clothes, but she struggled, arguing with him, pleading with him. When putting his hand over her mouth didn’t stop the noise, Bundy choked the girl, again claiming he was only trying to incapacitate her. Once Nancy was silent, Bundy admits to raping her before leaving the orchard, still (according to him) unsure as to whether he had killed the girl or simply knocked her out.
Bundy’s story regarding Nancy Wilcox has it’s critics, however, including Ann Rule who points out that Bundy, having returned to his dump sites many times to spend time with and violate the corpses he left there, should have known immediately once he had killed the girl. Regardless of whether he knew when he originally left the orchard, Bundy definitely knew the girl was dead when he returned a few hours later and moved her body. For nearly 14 years Nancy Wilcox was classified as a runaway, until one day after his arrest, Bundy recounted the story above (in third person) to a crime writer. Her body was never found.
Approximately 12 miles South of Salt Lake City lies the town of Midvale, Utah. Their town slogan is “…in the middle of everything”, a play off of the fact that they lie directly in the center of Salt Lake County. Several scenes from the movie The Sandlot were shot in Midvale, and the town has produced four NFL players. Mr. Louis Smith was elected Chief of Police in 1959, and by October of 1974 he was a dedicated and seasoned professional.
Chief Smith was a hard working man who loved his job, in fact, he liked to call himself a “working-chief”- serving as a detective, crossing guard, patrolman, and chief – until 1972 when his superiors forced him to hang up his uniform and become the “administrator” the Police Chief is meant to be. Chief Smith loved his city. His family has been a part of Midvale history stretching back generations, his grandfather had been mayor and his father had been town marshal. With his dream job, in his dream city, came the dream family – Chief Smith and his wife, Joan, were the parents to two beautiful daughters – Melissa, the eldest, and her younger sister Jolene.
Melissa Smith’s hazel eyes were set off by her dark auburn hair, which she kept parted down the middle. She was remarkably pretty, destined to draw attention, and so Chief Smith had taught her rigorously about the dangers of the world. No strangers. No hitchhiking. No walking alone at night.
And yet, that is exactly what Melissa was doing the night of October 18th, 1974 when Ted Bundy first laid eyes on her.
After a much anticipated sleepover was canceled, a good friend called Melissa and asked to meet at a local restaurant, Pepperoni Pizza Place. She agreed, and when her ride for the night never showed up, she set out on foot. Melissa arrived at the restaurant unharmed, and around 9:00 PM that night she called her home where she spoke with her sister Jolene and said she would be home around 10 o’clock. Around 10:15 PM that night, near the grounds of a Midvale Middle School, which Melissa would have had to pass had she walked home, a woman outside raking leaves heard a scream. Melissa Smith never returned home.
Nine days later, on the afternoon of October 27th, two deer hunters found the nude body of a young female on a hillside in Summit County, Utah – she was wearing a beaded necklace and had a navy blue sock was wrapped tightly around her throat. The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene shortly thereafter and, though they did not know it at the time, they were examining the body of Melissa Smith, daughter of a colleague – Midvale Police Chief, Louis Smith.
The forensic experts determined Melissa had been dead no more than 72 hours. Her killer had washed her hair, painted her nails, and touched up her make-up. Melissa’s sister Jolene later told authorities that the make-up they found on Melissa’s face did not match any make-up that Melissa owned. Once the identification was made, the date of Melissa’s disappearance and the discovery of her body were compared and it was determined that her killer had kept her with him for no less than five days. Though some suspect Bundy did the same thing with Nancy Wilcox after he returned to the orchard to move her body, this was the first confirmed departure from his normal m.o. Rather than abduct Melissa and kill her shortly thereafter, he elected to take her, alive, to a third location and treat her almost as a doll.
It is suspected that Melissa was unconscious for the entire duration of her captivity. When her body was found, the detective examining her described her head as having undergone “obvious blunt force trauma”. He went on to describe what appeared to be a “bullet wound of contact” about six inches above her top vertebrae. Later, after the autopsy, it would be made clear that this was no bullet wound, just very severe blunt force trauma to the head – more than likely the killing blow.
In an interview given by Chief Louis Smith many years later, he stated that the murder of his daughter ruined his life. His dark hair turned gray almost overnight, and his wife inexplicably lost all hearing after his Melissa’s body was found. Bundy, who had moved to Utah claiming to “turn over a new leaf”, had now murdered two girls in the span of four weeks, and he was not yet finished for the month.