Ted Bundy was a master of deception who used his moviestar looks, glib tongue and wily ways to prey on pretty young women, charming them into a false sense of security — before brutally raping and slaughtering them.
The onetime law school student and aspiring politician’s veneer of normalcy was so convincing that former Washington governor Dan Evans appointed him to the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Committee. Bundy was even being groomed for public office by the state’s Republican Party.
Little did anyone realize that he had too many skeletons in his closet — literally — to ever get elected to anything. The charismatic killer had an aberrant life from the time he was born to an unwed mother and raised as her little brother by her ashamed parents. He exhibited a fascination with knives by age 3 and was a peeping Tom and petty thief as a teen.
But the shy, creepy kid blossomed into an outgoing hunk in the late 1960s. He attended the University of Washington, where he fell madly in love with a wealthy student from California. She dumped him just about the time he found out that his big sister was really his mother — and the double-whammy may have been what pushed him over the edge.
During this period, women around Seattle and nearby Oregon — some who’d last been seen with a dark haired guy named Ted — began disappearing. They tended to look like Bundy’s recent ex: attractive and thin, with long hair parted in the middle. He lured some into his car by pretending to be hurt and needing help, a ruse he used over and over.
When Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to start law school in 1974, women began to mysteriously vanish from that area, too. One would-be victim, Carol DaRonch, was attacked by a man who claimed to be a cop in a mall, but escaped. In August 1975, she identified Bundy as her assailant after he was picked up for a driving violation and police found suspicious items in the car — including handcuffs, a crowbar, and panty hose with eyeholes cut out.
Bundy couldn’t charm his way out of his February 1976 conviction for that attempted kidnapping; meanwhile, cops began suspecting him of being responsible for a tristate murder spree the previous year. While serving time in the DaRonch case, Bundy lost 30 pounds and was able to squeeze through a hole he’d made in the ceiling of his prison cell and escape. No one realized he was missing for 17 hours, and he managed to make his way to Tallahassee, FL.
There, he rented an apartment near the Florida State University campus under the name Chris Hagen, and bought groceries and paid bar tabs with stolen credit cards. In the early morning hours of Jan. 15, 1978, Bundy unleashed the full extent of his homicidal fury in the Chi Omega sorority house. He brutally raped and killed one woman — biting her so savagely that one of her nipples was nearly detached from her body. He killed another coed and bludgeoned two others who managed to escape death when a roommate came home and interrupted the killer.
That night Bundy attacked yet another woman in a car, and the next month he kidnapped, murdered and mutilated a 12-year-old girl, Kimberly Leach. His reign of terror finally ended when he was arrested in Pensacola, FL, driving a stolen car. Eyewitnesses placed him at Kimberly’s school, and physical evidence — including the horrific bite wounds — tied him to the sorority-house murders.
The pretty-boy predator went on trial for the sorority murders in June 1979. Bundy served as his own attorney, and the media ate up his performance in the televised proceedings. But, in the end, he was convicted and received two death sentences. He was later given a third death sentence for the slaying of Kimberly Leach.
Though Bundy eventually admitted to killing more than 30 women, authorities believe the number may be as high as 100. The onetime law school student fought desperately for his life by appealing his death sentences time and again. Meanwhile, his sensational case spawned several books and films, including The Deliberate Stranger, a TV movie starring Mark Harmon as the remorseless monster.
The deadly Don Juan’s time finally ran out on Jan. 24, 1989, when he fried in Florida’s “Old Sparky” electric chair at the age of 42. “Most sociopaths never admit they’re evil at all,” says John Henry Browne, who once served as Bundy’s defense attorney. “Ted really knew he was evil… believe me, really evil.”