Sunday Nov 24, 1946 to Tuesday Jan 24, 1989
U.S.Theodore Robert Bundy was an American serial killer who kidnapped, raped, and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. After more than a decade of denials, before his execution in 1989 he confessed to 30 homicides that he committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978. The true number of victims is believed to be higher.
Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, to Eleanor Louise Cowell (1924–2012; known as Louise) at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. His birth certificate is said to assign paternity to a salesman and Air Force veteran named Lloyd Marshall, though other accounts state his father is listed as "Unknown". Louise claimed she had been seduced by an old-money war veteran named Jack Worthington, and the King County Sheriff's Office has him listed as the father in their files. Some family members have expressed suspicions that Bundy might have been fathered by Louise's own violent, abusive father, Samuel Cowell, but no material evidence has ever been cited to support this.
For the first three years of his life, Bundy lived in the Philadelphia home of his maternal grandparents, Samuel (1898–1983) and Eleanor Cowell (1895–1971), who raised him as their son to avoid the social stigma that accompanied birth outside of wedlock.
In early 1968 Ted dropped out of college and worked at a series of minimum-wage jobs. He also volunteered at the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller's presidential campaign and became Arthur Fletcher's driver and bodyguard during Fletcher's campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Washington State.
Bundy was back in Washington by the fall of 1969 when he met Elizabeth Kloepfer (identified in Bundy literature as Meg Anders, Beth Archer, or Liz Kendall), a divorcée from Ogden, Utah who worked as a secretary at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Their stormy relationship would continue well past his initial incarceration in Utah in 1976.
In 1971, Ted took a job at Seattle's Suicide Hotline Crisis Center, where he met and worked alongside Ann Rule, a former Seattle police officer. An aspiring crime writer, she would later write one of the definitive Bundy biographies, The Stranger Beside Me. Rule saw nothing disturbing in Bundy's personality at the time, and described him as "kind, solicitous, and empathetic".
After graduating from UW in 1972, Bundy joined Governor Daniel J. Evans' re-election campaign. Posing as a college student, he shadowed Evans' opponent, former governor Albert Rosellini, and recorded his stump speeches for analysis by Evans' team. Evans appointed Bundy to the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Committee. After Evans was re-elected, Bundy was hired as an assistant to Ross Davis, Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. Davis thought well of Bundy and described him as "smart, aggressive ... and a believer in the system".
During a trip to California on Republican Party business in the summer of 1973, Bundy rekindled his relationship with Brooks. She marveled at his transformation into a serious, dedicated professional who was seemingly on the cusp of a legal and political career. He continued to date Kloepfer as well; neither woman was aware of the other's existence.
In January 1974, however, Ted abruptly broke off all contact. Her phone calls and letters went unreturned. Finally reaching him by phone a month later, Brooks demanded to know why Bundy had unilaterally ended their relationship without explanation. In a flat, calm voice, he replied, "Stephanie, I have no idea what you mean" and hung up. She never heard from him again. He later explained, "I just wanted to prove to myself that I could have married her". Brooks concluded in retrospect that he had deliberately planned the entire courtship and rejection in advance as vengeance for the breakup she initiated in 1968.
Shortly after midnight on January 4, 1974 (around the time that he terminated his relationship with Brooks), Bundy entered the basement apartment of 18-year-old Karen Sparks (identified as Joni Lenz, Mary Adams, and Terri Caldwell by various sources), a dancer and student at UW. After bludgeoning Sparks senseless with a metal rod from her bed frame, he sexually assaulted her with either the same rod, or a metal speculum, causing extensive internal injuries. She remained unconscious for 10 days, but survived with permanent physical and mental disabilities.
In the early morning hours of February 1, Bundy broke into the basement room of Lynda Ann Healy, a UW undergraduate who broadcast morning radio weather reports for skiers. He beat her unconscious, dressed her in blue jeans, a white blouse, and boots, and carried her away.
During the first half of 1974, female college students disappeared at the rate of about one per month. On March 12, Donna Gail Manson, a 19-year-old student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, 60 miles (95 km) southwest of Seattle, left her dormitory to attend a jazz concert on campus but never arrived.
On April 17, Susan Elaine Rancourt disappeared while on her way to her dorm room after an evening advisors' meeting at Central Washington State College in Ellensburg, 110 miles (175 km) east-southeast of Seattle. Two female Central Washington students later came forward to report encounters—one on the night of Rancourt's disappearance, the other three nights earlier—with a man wearing an arm sling, asking for help carrying a load of books to his brown or tan Volkswagen Beetle.
Bundy was working in Olympia as the Assistant Director of the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission (where he wrote a pamphlet for women on rape prevention). Later, he worked at the Department of Emergency Services (DES), a state government agency involved in the search for the missing women. At DES he met and dated Carole Ann Boone, a twice-divorced mother of two who, six years later, would play an important role in the final phase of his life.
In the early hours of June 11, UW student Georgann Hawkins vanished while walking down a brightly lit alley between her boyfriend's dormitory residence and her sorority house. The next morning, three Seattle homicide detectives and a criminalist combed the entire alleyway on their hands and knees, finding nothing. After Hawkins' disappearance was publicized, witnesses came forward to report seeing a man that night who was in an alley behind a nearby dormitory. He was on crutches with a leg cast and was struggling to carry a briefcase. One woman recalled that the man asked her to help him carry the case to his car, a light brown Volkswagen Beetle.
The Pacific Northwest murders culminated on July 14, with the broad daylight abductions of two women from a crowded beach at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, a suburb 20 miles (30 km) east of Seattle. Five female witnesses described an attractive young man wearing a white tennis outfit with his left arm in a sling, speaking with a light accent, perhaps Canadian or British. Introducing himself as "Ted," he asked their help in unloading a sailboat from his tan or bronze-colored Volkswagen Beetle. Four refused; one accompanied him as far as his car, saw that there was no sailboat, and fled. Three additional witnesses saw him approach Janice Anne Ott, 23, a probation caseworker at the King County Juvenile Court, with the sailboat story, and watched her leave the beach in his company. About four hours later, Denise Marie Naslund, a 19-year-old woman who was studying to become a computer programmer, left a picnic to go to the restroom and never returned. Bundy told both Stephen Michaud and William Hagmaier that Ott was still alive when he returned with Naslund—and that he forced one to watch as he murdered the other—but he later denied it in an interview with Lewis on the eve of his execution.
In August 1974, Bundy received a second acceptance from the University of Utah Law School and moved to Salt Lake City, leaving Kloepfer in Seattle. While he called Kloepfer often, he dated "at least a dozen" other women.
King County police, finally armed with a detailed description of their suspect and his car, posted fliers throughout the Seattle area. A composite sketch was printed in regional newspapers and broadcast on local television stations. Elizabeth Kloepfer, Ann Rule, a DES employee, and a UW psychology professor all recognized the profile, the sketch, and the car, and reported Bundy as a possible suspect; but detectives—who were receiving up to 200 tips per day—thought it unlikely that a clean-cut law student with no adult criminal record could be the perpetrator.
A new string of homicides began the following month, including two that would remain undiscovered until Bundy confessed to them shortly before his execution. On September 2, Bundy raped and strangled a still-unidentified hitchhiker in Idaho, then either disposed of the remains immediately in a nearby river, or returned the next day to photograph and dismember the corpse.
On September 6, two grouse hunters stumbled across the skeletal remains of Ott and Naslund near a service road in Issaquah, 2 miles (3 km) east of Lake Sammamish State Park. An extra femur and several vertebrae found at the site were later identified by Bundy as Georgann Hawkins'.
On October 18, Melissa Anne Smith—the 17-year-old daughter of the police chief of Midvale (another Salt Lake City suburb)—disappeared after leaving a pizza parlor. Her nude body was found in a nearby mountainous area nine days later. Postmortem examination indicated that she may have remained alive for up to seven days following her disappearance.
On October 31, Laura Ann Aime, also 17 years old girl, disappeared 25 miles (40 km) south in Lehi after leaving a café just after midnight. Her naked body was found by hikers 9 miles (14 km) to the northeast in American Fork Canyon on Thanksgiving Day.
In November, Elizabeth Kloepfer called King County police a second time after reading that young women were disappearing in towns surrounding Salt Lake City. Detective Randy Hergesheimer of the Major Crimes division interviewed her in detail. By then, Bundy had risen considerably on the King County hierarchy of suspicion, but the Lake Sammamish witness considered most reliable by detectives failed to identify him from a photo lineup.
In the late afternoon of November 8, Bundy approached 18-year-old telephone operator Carol DaRonch at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, less than a mile from the Midvale restaurant where Melissa Smith was last seen. He identified himself as "Officer Roseland" of the Murray Police Department and told DaRonch that someone had attempted to break into her car. He asked her to accompany him to the station to file a complaint. When DaRonch pointed out to Bundy that he was driving on a road that did not lead to the police station, he immediately pulled to the shoulder and attempted to handcuff her. During their struggle, he inadvertently fastened both handcuffs to the same wrist, and DaRonch was able to open the car door and escape.
Later that evening (8 November), Debra Jean Kent, a 17-year-old student at Viewmont High School in Bountiful, 20 miles (30 km) north of Murray, disappeared after leaving a theater production at the school to pick up her brother. The school's drama teacher and a student told police that "a stranger" had asked each of them to come out to the parking lot to identify a car. Another student later saw the same man pacing in the rear of the auditorium, and the drama teacher spotted him again shortly before the end of the play. Outside the auditorium, investigators found a key that unlocked the handcuffs removed from Carol DaRonch's wrist.
In December, Kloepfer called the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and repeated her suspicions. Bundy's name was added to their list of suspects, but at that time no credible forensic evidence linked him to the Utah crimes.
In January 1975, Bundy returned to Seattle after his final exams and spent a week with Kloepfer, who did not tell him that she had reported him to police on three occasions. She made plans to visit him in Salt Lake City in August.
In 1975, Bundy shifted much of his criminal activity eastward, from his base in Utah to Colorado. On January 12, a 23-year-old registered nurse named Caryn Eileen Campbell disappeared while walking down a well-lit hallway between the elevator and her room at the Wildwood Inn (now the Wildwood Lodge) in Snowmass Village, 400 miles (640 km) southeast of Salt Lake City. Her nude body was found a month later next to a dirt road just outside the resort. She had been killed by blows to her head from a blunt instrument that left distinctive linear grooved depressions on her skull; her body also bore deep cuts from a sharp weapon.
On March 15, 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Snowmass, Vail ski instructor Julie Cunningham, 26 years old, disappeared while walking from her apartment to a dinner date with a friend. Bundy later told Colorado investigators that he approached Cunningham on crutches and asked her to help carry his ski boots to his car, where he clubbed and handcuffed her, then assaulted and strangled her at a secondary site near Rifle, 90 miles (140 km) west of Vail. Weeks later, he made the six-hour drive from Salt Lake City to revisit her remains.
On May 6, Bundy lured 12-year-old Lynette Dawn Culver from Alameda Junior High School in Pocatello, Idaho, 160 miles (255 km) north of Salt Lake City. He drowned and then sexually assaulted her in his hotel room, before disposing of her body in a river north of Pocatello.
Bundy subsequently spent a week in Seattle with Kloepfer in early June and they discussed getting married the following Christmas. Again, Kloepfer made no mention of her multiple discussions with the King County Police and Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. Bundy disclosed neither his ongoing relationship with Boone nor a concurrent romance with a Utah law student known in various accounts as Kim Andrews or Sharon Auer.
On June 28, Susan Curtis vanished from the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, 45 miles (70 km) south of Salt Lake City. Curtis' murder became Bundy's last confession, tape-recorded moments before he entered the execution chamber. The bodies of Wilcox, Kent, Cunningham, Oliverson, Culver, and Curtis were never recovered.
On August 16, 1975, Bundy was arrested by Utah Highway Patrol officer Bob Hayward in Granger (another Salt Lake City suburb). The police did not have sufficient evidence to detain Bundy, and he was released on his own recognizance. Bundy later said that searchers missed a hidden collection of Polaroid photographs of his victims, which he destroyed after he was released.
In Washington state, investigators were still struggling to analyze the Pacific Northwest murder spree that had ended as abruptly as it had begun. In an effort to make sense of an overwhelming mass of data, they resorted to the then-innovative strategy of compiling a database. They used the King County payroll computer, a "huge, primitive machine" by contemporary standards, but the only one available for their use. After inputting the many lists they had compiled—classmates and acquaintances of each victim, Volkswagen owners named "Ted", known sex offenders, and so on—they queried the computer for coincidences. Out of thousands of names, 26 turned up on four lists; one was Ted Bundy. Detectives also manually compiled a list of their 100 "best" suspects, and Bundy was on that list as well. He was "literally at the top of the pile" of suspects when word came from Utah of his arrest.
Salt Lake City police placed Bundy on 24-hour surveillance, and Thompson flew to Seattle with two other detectives to interview Kloepfer. She told them that in the year prior to Bundy's move to Utah, she had discovered objects that she "couldn't understand" in her house and in Bundy's apartment. These items included crutches, a bag of plaster of Paris that he admitted stealing from a medical supply house, and a meat cleaver that was never used for cooking. Additional objects included surgical gloves, an Oriental knife in a wooden case that he kept in his glove compartment, and a sack full of women's clothing. Bundy was perpetually in debt, and Kloepfer suspected that he had stolen almost everything of significant value that he possessed. When she confronted him over a new TV and stereo, he warned her, "If you tell anyone, I'll break your fucking neck." She said Bundy became "very upset" whenever she considered cutting her hair, which was long and parted in the middle. She would sometimes awaken in the middle of the night to find him under the bed covers with a flashlight, examining her body. He kept a lug wrench, taped halfway up the handle, in the trunk of her car—another Volkswagen Beetle, which he often borrowed—"for protection". The detectives confirmed that Bundy had not been with Kloepfer on any of the nights during which the Pacific Northwest victims had vanished, nor on the day Ott and Naslund were abducted. Shortly thereafter, Kloepfer was interviewed by Seattle homicide detective Kathy McChesney, and learned of the existence of Stephanie Brooks and her brief engagement to Bundy around Christmas 1973.
In August or September 1975, Bundy was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although he was not an active participant in services and ignored most church restrictions. He would later be excommunicated by the LDS Church following his 1976 kidnapping conviction. When asked about his religious preference after his arrest, Bundy answered "Methodist", the religion of his childhood.
In September, Bundy sold his Volkswagen Beetle to a Midvale teenager. Utah police impounded it, and FBI technicians dismantled and searched it. They found hair matching samples obtained from Caryn Campbell's body. Later, they also identified hair strands "microscopically indistinguishable" from those of Melissa Smith and Carol DaRonch. FBI lab specialist Robert Neill concluded that the presence of hair strands in one car matching three different victims who had never met one another would be "a coincidence of mind-boggling rarity".
On October 2, detectives put Bundy into a lineup. DaRonch immediately identified him as "Officer Roseland", and witnesses from Bountiful recognized him as the stranger at the high school auditorium. There was insufficient evidence to link him to Debra Kent (whose body was never found, though a skeletal fragment found near the school was later identified as Kent's by DNA analysis). There was more than enough evidence to charge him with aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault in the DaRonch case. He was freed on $15,000 bail, paid by his parents, and spent most of the time between indictment and trial in Seattle, living in Kloepfer's house. Seattle police had insufficient evidence to charge him in the Pacific Northwest murders but kept him under close surveillance. "When Ted and I stepped out on the porch to go somewhere," Kloepfer wrote, "so many unmarked police cars started up that it sounded like the beginning of the Indy 500."
In November, the three principal Bundy investigators—Jerry Thompson from Utah, Robert Keppel from Washington, and Michael Fisher from Colorado—met in Aspen, Colorado and exchanged information with 30 detectives and prosecutors from five states.
In February 1976, Bundy stood trial for the DaRonch kidnapping. On the advice of his attorney, John O'Connell, Bundy waived his right to a jury due to the negative publicity surrounding the case. After a four-day bench trial and a weekend of deliberation, Judge Stewart Hanson Jr. found him guilty of kidnapping and assault.
On June 10, Ted broke into a camping trailer on Maroon Lake, 10 miles (16 km) south of Aspen, taking food and a ski parka; but instead of continuing southward, he walked back north toward Aspen, eluding roadblocks and search parties along the way.
Bundy stole a car at the edge of Aspen Golf Course. Cold, sleep-deprived, and in constant pain from his sprained ankle, he drove back into Aspen, where two police officers noticed his car weaving in and out of its lane and pulled him over. He had been a fugitive for six days.
On June 7, 1977, Bundy was transported 40 miles (64 km) from the Garfield County jail in Glenwood Springs to Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen for a preliminary hearing. He had elected to serve as his own attorney, and as such, was excused by the judge from wearing handcuffs or leg shackles. During a recess, he asked to visit the courthouse's law library to research his case. While shielded from his guards' view behind a bookcase, he opened a window and jumped to the ground from the second story, injuring his right ankle as he landed. After shedding an outer layer of clothing, he walked through Aspen as roadblocks were being set up on its outskirts, then hiked southward onto Aspen Mountain. Near its summit he broke into a hunting cabin and stole food, clothing, and a rifle. The following day he left the cabin and continued south toward the town of Crested Butte, but became lost in the forest. For two days he wandered aimlessly on the mountain, missing two trails that led downward to his intended destination.
Back in jail in Glenwood Springs, Bundy ignored the advice of friends and legal advisors to stay put. The case against him, already weak at best, was deteriorating steadily as pretrial motions consistently resolved in his favor and significant bits of evidence were ruled inadmissible. "A more rational defendant might have realized that he stood a good chance of acquittal, and that beating the murder charge in Colorado would probably have dissuaded other prosecutors... with as little as a year and a half to serve on the DaRonch conviction, had Ted persevered, he could have been a free man." Instead, Bundy assembled a new escape plan. He acquired a detailed floor plan of the jail and a hacksaw blade from other inmates, and accumulated $500 in cash, smuggled in over a six-month period, he later said, by visitors—Carole Ann Boone in particular. During the evenings, while other prisoners were showering, he sawed a hole about one square foot (0.093 m²) between the steel reinforcing bars in his cell's ceiling and, having lost 35 pounds (16 kg), was able to wriggle through it into the crawl space above. In the weeks that followed, he made a series of practice runs, exploring the space. Multiple reports from an informant of movement within the ceiling during the night were not investigated.
On the night of December 30, with most of the jail staff on Christmas break and nonviolent prisoners on furlough with their families, Bundy piled books and files in his bed, covered them with a blanket to simulate his sleeping body, and climbed into the crawl space. He broke through the ceiling into the apartment of the chief jailer—who was out for the evening with his wife—changed into street clothes from the jailer's closet, and walked out the front door to freedom.
After stealing a car, Bundy drove eastward out of Glenwood Springs, but the car soon broke down in the mountains on Interstate 70. A passing motorist gave him a ride into Vail, 60 miles (97 km) to the east. From there he caught a bus to Denver, where he boarded a morning flight to Chicago. In Glenwood Springs, the jail's skeleton crew did not discover the escape until noon on December 31, more than 17 hours later. By then, Bundy was already in Chicago.
Five days later, he stole a car and drove to Atlanta, where he boarded a bus and arrived in Tallahassee, Florida, on the morning of January 8. He rented a room under the alias Chris Hagen at the Holiday Inn near the Florida State University (FSU) campus.
Bundy later said that he initially resolved to find legitimate employment and refrain from further criminal activity, knowing he could probably remain free and undetected in Florida indefinitely as long as he did not attract the attention of police; but his lone job application, at a construction site, had to be abandoned when he was asked to produce identification. He reverted to his old habits of shoplifting and stealing credit cards from women's wallets left in shopping carts.
In an adjoining bedroom Ted attacked Kathy Kleiner, breaking her jaw and deeply lacerating her shoulder; and Karen Chandler, who suffered a concussion, broken jaw, loss of teeth, and a crushed finger. Chandler and Kleiner survived the attack; Kleiner later attributed their survival to automobile headlights illuminating the interior of their room and frightening away the attacker.
Tallahassee detectives later determined that the four attacks took place in a total of fewer than 15 minutes, within earshot of more than 30 witnesses who heard nothing. After leaving the sorority house, Bundy broke into a basement apartment eight blocks away and attacked FSU student Cheryl Thomas, dislocating her shoulder and fracturing her jaw and skull in five places. She was left with permanent deafness and equilibrium damage that ended her dance career. On Thomas' bed, police found a semen stain and a pantyhose "mask" containing two hairs "similar to Bundy's in class and characteristic".
On February 8, Bundy drove 150 miles (240 km) east to Jacksonville, in a stolen FSU van. In a parking lot, he approached 14-year-old Leslie Parmenter, the daughter of Jacksonville Police Department's Chief of Detectives, identifying himself as "Richard Burton, Fire Department", but retreated when Parmenter's older brother arrived and challenged him.
That afternoon, he backtracked 60 miles (97 km) westward to Lake City. At Lake City Junior High School the following morning, 12-year-old Kimberly Dianne Leach was summoned to her homeroom by a teacher to retrieve a forgotten purse; she never returned to class. Seven weeks later, after an intensive search, her partially mummified remains were found in a pig farrowing shed near Suwannee River State Park, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Lake City.
Three days later, at around 1:00 am, Ted was stopped by Pensacola police officer David Lee near the Alabama state line after a "wants and warrants" check showed his Volkswagen Beetle was stolen. When told he was under arrest, Bundy kicked Lee's legs out from under him and took off running. Lee fired a warning shot followed by a second round, gave chase, and tackled him. The two struggled over Lee's gun before the officer finally subdued and arrested Bundy.
Following a change of venue to Miami, Bundy stood trial for the Chi Omega homicides and assaults in June 1979. The trial was covered by 250 reporters from five continents and was the first to be televised nationally in the United States. Despite the presence of five court-appointed attorneys, Bundy again handled much of his own defense. From the beginning, he "sabotaged the entire defense effort out of spite, distrust, and grandiose delusion", Nelson later wrote. "Ted [was] facing murder charges, with a possible death sentence, and all that mattered to him apparently was that he be in charge". At trial, crucial testimony came from Chi Omega sorority members Connie Hastings, who placed Bundy in the vicinity of the Chi Omega House that evening, and Nita Neary, who saw him leaving the sorority house clutching the oak murder weapon. Incriminating physical evidence included impressions of the bite wounds Bundy had inflicted on Lisa Levy's left buttock, which forensic odonatologists Richard Souviron and Lowell Levine matched to castings of Bundy's teeth.
The jury deliberated for less than seven hours before convicting him on July 24, 1979, of the Bowman and Levy murders, three counts of attempted first-degree murder (for the assaults on Kleiner, Chandler, and Thomas), and two counts of burglary. Trial judge Edward Cowart imposed death sentences for the murder convictions.
Six months later, a second trial took place in Orlando, for the abduction and murder of Kimberly Leach. Bundy was found guilty once again, after less than eight hours' deliberation, due principally to the testimony of an eyewitness who saw him leading Leach from the schoolyard to his stolen van. Important material evidence included clothing fibers with an unusual manufacturing error, found in the van and on Leach's body, which matched fibers from the jacket Bundy was wearing when he was arrested. During the penalty phase of the trial, Bundy took advantage of an obscure Florida law providing that a marriage declaration in court, in the presence of a judge, constituted a legal marriage. As he was questioning former Washington State DES coworker Carole Ann Boone—who had moved to Florida to be near Bundy, had testified on his behalf during both trials, and was again testifying on his behalf as a character witness—he asked her to marry him. She accepted, and Bundy declared to the court that they were legally married.
On February 10, 1980, Bundy was sentenced for a third time to death by electrocution. As the sentence was announced, he reportedly stood and shouted, "Tell the jury they were wrong!" This third death sentence would be the one ultimately carried out nearly nine years later.
In October 1981, Boone gave birth to a daughter and named Bundy as the father. While conjugal visits were not allowed at Raiford Prison, inmates were known to pool their money in order to bribe guards to allow them intimate time alone with their female visitors.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Leach trial and the beginning of the long appeals process that followed, Bundy initiated a series of interviews with Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. Speaking mostly in the third person to avoid "the stigma of confession", he began for the first time to divulge details of his crimes and thought processes. He recounted his career as a thief, confirming Kloepfer's long-time suspicion that he had shoplifted virtually everything of substance that he owned. "The big payoff for me," he said, "was actually possessing whatever it was I had stolen. I really enjoyed having something ... that I had wanted and gone out and taken." Possession proved to be an important motive for rape and murder as well. Sexual assault, he said, fulfilled his need to "totally possess" his victims. At first, he killed his victims "as a matter of expediency ... to eliminate the possibility of [being] caught"; but later, murder became part of the "adventure". "The ultimate possession was, in fact, the taking of the life", he said. "And then ... the physical possession of the remains."
Bundy also confided in Special Agent William Hagmaier of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. Hagmaier was struck by the "deep, almost mystical satisfaction" that Bundy took in murder. "He said that after a while, murder is not just a crime of lust or violence", Hagmaier related. "It becomes a possession. They are part of you ... [the victim] becomes a part of you, and you [two] are forever one ... and the grounds where you kill them or leave them to become sacred to you, and you will always be drawn back to them." Bundy told Hagmaier that he considered himself to be an "amateur", an "impulsive" killer in his early years, before moving into what he termed his "prime" or "predator" phase at about the time of Lynda Healy's murder in 1974. This implied that he began killing well before 1974—although he never explicitly admitted to having done so.
In July 1984, Raiford guards found two hacksaw blades that Bundy had hidden in his cell. A steel bar in one of the cell's windows had been sawed completely through at the top and bottom and glued back into place with a homemade soap-based adhesive. Several months later, guards found an unauthorized mirror hidden in the cell, and Bundy was again moved to a different cell.
Shortly thereafter, he was charged with a disciplinary infraction for unauthorized correspondence with another high-profile criminal, John Hinckley Jr. In October 1984, Bundy contacted Robert Keppel and offered to share his self-proclaimed expertise in serial killer psychology in the ongoing hunt in Washington for the "Green River Killer", later identified as Gary Ridgway. Keppel and Green River Task Force detective Dave Reichert interviewed Bundy, but Ridgway remained at large for a further 17 years. Keppel published detailed documentation of the Green River interviews, and later collaborated with Michaud on another examination of the interview material. Bundy coined the nickname "The Riverman" for Gary Ridgway, which was later used for the title of Keppel's book, The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer.
In April, shortly after the new date (July 2) was announced, Bundy finally confessed to Hagmaier and Nelson what they believed was the full range of his depredations, including details of what he did to some of his victims after their deaths. He told them that he revisited Taylor Mountain, Issaquah, and other secondary crime scenes, often several times, to lie with his victims and perform sexual acts with their decomposing bodies until putrefaction forced him to stop. In some cases, he drove for several hours each way and remained the entire night. In Utah, he applied makeup to Melissa Smith's lifeless face, and he repeatedly washed Laura Aime's hair. "If you've got time," he told Hagmaier, "they can be anything you want them to be." He decapitated approximately 12 of his victims with a hacksaw and kept at least one group of severed heads—probably the four later found on Taylor Mountain (Rancourt, Parks, Ball, and Healy)—in his apartment for a period of time before disposing of them.
Less than 15 hours before the scheduled July 2 execution, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed it indefinitely and remanded the Chi Omega case for review on multiple technicalities—including Bundy's mental competency to stand trial, and an erroneous instruction by the trial judge during the penalty phase requiring the jury to break a 6–6 tie between life imprisonment and the death penalty—which, ultimately, were never resolved.
In mid-1988, the Eleventh Circuit ruled against Bundy, and in December the Supreme Court denied a motion to review the ruling. Within hours of that final denial, a firm execution date of January 24, 1989, was announced. Bundy's journey through the appeals courts had been unusually rapid for a capital murder case: "Contrary to popular belief, the courts moved Bundy as fast as they could ... Even the prosecutors acknowledged that Bundy's lawyers never employed delaying tactics. Though people everywhere seethed at the apparent delay in executing the archdemon, Ted Bundy was actually on the fast track".
With all appeal avenues exhausted and no further motivation to deny his crimes, Bundy agreed to speak frankly with investigators. He confessed to Keppel that he had committed all eight of the Washington and Oregon homicides for which he was the prime suspect. He described three additional previously unknown victims in Washington and two in Oregon whom he declined to identify (if indeed he ever knew their identities). He said he left a fifth corpse—Donna Manson's—on Taylor Mountain, but incinerated her head in Kloepfer's fireplace. ("Of all the things I did to [Kloepfer]," he told Keppel, "this is probably the one she is least likely to forgive me for. Poor Liz.") "He described the Issaquah crime scene [where the bones of Ott, Naslund, and Hawkins were found], and it was almost like he was just there", Keppel said. "Like he was seeing everything. He was infatuated with the idea because he spent so much time there. He is just totally consumed with murder all the time." Nelson's impressions were similar: "It was the absolute misogyny of his crimes that stunned me," she wrote, "his manifest rage against women. He had no compassion at all ... he was totally engrossed in the details. His murders were his life's accomplishments".
Bundy died in the Raiford electric chair at 7:16 a.m. EST on January 24, 1989. Hundreds of revelers sang, danced, and set off fireworks in a pasture across from the prison as the execution was carried out, then cheered as the white hearse containing Bundy's corpse departed the prison.