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Ted Bundy: One Of America's Most Notorious Killers

Ronan O'Shea

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Ted Bundy: One Of America's Most Notorious Killers

This week Zac Efron announced that he's set to play Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, a biopic of Ted Bundy, one of America's most notorious serial killers, who kidnapped and murdered at least 30 women, as well as committing brutal sexual assaults against many more.

Bundy was an especially brutal murderer. Many of his victims were raped before and after their deaths, while he decapitated at least 12 of them.

Most of the women murdered by Bundy had straight brown hair with a parting in the middle, according to Anne Rule, a crime writer who knew Bundy personally. It was speculated that this was due to their resemblance Stephanie Brooks, a woman who had rejected him, though Bundy denied this.

But who exactly was Ted Bundy?

The answer to the question is difficult. Though America has long been fascinated by his litany of appalling crimes, the man himself was vague and contradictory in his statements to interviewers and biographers, admitting certain murders only to deny them to others later.

He was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, to Eleanor Louise Cowell. The identity of his true father was never ascertained (but has been speculated upon) and Bundy was initially raised in the belief that his mother was his sister.

He would go on to develop a strong resentment to his mother for not talking about his biological father.

His maternal grandfather was abusive (some believed he fathered Bundy). In the 1950s, he and his mother Louise left Philadelphia and moved to Washington state.

Due to his own varied recollections, mystery surrounds the details of Bundy's childhood, with some biographers describing him as a loner, others as a popular student and classmate.

Ted Bundy Car
Ted Bundy Car

Bundy's car was controversially put on display for some years (Photo credit: Creative Commons)

At university he met Stephanie Brooks (pseudonym). She broke off their relationship after some time, frustrated with his immaturity and lack of ambition. The two would rekindle their romance years later, only for Bundy to break all contact suddenly. Brooks would forever insist that he had intended to do this all along as revenge.

No one knows exactly when Bundy first started killing women. The killer told a number of different, conflicting stories. Days prior to his execution by electric chair in 1989, he provided grim confessions of several murders, but refused to disclose details of his earliest crimes.

His first wave of known murders took place in Washington and neighbouring state Idaho. Charming and good looking, Bundy tended to approach women asking for help, pretending, for example, that he had been in an accident, before kidnapping them.

In 1975, Bundy's Volkswagen Beetle was found with a ski mask, a second mask fashioned from pantyhose, a crowbar, handcuffs, trash bags, a coil of rope and an ice pick which he explained as every day items. The car also contained polaroids of many of his victims, but was missed by officers.

However, Bundy was arrested the following year for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch, who managed to escape his car after being kidnapped and identified him in a police line up.

He was transferred to a Colorado prison. Choosing to defend himself in court, he managed to persuade the authorities to let him use the prison library and escaped through a window, spraining his ankle in the process. He was found six days later and rearrested, only to escape once more on December 30 1977.

He made his way to Florida, where he stole women's credit cards and wallets (as he had in earlier years). He horrifically assaulted six women, killing three, before being arrested for driving a stolen car.

Bundy attacked his arresting officer, David Lee, and gave chase, only to be pursued on foot and caught after a tussle between the two over Lee's gun. Unbeknownst to Lee, he had just arrested one of the most wanted men in America.

During his trial, Bundy became nationally famous, and even married a woman named Carole Anne Boone. Many more women wrote to him in prison and there were numerous reports of some having nervous breakdowns following his death.

After being sentenced to execution by electric chair, Bundy spoke at length with journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, telling them about another former girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer.

Kloepfer had been in a relationship with Bundy for some years (he had dated other women secretly at the same time) and was even interviewed by police regarding some of his murders.

Kloepfer had suspected that Bundy - always poor - stole everything he owned. Bundy would tell Michaud and Aynesworth, "The big payoff for me was actually possessing whatever it was I had stolen. I really enjoyed having something ... that I had wanted and gone out and taken."

Sexual assault came under Bundy's umbrella of possession, with murder later becoming the 'ultimate possession'.

He confessed to 30 homicides in Washington, Idaho, Colorado and Florida, but the number of women he killed (in addition to those sexually assaulted) may number above 100.

Bundy was executed at 7:16 a.m. EST on January 24, 1989 and his ashes scattered in an undisclosed location.

Note: The above is a heavily condensed summary of Bundy's crimes. Though controversial themselves, the books The Stranger Beside Me and Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer provide detailed accounts from people who knew Bundy personally.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons

Topics: Ted Bundy, Zac Efron, USA

Ronan O'Shea
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