The Ted Bundy Story

Profile Jun 10, 2020

He once called himself "the most cold-hearted son of a b*tch you'll ever meet."


Eleanor Louise Cowell, who went by Louise, was 22 years old and unmarried when she gave birth to her son Theodore on November 24th, 1946. Ted's father may have been Lloyd Marshall, an Air Force veteran, and a Penn State graduate, according to Ann Rule, a coworker of Ted's and the author of the book The Stranger Beside Me. Other sources had Ted's father's name as Jack Worthington, while some rumors had it that his father was also his grandfather. Because Ted's birth certificate lists his father as "unknown," his biological father's identity may never be confirmed.

In 1951, Louise married Johnnie Bundy. While Ted took his name, he reportedly didn't have much respect for his stepfather, whom he resented for being too uneducated and working class.

From all appearances, Bundy grew up in a content, working-class family. Around the age of 3, he became fascinated by knives. A shy but bright child, Bundy did well in school but not with his peers.

As a teenager, a darker side of his character started to emerge. Bundy liked to peer in other people's windows and thought nothing of stealing things he wanted from other people.

Bundy was regarded as handsome and charismatic, traits that he exploited to win the trust of victims and society.

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 unknown but it is believed to be at least 36.

Bundy graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology in 1972.

While a student at the University of Washington, Bundy fell in love with a wealthy, pretty young woman from California. She had everything that he wanted: money, class, and influence. In 1969, Bundy began a six-year relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer, whom he met in a Seattle bar. Kloepfer was a single mom of a young daughter and struggled with alcoholism. Bundy took care of her, and she said he was "warm and loving."

By 1974, Kloepfer started to suspect Bundy's crimes. When she questioned him about odd behaviors, like keeping a meat cleaver in his desk, he used his charm to deflect her concerns.

Kloepfer secretly went to the police with her suspicion of Bundy's involvement in prominent local murders, but they didn't believe he was the killer. The pair remained together, although they grew distant when Bundy moved to Olympia the following year.

In 1975, Kloepfer went to the police again, this time with evidence that helped them to arrest the serial killer. Bundy had confessed to Kloepfer over the phone from his prison cell that he had tried to kill her and couldn't resist his impulses when he felt "his sickness building in him," she later wrote. She broke ties with Bundy for good and wrote a book about her experience. He was devastated by their breakup. Many of Bundy's later victims resembled his college girlfriend—attractive students with long, dark hair.

Bundy confessed to 36 killings of young women across several states in the 1970s, but experts believe that the final tally may be closer to 100 or more. The exact number of women Bundy killed will never be known. His killings usually followed a gruesome pattern: acting injured, luring a young woman to help, beating her with a weapon, raping her, and then killing her. He used his good looks to his advantage but if that didn't work, he posed as a police officer or firefighter to entice women. Oftentimes, he used a plaster cast, sling, or crutches, to show the women that he was injured. Regardless of the circumstance, the FBI noted that Bundy was always well-researched and meticulous about the dead body's disposal.

While there is some debate as to when Bundy started killing, most sources say that he began his murderous rampage around 1974. Around this time, many women in the Seattle area and Oregon went missing. Stories circulated about some of the victims last being seen in the company of a young, dark-haired man known as "Ted."

In the fall of 1974, Bundy moved to Utah to attend law school, and women began disappearing there as well.

The following year, he was pulled over by the police. A search of his vehicle uncovered a cache of burglary tools—a crowbar, a face mask, rope, and handcuffs. He was arrested for possession of these tools and the police began to link him to much more sinister crimes.

In 1975, Bundy was arrested in the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch, one of the few women to escape his clutches. He was convicted and received a one-to-15-year jail sentence.

Bundy escaped from prison twice in 1977. The first time, he was indicted on murder charges for the death of a young Colorado woman and decided to act as his own lawyer in the case. During a trip to the courthouse library, he jumped out a window and made his first escape. He was captured eight days later. In December, Bundy escaped from custody again. He climbed out of a hole he made in the ceiling of his cell, having dropped more than 30 pounds to fit through the small opening. Authorities did not discover that Bundy was missing for 15 hours, giving the serial killer a big head start on the police.

Bundy’s good looks, charm, and intelligence made him something of a celebrity during his trial. Bundy fought for his life but was convicted and spent nine years on death row appealing his death sentence. He also offered information on some of the unsolved murders to avoid Florida's electric chair, but he could not delay justice forever and was executed in 1989.

Shikha Punjabi

DJLIT Editorial Co-committee member

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