Ted Bundy: 5 Fast Facts About The Campus Killer

1970s | August 23, 2021

Ted Bundy, seated in court. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

He Had A Weird Upbringing

Born on November 24, 1946, Ted Bundy grew up in a middle-class home in Philadelphia. According to him, he had a normal childhood filled with long days "of frog hunting and marble playing," but things were not as idyllic as they seemed. Later in life, after tracking down his birth certificate, he was shocked to learn that the people he thought were his parents were actually his grandparents, who had presented him as their son to cover up their unwed daughter's pregnancy. He later acknowledged the resentment he felt toward his mother over the lie but insisted that he wasn't abused and nothing about his upbringing could explain why he committed his gruesome crimes.

Still, the telltale signs of a disturbed mind showed up early in Bundy, who reportedly mutilated and killed neighborhood dogs and cats as a child and admitted to a later girlfriend to searching trash for pornography. He was specifically attracted to depictions of violence toward women, having grown up with the belief that "women are possessions. Beings which are subservient, more often than not, to males. Women are merchandise."

Bundy's 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, in which he committed many of his crimes. (greyloch/Wikipedia Commons)

He Killed More Than 30 Women

Exactly how many people died at Bundy's hands is unknown. He confessed to 30 murders, but he was reluctant to talk about his younger victims, leading authorities to believe he may have killed as many as 100 women and girls. His first confirmed attempted kidnapping took place in 1969 in Ocean City, New Jersey, but he committed his earliest known assault in 1974, when he sneaked into the bedroom of 18-year-old Karen Sparks while she slept and mercilessly beat her with a metal rod, leaving her permanently disabled.

A month later, he committed his first confirmed murder after he kidnapped college student Lynda Healy, whose body was not found until 1975. For the next two years, he raped and killed a woman every few weeks across Oregon, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado, all while attending law school and carrying on what seemed to be a normal and healthy dating life.

He Got Away With It For A Very Long Time

In the era before DNA and forensics, connecting the same killer to different murders in different states was extremely difficult, allowing Bundy (and many others) to evade capture despite his audacious techniques. Bundy used his outwardly normal and charismatic persona to hunt for victims in broad daylight, often pretending to be injured so that women would help him load something into his car, even going so far as to wear a fake cast. The word began getting around that many missing women were last seen talking to some guy named Ted, and some witnesses even accurately described his Volkswagen.

It wasn't until November 1974, however, that Bundy finally messed up enough to get caught after 18-year-old Carol DaRonch fought him off and escaped despite being handcuffed. The police began combing through every kind of registry they could find for some connection between a Ted and a Volkswagen and eventually found 26 matches, one of which was Bundy. On August 16, 1975, he was pulled over; initial searches of his car and apartment turned up no evidence linking him to the crimes, but the FBI later found one of DaRonch's hairs in the Volkswagen after Bundy tried to get rid of it. DaRonch identified him in a lineup, and he was convicted of her abduction and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Pitkin County Courthouse, where Bundy jumped from the second window from the left, second story to escape. (Vidor/Wikimedia Commons)

He Escaped Twice

It didn't take the police long to begin compiling all of the likely murders Bundy had committed, and by 1977, he found himself on trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell. The former law student was granted permission to defend himself and use the law library at the courthouse, where he found an open window and much more relief than any of those books could offer. Despite falling two stories, he managed to evade police for eight days.

Later, he pulled a Shawshank Redemption and dug a hole in his prison cell's roof that he used to crawl into a less secure part of the prison. He wasn't even noticed missing for an astonishing 15 hours. With that much of a head start, Bundy got all the way to Tallahassee, Florida, where he broke into the Florida State University Chi Omega sorority house and committed his most heinous attack yet, brutally beating and assaulting four women in a single night. He also assaulted and murdered a 12-year-old girl before he was finally recaptured.

He Got Married During His Sentencing

After Bundy was hauled back in for good, he was given the death penalty, but his sentencing was something of a mixed bag. In a profoundly strange turn of events, Bundy had somehow managed to continue a relationship with a former coworker, Carol Anne Boone, and during his sentencing, he asked her to marry him. Boone accepted his proposal, but even stranger, they were deemed legally wed on the spot due to a technicality of the court. Boone later gave birth to a daughter she claimed was fathered by Bundy despite not being allowed conjugal visits. Alas, their joy was short-lived: Bundy died by electrocution on January 24, 1989 at the Florida State Prison to the cheers of over 2,000 people who had gathered in the field across the street to celebrate the demise of one of America's most loathsome murderers.

Tags: 1970s | murder | serial killers

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