Ted Bundy: A Life From The Beginning To An End

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Ted Bundy has proven himself to be one of the most infamous people in America’s history. How a young boy raised by his family could turn into such a rageful monster and commit murder after murder for over a decade astonishes many. Bundy’s childhood, educated background, clean-cut profile, consistent moving, and romantic relationships would all work in his favor to keep law enforcement unsuspicious of his actions. These aspects of his life, combined with the poor techniques of forensic analysis are what allowed Bundy to get away with his crimes for as long as he did. Ted Bundy undoubtedly posed a great challenge for the law enforcement of the 1970s. As a result of this, we have Bundy’s case to thank for our much improved forensic techniques, better communication amongst police nationwide, forensic odontology, behavioral analysis, and DNA profiles.

Theodore Robert Cowell, more popularly known as Ted Bundy, was born November 24, 1946, in Vermont. Birthed by a single mother named Elanor Louise Cowell, he was raised and cared for by his grandparents to avoid the stigma of having Louise known as a young single parent. In 1951, Louise married a man named Johnny Culpepper Bundy who was believed to be employed as a cook for the U.S. military. Upon marrying Ted’s mother, he then legally adopted Ted as his own child, thus changing Ted’s last name from Cowell to the infamous Bundy. As their marriage progressed, they ended up having four other children together. Bundy’s younger years seemed to be quite average, it was as he approached his teenage years and went to college that things started to take a turn (“Ted Bundy”).

He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1965, and quickly thereafter enrolled at the University of Puget Sound. After only being at Puget for a year, he transferred to the University of Washington to major in Chinese. Changing his mind once again, he dropped out of college and later enrolled at Temple University located in Philadelphia for only a single semester. He then decided to re-enroll at the University of Washington but changed his major to Psychology. He even graduated with an honors degree, which ultimately led him to go back to the University of Puget Sound Law School in aspirations of pursuing a career in criminology or law (“Ted Bundy: Serial Killers”). Although by this point in his life, he had already discovered his true passion of attacking and burdening women, he did a great job hiding it from his peers and mentors at school (moving around helped him get away with this). When applying for law school at Puget, one of his previous professors from the University of Washington even wrote in a letter recommendation for Ted, “I regret Mr. Bundy’s decision to pursue a career in law rather than to continue his professional training in psychology. Our loss is your gain” (“Ted Bundy”). While he was tricking his professors into believing the outward personality he put on for the rest of the world, he was partaking in some of his own hobbies when nightfall approached.

Bundy’s first confirmed attack occured in January 1974. He broke into Karen Sparks' apartment at night who was also attending the University of Washington, and brutally woke her from her sleep and began beating her before he proceeded to sexually assault her. His violent actions forced her into a coma for approximately ten days, but she recovered soon after. Sparks was one of the few lucky victims that survived Bundy’s violent wrath. Under a month later was when Bundy killed his first known victim. Lynda Ann Healy’s remains were found bludgeoned and mutilated at the Taylor Mountain Site located near the University of Washington (“Ted Bundy”).

From 1974 to 1978, Bundy would go on to murder a confirmed number of 30 women located in Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Florida. Playing off womans’ sense of compassion, Bundy traveled among the states pretending to have crutches and or an arm sling to lure women to help him carry things to his 1968 Tan Volkswagon Beetle. Once getting them to his car, he would hit them over the head with a pipe and handcuff them before throwing them into his car where he had removed the passenger seat so his victims could lay out of sight as he drove away. Another tactic he would use was pretending to be an authority figure such as a firefighter or a police officer to gain their trust before coercing them into his car (“Ted Bundy: Serial Killers”).

After he had performed whatever sexual acts he wished and further beaten up his innocent victims, he would often take their bodies home with him and display their heads and or bodies in his room whilst he slept to re-live the satisfaction he felt during his experience of killing them. He would leave their bodies in his apartment as long as possible until the stench of their corpses became unbearable. Bundy drove their bodies to several different locations. One of the most popular places he took bodies was mountain sites or rivers. Bundy spoke about how after dumping bodies he would sometimes miss the women so he would go back and visit the sites where he dumped the women in hopes of gaining more satisfaction from the experience (“Ted Bundy: Serial Killers”).

Meanwhile, he was wooing a woman by the name of Elizabeth Kloepfer, who he met in a bar in Seattle in 1969. A casual fling between the two romantics soon turned into a rather serious, long-lasting relationship. They moved in together and even went as far as getting a marriage license, but they never actually got married because Kloepfer was afraid of her father’s disapproval. As the years passed, Kloepfer stopped taking her birth control pills along the way which eventually led her to become pregnant with Bundy’s child. After much dismay, the couple decided that neither one of them was ready for a child so they terminated the pregnancy. Shortly after the termination, Kloepfer becomes suspicious of Ted Bundy and begins to wonder if he may be linked to the string of women being murdered. She reported him to the police in 1974, but they simply dismissed her remark, claiming that Bundy was too educated and seemingly normal from the outside perspective. The police were so convinced of his innocence, that when Kloepfter reported him two more times several months later, they still ignored her denying the fact that Bundy being guilty was even a possibility. Lured back in by Bundy’s charm, Kloepfer got back together with him in 1975 (Mitchell).

In August, Bundy was pulled over for a traffic violation. They pulled him over and searched his car seizing handcuffs, an ice pick, and a mask they found in his car. The police report even mentions how his front passenger seat had been removed. This lead to his arrest on suspicion of burglary. However, shortly after he was brought into custody he was freed on bond and went to live with Kloepfer once again. Police started catching on to Ted Bundy’s criminal actions, and Kloepfter finally cut him off when he was arrested several months later for the kidnapping and assault of one of his victims (“Ted Bundy: Serial Killers”).

He had only been held in jail for a year when he was transferred from a jail in Utah to Colorado for another trial. In this trial, Bundy refused a lawyer and decided he wanted to use his previous education in law school to defend himself. Because he was defending himself, he was allowed several minutes of alone time in a room located on the second floor of the courthouse. In the few spare minutes he had, he successfully jumped out of the window and freed himself. His runaway spree didn’t last long, however, as he was recaptured within one week. Once recaptured, Bundy’s smooth tactics enabled him to crawl out of a hole in the ceiling of his jail cell, thus escaping for the second time on December 30th, 1977. This time, however, he was not caught as quickly (“Ted Bundy: Serial Killers”).

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Bundy managed to get a flight to Chicago, ride a train from Chicago to Michigan, and then drive south to Atlanta where he rode a Trailway bus to Tallahassee. A police officer told ABC News that after Bundy disappeared, “Detectives said, ‘He’s going to kill again. It’s just a matter of time. We don’t know where or when but he will kill again’” (Tate). On January 15th, Bundy made the detective’s prediction come true. At approximately 3:15 a.m., an intruder, later identified as Bundy, broke into the Chi Omega Sorority house holding a wooden club. He went up to the second floor of the house where he killed two and severely injured three other women living there. When police got the call and rushed to the scene, they found Karen Chandler laying down on the floor bleeding rivers from numerous head injuries. Still responsive, she informed the police that she had heard a loud banging noise and mentioned her roommate (Kathy Kleiner) to the police. The officer rushed into their room and found Karen. One of the Police officers said, “Her jaw was actually hanging off one side. It was only, only one hinge was still attached… she was in total shock” (Tate). Kleiner says she still remembers lying in her bed at that moment trying to put words together, to let out a scream, or just say anything at all, but she couldn't. Her jaw was broken in three places. Although these two women were brutally beaten, they are actually considered to be the lucky ones because they were both fortunate enough to survive. Karen Chandler was rushed to the hospital where doctors informed her that she’d broken ‘pretty much every bone in her face, but that she was going to live. Kathy Kleiner was also rushed to the hospital where they reported that her jaw was broken, but that she also was going to survive.

At the same time, back at the house, lay the dead bodies of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. Bowman and Levy had both been strangled and beaten to death, with bite marks left on Levies.

Bundy didn’t stop there, however, he proceeded to go down the street 4-5 blocks to a house located on Dunwoody Street, where a woman by the name of Cheryl Thomas was peacefully sleeping. He broke in through her kitchen window and proceeded to do to her what he did to all the women, abuse them to their death. From the few eyewitness reports that were given, several of them pointed towards Bundy, yet the police once again didn’t think he was the one in charge of the crimes. Still free, Bundy moved on to abduct and kill his youngest confirmed victim, a 12-year-old girl named Kimberly Leach in Lake City, Florida (Tate).

A month later from his escape, Bundy was apprehended when a police officer noticed a suspicious car loitering at night. Once being pulled over, he attempted to pretend to be someone else with the use of fake IDs, credit cards, and stolen license plates. He was taken into custody but it took him two full days to reveal his true identity. The police then gathered that Bundy had been staying in a rooming house just a couple blocks down from the Chi Omega house, thus linking him to those murders as well. He was then charged with two more murders and three attempts at murder. This officially marks the end of Ted Bundy’s career as a killer. He spent the rest of his time in jail until he was sentenced to death and died in the electric chair on January 24th, 1989, where he officially admitted to killing 30 people (“Ted Bundy”).

One of the most pressing questions about Ted Bundy is how he managed to maintain such a clean-cut profile and tricked everyone into believing his seemingly upstanding character meanwhile killing tens of people. One speculation is that his highly educated background and seemingly normal upbringing, it made him appear as a responsible and sane individual. On top of this, he always seemed to maintain some sort of romantic relationship with a female partner. This relationship may function as a cover. If Ted Bundy was able to actually love a woman and not show signs of wanting or attempting to kill her, that leads police to immediately disregard the chance that he could be the killer. Moreover, Bundy’s educational background in psychology enabled him to know what ques he needed to give women in order to gain their trust. For example, he played off of women's sensitivities and compassionate sides to ask them for help before he lured them into his cars. He was also very educated on the process the Forensic departments went through when trying to catch and identify a criminal. He made sure to avoid detection by leaving little to no evidence that could be picked up by the 1970’s techniques (“Ted Bundy”).

The struggle of catching Bundy ultimately brought about several major changes in the way our forensic department works today. For example, Forensic Odontology, better known as forensic dentistry, didn’t gain national attention until 1978 when it was used to help bring Ted Bundy down. One of the few mistakes Bundy made in covering his footsteps was the huge bite mark he left on Lisa Levy. Researchers were able to take two dental molds of Bundy’s mouth and teeth to compare them with the bite marks left on her body. When his molds matched the bite marks, it was a huge turning point in the case. It was the first case in the legal history of Florida that was prosecuted on a bite mark testimony and the first time physical evidence linked Bundy to one of the crimes he committed (Hinchliffe).

Moreover, a DNA profile created of Bundy is now helping solve several unsolved cases from past years. David Coffman, the chief of forensics at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, uploaded Ted’s profile into the FBI’s DNA database. The police were provoked to enact Bundy’s profile subsequent to being contacted by Tacoma police offers. The officers in Tacoma had aspirations to solve the cold case of Ann Marie Burr, an eight years old who vanished from her house in 1961. Bundy was rather young at the age of fourteen and was also living in Tacoma at the time of Burr’s disappearance. When constructing his profile, the police were lacking evidence on him, until they uncovered a vile of his blood that had been stored away for years and years. Once having a completed profile, many cold cases have now been linked to Bundy as the perpetrator. It is because of the finalization of his DNA profile that many families have found some peace knowing what happened to their missing victim and that the victimizer has been served justice (“Serial Killers, Part 2”).

Furthermore, Bundy desired a specific type of victim which police would soon catch on to with the use of a new assessment of criminals that we still implement today. Howard Teten and Robert Ressler are the two agents who were part of a “groundbreaking behavioral analysis unit set up five years earlier for precisely this purpose: To study the behavior experiences and psychological make-up of criminals and suspects for patterns and insights that may help solve and prevent future crimes” (“Serial Killers, Part 2”). In Bundy’s case, he typically looked for victims where young people gathered, such as colleges, beaches, ski resorts, and discos. He seemed to prefer young, attractive, women, specifically with long hair parted down the middle. This recognition of his desired targets enabled the police to associate more of the crimes he committed with his record (“Serial Killers, Part 2”).

To add to it, Bundy abused the fact that police departments did not necessarily communicate very well with departments in other states. He traveled across the state to state performing murders. When he left one state, and the murders magically stopped, the local police that had been focusing on the string of murders assumed the killer had either died or had been convicted of a smaller crime. When in reality, it was just Bundy avoiding being caught by moving from state to state. It took a while, but the authorities slowly began to connect the dots between the murders happening in different states. Once they realized the murders were extremely similar, they finally came to the conclusion that they must be committed by the same person. Now having realized this connection, they were able to take crime scene data from all of the murders throughout the nation and tie it back to Bundy, ultimately allowing for his arrest and death sentence. The capture of Ted caused the realization of the importance of communication between all of the states’ departments, which enables a more efficient and quicker way of capturing criminals (“Serial Killers, Part 2”).


Overall, Bundy was one of a kind in the era he lived in and committed murders in. The police had not been quite this challenged by a criminal in history up until this point. Bundy’s childhood, educated background, clean-cut profile, consistent moving, and relationship with Kloepfer helped keep law enforcement off his back. These characteristics, combined with the lack of DNA he left behind, poor forensic analysis techniques, and the mediocre communication amongst police departments from state to state, ultimately enabled Bundy to get away with murdering people for as long as he did. His case has immensely changed the way law enforcement catches criminals today. We now use DNA profiles, better communication between police departments in varying states, behavioral analysis, and forensic odontology, to prevent cases like Bundy’s from happening again today.

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Ted Bundy: A Life From The Beginning To An End. (2021, September 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ted-bundy-a-life-from-the-beginning-to-an-end/
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