Ted Bundy was charismatic. He was handsome. He was engaging. He was also a murderer.
The American serial killer staged a systematic attack on young girls throughout the 1970’s, criss-crossing the country and avoiding authorities. By the end of his killing spree, Bundy had received three death sentences in two separate trials. Bundy once called himself “…the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” His defense attorney, Polly Nelson, agreed, writing, “Ted was the very definition of heartless evil.”
Bundy will be profiled on the latest episode of Murder Made Me Famous, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Saturday night. Here’s what you need to know:
1. There Is No Consensus When Bundy Began His Killing Spree
No one has yet been able to pinpoint exactly when Bundy first started killing. He told different stories to different people and refused to ever cite an exact date or location, despite confessing in graphic detail to dozens of murders in the days leading up to his execution.
Bundy once claimed to have attempted his first kidnapping in Ocean City, New Jersey in 1969 but did not kill anyone until he moved to Seattle in 1971. However, he also told psychologist Art Norman that he had killed two women in Atlantic City in 1969.
However, according to the FBI, Bundy’s prolific reign of terror was well underway by 1974 and he likely committed 30 homicides in seven different states over the next four years. He was generally regarded as charismatic and charming, able to lure his victims in by gaining their trust before overpowering them. He occasionally revisited his crime scenes for hours at a time, reliving the murders and performing unspeakable acts on the bodies.
2. He Was First Arrested in August 1975 for Failure to Pull Over for a Traffic Stop
Bundy was first arrested in August 1975 by a Utah Highway Patrol officer after he failed to pull over for a traffic stop just outside of Salt Lake City. The officer searched his car and found a ski mask, a second mask made of pantyhose, a crowbar, handcuffs, trash bags, a coil of rope and an ice pick among dozens of items assumed to be burglary tools.
Bob Hayward, the officer who first encountered Bundy, later said, “I didn’t want to shoot the guy. I wish I had.”
Bundy explained away the questionable items in his car and despite a search of his apartment, police were unable to hold him on anything incriminating. Bundy later said that officials missed a collection of Polaroid photographs of victims hidden his utility room.
3. Bundy’s Most Prolific Crime Occurred at Florida State
After escaping from police in 1977, Bundy executed his most prolific killing spree on January 14, 1978 when he broke into a Florida State University sorority house.
Bundy broke into the Chi Omega sorority house and brutally attacked several of the women living there. This was not the first time he had attacked the sorority. Six months earlier another FSU Chi Omega had been raped, severely beaten and left for dead in a field outside Tallahassee. Helen Hayes told The Chicago Tribune:
Suddenly you’re thinking, ‘Is this somebody we know?’ I mean, the bogeyman is never someone you know. So suddenly you’re looking at people like you’ve never looked at them before You’re even looking at girls, thinking, could they have dressed up and done this thing?
Bundy murdered two of the sisters in the house and left another with serious injuries. He was eventually captured by Pensacola authorities on February 15 and taken into custody.
4. He Married Carole Ann Boone While She Testified on His Behalf
During the penalty phase of his trial, Bundy took advantage of a little-known Florida state law that stated a marriage declaration in court, in the presence of a judge, constituted a legal marriage.
While questioning former Washington State DES coworker Carole Ann Boone – who had moved to Florida to be close to Bundy – he asked her to marry him. She accepted almost immediately and Bundy declared in front of the court that they were legally married.
In October 1982, Boone gave birth to a daughter and named Bundy as the father. Although conjugal visits were not allowed at Raiford Prisons, inmates often pooled their money to bribe guards and work out alone time with female visitors.
5. Bundy Died in the Electric Chair on January 24, 1989
On Feburary 10, 1980 Bundy was sentence to death by electrocution for the third time time in his life. This time, the death sentence would ultimately be carried out. During his time on death row, Bundy recounted his crimes to a handful of individuals, including Special Agent William Hagmaier of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. Hagmaier later said that Bundy took a “deep, almost mystical satisfaction” in murder, adding:
It becomes 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 become sacred to you, and you will always be drawn back to them.
The date of the execution was altered several times and in June 1986, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed it indefinitely for review of multiple technicalities, including Bundy’s mental state. The Eleventh Circuit ruled against Bundy in 1988, however, and a 1989 execution date was announced.
On the eve of his execution, Bundy discussed the possibility of suicide but did not carry out on the threat. Bundy died in the Raiford electric chair at 7:16 a.. ET on January 24, 1989 as revelers celebrated across from the prison. His ashes were scattered an undisclosed location in the Cascade Range of Washington State in accordance with his will.