The Profile of Serial Killer Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy staring with hand over mouth, in Court
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Theodore Robert Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history who confessed to kidnapping, raping and murdering 30 women throughout seven states during the 1970s. From the time of his capture, up until his death in the electric chair became imminent, he proclaimed his innocence and then began confessing to some of his crimes to delay his execution. The actual count of how many people he murdered remains a mystery.

Ted Bundy’s Childhood Years

Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. Ted’s mother, Eleanor “Louise” Cowell returned to Philadelphia to live with her parents and to raise her new son.

In the 1950s, being an unwed mother was scandalous and illegitimate children were often teased and treated as outcasts. To avoid having Ted suffer, Louise's parents, Samuel and Eleanor Cowell, took on the role of being Ted’s parents. For several years of his life, Ted thought his grandparents were his parents, and his mother was his sister. He never had any contact with his birth father, whose identity remains unknown.

According to relatives, the environment in the Cowell home was volatile. Samuel Cowell was known for being an outspoken bigot who would go into loud rants about his dislike of various minority and religious groups. He physically abused his wife and children and brutalized the family dog. He suffered hallucinations and would sometimes talk or argue with people who were not there.

 Eleanor was submissive and fearful of her husband. She suffered from agoraphobia and depression. She periodically received electric shock therapy, which was a popular treatment for even the mildest cases of mental illness during that time.

Tacoma, Washington

 In 1951, Louise packed up and, with Ted in tow, moved to Tacoma, Washington to live with her cousins. For unknown reasons, she changed her surname from Cowell to Nelson. While there, she met and married Johnnie Culpepper Bundy. Bundy was an ex-military cook who was working as a hospital cook.

 Johnnie adopted Ted and changed his surname from Cowell to Bundy. Ted was a quiet and well-behaved child although some people found his behavior unsettling. Unlike other children who seem to thrive on parental attention and affection, Bundy preferred isolation and disconnection from family and friends.

As time went on, Louise and Johnnie had four more children, and Ted had to adjust to not being an only child. The Bundy's home was small, cramped, and tense. Money was scarce and Louise was left taking care of the children without any additional help. Because Ted was always quiet, he was often left alone and ignored while his parents dealt with their more demanding children. Ted’s extreme introversion and any developmental issues, went unnoticed or was explained as a characteristic based on his shyness.

High School and College Years

Despite the circumstances at home, Bundy grew into an attractive teenager who got along with his peers and who performed well in school.

He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1965. According to Bundy, it was during his high school years that he began breaking into cars and homes. Bundy said the motivation behind becoming a petty thief was partially due to his desire to go downhill skiing. It was the only sport he was good at, but it was expensive. He used the money he made off of stolen goods to help pay for skis and ski passes.

Although his police record was expunged at the age of 18, it is known that Bundy was arrested twice on suspicion of burglary and auto theft.

After high school, Bundy entered the University of Puget Sound. There he scored high academically, but failed socially. He continued to suffer from acute shyness which resulted in social awkwardness. While he did manage to develop some friendships, he was never comfortable with participating in most of the social activities that others were doing. He rarely dated and kept to himself.

Bundy later attributed his social problems to the fact that most of his peers at Puget Sound came from wealthy backgrounds—a world that he envied. Unable to escape his growing inferiority complex, Bundy decided to transfer to the University of Washington in his sophomore year in 1966.

At first, the change did not help Bundy’s inability to socially blend, but in 1967 Bundy met the woman of his dreams. She was pretty, wealthy, and sophisticated. They both shared a skill and passion for skiing and spent many weekends on the ski slopes.

Ted Bundy's First Love

Ted fell in love with his new girlfriend and tried hard to impress her to the point of grossly exaggerating his accomplishments. He downplayed the fact that he was working part-time bagging groceries and instead tried to gain her approval by boasting about a summer scholarship that he won to Stamford University.

Working, attending college, and having a girlfriend was too much for Bundy, and in 1969, he dropped out of college and began working at various minimum-wage jobs. He devoted his spare time to doing volunteer work for Nelson Rockefeller's presidential campaign and he worked as a Rockefeller delegate at the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami.

Unimpressed with Bundy’s lack of ambition, his girlfriend decided that he was not husband material and she ended the relationship and moved back to her parent’s home in California. According to Bundy, the break up broke his heart and he obsessed over her for years.

At this same time, whispers about Bundy being a petty thief began to spread among those who were close to him. Stuck in a deep depression, Bundy decided to do some traveling and headed to Colorado then on to Arkansas and Philadelphia. There, he enrolled at Temple University where he completed a semester then returned to Washington in the fall of 1969.

It was before his return to Washington that he learned about his true parentage. How Bundy dealt with the information is not known, but it was obvious to those that knew Ted that he had experienced some kind of transformation. Gone was the shy, introverted Ted Bundy. The man that returned was outgoing and confident to the point of being seen as an extraverted braggart.

He returned to University of Washington, excelled in his major, and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1972.

Life Gets Better for Bundy

In 1969, Bundy became involved with another woman, Elizabeth Kendall (the pseudonym she used when she wrote "The Phantom Prince My Life With Ted Bundy"). She was a divorcee with a young daughter. She fell deeply in love with Bundy, and despite her suspicions that he was seeing other women, her devotion toward him continued. Bundy was not receptive to the idea of marriage but allowed the relationship to continue even after reuniting with his first love who had become attracted to the new, more confident, Ted Bundy.

He worked on the re-election campaign of Washington's Republican Governor Dan Evans. Evans was elected, and he appointed Bundy to the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Committee. Bundy's political future seemed secure when in 1973 he became the assistant to Ross Davis, Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. It was a good time in his life. He had a girlfriend, his old girlfriend was once again in love with him, and his footing in the political arena was strong.

Missing Women and a Man Called Ted

In 1974, young women began vanishing from college campuses around Washington and Oregon. Lynda Ann Healy, a 21-year-old radio announcer, was among those who went missing. In July 1974, two women were approached at a Seattle state park by an attractive man who introduced himself as Ted. He asked them to help him with his sailboat, but they refused. Later that day, two other women were seen going off with him and they were never seen alive again.

Bundy Moves to Utah

In the fall of 1974, Bundy enrolled in law school at the University of Utah, and he moved to Salt Lake City. In November Carol DaRonch was attacked at a Utah mall by a man dressed as a police officer. She managed to escape and she provided police with a description of the man, the Volkswagen he was driving, and a sample of his blood that got on her jacket during their struggle. Within a few hours after DaRonch was attacked, 17-year-old Debbie Kent disappeared.

Around this time hikers discovered a graveyard of bones in a Washington forest, later identified as belonging to missing women from both Washington and Utah. Investigators from both states communicated together and came up with a profile and composite sketch of the man named "Ted" who approached women for help, sometimes appearing helpless with a cast on his arm or crutches. They also had the description of his tan Volkswagen and his blood type which was type-O.

Authorities compared the similarities of the women who had disappeared. They were all white, thin, and single and had long hair that was parted in the middle. They also vanished during the evening hours. The bodies of the dead women found in Utah had all been hit with a blunt object to the head, raped and sodomized. Authorities knew they were dealing with a serial killer who had the capability to travel from state to state.

Murders in Colorado

On January 12, 1975, Caryn Campbell vanished from a ski resort in Colorado while on vacation with her fiancé and his two children. A month later Caryn's nude body was found lying a short distance from the road. An examination of her remains determined she had received violent blows to her skull. Over the next few months, five more women were found dead in Colorado with similar contusions to their head, possibly a result of being hit with a crowbar.