Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer, died Tuesday in the electric chair, just as the sun rose over the north Florida plains.
Gone was the storied cockiness. He was ashen as two guards led him into the death chamber. They strapped his chest and arms and legs against the shiny wooden chair.
Bundy’s blue eyes searched the faces behind the glass. He nodded to some of the 42 witnesses, including the men who had prosecuted him. His lips bounced with a faint mumble.
Then his head bowed. The shaved skull glistened where an ointment had been applied. It would facilitate the work of the electrodes.
Prison Supt. Tom Barton asked Bundy if he had any last words. The killer hesitated. His voice quavered. “Jim and Fred, I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,” he said.
Jim Coleman, one of his lawyers, nodded. So did Fred Lawrence of Gainesville, Fla., the Methodist minister who had spent the night with Bundy in a vigil of weeping and prayer.
With that, it was time. The last thick strap was pulled across Bundy’s mouth and chin. The metal skullcap was bolted in place, its heavy black veil falling in front of the condemned man’s face.
Barton gave the go-ahead. An anonymous executioner pushed the button. Two thousand volts surged through the wires. Bundy’s body tensed and his hands tightened into a clench.
A minute later, the machine was shut down, and the body went limp. A paramedic unbuttoned Bundy’s blue shirt and listened for a heartbeat. A doctor aimed a light into his eyes.
At 7:16 a.m., Theodore Robert Bundy--one of the worst serial killers of all time--was pronounced dead.
A witnessing newsman raised his hands in a signal as he left the Q Wing of Florida State Prison.
Across the street, along the dewy grass of a cow pasture, word spread among the 500 or so who had come to be near--and almost all to cheer--the death work.
Crowd Chants, ‘Burn’
Some began chanting, “Burn, Bundy, burn!” Others sang or hugged one another or banged on frying pans.
Fireworks kicked into the sky.
“I wish I could have been the one flipping the switch,” said David Hoar, a policeman from St. Augustine, Fla.
Mike Rands, one of the many college students present, whooped: “Thank God it’s Fry-Day!” He had been fascinated by the Bundy case since studying it in his ninth-grade civics class.
In a few moments, the witnesses began strolling about the field. They were a somber bunch, and a few were shocked by the celebration that filled the chilly morning air.
“Regardless of what Bundy did, he was still a human being,” said Jim Sewell, the police chief of Gulfport, Fla.
But even Sewell, leaden from the sight of an electrocution, said he felt a great relief that Bundy was dead.
“This is the first time I ever saw him when he wasn’t really in control,” said Sewell, who had been an investigator in three Bundy murders. “Ted was wily and street-smart and understood the system.”
Bundy, 42, was convicted only of three Florida murders, although he was long blamed for dozens more in Washington state, Oregon, Colorado and Utah.
Technically, he died for the 1978 murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach of Lake City, whom he left dead under a collapsed hog shed.
George Robert Dekle prosecuted that case--and Tuesday he witnessed Bundy’s death:
“The thing that kept going through my mind was the awful crime scene I saw 11 years ago. I kept saying to myself that is where it started and this is where it ends.”
Feels No Compassion
Florida State Trooper Ken Robinson, another witness, said: “I felt no compassion for Bundy whatsoever. He had an easier death than any of his victims.”
Bundy was also under sentence of death for what were known here as the Chi Omega murders, a gruesome rampage through the bedrooms of a sorority house at Florida State University.
Those two bludgeoning deaths--and the murder of the Leach girl three weeks later--were Bundy’s final killings.
Soon after, he was caught by a patrolman in Pensacola, Fla. Bundy tried to run, but he slipped and fell in some sand.
Ever since, his notoriety has multiplied. The Chi Omega trial was televised nationally. Five books about Bundy were written. A TV movie was made.
He was a mass killer who on the surface seemed among America’s finest young men: likable, intelligent, patrician-looking.
He had been a Boy Scout and a college graduate and a law student. He was a rising Young Republican in Washington state party politics.
That the boy next door yearned to kill the girls next door--preferably ones with long hair parted down the middle--made him seem both ironic and demonic, devilishly handsome and fiendishly clever.
And there was a great mystery. How many had he really murdered?
Investigators could only speculate until the last few days, when Bundy opened up with a bloody stream of confessions. He gave the details to as many as 50 murders in nine states--information that will take months to sort out.
And one more thing: He said he was sorry.
Five hours before his execution, Bundy was allowed to make two brief phone calls to his mother, Louise, in Tacoma, Wash. He told her of his regrets, that he was really two people--the Ted she knew and the mutant Ted she did not.
“He said: ‘I’m so sorry I’ve given you all such grief . . . but a part of me was hidden all the time,’ ” Louise Bundy said.
She told her boy: “You’ll always be my precious son.”
Had Stuttering Problem
The son was illegitimate, conceived in Philadelphia. Later, Louise Cowell moved to Washington and married Johnnie Bundy, a hospital cook. They would never suspect that young Ted had problems far beyond his nail-biting and stuttering.
But, for a decade, Ted Bundy was the glib and engaging young fellow who picked up women at parks, shopping malls and college campuses--and then killed them. Sometimes, he posed as a fire examiner or a man with a broken arm. He had the gifts of a lady’s man.
Most often, he drove off for hundreds of miles with his dead or unconscious victims. He dumped them in remote forests. Most had been raped and mutilated. He left them for the animals or his own return visits.
To the parents of some of the victims--their daughters’ deaths now acknowledged by Bundy--his execution brings pitifully little solace.
“It’s not important to me now,” said Robert Campbell of Dearborn, Mich., father of Caryn. “The thing I’d like to have back, I can’t get back.”
On the other hand, Vivian Raincourt of La Conner, Wash., sat up all night awaiting word that, at last, retribution had been taken for her daughter Susan.
“I’m hoping that this will never happen again, this terrible wait (for an execution),” she said. “We won’t have to hear any more stories of how he played the system . . . .”
Bundy was on Death Row for nearly 10 years--and he became a symbol for how long it takes to push a capital case to its resolution. Monday night, his lawyers were still trying to delay the execution, filing three separate appeals with the U.S. Supreme Court. However, by votes of 5 to 4, 7 to 2 and 6 to 3, the justices rejected all of the pleas.
“We’re tired of feeding that killer with our tax money,” said Dorothy Solomons, one of the many who came to stand across from the prison.
Actually, execution in this case was far more costly than lifetime incarceration. Bundy’s lengthy prosecution, including the appeals, cost the state an estimated $5 million. Thirty years of jail time would cost about a fifth of that.
Once convicted, Bundy seemed to taunt the system. He twice escaped from Colorado prisons while awaiting a murder trial there.
He showboated in Florida, reneging on a deal for a life sentence in the Chi Omega case and then castigating his lawyers in open court. He often acted as his own counsel. Rapt groupies thought he was cute.
In the subsequent Leach trial, he put his girlfriend, Carole Ann Boone, on the witness stand.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Then I do hereby marry you.”
Thus, with a notary present in the gallery, they were wed under Florida law.
Bundy boasted that the romance produced a daughter, conceived during a prison visit. The couple ultimately became estranged.
“He was such a manipulator,” said Sewell, who had worked on the Bundy cases. “We’ll never have a full understanding of who he was and why he did things.”
Many insist he was insane. That he was never ruled so may have to do with his steely and cagey exterior, as well as the law’s difficulty in discerning criminal insanity in compulsive brutality.
Oddly, until his last-gasp appeals, insanity was the one legal argument Bundy would never permit. He always feared the issue of his mental competence more than that of his crimes.
Yet the murderous urges swelled within him and dominated his life. The bright student of psychology grappled with his own dark instincts--and the torment of alternating periods of reform and relapse.
In a remarkable series of prison interviews years ago with journalists Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen Michaud, Bundy agreed to “speculate” on what “might” have driven the killer in the crimes in which he was a suspect.
“What really fascinated him was the hunt, the adventure of searching out his victim,” Bundy said. “And, to a degree, possessing them physically as one would possess a potted plant, a painting or a Porsche. Owning, as it were, this individual.”
No matter how hard he tried, this hypothetical killer could never fully extinguish his desires to rape and murder. Instead he rationalized.
“He would cling to the belief that there would be virtually no furor over it . . . " Bundy said. “I mean, there are so many people.
“It shouldn’t be a problem. What’s one less person on the face of the earth, anyway?”
Pomona-based religious broadcaster James C. Dobson finds an anti-pornography ally in Bundy. Part II, Page 3.