Ted Bundy: His teeth and his conviction. Part 4

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A clip from Ted Bundy's last interview

(This is the final segment in a 4 part series.  To see Part 3, click here.)  

Escape to Florida

Bundy escaped from the Garfield County Jail in Colorado with a hacksaw (provided by a fellow member of the inmate population), $500.00 that was smuggled into him from misguided visitors and a cunning plan. He used the hacksaw to cut a hole in the ceiling of his cell. The hole provided him access to a space that he could crawl through. After losing approximately 40 pounds, he was able to fit through this area and flee to safety.

He tested his plan several times. While the prison’s employed personnel were on their Christmas break he enacted the plan. He gained access to the chief jailer’s apartment. The chief jailer was celebrating the holidays with his wife at the time. Finding the apartment unoccupied, Bundy changed out of his prison uniform and into the regular clothes that the jailer had in his room. He then walked out of the prison. It would be 17 hours before his escape was discovered.

By the time that Bundy’s escape was discovered, he was traveling through Chicago by way of a stolen car. The car ending up breaking down. A random stranger picked Bundy up off of the side of the road and took him to a bus station. He continued to travel eastward by bus and plane. In January of 1978 he ended up in Tallahassee, Florida.

Once in Tallahassee, he went to a boarding house and rented a room. He knew that he needed to avoid attracting attention to himself so he did not use his real name to rent the room. He rented the room under the name of Chris Hagen.

One week after his arrival in Tallahassee, he ventured to the campus of nearby Florida State University and broke into the Chi Omega Sorority House.

The Chi Omega Murders

In the early morning hours of January 15, 1978, Bundy entered the Chi Omega Sorority house and engaged in one of the most infamous acts of savagery in the annals of U.S. criminal history. While the Chi Omega Sorority sisters slept, Bundy broke into their quarters and proceeded to savagely beat and strangle 4 of the sorority sisters. 2 of the young women perished in the attack, 2 others survived.

Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy were slain as a result of their extensive injuries. Margaret Bowman’s skull was crushed by an oak-limb club that Bundy had fashioned into a deadly weapon. Bowman was also strangled with a pair of nylon panty hose. Lisa Levy was bludgeoned to death with Bundy’s club. After he murdered Bowman and Levy, he turned his sinister attentions to Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiner.

Margaret Bowman was one of 2 young women murdered by Ted Bundy in the Chi Omega Sorority House

It is believed that Bundy was startled from his killing spree by the sounds of other sorority sisters moving about in the house. Amazingly, the other residents did not hear any of the sounds of the carnage that took place that night. This despite the fact that, according to the young women who lived on the property, the walls were “paper thin”. Police postulated that the sound of one of the young women using the bathroom at around 3:15am startled Bundy and motivated him to leave. The carnage was discovered when another resident, Nita Neary, arrived home late. She saw Bundy standing in the shadows of the front door to the building while holding a stick or a club in his hand.

Lisa Levy was one of 2 young women murdered by Ted Bundy in the Chi Omega Sorority House

Alarmed, Neary awakened several other sorority sisters. A few minutes later Karen Chandler emerged from her bedroom. Her jaw, a finger and her right arm were broken. She had a fractured skull and numerous injuries on her face and head from Bundy’s attack. Neary’s roommate, Kathy Kleiner, was found sitting with her legs crossed on her bed. She motioned back and forth and made impassioned pleas for her pastor and her fiancé. Kleiner had a broken jaw and several missing teeth as a result of the attack.

Bundy fled into the night. He stole a van from the campus and disappeared. He was the most wanted man in the United States at this point. Police were able to trace his movements through receipts from credit cards that he stole during his travels. However, he was able to stay one step ahead of law enforcement for some time. He would not resurface for several weeks

The murder of Kimberly Leach, Bundy’s final victim:

On February 9 th, 1978, 3 weeks after his horrible attacks in the Chi Omega Sorority House, Bundy preyed upon a 12-year-old student at Lake City Junior High School.  A friend saw young Kimberley Leach get into a car with a stranger. She was never seen alive again. The Lake City police were alerted to Kimberley’s disappearance by her frantic parents. A massive search party was formed to locate their daughter. Her body was found eight weeks later in a Suwannee County state park. He left Kimberly Leach’s remains underneath the detritus of a hog shed that had collapsed. A white van was later found that was connected to the horrible events that ended the life of Kimberley Leach.

Kimberly Leach was Ted Bundy's final victim

Police were able to quickly ascertain that Bundy was responsible for Kimberly Leach’s demise. A few days before Kimberly Leach was kidnapped, a 14-year-old girl was approached by a male stranger in a white van. Her father was the Chief of Detectives for the Jacksonville Police Department. He always warned her to never talk to strangers. Heeding his advice and finding Bundy’s presence to be unnerving (along with his story about being an on-duty fireman despite the fact that he was dressed in a navy jacket and plaid pants) she was immediately suspicious of the strange man. Luckily, her brother drove up in the midst of her interaction with Bundy.  Immediately alarmed by the man talking to his sister, he demanded that she get in his car. He then followed Bundy, wrote down his license plate and provided it to their father for follow-up investigation.

News of the strange man in the white van reached the authorities. After an investigation, it was discovered that the license plates were stolen from a man that had nothing to do with the murders. The detective was immediately suspicious that Bundy stole the plates. He provided mugshots for the son and daughter that had encountered the strange man and they were able to pick Bundy out from the stack of photos that they were given.

After Bundy dumped the stolen van, he stole a Volkswagen Bug and headed to Pensacola, Florida. A police officer who was familiar with everyone in the town saw Bundy but did not recognize him as he drove through the town. He ran the car’s license plates and found out that they were stolen. With this information in hand, he effected a pursuit.

Bundy accelerated and led the officer on a brief chase. He suddenly stopped. The officer ordered Bundy to get out of his car. Bundy complied. He laid down on the road with his hands out. As the officer began to handcuff him, Bundy suddenly attacked him. He managed to free himself from the clutches of the officer and run away. The officer discharged his weapon. Bundy dropped. When the officer approached Bundy again he discovered that Bundy dropped to the ground as a ruse to fool him into thinking he was injured. Bundy attacked the officer again but was ultimately no match for the hand to hand combat skills of the policeman. He was arrested and brought to the local police station. Bundy had finally been captured for good.

Trials

Bundy was tried in the state of Florida for the Chi Omega Murders and the murder of Kimberly Leach. Ever arrogant and cocky, Bundy fired his defense attorneys and chose to defend himself.

Bundy provides his teeth impressions in advance of his trial for the Chi Omega Murders

 A pivotal moment in the trial was the testimony of odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron. Lisa Levy had bite mark injuries on her body. Using blown up photographs of the bite mark evidence on her remains, he was able to show the jury how the indentations left on her skin matched Bundy’s teeth. When juxtaposed with an expanded model of Bundy’s teeth, there was no doubt that the marks were left on her body by Ted Bundy’s bite.

On July 23 rd, 1979, Ted Bundy went on trial for the Chi Omega murders.

After 7 hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously found him guilty. The jury recommended 2 death sentences for the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. The judge in the case, Judge Cowart, upheld the recommendations.

Ted Bundy derisively takes his oath to tell the truth in court

On January 7 th, 1980, Bundy went on trial for the murder of Kimberly Leach. After his defeat in the Chi Omega Murder Trial, Bundy decided to hire 2 defense attorneys, Julius Africano and Lynn Thompson.

Ted Bundy loses his composure in court

Bundy's defense team immediately recognized that they were fighting an uphill battle.  Instead of pleading innocent, they entered an insanity plea to the court.  There obviously was no way that the state was going to release Bundy.  Instead, the newly hired defense attorneys opted to attempt to avoid a death sentence for their client.  

Assistant State Attorney Bob Dekle came equipped with sixty-five different witnesses that could in some way connect Bundy with Kimberly Leach on the fateful day of her disappearance. Bundy’s courtroom composure was usually cool and confident. However, it must have become obvious to him that he was losing the battle for his life. Witnesses described him as barely able to contain himself. He even went so far as to yell at one of the state’s star witnesses. He was found guilty in this case, too. The punishment recommended by the jury was death. The judge upheld the recommendation.

Execution

Bundy gave his final interview to evangelical Christian leader Dr. James Dobson on January 23 rd, 1989. This date was one day before his sentence was carried out. Dobson allowed the interview to be aired by the 3 major television networks of the time – NBC, ABC and CBS – on the condition that the interview be played in its’ entirety with no edits. The networks agreed. Audiences around the country witnessed Bundy describing his early motivations. He claimed that the roots of his behavior began with an adolescent fascination with watching films that depicted intimate acts that were geared toward an adult audience. Consumption of these materials at such an early age, claimed Bundy, led to his warped need to act out violently with women in order to gain satisfaction.

On January 24 th, 1989 at 7:00am Ted Bundy’s electrocution execution was finally enacted. Technically, his death sentence was a result of his conviction for the 1978 murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. Bundy was also awaiting a different death sentence for the bludgeoning deaths of the two Chi Omega Sorority sisters that took place 3 weeks prior to Kimberly Leach’s murder.

Many in the public were eagerly anticipating Bundy's execution

At this juncture, Bundy admitted to killing over 30 other young women. Many of the bodies of his victims have never been found. In a ruse to evade execution indefinitely, Bundy played a cat-and-mouse game with investigators. He would claim to have details about the whereabouts of the remains of the victims whose bodies were never found. He made claims that there were many other victims. His hope was that investigators would have such a high level of interest in this new information that his execution would be postponed over and over again. It was a ruse that did not work. The state of Florida was eager to execute Bundy. The public at large was looking forward to his execution as well.

Many onlookers gathered around the prison where Bundy was executed in anticipation of the event

According to reports from inside of the prison, Bundy spent the night before his execution weeping and praying.

Bundy was known to be very cocky. However, when the killer was faced with his own inevitable death, he appeared to be terrified. As the prison guards took him into the death chamber, observers noted that his skin looked ashen. He looked through the glass and acknowledged the presence of his victims, prosecutors and defenders with a nod. Then he started to speak in a very low tone, his first words being inaudible. As is standard procedure for electrocutions, Bundy’s head was shaved and coated with an ointment that allows electrodes to have the maximum effect possible when the execution switch is turned on.

Bundy’s last words were “Jim and Fred, I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.” (Jim Coleman was one of his lawyers and Fred Lawrence was a Methodist minister who prayed with Bundy for the entire night before his execution.).

After that, it was time for him to serve his sentence. Bundy’s mouth and chin were covered with a thick strap. His head and face were covered with a metal skullcap. The skullcap was bolted down. After the anonymous executioner pushed the execution button Bundy’s body began to tense up. His hands tightened into a fist and smoke began to rise from his right leg. The charge was allowed to surge through his body for approximately 1 minute.

After the electrical charge was turned off, 2 medical professionals checked Bundy’s vital signs. One listened for his heartbeat and the other shined light into his eyes. There was no evidence of life. Ted Bundy, at that time the most notorious serial killer in the history of the United States, was pronounced dead at 7:16am.

Aftermath

Ted Bundy is one of the most prolific serial killers in United States History. He ultimately claimed to have killed over one hundred people, all of them women with the exception of one man. There may never be any way to verify his claims. However, it is without doubt that he is one of the most destructive serial killers ever. Unfortunately, his carnage has been verifiably surpassed by other notorious serial murderers in the decades since his death.

Bundy left behind a legacy of terror and pain. The families and friends of his victims have to live the rest of their lives knowing that a monster took their loved ones away from them in the most vicious way imaginable. The mainstream public was fascinated by Bundy not only because of his brutal crimes, but also because he had the ability to pass himself off as being a normal and well-adjusted member of society. For the first time, the public could see the masquerade used by many sadistic killers. His friends and co-workers found it so implausible that Bundy could have been a serial murderer that they sent him money and raised capital for Bundy’s legal fees. All was definitely not as it seemed when it came to Ted Bundy.

Ted Bundy's mother believed in his innocence until he finally confessed to her shortly before his execution

Bundy’s mother believed in his innocence until the day before his execution. It was at that time that Bundy confessed to his mother that the authorities were right about him all along. 

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