The Life & Criminal Profile of Ted Bundy

“Murder is not about the lust and it’s not about the violence, it’s about the possession. When you feel the last breath of life coming out of a woman, you then look to her eyes and at that point it’s like being God” spoken by Ted Bundy. He was a sociopath, psychotic and some even considered him to be some sort of a monster. He was considered a gruesome celebrity and even called the most hated man in the world. As the most vicious and notorious serial killer known to American History, some believe that he lived just to kill and cause harm. Among a 5 year span he brutally murdered thirty-six women.

Once Ted was later placed on death row he admitted that he possibly killed up to one hundred and ten women. The true number will and has remained unknown. When profiling a criminal, investigators tend to identify the patterns in the criminal’s behavior and look for any relation to childhood history and upbringing. Ted was both very charming and very articulate. A very intelligent man who was receiving his bachelor’s in psychology from the university of Washington, and even aspired being a law student. So how could someone with such intellect be so vicious the below outline will begin to put a profile together of Ted Bundy by giving a detailed description of his background, explaining situational, biological, and even developmental factors that may have very well led up to his criminal behavior.

Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont. His mother was named Eleanor Cowell. Who spent most of her life working as a Secretary at the University of Puget Sound in the state of Washington. Eleanor had Ted in 1946 at a center for unwed mothers. The fact that her son was deemed an illegitimate baby took a significant toll on her that would later be shared by Ted in years to come. Ted’s father has remained unknown. There has been speculation by family members, but concrete evidence to support any actual claim. Eleanor and Ted moved in with her parents shortly after he was born. To avoid the negative talk and chatter associated with young women having children out of wedlock, Eleanor made Ted and everyone else believe that his grandparents were actually his parents and that she was only his big sister.

Ted did not find out until he attended college and that woman that had posed, as his big sister throughout the years was really his birth mother. In 1951, Eleanor and young Ted moved to Tacoma, Washington to move in with other relatives. Eleanor quickly met and fell in love with a military chef by the name Johnny Bundy. Johnny soon adopted little Ted and he became Ted Bundy. Johnny Bundy didn’t make much money and was a simple man. Ted grew to resent his stepfather, looking down on him for the very modest life that he seemed to accept. Although from this time forward, Ted Bundy seemed to grow up in a stable and working-class family.

Ted Bundy was very quiet as a kid. He was teased and often bullied. By the young age of 15, Bundy had turned into a shoplifter and a peeping Tom whenever he would sneak out at night. He also became obsessed with Police Detective comic books that portrayed the mistreatment of women held in bondage. This may have been a precursor to the sexual perversion that was to come. He stayed away from any real interaction with the girls his age in school or neighborhood.

He later went on to college where he met a young lady by the name of Stephanie Brooks, Brooks exemplified everything Bundy wanted to be. They soon became intimate. This was Ted’s first experience of this kind with a woman. He later fell madly in love with Stephanie, but her feelings of everlasting love and affection were not mutual. She only looked upon their “relationship” as only a college fling, only to go on and tell him he was lazy and would never amount to anything. Not long after she ended their relationship.

Ted was devastated. In his eyes, she had betrayed him. With his heart broken he went back home with hopes to resolve long held doubts about his identity. It was at this time that he allegedly found his birth certificate that revealed that his big sister was his mother. With a heart filled of betrayal he decided to change his personality. It is also believed that it was this pivotal moment that he secretly decided to take revenge against women, who he felt had betrayed him so intensely. With his image revamped he began to flourish at the University of Washington. Bundy became one of the most socially affluent students among the student body. He joined many campus groups and even became influential in politics. He wanted very much to be perceived as special and successful.

After graduating, Bundy went on to work for a suicide prevention call center and enrolled in law school at the University of Utah. In the early 1970’s, is when authorities believe he started the vicious killing spree that would go on for the next 5 years. The violent rampage resulted in the death of at least 36 known women and possibly many more. He would assault, rape, murder, and later dismember his female victims. He then would bury their bodies in various wooded areas.

He would often return to his crime scenes, and even return to the corpse to have sex with their lifeless bodies or to apply fresh makeup to them. The first eight deaths happened throughout the states of Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Washington. All of his victims were college students. It was highly difficult for law enforcement to link his crimes together because they were all committed to far apart. Ted would pray on his victim’s sympathetic nature get them alone and then later abduct them. He was posing as an undercover policeman when he tried to abduct 19-year-old Carol DaRonch.

After a struggle she somehow managed to get away and alert police. He was finally caught and arrested on August 15th, 1975. DaRonch picked him out of a line up. His car still had traces of hair from at two previous victims. While in jail he escaped from prison twice. The first time he fled through a 2-story library window and the second time through a small vent in his cell. After a second escape he fled to Florida where he resumed killing again. His most notable murders occurred on the campus of Florida State University in 1978, where he broke into the Chi Omega sorority house and viscously attacked all four women in the house, two of them would not survive. He would go on killing more victims throughout the state of Florida before being captured in 1979.

He was charged for the deaths of the two victims at the Chi Omega and by this time police had linked him to the deaths of other women totaling thirty-six. He was an “All-American Boy” killing “All American” types of girls. During his trial he fired his lawyers and decided to represent himself due to his knowledge gained as a law student. He baffled courtrooms with his charm and confidence. People wondered how someone as intelligent as Ted could be such a monster. His trials became nationally televised headlines. Women flocked to his trials and even made sexual advances at him. Some people even admitted being secretly in love with him. He was eventually found guilty in the Chi Omega murders and sentenced to death. He remained on death row for ten years. He continued to fascinate public. He agreed to interviews, while maintaining his innocence.

Ted Bundy was finally executed by electric chair on January 24, 1989 in Starke, Florida. It is speculated that he indeed murdered over 100 women. The first victim was an 8-year-old girl, when Bundy was just fourteen years old. Bundy was able to take with him to his grave the true number of victims. (Michaud, 2000). Shortly after he was executed, there was applause and cheers from those outside the prison. Biological factors are those in which a human being has no control over. It has everything to do with one’s genetic makeup and overall likeliness to become a certain way based on the innate behaviors inherited from relatives with whom they share similar biological characteristics (Larsson, 2006). Lombroso’s Theory of Criminal Origins even suggests that you can understand a criminal’s violent behavior by analyzing their physical characteristics.

Since Lombroso, many criminologists have attempted to classify, and label criminals and potential criminals based on intelligence, race, heredity, poverty, and other biological or environmental factors (Turvey, 2011). When examining the biological factors that led to Bundy’s long killing spree, there are some signs of this theory’s legitimacy. Experts have long thought that a rough childhood breeds criminal, but recent accounts recommend that it is indeed the biological factors that lead to psychopath. Situational Factors in regard to criminal profiling include circumstances both controlled and inevitable that can lead to criminal activity. This refers to the actual exposure or vulnerability to harm resulting from the environment and the victim’s personal traits at the time of victimization (Turvey, 2011).

When trying to understand victimology in relation to criminology, victimology can be defined as any physical, emotional, psychological harm endured that directly leads to criminal behavior (Fisher, 2014). The climatic event that changed the course of his life forever was the betrayal he endured by the two women who had meant the most to him. The first was his mother. His mother led him to believe that she was his older sister rather than her son for his entire childhood. He would resent her deeply for the rest of his life. The second woman who betrayed him was the first woman that he ever loved, Stephanie Brooks. He was convinced that she was the one he would love for life and marry. Stephanie never loved him. Instead, she continued to lead him on, and later ended their relationship.

The amount of betrayal by these two women resulted in his victimization. Everything that Bundy had come to know about love from a family and intimate perspective was left shattered and hopeless. At the time of victimization, he had personal traits that could be classified as low self-esteem and self-destructive behavior. Low self-esteem can create a strong desire to gain maintain the approval of others (Turvey, 2011). Bundy would later go on to replace these traits with rage, aggression, and violence. On the surface he would his charm, and false-sincerity that enabled him to manipulate dozens of female victims. This was in fact why most of his victims were the “helping” kind of people.

This would have allowed him to exploit the same type of vulnerability in them that was once exploited in him. It can be argued that he used these traumatic events to undergo lifelong revenge against women, because in his eyes they were at the root of his betrayal (Michaud, 2000). Developmental Factors had a strong effect on the savage magnitude of Bundy’s brutal and horrific crimes. Dr. Money theorized that criminal behaviors result when the human developmental process is derailed, and a person is able to make pleasant associations with violent and other criminal activity (Turvey, 2011). One can contend that Bundy’s natural human developmental process came to an abrupt stop once he experienced betrail.

To better understand how Bundy was able to develop into such a prolific and experienced serial killer, the patterns in which he killed his victims must be examined. His tactics were very evenly distributed between M.O. and Signature. An offender’s M.O. is referred to as the method that is used to commit his or her crimes (Turvey, 2011). M.O. stands for Modus Operandi and differs from Offender Signature.

Ted Bundy killed in a variety of different ways, but always used similar types of methods. Bundy’s M.O. behavior almost always occurred with his luring of a victim away from a crowded area or approaching them alone, striking them defenseless, and later stabbing them to death. He always buried them. Bundy didn’t use guns. He didn’t approach women in crowds and he would routinely rape the women who had not died from his initial blow, typically to the back of the head. His M.O. behavior was probably one of the primary factors that allowed him to kill so many victims. Bundy was able to use his swift M.O. behavior to kill numerous women in a short period of time.

Offender’s Signature also called Signature satisfies the offender’s emotional and psychological needs. Bundy’s murders satisfied his emotional needs by allowing him to have total power over his victims. He wanted to feel important and powerful his whole life. This type of criminal activity gave him an outlet to fulfill his longing. This is a common theme in violent criminal behavior “When I had the women alone I liked to possess them like a potted plant”, revealed Bundy in an interview while on death row (Hare, 2012). In addition, he sometimes would change the clothes and apply makeup on the

corpses of his victims. A possible interpretation was that he was implementing a grand design by rebuilding his victims in his image. His psychological needs were also satisfied by his criminal behavior. Most of his victims shared common physical characteristics. They all had long hair with a part in the middle, petite body types and were very good looking. They resembled his first love, girlfriend Stephanie Brooks. It has been heavily documented that Ted Bundy became obsessed with Brooks after she broke up with him (Smithson, 2013).

The proposed logic for this type of signature behavior and strategic selection of victims was that psychologically Ted Bundy was able to kill his first love repeatedly. By continuing to murder women who looked like Brooks he could repeatedly satisfy his obsession of getting revenge against the woman who victimized him. When building a criminal profile on a serial killer as complex as Ted Bundy it is necessary to look at geographical mobility as well. This is one of the areas that made Ted Bundy’s criminal mind unique. Geographical mobility describes the geographical location in which serial offenders murder their victims with relation to their other murders (Choi, 2014).

There are two ways in which geographical mobility is classified, restricted/stable and unrestricted/transient. Restricted geographical mobility means the criminal kills in a certain area only and is restricted to that specific area. The geographically stable killer preys on victims within the area in which he resides, victims’ bodies are also disposed of near. John Wayne Gacy is a well-known example of a geographically stable killer (Choi, 2014). Most serial killers are restricted and/or stable. Ted Bundy was rare because his geographical mobility was unrestricted and transient. He murdered in 7 states. There has never been a serial killer that exhibited that type of transient mobility. This alone makes him one of the most successful serial killers of all time. He killed in different areas, which meant different jurisdictions.

In conclusion, there have been a few psychological theories that have helped the understanding of Ted Bundy. One of the most popular theories was that Ted Bundy straddled the line between two different types of serial killers, making him vastly sophisticated. It is believed that Bundy was both a sexual sadistic and necrophiliac serial killer.

Sexual sadism refers to the derivation of sexual pleasure from the infliction of pain, suffering and/or humiliation upon another person (Bricken,2014). The pain and suffering of the victim, which may be both physical and psychological, is pivotal to the sexual arousal and pleasure (Mokros, 2011). As a child Bundy had be fascinated by comics that depicted this type of behavior. When trying to understand his thought-process, it is probable that he tried to recreate his fantasies through his murders. Necrophilia is sexual intercourse with corpses (Hare, 2012).

Bundy did this to several his victims. Even with categories available to label Bundy’s criminal behavior, it is still nearly impossible to understand him. His flair for heartless violence and cruelty transcends scientific classification and psychological comprehension. Attempts to accurately build a criminal profile on the criminal mind of Ted Bundy must be viewed as subjective. No one really knows for sure what drove him to such criminal behavior. He was master manipulator and many of his “confessions” as to his motives might have been a part of yet another game, where he was able to toy with both psychiatrists as well as the American public’s perception of him. His attorney admitted that he had killed over 100 women, keeping some of their heads as souvenirs. Ted Bundy’s spiritual advisor while on death row, Rev. F. Lawrence, said “I don’t even think Ted knew how many women he ultimately killed or what was even his reasoning for killing them (Michaud, 2000).

 

References

  1. Turvey, Brent E. (2011). Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com
  2. Briken, P., Bourget, D., & Dufour, M. (2014). Sexual Sadism in Sexual Offenders and Sexually Motivated Homicide. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 37(2), 215-230.
  3. Fisher, B. S., & Jerin, R. A. (2014). The Evolution of Victimology: Pedagogy, Research, Services, and Advocacy. Journal of Criminal Justice Education,25(4), 403-404
  4. Choi, K., & Lee, J. L. (2014). Assessment of the Extent and Prevalence of Serial Murder through Criminological Theories. Sociology and Anthropology,2(3), 116-124.
  5. Smithson, R. (2013). Rhetoric and psychopathy: linguistic manipulation and deceit in the final interview of Ted Bundy. Diffusion-The UCLan Journal of Undergraduate Research, 6(2).
  6. Larsson, H., Andershed, H., & Lichtenstein, P. (2006). A genetic factor explains most of the variation in the psychopathic personality. Journal of abnormal psychology, 115(2), 221.
  7. Michaud, S. G., Aynesworth, H., & Bundy, T. (2000). Ted Bundy: Conversations with a killer. Authorlink.