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Bundy Described As Manipulative, Deceptive Criminal Genius

January 22, 1989 GMT

STARKE, Fla. (AP) _ Theodore Robert ″Ted″ Bundy, scheduled to die Tuesday in the electric chair, has been depicted as a diabolical genius, a handsome and charming figure who, ″like the plague,″ brought death wherever he went.

The 42-year-old former law student awaits execution for the 1978 murder of Kimberly Diane Leach, a 12-year-old from Lake City.

Bundy also faces execution for clubbing to death two young women at a sorority house in Tallahassee three weeks before Miss Leach disappeared from a schoolyard. He has been called a suspect in the deaths of as many as 36 women.


Bundy’s attorney, James Coleman, was asked recently why the public was fascinated with his client. ″He’s intelligent, attractive. He’s your next- door neighbor. He’s one of us,″ Coleman said.

But at a clemency hearing in 1985 for Bundy in the sorority slayings, Assistant State Attorney Jack Poitinger said, ″Bundy is like the plague. Everywhere he goes, death follows.″

State Attorney Jerry Blair, who prosecuted Bundy for the Leach killing, said he sees two reasons for the public fascination and revulsion with Bundy.

″The mere fact that he is a mass murderer, a serial murderer, gives rise to a certain degree of notoriety,″ Blair said. ″The other reason is the persona of Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy does not fit our stereotypical concept of what a criminal ought to be and what a mass murderer, in particular, ought to be.″

″Bundy is very handsome, he is bright, he’s articulate, he’s trained in the legal system. He is all those things that we assume a mass murderer is not. His very persona contributes to the public’s fascination with the case.″

U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp in 1987 called him ″a diabolical genius″ and said he was ″probably the most competent serial killer in the country at this time.″

Bundy has been the subject of five books and a TV miniseries, ″The Deliberate Stranger,″ which starred Mark Harmon.

Bundy has been linked to eight slayings in Washington state in 1974 that became known as the ″Ted″ murders because witnesses reported seeing a charming young stranger who called himself Ted near where the victims disappeared.

In interviews with authorities over the weekend, Bundy is said to have confessed to those slayings as well as others.

Bundy became one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives after he twice escaped custody in Colorado, where he was being held on charges of murdering a nurse.

At the time, the FBI said Bundy was sought for questioning in 36 slayings of young women. He was captured in Pensacola in 1978.

Bundy was believed to have stalked young women near college campuses, shopping centers and parks, targeting victims with long, dark hair parted in the middle.

Prosecutors said he lured victims into his car by posing as a police officer or by making false requests for aid, sometimes using crutches as a prop.

Bundy also became known as an escape artist who could easily change his appearance and blend into a community.

He was caught in 1984 in an escape attempt from death row at Florida State Prison, the state’s most heavily guarded penitentiary. He was found with two hacksaw blades under his mattress and had already cut through one of the cell bars.

Bundy was born Theodore R. Cowell on Nov. 24, 1946, in Burlington, Vt., to a department store clerk, Louise Cowell, at a home for unwed mothers. His father was described by his mother as a big-talking sailor home from the war.

When Bundy was 4, he and his mother moved to Tacoma, Wash., where she met John Culpepper Bundy at a Methodist church social. They were married and John Bundy went to work as a cook at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Bundy was a good student but not brillant. He was described as boisterous and prone to fights on the playground, and shy and awkward in the classroom.

He was a Boy Scout and vice president of his church youth group. He became active in the state Republican Party and received a glowing letter of recommendation to the University of Utah law school from then-Washington Gov. Dan Evans.

Police said that as a young man Bundy began shoplifting things the family was too poor to buy and was once caught trying to steal a car. Authorities also said he was obsessed with pornography.

After his arrest in Pensacola, Bundy told a detective, ″Pornography is one person’s pleasure, another person’s vice or downfall.″