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The psychopathic serial killer behind one of America's most misunderstood crimes has died

And in the underbrush there was one final clue: three grease spots—remnants of the oil that soaked into the earth as three bodies lay side by side, disintegrating until they were nothing but bones. By the following day, investigators had identified two of the three sets of remains: they belonged to Janice Ott and Denise Naslund. The news terrified the region. This was not the kind of destruction locals were used to, and it suggested that something was changing, that something might already be gone. The joint task force folded within weeks.

If nothing else, Bob Keppel would later recall, the people they investigated were always cooperative. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. It was a time when women feared for their safety, and men professed fear for the women they loved—men including Ted Bundy. Later his mother would remember a night when Ted, while visiting his family in Tacoma, watched his younger half-sister, Sandra, get ready for a date.

Ted was equally protective of his girlfriend, Liz, and her young daughter. Liz was a twenty-four-year-old single mother when she moved to Seattle in , and she had been in town only a few weeks when she met Ted in a University District tavern.

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Both were pretending to be other people and seemed to find a sense of safety in each other. The relationship that started with mutual lies soon seemed one in which they kept no secrets from each other. But Ted had big dreams. He was going to law school. He was going to make a name for himself. He was marked for success.

At first, Ted seemed to agree. They got engaged in early , but Ted quickly broke it off. They were too poor, he said. Ted applied to law schools, and was devastated when he was accepted only at his last choice, the University of Utah. Their relationship stagnated. Ted saw other women. Liz got jealous. Liz saw other men. Ted got jealous. And gradually Liz saw a new pattern of behavior emerging: Ted would be cold and absent one day, then reappear the next, warm and present, showering her with declarations of his love.

Around the same time, Liz noticed another pattern: young women were disappearing across the Pacific Northwest. Walking at night from my garage to my front door scared me. I wished I knew what she was like so I could be more like her. He had a VW, but so did she. She had found plaster of paris in his dresser—the same kind a person would use to put together a makeshift cast like the one witnesses had described—but he told her he had it in case he actually did break something.

One of her friends went home to Salt Lake City to visit family and learned about the recent murder of a local teenager named Melissa Smith. Soon afterward, her suspicions again gave way to guilt. By then, he had already been arrested in Utah. Ted Bundy was arrested for the first time not for murder, rape, or kidnapping, but because he got lost.

One warm night, he was driving around a Salt Lake City suburb when he got disoriented and pulled over to find his bearings. When he got back on the road, he noticed a car tailing him. He would later deny he knew it was a patrol car until he ran a red light and saw police lights behind him. Then, he said, he did what any law-abiding citizen would do: he pulled over and did his best to cooperate. He allowed the police to search his car, where they found an ice pick, a pantyhose mask, a ski mask, several pieces of rope, a pair of handcuffs, and a crowbar.

The tools looked suspicious—like a burglary kit, maybe—but at a meeting three days after the arrest, Detective Daryle Ondrak still hesitated before mentioning the search.

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The suspect had lured Carol her into his tan VW by posing as a police officer, then tried to handcuff her and bludgeon her with a crowbar before she escaped. Of the people who were surprised by his subsequent arrest, Bundy seemed the most shocked of all. She had dated Ted years before, and she had trusted him too.

At the time of his arrest, it was difficult even to describe the crimes Ted Bundy was accused of: the term serial killer , coined during this period by profiler Robert Ressler, still existed only in FBI circles. In the past, killers who fit this mold—the Texarkana Moonlight Murderer, the Austin Servant Girl Annihilator, the Axeman of New Orleans—were colorfully named phantoms who terrorized a region for a few months or years, then disappeared.

Ted Bundy was different. What did it mean for a man who had succeeded in American society to be capable of committing—or even imagining—such violence? Did it say something about the country that made him? Or did the police just have the wrong man?

The general public had no words for Ted Bundy, and perhaps this was why, when he escaped police custody in June —a feat he accomplished by leaping out the second-story window of the Pitkin County Courthouse law library when the guard stepped outside for a smoke—he became more folk hero than bogeyman.

When Ted Bundy was captured after six days on the run—exhausted, starving, freezing, injured, hallucinating, and reportedly twenty pounds lighter than he had been when he escaped—he still managed to grin roguishly for the cameras and make sure the headline writers knew he was in on the joke. She was positive that Ted was innocent—a position she would maintain, publicly, for the rest of her life. When Carole described her jailhouse visit with Ted, she spoke of a man who seemed not just physically apart from the wider world, but no longer of it.

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Exiled in the midst. It was the place where Ted turned when he paced around his cell.

Not long before, Ted had asked his former attorney John Henry Browne which states he thought were most likely to carry out the death penalty following the end of its national moratorium in He had pulled his sheets over a pile of clothes, crumpled papers, and law books, so the guards would think he was still in bed. It was the kind of ruse that should have worked only in a cartoon, but it worked for Ted Bundy.

By the time the police alerted the public and set up roadblocks, he was already more than a thousand miles away. The story said an intruder had raped and murdered two young women and beaten two others as they slept in their beds at Florida State University… Now I had the ominous feeling that [Ted] was in Tallahassee. A month later, on February 16, , she got a call from Ted. She could tell that he was crying. About the way I am. After he was captured in Florida, Ted Bundy changed, in the public eye, from an outlaw to a monster.

What had happened at Florida State University had happened in our world. It had happened here. At the Chi Omega sorority house, a man had stolen upstairs in the earliest hours of January 15, , and gone from bedroom to bedroom, bludgeoning his sleeping victims with an oak log. Twenty-year-old Kathy Kleiner and twenty-two-year-old Karen Chandler survived that night, though they were beaten so severely that drops of their blood were later found on the ceiling. Both Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman were strangled and bludgeoned to death, and Bowman was beaten with such violence that her temple was crushed and fragments of her skull were driven into her brain.

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Levy was raped vaginally and anally with a bottle of Clairol hair mist, and her autopsy would reveal that she had been sexually assaulted with enough force to damage her internal organs. Her killer had bitten deeply into one of her buttocks and nearly tore her nipple from her breast. Contrary to what Liz read in the newspaper, Levy was the only victim to be sexually assaulted, but the manner in which Bowman, Kleiner, and Chandler were attacked suggested a form of domination akin to rape. Someone had wanted not just to hurt or even kill these women, but to obliterate them.

It had all happened in a matter of minutes. The attacker had moved from room to room, beating each woman in a violent frenzy, then pulling the covers up to her chin and moving on. After he left the sorority house, he went to a duplex eight blocks away and assaulted Cheryl Thomas, a twenty-one-year-old dance student who lived there, in the same way that he had attacked Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler—and then he was gone again.

Thomas, Kleiner, and Chandler had no memory of their assaults, let alone of their assailant. The only description the police had came from Nita Neary, a Chi Omega sister who caught a momentary glimpse of the killer as she returned from a date. When The Florida Flambeau printed a front-page story on the attack, it had no more information to report, nothing that could make the community feel safer.