Ann Marie Burr

The Washington Disappearance

Anne Marie Burr

"wouldn't have hurt a little girl"

On a warm autumn evening in 1961, eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr went to bed along with her younger sibling. Several hours later she woke to tell her mother that her young sibling was crying, and the two children were settled back to sleep. It was the last time her parents saw her. At some point in the night, little Ann Marie Burr vanished.

It appeared someone had entered the Burr home that night and snatched Ann Marie from her bed, taking her into the night. The police investigation saw several suspects questioned, but none were arrested for the crime. The prime suspect in the disappearance of Ann Marie Burr is the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.

Ann Marie Burr

Born in Del Norte County, California, on December 14, 1952, Ann Marie Burr grew up the eldest of four into a Catholic family. Her parents, Donald and Beverly Burr had two other daughters, Julie and Mary, and a son named Gregory. By the early 1960’s, the Burr family resided in the North End neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington, located at 3009 North 14th Street.

Beverly Burr tried to teach her children that the world was a good and safe place. She later told the Seattle Times that “Ann was so trusting,” and she regretting not telling her daughter about how dangerous the world can be at times. “It was a big mistake. We taught her everyone was good. We didn’t teach them that people could be bad. I still think [her abductor] was probably someone she knew.”

The Disappearance of Ann Marie Burr

The evening of August 30, 1961, was like any other in the Burr household. Young Ann Marie had earlier eaten dinner at the home of a nearby friend, and she and her three siblings were put to bed by their parents at around 8:00pm. Ann Marie shared a bedroom with her three-year-old sister Mary, while her other siblings shared a basement bedroom.

During the course of the evening, the Burr’s said they could hear their pet Cocker Spaniel barking at something or someone. It is unknown if this was investigated by Donald Burr. At some point during the early morning hours, Ann Marie woke her parents in their first-floor bedroom, to complain that Mary was crying.

Ann Marie’s younger sibling was suffering from a broken arm, which was in a cast, and their mother Beverly had to soothe her back to sleep. Soon both girls were back asleep in bed. When later questioned, Beverly Burr could no recall the time Ann Marie had awoken her parents, but it would have been before 5:00am.

An image of the Burr family home in Tacoma, Washington, where Ann Marie Burr disappeared.
The Burr family home in Tacoma, Washington, where Ann Marie Burr disappeared.

At approximately 5:30am., Beverly Burr was woken by Mary crying, and upon reaching their bedroom, discovered that Ann Marie was missing. When they frantically searched the house, they found the front door, which had been locked, was left slightly ajar. There was also a small window in the living-room that had been left open.

On the floor inside the house, they found grass from the front lawn, and realized that someone had entered the house from outside. When they checked the children in the basement, they found them safe and still sleeping. Once Donald Burr went outside, he could see a bench had been overturned and was resting against the side of the house.

The Ann Marie Burr Investigation

When law enforcement arrived at the Burr family home, they found evidence that an intruder had been inside the house. Outside they found a faint footprint, estimated to have been made by a size six or seven Keds sneaker, near the overturned bench, which indicated the someone had entered the home through an open living-room window. However, a table of figurines beside the window had been left undisturbed.

Inside Burr’s bedroom, none of her clothing or personal effects were missing. At the time of her disappearance, Ann Marie had been sleeping and so was wearing only her blue nightgown, and a chain necklace with an engraved medal of the Madonna and Child, a medal of Saint Christopher, and an identification tag.

That same morning she was reported missing, a search party of 100 soldiers from Fort Lewis, as well as fifty members of the National Guard from Camp Murray, aided local police in the search for the child. Throughout the course of the day and up to 11:00pm, over 75 square blocks that surrounded the Burr residence had been searched.

The bedroom of Ann Marie Burr, from where she was kidnapped.

This included residential and woodland areas, but uncovered no sign of the child. In the event that Ann Marie had ended up in water, dive teams searched Commencement Bay, but found nothing. The FBI became involved in the case only on a stand-by basis, owing to the lack of evidence that pointed towards an abduction.

One neighbor came forward to report that screaming could be heard coming from a vehicle with California license plates on the morning Burr went missing. However, the driver of this vehicle was located and they explained that the noise had originated from the radio and was likely mistaken for screaming.

From the beginning of the investigation, there were suspicions that Burr’s parents had withheld vital information about their daughter’s disappearance. In response, Donald and Beverly Burr voluntarily took polygraph examinations on September 8, 1961. The results found that both parents had been truthful in their responses.

The following day, Burr’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Roy Leach, posted a $1,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of her granddaughter, and after the after allocation of additional funds The reward was increased to $5,000. While the investigation progressed, police began looking at potential suspects.

Ann Marie Burr Case: Suspects

Within the first twelve days of Ann Marie Burr’s disappearance, over 1,500 people were interviewed. One of those was a teenage neighbour of the Burr’s, who failed one polygraph but later passed another. Police looked at local sex offenders who had recently been released from prison, believing this was the likely motivation if she had been kidnapped.

A 31-year-old ex-marine, Hugh Bion Morse, was questioned on October 21, 1961. Morse had been a suspect in the 1959 disappearance of nine-year-old Candy Rogers in Spokane, whose body was found three weeks after she went missing, under similar circumstances to Ann Marie Burr. Rogers was found raped and strangled with a piece of her own clothing.

In what police considered a significant lead occurred in June 1962, when they received a report from an employee at a service station in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, who told investigators that he saw a girl, who resembled Burr, and who mentioned she was from Tacoma, accompanied by a man and woman who reportedly “spoke a little too sharply” for them to be her parents.

A group searching for Ann Marie Burr.

One man, who was later found to have no connection to her disappearance, was charged with disorderly conduct after trying to collect a ransom for Ann. An inmate in Oklahoma later claimed that he and a friend were behind the kidnapping of Ann Marie while they were working in Tacoma. He claimed to have buried her in a field, however nothing was found when police excavated the site.

Another suspect surfaced in the winter of 1964, when police attempted to arrest Ralph Everett Larkee in Portland, Oregon. Larkee, an auto parts salesman from Spokane, had been accused of kidnapping Gay Lynn Stewart, a 10-year-old girl from Tacoma. The suspect admitted to picking up the young girl, telling police that he took her for “ride through the pacific northwest and then dropped her off a few days later.”

When law enforcement and FBI agents raided his home, Ralph Everett Larkee shot himself with a pistol just as officers knocked on his door. Owing to his suicide, police never got the chance to question Larkee, and his involvement with the disappearance of Ann Marie Burr was never established beyond his preferred victim type.

Ted Bundy: The Killer of Anne Marie Burr?

One of the most high profile suspects in the Burr case was the then incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy. Throughout the late 1960’s and 1970’s, the Ann Marie Burr case grew cold until nothing more was reported about the missing child. However, that changed in the 1980’s, when Bundy let slip an interesting story.

When Ted Bundy was on death row being interviewed by journalist Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, Bundy told them about a killing a young girl in a orchard. However, it was not clear at the time if this story was something Bundy had heard about from another inmate, or something he himself had done.

When investigators looked into Bundy’s early years, they found that he had grew up close to the Burr home in Tacoma. This admission by the notorious serial killer set off alarms bells, and soon enough this story featured in the press. Beverly, Ann’s mother, read the story and decided to write to Bundy and ask him about her missing daughter.

Ted wrote back a reply, which in part said; “First and foremost, I do not know what happened to your daughter Ann Marie. I had nothing to do with her disappearance. You said she disappeared August 31, 1961. At the time I was a normal 14-year-old boy. I did not wander the streets late at night. I did not steal cars. I had absolutely no desire to harm anyone. I was just an average kid. For your sake you really must understand this.”

A mugshot of prolific serial killer Ted Bundy

Although he had denied any involvement in Ann Marie Burr’s disappearance, Bundy reportedly told the story again during an interview with a professor not long afterwards. When it came to confessions, Bundy often dabbled with the truth, in an attempt to avoid incriminating himself, and he often gave different answers depending on the interviewer.

In his later death row confessions, Bundy always maintained that he began his murders after 1969 during the 1970’s. If he did commit the kidnapping and murder of the Burr child, it would have been his first murder when he was himself only a child. Detectives decided this could be a plausible theory, and began looking into Bundy’s childhood.

At the time of Burr’s disappearance, Bundy was only 14 and worked as a paperboy. His delivery route included the neighbourhood of the Burr’s residence. Bundy would have needed to cross very near to the Burr residence, as he had to pass 6th Avenue and N. Fife Streets, where the office manager for the route was. The unknown size 6 shoe imprint found outside the window, from which Burr was abducted, was consistent with a teenage perpetrator.

An image of a teenaged Ted Bundy (right) with his mother, brother and sisters.
A teenaged Ted Bundy (right) with his mother, brother and sisters.

He had other connections to the area, with a great-uncle, whom he often visited, who taught music at the University of Puget Sound (UPS), which was located several blocks from the Burr residence. Based on this circumstantial evidence, Burr’s parents believed their daughter was buried on the University of Puget Sound campus

When detectives questioned Bundy about Burr’s disappearance, he told them he “wouldn’t have hurt a little girl,” and denied involvement. When he was questioned by Bob Keppel about his crimes, Bundy reportedly told him there were “some murders” that he would “never talk about”, because they were committed “too close to home“, “too close to family”, or involved “victims who were very young”.

For Keppel and other detectives, Burr’s disappearance matched all three of these categories. Ann Marie Burr’s parents said publicly that they, nor their daughter had known Ted Bundy when he was a teenager. Beverly Burr stated that, after exchanging two letters with Bundy while he was on death row, “he avoided the real questions, talking instead about the Green River murders and world events.”

Burr’s parents would go on to tell the media that they believed their daughter’s body had been buried in excavation sites on the UPS campus, where construction was underway in 1961. Burr’s father also later told crime writer Ann Rule that he believed he remembered seeing Bundy in a ditch on the UPS campus the morning of his daughter’s disappearance. Bundy was executed in January 1989, without ever admitting to Burr’s murder.

The FBI CODIS database, or “Combined DNA Index System,” in Washington did not contain Ted Bundy‘s DNA sample. Although he was suspected of many murders of young women in Washington state, he had never been convicted of a crime there, so as a result his DNA was never uploaded to the Washington CODIS.

In September 2011, Bundy’s DNA sample was finally uploaded into the Florida CODIS database, and evidence from the Burr crimes scene was tested against his DNA in order to establish a connection. However, the testing failed because a full DNA profile could not be produced from the evidence.

The rumours of Ted Bundy’s involvement in the disappearance of Ann Marie Burr had persisted over the years, and the Burr’s consider him the prime suspect. In July 1963, Donald and Beverly Burr adopted an infant girl, and remained in Tacoma until their deaths. They would never get closure on the case of their missing daughter, and the mystery surrounding the circumstances of Ann Marie Burr’s death might never be known.

Written by Nucleus

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