Caryn Campbell

The Ted Bundy Victim

Caryn Campbell

"This is another thing altogether"

In January 1975, a young couple arrived at the Snowmass Village, Colorado to begin five days of skiing lessons set against the backdrop of the mountain resort. Caryn Campbell, a nurse, was there with the fiancé and his children, for what should have been an enjoyable experience. But this soon turned to worry, and then horror.

Just over a month later, the answer to his mysterious disappearance was solved. Campbell’s frozen body was found on a dirt road just outside the resort, and it was determined she had been beaten to death. With other women disappearing around the same time, police suspected Caryn Campbell had been a victim of serial killer Ted Bundy.

Caryn Campbell: The Ski Resort Disappearance

When 23-year-old Caryn Campbell arrived at the Wildwood Lodge in Snowmass, Colorado on January 11, 1975, along with her fiance Dr. Raymond Gadowski and his children, she was excited for the couple had planned, a five day course of skiing lessons. At the end of the first day of their trip, the unthinkable happened.

That evening, of January 12th, the couple went to dinner at a restaurant just down the slope from the lodge itself, and despite the bitterly cold temperature, they decided to walk back to the lodge after their meal. When they arrived at about 8:30pm, Caryn Campbell excused herself and said she had to go to their second-floor room to get a magazine. It was the last time her fiancé saw her again.

Her fiancé waited in the lobby, and two friends even reported later how they saw her leave the elevator on the second floor and head in the direction of her room. Dr Gadowski did not immediately worry, but when a significant amount of time had passed, and she had still not returned, he went looking for her.

At their room, he found no trace of her. Nothing appeared to have been taken, and there was no sign of a struggle to indicate she had met with foul play. When police arrived, they began a search of the building. Officers looked in the elevator shafts, the crawl spaces, and all 140 rooms in the lodge, but the was still no sign of Caryn Campbell.


Investigators began questioning guests at the ski resort. Michael Fischer, a Pitkin County district attorney’s investigator interviewed more than 100 people, but found nothing to indicate that anyone else was involved in her disappearing. A ski patrol was organized, which search the entire around, finding nothing.

An image of Caryn Campbell, who went missing from a Snowmass ski resort.
Caryn Campbell, who went missing from a Snowmass ski resort.

It was believed that Ms Campbel would not have ventured far as the couple did not have a car with them, and her skies were still in her room. Due to the prevailing wintry conditions, “most people couldn’t walk more than 30 feet,” from the road, said Fisher. Operators of plane and bus services in the resort were notified of Campbell’s disappearance, and given a description and photos of the missing woman. At the time of her disappearance, the 5ft 4in Campbell was described as having short brown hair.

Attention did initially fall on her partner and fiancé, Dr. Raymond Gadowski, a Farmington Hills doctor. However, an acquaintance said there was nothing between the couple that might cause Ms Campbell to leave, and the couple were planning to marry that spring. “I’ve seen some gals take a quick walk on their boyfriends when they’ve got a beef,” said Fischer, “but this is another thing altogether.” She had simply disappeared.

With no evidence that Caryn Campbell had met with foul play, police called off their search. Investigator Fischer reported to the press that he had no idea what happened to Ms Campbell. “I’ve ruled out gypsies, flying saucers, occult people, and cattle rustlers,” said Fischer. It wasn’t long before the question of what happened to Caryn Campbell was solved.

Caryn Campbell: Murder in the Snow

Just over a month after she went missing, the naked and frozen body of a woman was located on February 17, 1975. A passing motorist came across the remains on a nearby road along Owl Creek, situated between Aspen and Snowmass, and was revealed when the weather began to warm. The body had suffered decomposition and damage to the upper body, most likely the result of animal predation, which made immediate identification impossible.

The following day, the body was taken to Denver General Hospital where it was positively identified during autopsy through dental records as that of Dearborn, Michigan nurse Caryn Eileen Campbell. The autopsy determined that she had suffered several blows to the head, from a blunt object, and a large blood pool surrounded her head. It was believed she was murdered shortly after she went missing.

The Pitkin County sheriff’s office announced that marks on her wrists seemed to indicate that Caryn Campbell had, at some point, been tied up. It was also determined she had been raped and strangled. “All indications are that this is a homicide,” said Colorado district attorney Frank Tucker. Tucker expressed his anger at what he called speculation surrounding the case.

Frozen body of Caryn Campbell

For some investigators who were familiar with recent cases, it was suspected that Campbell had fallen victim to a killer who had also claimed the lives of 12 other women in the West. Tucker said, “I am interested in convicting someone of this crime, not in hearing someone’s pipe dreams. We have no evidence to tie this murder to any other we’ve had in the West at all at this point.”

When told of her tentative identification by a reporter, Dr. Raymond Gadowski said “That’s kind of what we expected. We’ll have to wait and see what happens… this endless waiting has been very difficult for everyone involved. But I hope it’s not her.” After the positive identification, the body was flown to Detroit for burial.

Ted Bundy: The Prime Suspect

While Colorado investigators continued to gather evidence in the Caryn Campbell case, circumstances in another state would prove that was a connection between the Snowmass disappearance, and those of other women who vanished in Washington, Utah and Idaho. The victims in these cases were all pretty college-aged young women who seemingly vanished.

Several months before Caryn Campbell went missing, another young woman was abducted by a man pretending to be a police officer. On November 8, 1974, 18-year-old Carol DaRonch was approached by a man who presented a police badge. She accompanied the man to his car, a tan-colored Volkswagen Beetle, and he told her she had to come to the station.

During the journey, the man attempted to handcuff DaRonch, and during the struggle, the man stopped the car and the young woman escaped. This attempted kidnapping was not immediately attributed to the same individual detectives suspected was involved in the cases of the missing women, and so nothing further was investigation.

Serial Killer Ted Bundy having his mugshot taken on October 3, 1975.

Several months after the discovery of Caryn Campbell’s frozen body, patrolmen arrested 28-year-old Ted Bundy, a University of Utah student, who was pulled over after a chase with police. Inside Bundy’s tan-colored Volkswagen, police found several items such as a crowbar, a flashlight, a ski-mask, rope, a pair of handcuffs, a screwdriver, an ice pick and a pantyhose mask.

Ted Bundy was subsequently picked out of a line-up by Carol DaRonch, as the man who abducted her from a Utah book store. Bundy’s vehicle matched the description of the Volkswagen used by the kidnapper, and his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Kloepfer, provided detectives with information after she herself suspected Bundy of offences.

Credit card receipts for January 12, 1975, seem to indicate Bundy purchased fuel from a gas station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, placing him in the area when Campbell went missing.

Two days later he returned to Seattle to spend time with Kloepfer after his final law school exams had been completed, and on January 23rd, he returned to Salt Lake City, Utah. Released while the investigation was ongoing, Bundy was placed under surveillance. Bundy was also suspected of involvement in the cases of women who went missing in Washington, included two women who were abducted from Lake Sammamish Park in July 1974, after witnesses saw them in the company of a young man with his arm in a sling who called himself “Ted”.

Bundy was put on trial in February 1976, for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. Ted Bundy decided to represent himself, but admitted to having no alibi for his whereabouts on the day DaRonch was abducted. Although he denied ever meeting DaRonch, Bundy was found guilty and sentenced at a later date to between one and fifteen years imprisonment.

With a suspect in custody, investigators in the Washington cases and the Caryn Campbell case began to search for more evidence linking Bundy to the murders. Bundy’s Volkswagen was traced by detectives who impounded the vehicle, and began searching for forensic evidence. Despite an attempt at fastidious cleaning, Bundy had missed crucial pieces of evidence which were found by FBI specialist Robert Neill.

Hair samples were found which matched those of Caryn Campbell, and others from three different victims who’s presence in Bundy’s vehicle would be astronomically unlikely as they had never met. Meanwhile, the impressions in Caryn Campbells skull bore the same impressions as those made by the crowbar taken from Bundy’s vehicle the night of his arrest.

On October 22, 1976, Colorado police filed charges against Bundy for the murder of Caryn Campbell. He was eventually transferred to the Garfield County Jail in Colorado on April 13, 1977, where he remained to await trial for murder. Once again Bundy decided to conduct his own defence, and requested permission to leave the jail to access the Pitkin Courthouse library to conduct his research.

What the authorities did not know was that Bundy was planning his escape. On June 6, 1977, he escaped after his restraints were removed and jumped from the courthouse window. Recaptured six days later, Bundy was imprisoned at Glenwood Springs. Over the next six months, Bundy was busy planning a second escape.

During the new year celebration on December 31, 1977, Bundy crawled up into the ceiling of his cell and made his way to another part of the building, and there jumped down into the jailer’s apartment. Once he was sure everyone had left, he walked out a free man. Making his way to Florida, Bundy had already decided to murder again.

The crimes he committed in Florida shocked the nation. On January 15, 1978, he attacked five students at the Chi Omega sorority house, killing two, while the other three were left with life changing injuries. A month later, on February 9th, he abducted and murdered 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, in one last act of depravity.

Added to the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List, Ted Bundy was captured on February 15th, driving a stolen Volkswagen Beetle. For the crimes committed at Chi Omega, Bundy was found guilty and sentenced to death. At a later trial, he was found guilty of the murder of Kimberly Leach and again sentenced to death.

For these crimes Ted Bundy would eventually faced the electric chair. However, before his execution, he finally admitted to the murders detectives had suspected of his involvement with for over a decade. He went on to tell FBI agents Bob Keppel and Bill Hagmaier that he committed three murders in Colorado.

These were generally believed to have been those of Caryn Campbell, Julie Cunningham and Denise Oliverson, who all went missing. Of the three, only Campbell’s body was ever recovered. While admitting to some crimes, such as those in Washington, Bundy refused to divulge more information to detectives, as part of a ploy to stay his execution.

He alluded to more victims, telling investigators “there are other buried remains in Colorado,” but refused to elaborate. Colorado detective Matt Lindvall interpreted this as Bundy wanted to postpone his execution, but was conflicted about revealing all, believing he wanted to remain in “total possession, the only person who his victims’ true resting places.”

FBI Agent Bill Hagmaier and Ted Bundy (1986)

Ted Bundy would be executed without ever admitting his involvement in the death of Caryn Campbell. Like so many other victims, Bundy never faced justice for those crimes. Despite his refusal to identify all his victims, Ted Bundy was the only man wanted for questioning in all of the Washington, Utah, Idaho and Colorado cases of which he was the prime suspect.

On January 23, 1989, the day before the scheduled execution of Ted Bundy, Campbell’s father, Robert Campbell spoke with the Free Press. “You never really forgive something like that,” he said. “You just try to put it behind you… the thing I’d like to have back, I can’t.”

Campbell’s father said that despite his daughter’s death that he didn’t feel strongly one way or another when it came to capital punishment. “I’m not a vindictive person, but certainly you can’t go around killing people – reluctantly, but I don’t think executing Bundy will be a deterrent. People will keep killing.”

Written by Nucleus

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