Donna Manson

Ted Bundy's Victim

Donna Manson

"We never can be too careful"

In early 1974, several young women all of a similar age and appearance started to go missing in Washington State, seemingly vanishing into the night in a series of unexplained disappearances. These women, such as Donna Manson, would fall victim to the deception of a sadistic serial killer.

A young college student, with her whole life ahead of her, Donna Manson was last seen by friends several days before she was reported missing. Her family suspected she might have taken off for a few days, but what no-one knew at the time, was that the women of Washington were being stalked, kidnapped and murdered by serial killer Ted Bundy.

Donna Manson: Ted Bundy’s Evergreen Victim

By January 1974, Ted Bundy had progressed from merely stalking, to launching vicious attacks on lone women at night. This was his evolution as a serial killer, that saw him commit what many believe to be his first murder on January 31, 1974. By that time, he had chosen his victim type, young College-aged women who wore their hair parted in the middle.

One student who fit that requirement was 19-year-old Donna Manson, who left her dorm room at Evergreen State College on March 12, 1974, at around 7:00pm to walk to a jazz concert on campus. She was never seen again. When Donna Manson failed to return, her disappearance was not immediately reported. This was because of her tendency in taking off on a whim for several days at a time.

As a result, any eye-witness accounts of her kidnapping were never reported to police. When detectives were alerted to her missing, they alerted authorities and the public. Donna Gail Manson was described as five-foot, 100 pounds and wearing on the day of her disappearance, blue slacks, a red, orange and green striped top and a long fuzzy black maxi-coat, as well as a Bulova wristwatch and an oval brown agate ring.

An image of Donna Manson, one of Ted Bundy's Washington victims.
Donna Manson, one of Ted Bundy's Washington victims.

Sheriff Detective Paul Barcliff said her disappearance was “suspicious,” but explained officers had no reason at the time to suspect foul play. Barcliff cited two similar cases of young women going missing and said, “We never can be too careful. Anytime a young girl is missing for more than a few days, it’s time to start workng on the case, trying to determine her whereabouts.”

“Her parents talked to Donna on Sunday the 10th,” Barcliff said. “and made plans to spend time at the beach during her spring break vacation. Her mother said she was in good spirits and made no mention of going anywhere, but home for vacation.” Barcliff added that his department encountered difficulties in speaking with many of Manson’s college friends as most had left Olympia for spring break.

“She had no mode of transport,” he said. “other than hitchhiking, which she has done on numerous occasions in the past. Always before she took her pack sack, camera and flute when she planned to leave. All those items, as well as grooming articles and her clothing are still at her residence on the college campus.”

When she went missing, Ms Manson left no word with her roommate, or best friend, and no notes were left behind, while no family member had been contacted since her disappearance. It was reported her father, a resident of Auburn, went to Sellick, a small mining community in King County where his daughter often visited. Residents there told him they had not seen his daughter.

Around the same time Donna Manson went missing, and for several months afterwards, other young women vanished, never to-be-seen again. On March 1, 1975, a skull was found by two Green River College students in a thick wooded area on Taylor Mountain. This skull was later identified as belonging to one of those women, while other bones were believed to be those of Donna Manson.

Ted Bundy: The West Coast Killer

With the arrest of Ted Bundy in August 1975, Washington police sought him in connection with the disappearances of several young women. Evidence found in his Volkswagen Beetle, connected Bundy to at least three of those women, meaning they had been in his car at some point, despite his protestations of never having met any of them.

Many years later, after he had been sentences to death for crimes that included rape and murder, convicted serial killer Ted Bundy made shocking confessions on Death Row. On the day of Donna Manson’s disappearance, Bundy’s dated law school notes indicated he did not attend class that day. When questioned about Manson, Bundy would specualte, in third person, about her fate.

Bundy told FBI special agent William “Bill” Hagmaier that the killer had met Donna Manson at a local tavern, and said the two went back her house, where they drank alcohol and had consensual sex… before he murdered her. He suggested the killer bludgeoned her with a crowbar, before strangling her and then having sex with her corpse.

An image of serial killer Ted Bundy during one of his trial for murder.
Ted Bundy, the man police believe responsible for the murder of Donna Manson.

She was then decapitated, he explained, and her body was dumped at the Taylor Mountain site, one of several dumping grounds he used, and where most of his victims remains would later be found. Bundy later confessed about returning to the site to engage in Necrophilia with the corpses of his victims. It was some six days later she went missing that Donna Manson’s friends reported her missing. While on Death Row, Bundy made even more shocking revelations concerning his victims.

He went on to describe how he beheaded at least a dozen of the corpses with a hacksaw, keeping the heads in his house, where he shampooed the hair and applied make-up to more than one victim to fulfil his bizarre fantasies. He would later confirm this to agent Hagmaier. He explained how he would carry the heads around with him for days.

He confessed to keeping as many as four or five heads at home with him at the same time, and also admitted to using the hacksaw to remove the victims hands, which he also carried around with him for several days in a bag. Psychologists speculated these were Bundy’s souvenirs, and that by carrying them around with him, he felt a sense of power because of the risk he was taking in being caught.

In one of his confessions to FBI agent Bob Keppel, Bundy explained how he later burned Donna Manson’s skull on his girlfriends fireplace. He confessed it was something he found extremely risky, because he had done this during the summertime and his girlfriend Liz came home and questioned why he had the fire on during a hot day.

He commented regretfully, “Of all the things I did to [Liz], this is probably the one she is least likely to forgive me for. Poor Liz.” The remains of Donna Manson have never been positively identified, however, there is speculation that the partial remains of an unidentified female discovered near Eatonville, Washington on August 29, 1978, might have belonged to Manson.

On May 10, 1985, clothing and remains from the Bundy case were reportedly destroyed before a positive forensic identification could be made. Although Donna Manson remains one of Bundy’s confirmed victims, he would never face charges for her murder. A young woman who had her life snatched away by a monstrous serial killer, and who like so many other victims of Ted Bundy, Donna Manson continues to remain lost but never forgotten.

Written by Nucleus

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