Julie Cunningham

The Ted Bundy Victim

Julie Cunningham

"Sometimes it amused him"

In early 1975, several women went missing from areas of Colorado. One these women, Julie Cunningham, had left her apartment to go to a nearby tavern, and simply vanished without trace. Police soon began to suspect that much like several women in Washington, and Utah, the victims in Colorado were being hunted and murdered by a serial killer.

Julie Cunningham: The Disappearance

Saturday, March 15, 1975 was the last day anyone saw Julie Cunningham. The young part-time ski instructor had disappeared early in the evening after leaving her apartment, located in the Apollo Park neighborhood in Vail, Colorado, on her way to visit a local tavern. It was the last time she was ever heard from again.

At the time she went missing, Julie Lyle Cunningham was working for a ski shop alongside her part-time work, and had lived in the Vail area for several years. On the night she vanished, she went to meet her roommate at a bar located just a couple of blocks away from her apartment. Her friend said she never showed up at the bar.

Reported missing to police, her friends and family gave a description of Cunningham. Born on January 10, 1949, in Winchester, Massachusetts, she was White, 5’5 and 11 pounds, with brown hair parted in the middle, brown eyes and appeared younger than her twenty-six years. At the time she was last seen, she was wearing a brown suede jacket, blue jeans and a ski cap and boots.

An image of Julie Cunningham, who went missing in March 1975.
Julie Cunningham, who went missing in March 1975.

She was classified as endangered missing, because it was believe Julie was depressed at the time of her disappearance, and may have been suicidal. At the time of Julie Cunningham’s disappearance, other women had gone missing. Just three months before, Michigan nurse Caryn Campbell was reported missing, her body later found.

In Autumn of 1974, four women in Utah vanished without trace, while a fifth was the victim of an attempted kidnapping. Before this, eight young women disappeared in Washington beginning in January 1974 and ending in July. Police had long suspected that a serial killer was active on the west coast, but few could have imaged that a single perpetrator was responsible.

Ted Bundy: The West Coast Serial Killer

The fate of Julie Cunningham, like so many other women who disappeared in 1974 and 1975, seemed to remain unanswered, despite many theories on who was responsible for her rumoured abduction and murder. No remains were ever found, and there were never any suspects arrested in the case. However, there was one killer who detectives wanted to interview.

On death row since 1980, serial killer Ted Bundy had long refused to confess to the many murders police suspected he had committed, always protesting his innocence. By 1989, Bundy had run out of appeals and his long awaited execution date grew closer and closer. He had come close to confessing on several occasions, but always refused to admit the full horror of his crimes.

During his 11th hour confessions, Bundy finally revealed to detectives the depravity of his serial killings. He admitted to the eight unsolved murders in Washington, as well as five in Utah. When it came to Colorado, Bundy told investigators that he claimed the lives of three women, one of whom was Julie Cunningham.

An image of incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy on death row.
Incarcerated serial killer Ted Bundy on death row.

Vail police detective Matt Lindvall asked to talk with Bundy about three cases he wanted solved. One of those murder cases was Julie Cunningham. But Bundy had ulterior motives, and said he wanted a “deal” before he would confess to Cunningham’s murder. He wanted Det. Lindvall to approach the governor on his behalf, and ask him to postpone the execution.

Although no deal was forthcoming, Bundy insisted on talking about Cunningham, whose body had not been found. At twenty-six, she was Bundy’s oldest victim, and went into detail, telling Lindvall exactly how he had taken the life of an innocent woman who just wanted to help. He revealed how Cunningham had been lured by him, using his handicapped routine of posing as an injured skier on crutches, and he had asked her for help in carrying his ski boots.

This feigning an injury was one of Ted Bundy‘s common techniques for putting him victims at ease, by pretending to be helpless and in need of assistance. When Julie put the ski boots into his Volkswagen Beetle, he hit her over the head with a concealed crowbar, knocking her unconscious, before placing her in the trunk.

An image of Ted Bundy's Volkswagen Beetle, used by the serial killer in many of his murders.
Ted Bundy's Volkswagen Beetle, used by the serial killer in many of his murders.

He then drove on Interstate 70 to a remote area in the desert, roughly eighty miles west of Vail. When speaking to Bob Keppel about Julie Cunningham’s murder, Bundy said, “Sometimes it amused him, he said, to pretend that someone else had attacked them and that he was a Good Samaritan taking them to a hospital.”

Bundy raped Cunningham, and said that after she regained consciousness, she tried to escape. He said he managed to catch her before she could flee, and strangled her. The body was then left in the desert, where it remained undiscovered. Bundy then told Lindvall how a month after the murder, he returned and buried the remains.

“I don’t know why. I just sometimes do that,” he told Lindvall when he confessed. Bundy often returned to the dump sites where he left the bodies of his victims. Sometimes this was to engage in Necrophilia with the remains, something he did several times with some victims, until putrefaction prevented anything further. Of the location, Bundy said the shallow gravesite was near Rife, Colorado, in a high desert area with a circular drive and some large trees.

His credit card receipts for that time revealed that Bundy had bought gas from Golden, Dillon and Silverthorn in Colorado on the day Julie Cunningham went missing. With her long hair parted in the middle, Cunningham fit the profile of Ted Bundy’s other victims, who were mostly all young college-aged women, pretty and trusting.

In April 1989, several months after Ted Bundy was electrocuted in the electric chair at Raiford, a team of experts who specialized in locating bodies brought a bloodhound to a spot considered a likely gravesite, but their search failed to turn up anything of interest. Although she is officially listed as missing, and her case unsolved, Julie Cunningham is one of many young woman whose life was cut short by serial killer Ted Bundy.

Written by Nucleus

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