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Ted Bundy on Death Row

The Serial Killer at Starke Prison

Ted Bundy on Death Row

"It scared the hell out of us"

When serial killer Ted Bundy was sentenced to his third death sentence, he found himself imprisoned at Starke Prison in Florida. With Ted Bundy on death row, the authorities questioned him on unsolved cases, and hoped he would finally reveal the whereabouts and divulge what happened to his many victims, most of whom were never found.

During his later years on death row, Bundy helped authorities with the Green River Killer investigation, and eventually made his confessions. However, one thing Ted Bundy always thought about was escape, and even on death row, he attempted at least one plan to gain his freedom. Towards the end of the 1980’s, Bundy’s execution date was cancelled and rescheduled, until his final date with Old Sparky.

Ted Bundy: All-American Serial Killer

On January 7, 1980, Ted Bundy would go on trial for the last time for the murder of Kimberly Leach, the twelve year old Lake City Junior High School student, who was kidnapped on February 9, 1978. During the trial, during which Bundy conducted his own defence, the evidence was stacked against him. In the courtroom, the suave Bundy married his long-time girlfriend Carol Boone during a brief ceremony.

Found guilty, the verdict was handed down on February 10, 1980, and Bundy was sentenced for a third time to death by electrocution. When he heard this, he stood up and shouted, “Tell the jury they were wrong!”. Three days later, Bundy was taken to the Florida State Prison in Raiford and there had his mugshot taken and was formally condemned as a Death Row inmate.

An image of Ted Bundy's mugshot, taken at Florida State Prison on February 13, 1980.
Ted Bundy's mugshot, taken at Florida State Prison on February 13, 1980.

At the conclusion of the Leach trial, Bundy was sent to Starke Prison in Raiford, Florida, where he began his sentence on death row in February 1980 as inmate number 069063. On February 13, 1980, he was processed into the prison system, with his mugshot taken and prison clothes issued. During his time there, Bundy initially occupied a cell on the 2-North catwalk.

Ted Bundy: The Celebrity Serial Killer

From his first days at Raiford, Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer, became something of a celebrity inmate with many visitors to the prison often asking to see him. The normally socially confident Bundy intensely disliked being made a crowd-pleaser, believing the prison authorities were treating him like a prison tourist attraction.

When on trial for his crimes, Bundy enjoyed the attention from female fans, particularly his “Bundy Groupies,” who were often to be seen sitting in the front row. Now on death row, Bundy always received more mail than any other inmate, usually around 20 to 30 letter a day from people all around the world.

Most of those who wrote him just wanted a souvenir if he replied, but some were from women who professed their love and admiration for him, and he even got proposals of marriage. One woman who stuck by him through his trials and time on death row was Carol Ann Boone, who had met the serial killer in Washington in 1974, and later became his wife during the Leach trial.

Although conjugal visitation was not allowed at the Florida State Prison, many of the inmates were known to pool their money to bribe the guards to allow them intimate time alone with their female visitors. On October 24, 1982, Boone have birth to Ted Bundy‘s daughter Rose Bundy. Boone remained loyal to Bundy until his later confessions to his many crimes.

Ted Bundy and the Michaud and Aynesworth Interviews

Beginning in March 1980, shortly after he had been sent to death row, Bundy participated in a series of interviews with journalists and investigative reporters Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. The purpose of the interviews was to give Bundy the opportunity to speak with them in collaboration on a book about himself.

Although Bundy had always denied his crimes, claiming he was not a serial killer, the interviews gave him an opportunity to confess to his crimes by giving a third-person perspective on how he believed the killer had murdered so many young women in Washington, Utah, Idaho and Florida. On four different interview days in April 1980, Bundy speculated to Michaud and Aynesworth how Linda Ann Healy, Roberta Parks, Brenda Ball and Nancy Wilcox were all abducted, placed inside his Volkswagen Beetle, and murdered.

Further interviews were conducted on November 12, 1980 and February 5, 1981, while the last took place on March 31, 1981. By the end, Michaud and Aynesworth had enough material to publish their book, The Only Living Witness, which was described as one of the best true crime books ever written. A second book, titled Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, contained edited transcripts of the interviews.

Ted Bundy: The Death Row Troublemaker

While his time spent on death row was mostly spent in his cell replying to letters, Bundy was known to be a troublesome inmate. He seemed to take great delight in defying the authorities at every opportunity. On October 14, 1980, a date between his meetings with Michaud and Aynesworth, an officer cleaning up food trays after lunch found Bundy’s tray with a hole burned in it. Bundy denied the charge, and had to pay $4 for the tray, while his privileges were revoked
for 15 days.

Ted Bundy had a history to defying the prison system ruled. During the Chi Omega trial, Bundy refused to attend court on July 17, 1979. The jailer, Sgt Marty Kratz, explained to the judge that, “At about 1:00am, Ted had thrown an orange between the bars of cell 406 and succeeded in smashing one of the lights installed outside to give him better illumination in his cell.”

Jailers had immediately moved him to cell 405 and searched his cell. Hidden far back in that cell, they had found shards of broken glass from the splintered light bulb. Sgt Kratz said, “when we went to get him for court this morning, we couldn’t get the key in the lock, he’d jammed some toilet paper in there.” Reminded that he was due in court, Bundy said, “I’ll be there when I feel like it.”

Ted Bundy with Carol Boone and his young daughter Rose.

On September 14, 1979, a correctional officer saw several magazine pictures pasted on the walls of Bundy’s cell, a violation of prison rules. When the officer asked Bundy to remove them, he refused, saying: “The pictures are on the wall since I have no TV.” At a hearing the next month, Bundy pleaded not guilty to the violation, adding that he wanted “to brighten up” his cell. His exercise privileged were revoked for 30 days.

On death row, Bundy continued to cause problems for the guards. On February 2, 1983, two officers found water flooding the cell block where Bundy and other inmates were housed. Bundy was charged with disorderly conduct after officials determined he caused the flooding by repeatedly flushing his toilet. Bundy pleaded not guilty. His privileges were revoked for 30 days.

While most of Bundy’s misbehaviour on death row was innocuous, and could even be considered as pranks by a bored inmate, which seemed focused more towards causing the guards and warden more paperwork, one particular incident, that took place in 1984, was cause for concern by the prison authorities who were overseeing the imprisonment of a man with a record of successful escapes.

Ted Bundy: The Death Row Escape Attempt

By mid-1984, Bundy was moved up to R-Wing 3-North and proceeded to keep his head down, quietly going about his business. During one evening shift on 18 July 1984, the Raiford guards decided the “beat the bars”, which was a security precaution that involved officers striking the metal bars of all the inmates cells with a rubber mallet, to detect any cutting or tampering.

After the first cell had been checked, the wing sergeant struck the bars on cell number two, and the sound of cold stell hit the floor and rolled out onto the quarterdeck. The realized they had been cut. The Death Row prisoner was cuffed and secured in the nearby shower cell. Then the same sound could be heard from cell number three.

This was Bundy’s cell. “Instantly our pucker factor went off the chart and a frightening feel set over us. How many cells were like this up here, we asked ourselves? It scared the hell out of us” Bundy was quickly handcuffed and the sergeant ordered the wing sealed off and additional assistance was requested.

It was determined only two of the cells were tampered with, and it was learned Ted Bundy and the other inmate had formulated a plan to escape by taking the midnight shift officers hostage. Bundy had managed to keep two hacksaw blades hidden in his cell and the steel bars had been sawn through at the top and bottom, then glued back into placed with an adhesive made from soap.

He was subsequently moved to a different cell and several months later a mirror was found in his cell, which was unauthorised and he was again relocated. He entered into unauthorised correspondence with another criminal, John Hinckley Jr. and was again disciplined for this infraction. It was during this period that Bundy was attacked by several other Death Row inmates in what was described as a “gang rape”, however, Bundy would strenuously deny having been assaulted.

Ted Bundy and the Green River Investigation

After several years of Ted Bundy on Death Row, the incarcerated serial killer read about the then still unsolved series of murders attributed to the Green River Killer, and decided to write to Detective Bob Keppel on October 1, 1984, offering his help in the Green River Investigation. With his unique insight, Keppel and Dave Reichert, the lead detective on the Green River Task Force decided to take Bundy up on his offer.

Bundy believed he alone could help detectives catch the unidentified Green River killer, owing to his own experience with serial murder. To Keppel and Reichert, Bundy offered a unique insight into the mind of the killer, which to Keppel seemed a curious offer, considering that Bundy had never confessed to any of his own crimes, and still denied he was a serial killer.

Several weeks after sending his letter, Keppel and Reichert travelled to the Florida State Penitentiary and there met with Bundy in a small interrogation room off “Death Row.” Although Bundy could never provide Keppel with enough information to help catch the killer, he did offer many insightful opinions on how the killer might operate.

He spoke about how the “River Man” as he described the killer might be selecting his victims, how long the killer might have been operating, the reason he was dumping bodies in different places, and he often lectured the two detectives on they should conduct their investigation. Keppel would make several more trips to see Bundy over the next few years, and not only in relation to the Green River killer, but also to get Bundy to confess his own crimes.

The Ted Bundy Drawings and Sketches

Sometime in August 1986, five sketches that were alleged to have been drawn by Ted Bundy were delivered to an unknown source. These five drawings depicted a variety of images, each of which conveyed different emotions that the artist intended to express. The first, known as “Me,” depicts a figure with strong angular features dressed in stylish clothes.

This is the image Bundy wanted to present to people, and could be considered his “fake Ted”. The second, known as the “Entity,” was a representation of his dark side. It shows a warrior, wearing a helmet and wielding an axe, which could be the “true Ted,” used to metaphorically describe the emotions and rage that he tried to hide from the world.

Ted Bundy Drawings

The third was “Handcuffs,” and showed a man wearing restraints. This could be an indication of how Bundy saw himself in relation to admitting to his guilt, and how his “hands were tied,” in his refusal to confess. The fourth was “Bigfish,” and contains strong connections to his view on serial killers and how there are many small fish that the FBI will catch, but every now and then, they will capture a bigfish, such as Bundy and the River Man.

The fifth and last drawing was titled “Freedom,” and is one of the more complex renditions of the entire set. It shows a woman with long hair, similar to his many victims, along with a large sword, a hooded figure and a skull beneath the woman. It contains the most overtly sexual imagery, however it’s interpretation is not as easily explained and is open to debate.

Ted Bundy and the Death Row Confessions

Bundy once said to investigators about confessing to his crimes, “Walking right up to the edge is a thrill, but I can’t do it. I haven’t allowed myself to choke.” For more than a decade he had insisted on his own innocence. So much so, that his family and even Carol Boone believed he had been wrongly convicted for crimes he never committed. Boone would stay by his side almost until the end.

In the last few years of his time on Death Row, Bundy formed a somewhat complicated if unusual relationship with FBI special agent William “Bill” Hagmaier. He first met Ted Bundy in 1984, when he helped the Green River Investigation. Bundy seemed to confide in Hagmaier, telling the FBI agent about his inner most thoughts and feelings on serial murder.

But even to Hagmaier, Bundy refused to confess. “Sitting there in a cell, I could convince myself that I was not guilty of anything.” As his execution date grew nearer, Bundy attempted to gain more time by giving up details about murders for which he had not been convicted. He told Hagmaier about the murder of Melissa Smith in Utah in October 1974.

FBI Agent Bill Hagmaier and Ted Bundy (1986)

He confessed to decapitating the young girl, and taking her head home with him to his Utah apartment. There, he spent the evening applying make-up to Smith’s face, at the same time he washed the hair of another victim, Laura Aime, whose head he had kept after her murder. He told Hagmaier, “If you’ve got time, they can be anyone you want them to be.”

With his execution date set, Bundy told detectives from Utah, Colorado and Idaho that he had committed numerous other murders for which he had never been charged. Hoping to get another stay of execution, he withheld many details, and sought to use the information as a bargaining chip in his effort to remain alive.

In the end, he confessed to the murders of thirty women throughout Washington, Utah, Colorado and Idaho. Hagmaier asked Bundy if 36 was an appropriate number of victims, he said “add one more digit and you have it.” Some investigators suspect that Bundy was responsible for as many as a hundred unsolved murders, but there has never been any evidence to support this.

Ted Bundy’s Execution

Facing death in the electric chair for his crimes, the time of Ted Bundy on Death Row was marked by an erratic and at times, indetermined execution date. On March 4, 1985, an execution date for the Chi Omega convictions is set, however the U.S. Supreme Court issued a brief stay of execution. This did not last long, and a new execution date was quickly rescheduled.

In April 1986, a new execution date, July 2, 1986, was announced, and Bundy finally began making confessions to his lawyer Polly Nelson and FBI special agent Bill Hagmaier. On July 1, 1986, less than 15 hours before the scheduled execution date, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed in indefinitely and remanded the Chi Omega case for review on multiple technicalities.

This including Bundy’s mental competency to stand trial and an erroneous instruction by the trial judge during the penalty phase requiring the jury to break a 6-6 tie between life imprisonment and the death penalty. On November 18, 1986, Bundy obtains a stay of execution only seven hours before he is scheduled to die.

Ted Bundy, during his last interview shortly before his execution.

Over the next three years, no further dates are set, until January 1989, when Florida Governor Bob Martinez signed Bundy’s fourth death warrant. On January 22, Bundy has one last meeting with Keppel and Hagmaier. His execution date was set for January 25th. On that morning, Bundy called Carol Boone, however she refused to take his call after hearing of his confessions.

With his appeals exhausted, and the families of the victims refusing to stay petition Governor Martinez for a stay of execution, Bundy talked of suicide. The morning of January 25th, at 7:16am, the execution of Ted Bundy was carried out. People outside cheered when news of his death was announced, and many held up placards with “Burn, Bundy, Burn,” in celebration at the passing of one of the most notorious of serial killers.

Written by Nucleus

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