Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert D. Keppel, Ph.D. an Interview

On the Trail of Ted Bundy (Continued 1)

Q. Was that one of the earliest uses of profiling?

To my knowledge, yes. It was prior to any efforts by the F.B.I. to use profiling. I think theirs started later in 1974. I went to their first profiler's class in April of 1975 and presented the Bundy case there but of course we didn't know it was Bundy then. The use we made of it was to use it as a guide as to who we investigated. We weren't just going to take some ugly guy who looked like a killer. He had to be a good-looking, college age type of guy who, more than likely, owned a Volkswagen. Those were the types of things that we used as a guide. So if somebody came forward who was of another race we didn't prioritize those investigations to pursue those suspects, we went right after a white male.

Q. You mention Bundy as having had a "rare" personality type. Can you describe what you mean by that?

In a population of murderers, the repeat murderer is one who is rare compared to those who commit single victim murders. There aren't as many repeat killers as there are people who commit just one murder. That's what I meant because even among killers he's a rare breed. If you throw in the sexual assault motive it makes him even more rare.

Q. You have expounded the theory that serial killers leave behind a distinctive 'signature,' or as you call it a 'psychological calling card.' Did Bundy leave a signature?

If he did we didn't see it because basically what he left were scattered bones that animals had helped to spread over a hillside, so we didn't have any flesh to look at. We didn't have any bodies to examine and determine a signature. It wasn't until he went to Florida that his signature evolved in that he left bodies that we could find things on, like bite marks. We already knew about the bludgeoning because we had the cracked skulls. Apart from that we did not know anything else about his signature.

Q. Was he aware of it?

Oh yes. He had his ideal victim type but that wasn't necessarily the ones he captured all the time. When you talk about ideal victim types what you talk about is opportunity and control. If the opportunity is there, no matter if it's an older person, they'll grab those as much as they would the twelve-year-olds that they like. His understanding of signature was that you should be able to tell if cases are linked together by virtue of the characteristics left at the crime scenes by the offender.

Q. It has been widely reported that had Bundy not been picked up in a routine traffic stop he may never have been caught. How do you feel about this theory?

I think that he would have been caught. The routine traffic stop that they're talking about was in Florida and that was after he was charged with murder and kidnapping in Colorado. Also it was no routine traffic stop when he was stopped in Utah and identified. It was a routine traffic stop in Florida the second time around. I don't think you could classify the first one as routine when you've got a guy driving through a neighborhood with his lights off and they stop him and he gives some phony excuse why he's there and they ultimately find this chamber of horrors in this little bag he had. Would he ever have been caught? who knows. I think maybe he would have because he was needing to kill and kill and kill so I don't see how he could avoid it for so long picking on the victims that he did. Sooner or later, someone's going to see something because he was picking on victims that people monitored. He wasn't looking at prostitutes at all. He was looking at co-eds. Those people are monitored; they are missed when they're gone. The time between the reporting of them missing compared to prostitutes wasn't a great time span.

Q. As his killings continued, did he become less cautious?

I don't think so. There are some people who believe that the reason he went to Florida was because they had the death penalty and if he was caught he'd get it. I don't believe that. I believe he went to Florida because it's too damn cold in Michigan. What he liked were the small-framed females on beaches with bikinis, that's why he went to Florida. Ultimately, I think that what he did at the Chi Omega house, where he killed two and made paraplegics out of two or three others, was to kill everybody in that house. I don't think he was being careless at all. It was just by accident that another girl showed up, and of course he was one for avoiding any possible chance of detection, and he wanted out, so he got out without doing anything to that other girl. His biggest fantasy was to kill every girl in that sorority house.

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