Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Murder: Future Implications for Police Investigations

Facts

On January 7, 1978, Bundy rented a room, under an assumed name, at The Oak, a rooming house near the Florida State University campus. During the evening hours of Saturday, January 14, Bundy was seen in a barroom next door to the Chi Omega sorority house. Two women testified that they were in the bar that night and subsequently identified Bundy as having been there.3

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 15, 1978, Nita Neary arrived at the Chi Omega house from a date. She entered through a back door. She walked toward the front entrance hall, where the main stairway was located. At the same time, Neary heard the sounds of someone running down the stairs. When she arrived at the front entrance hall, she saw a man holding a club in his right hand, with his left hand on the doorknob. He was in the process of leaving the house. Nita Neary saw a right-side profile of the man's face. She saw him for several seconds before he left.4

Ms. Neary then went upstairs to her room, awakened her roommate and told her a description of the intruder and what she had seen. At trial, her roommate testified that Neary told her that the man wore light-colored pants, a dark jacket and skiing cap. The man had a protruding nose and carried a large stick with cloth tied around it. While Ms. Neary, her roommate, and another house resident discussed whether to report the incident to the police, Karen Chandler, a beating victim, emerged from her room. They could see that Chandler had been injured so they summoned medical help and the police. The severity of the intruder's actions was soon discovered: Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman had been killed; Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiner had been assaulted while asleep and could not describe their attacker.5

The cause of death for Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman was strangulation. Additionally, they received severe beatings from what was discovered to be a length of a tree branch used as a club. Margaret Bowman's skull was crushed and laid open. Lisa Levy had been bitten with sufficient intensity to leave indentations, which could clearly be identified as human bite marks. As a part of the investigation, police technicians took numerous photographs of the bite on the victim's body.6

While at the Chi Omega House, one officer obtained a description of the intruder from Nita Neary. The officer later testified that Neary told him the intruder was a young white male, clean-shaven, with a dark complexion, about five feet, eight inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds, wearing a dark toboggan cap, a dark waist-length jacket, light-colored pants and carrying a large stick.7

At the same time police officers were taking statements and processing the homicide scene, another attack was taking place only a few blocks away from the Chi Omega House. At about 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 15, two residents of a duplex apartment on Dunwoody Street heard loud noises coming from their adjacent apartment. They telephoned Cheryl Thomas, their next-door neighbor, and received no answer. They then called the police. After the police arrived and entered Thomas' apartment, officers discovered that Thomas was lying in her bed and severely beaten. Since she was attacked while sleeping, she could not describe or identify her attacker. Police investigators found in Thomas' room a knotted pair of pantyhose, which did not belong to Thomas. The pantyhose had holes that would indicate they were used as a mask.8

Two men who knew Bundy arrived at The Oak rooming house at about 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 15, 1978. One of the men lived there. As they proceeded inside to a room, they saw Bundy standing in front of the house looking in the direction of campus and the scenes of the crimes. As they passed him, both men casually greeted Bundy, but he did not acknowledge.9

At about noon on Sunday, several residents of The Oak and Bundy discussed the news of the crimes. One resident testified that during this conversation he speculated that the perpetrator was "some lunatic" who was "now probably hiding out real scared." Bundy disagreed by explaining that the crimes were "a professional job;" the killer was someone who had committed such crimes before and had probably already departed the area.10

On Sunday, January 15, Nita Neary met with investigators and again described the intruder. An artist made sketches of the intruder based on Ms. Neary's description. These sketches were admitted into evidence at trial. One week later, Ms. Neary was placed under hypnosis and again questioned concerning what she had seen in the foyer of the sorority house. During the hypnosis session, Ms. Neary added that she had seen brown hair hanging out of the man's ski cap and had also seen the man's eyebrows. These references were the only factual elements obtained through hypnosis that had not already been learned from Ms. Neary's previous descriptions. While testifying at trial, she stated that after the hypnosis session she did not remember seeing the brown hair or eyebrows on the night of the crimes.11

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