Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Only Living Witness: The True Story Of Ted Bundy

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Yet even this perception of Ted was false, or at best superficial. All it did was recognize in horror and fascination that the stereotype is a vain assumption. "People,'' said Bob Dekle, the Florida assistant state attorney who prosecuted Bundy for the murder of Kim Leach, "think a criminal is a hunchbacked, cross-eyed little monster slithering through the dark, leaving a trail of slime. They're human beings.''

But within Ted Bundy that slithering hunchback did exist, residing behind what one eminent psychiatrist termed a sociopath's "mask of sanity.'' The mask is a fabrication and nothing more, but it is generally impenetrable. In Ted, the cross-eyed creature lurked on a different plane of existence, and could only be seen by means of a tautology; you had to infer it before it could be found.

Thus, the only doctor who did not assume Ted Bundy was a killer was also the only doctor not to conclude he was mentally disturbed. Once the assumption of guilt was made, nearly all the classic criteria of Antisocial Personality Disorder were identified and duly noted in him; violence, disregard for truth and social norms, thieving, impulsivity, inability to feel guilt or remorse and all the rest. But before that time, no one could see Ted's behavior for what it was, because no one could see behind the mask. Ted alone and only partially understood the hunchback.

It allowed him to hide reality from others, and to deny it to himself. It also conferred on Bundy a preternatural power to manipulate, a capacity whose affect was akin to magic. It was this power that made him such an effective killer, and so impossible to track down. It was a key to his two successful escapes from Colorado jails.

And he used it to bind women to him. Over the years, several would be physically intimate with Bundy (happily), and many more wished they could be. He inspired passionate love and hopeless love, such as the sort felt by his wife, Carole Boone, whom Bundy cruelly encouraged to believe him innocent until just before his 1989 execution. Boone married Bundy after he was condemned to death we helped engineer the courtroom coup and later bore him a daughter.

The press stories about Ted stressed his apparent normalcy, his intellect, his attractiveness, his Republicanism. They didn't report he was a compulsive nail biter and nose picker, that he was no genius (IQ: 124) that he was at best a fair student in college and a failure in law school, that he was poorly read, that he frequently mispronounced words and that he stuttered when nervous and had acquired only a surface sophistication. Against a backdrop of mass insane homicide, Ted instead emerged as a variety of criminal genius, a nearly fictive character (once again like an actor) who wasn't stereotypically a loner or a loser because he didn't look like one and so must be something else: Evil Incarnate, the Devil's issue.

Even the closer profiles of him, some well researched (and one by an older female acquaintance with an active imagination) were suffused with a kind of awe at his works.

Extensive articles appeared in the Reader's Digest, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan and elsewhere. Seven or eight books (we've done two) have appeared. All attempted with varying degrees of success to fathom the essential mystery of the man, and each found a different Theodore Robert Bundy: the Killer Next Door, the Deliberate Stranger, the Stranger Beside Me (an unintentional instance of irony) and the Phantom Prince.

Each book entertained the possibility, or concluded, that Ted was in some way deranged. Each offered evidence of this and whatever alleged insights the author felt compelled to share. Ultimately, however, each writer had to confront unaided Ted's unlit interior realm, his Golgotha. At its edge, each was foiled as we were. As we were, that is, until the day we met the hunchback.

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