Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killers Who Surrender

The Feminine Mistake

Carol Bundy
Carol Bundy

It's interesting to note that among those who have turned themselves in, we find no lone females. The only females who have voluntarily confessed were typically part of a team, and their motives ranged from self-preservation to delivering their partner to benefit themselves. Typically this occurs when they believe the police have already drawn close to identifying them.

Carol Bundy called the police on several occasions to turn in her partner, Douglas Clark; together they were responsible for "the Sunset Strip Slayings" in Hollywood in the early 1980s. On Thursday, June 12, 1980, the bodies of two girls were found along the Ventura Freeway embankments. After they were identified, a call came into the station from a woman who did not give her name but who implicated her boyfriend in the killings. But she did not say how to find him. She could have been just a crank caller, but she was correct about how the murders had been done, adding details not released to the media. Her report that she and her boyfriend had recently washed the car, inside and out, was consistent with the way a killer would act who wished to remove evidence. But the switchboard cut her off and she did not call back.

Douglas Clark
Douglas Clark

Bundy would entice girls into the car so that Clark could force them into sexual acts, during which he would shoot them in the head. He would then have sex with the corpses. Bundy eventually told a co-worker about it and that person called the police. When arrested, Bundy and Clark were charged with six counts of murder — five females and one male (a friend of Carol's who had suspected Doug in the string of slayings, whom she herself had murdered.) Clark was sentenced to die while Bundy, who testified against him, got two consecutive life terms.

Karla Homolka, too, went to the police to inform on her husband, Paul Bernardo. She said she was a battered wife and had protected him only because she feared for her own life. Then she described the torture-murder of two girls from the Toronto area. What she concealed, however, was her own involvement in a third homicide, the killing of her sister, Tammy, in 1990 in a botched (and unconscionable) attempt to deliver an unconscious virgin to Paul as a Christmas gift. When videotapes were discovered, it was clear that Homolka had been more a participant than the compliant accomplice she had described. As the police closed in, she'd seen a chance to save herself, so she lied to get a short prison term in exchange for details about what Paul had done to the girls. He went to prison for life, while she cut a deal to receive only two 12-year terms, to be served concurrently. She left prison in 2006.

Karla Homolka
Karla Homolka

Since so few serial killers have voluntarily stopped themselves by going to the police, we know little enough about their psychology. Remorse is generally part of it, but our current state of ignorance on this small corner of serial killer behavior does not allow much room to speculate as to why males might do this while females who kill on their own have not.

In any event, it's clear that not all serial killers view their murders as a game. Some — albeit very few — do appear to be remorseful and wish that they could undo what they'd done.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'