Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Love and Death: The Sunset Strip Killers

Another Perspective: Introductions

Carol Bundy and Doug Clark
Carol Bundy and Doug Clark

In 1992, Mark MacNamara went on Larry King to discuss his interviews with Doug Clark and Carol Bundy. While author Louise Farr accused him of being a mouthpiece for Clark, since he took the position that the evidence against Clark was shaky and failed to establish him as a killer—at least, the sole killer.

Below, MacNamara discusses his side of that story and his feelings about it more than two decades later. He has been a journalist for 25 years, except for a period of eighteen months when he went "over the wall" to be the public information officer for the San Francisco District Attorney's office in 2002-2004. He has been both a staff writer and freelancer for newspapers and magazines, including Vanity Fair.

In the late 1980s, MacNamara wrote a story for Tina Brown about death row in California. It opened with a description of a daily bridge game between four serial killers, including Douglas Clark. "The card game was a metaphor for the game the death penalty had become in California," he remarked. He has also written for city magazines, including Los Angeles, where he wrote a story in the early 1990s about his extensive interviews with, and observations of, Carol Bundy. In that, he indicates her inappropriate sexual behavior, her attempts at seduction, and her ability to switch moods easily, and the evidence for her deception and manipulation. He indicated that he suspected that she was more involved in the Sunset murders than she admitted.

Dorothea Puente
Dorothea Puente

Then MacNamara wrote a piece for USA Today, when he was their news correspondent in northern California in the late 1980s, that yielded another assignment, and this one caught Doug Clark's interest. "I wrote a short news story about Dorothea Puente, who ran a boarding house in Sacramento and murdered several of her tenants. So much detail was left out of the news piece, that I wrote a reporter's notebook for the San Francisco Chronicle. Not long after I received a note from Doug Clark who suggested I might be interested in his case because, by having written about Dorothea Puente, I seemed to have accepted the idea that a woman could be a serial killer. The logic was off and frankly I had never considered the idea, one way or another. But I responded to his letter."

Jack Murray
Jack Murray

MacNamara was curious, so he visited Clark at San Quentin. "From the start he insisted he was innocent, that his one time lover, Carol Bundy, had framed him. He insisted that she had committed the crimes with her lover, Jack Murray, who Bundy beheaded. Interestingly, one of Clark's victims was beheaded. And there was some evidence to suggest that the same hand may have cut both victims, but it was never brought into court. Bundy always admitted she killed Jack but denied she killed any of the victims attributed to Clark ."

San Quentin
San Quentin

MacNamara continued to visit Clark off and on over the next year. Then he read the court transcripts and spoke with Clark's public defender for his appeal, "who had absolutely no doubt of his guilt." MacNamara also talked to Clark's brother.

"In the beginning," he says. "I didn't give Clark's claim much credence. For one I had always assumed that if you were on death row you were guilty. Later, I learned how wrong that assumption was. But there was another reason I discounted Clark's claim. I've looked into a number of death row cases and often the condemned insist they're innocent — against all the evidence. In another capital case I investigated, a man convicted of killing four people, including three members of one family, insisted on his innocence and even demanded DNA testing for a bloody shirt found not far from the crime. 'That will prove I didn't do it,' he kept telling me. Eventually, he got the test and it was his DNA on the shirt. You wonder why someone would ask for a test that could perhaps conclusively tie him or her to a crime, but I'm told that's not uncommon."

So he initially viewed Clark's story a bit skeptically, but after reading the trial transcripts, he began to wonder if he might be telling the truth, "or a truth." Then he corresponded with Carol Bundy. Finally, he visited her in prison as well. "Once we spent nearly 7 hours talking in an administration building at the prison where she lived. The administrators forgot we were there and it wasn't until she was missed at dinner that someone came running down the hall to find us."

Categories
Advertisement