Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Love and Death: The Sunset Strip Killers

The Twisted Tale Unfolds

As often happens, these two killers turned on each other, attempting to place blame for the murders on anyone but themselves. Eventually, their sordid story unfolded, at least according to Carol, who willingly confessed in detail to police, authors, and journalists, and also in court. Clark had his own story, but it wasn't supported by the facts.

As with all self-serving self-reports, Carol Bundy's must be received with some skepticism. By 1980, killers had learned that child abuse was a good excuse, and Carol was no different. She claimed that after her mother died, her father had committed repeated incest on her and her sister, as reported by Corey Mitchell. Farr says that her sister agreed with this and added that before her death their mother had often been out of control as well. After her father remarried, Carol was sent through a series of foster homes. She quickly became promiscuous to get attention from boys. Marrying young, she went through three marriages by the time she was 35, including one to a 56-year-old man when she was only 17. She went between men and women, seemingly unable to decide which gender she preferred, and was often unfaithful to whomever she was with.

Carol Bundy
Carol Bundy

At age 36 in 1979, Carol moved into a Los Angeles-area apartment complex. Divorced from an abusive husband (she did have records that indicated she'd been in a domestic abuse safe-house), she had two young sons, 5 and 9, in tow. She had health problems, wore thick glasses, and struggled with her weight, so whenever a man paid attention, she was eager to please.

John "Jack" Murray, her landlord, often helped her out with money and even helped her to get disability payments and found her a job as a nurse. Apparently, her openness and appreciation eventually led to them becoming lovers, although Murray was married and had children. Carol proved to be sexually voracious and was so certain about his love for her that she tried to bribe and then threaten Murray's wife to leave him. This move backfired, however, when Jack left Carol. She was just a bit too much for him. But that failed to terminate her obsession. She became like a stalker, certain that Jack loved her no matter what he said, and promising to wait for him to eventually admit his love to her.

Carol always knew how to find him, because he worked part-time as a singer at Little Nashville, a country music bar on Sherman Way in North Hollywood. He liked to drink there as well. She hung out at the club, waiting for Jack to pay attention, but he continued to ignore her.

However, her persistence paid off in another way. Just after Christmas in 1979, Carol did manage to attract the eye of another man at the bar, Douglas Clark, 31. He was blond and handsome, and seemed to take a liking to her. What she did not realize was that in her he spotted a free ride. He knew that lonely, obese women in bars often responded to sexual attention with money, housing, and other benefits. Clark had learned this during his nomadic lifestyle as a mechanic, and Carol was his new target. While he had grown up in a privileged home and had been given a good education, he remained unmotivated and dependent on others. Yet he had a polished, charming manner, with a slightly European tint to his speech. He liked to utilize French phrases and to quote from literature. Former girlfriends from prep school, it turned out later at his trial, were still very much in love with him.

Another trait he developed and honed was an exhibitionistic response to sex. He liked to record women with whom he was having sex, or take their photograph, and then pass these around among his friends, whether they wanted to see them or not. He married once, but that did not last.

Soon after meeting, Clark and Bundy became lovers and he eventually moved in. To Carol, he was an amazing adventure, unlike any man she had ever known. Yet this new relationship did not dim her ardor for Jack, and eventually she became so oppressive to Murray and his wife that they forced her to move. Jack wanted her away from him, but she claimed that he still came to her every week for regular sex. In fact, they still shared a bank account into which she put money and from which he took money.

Doug Clark mugshot
Doug Clark mugshot

But in many ways, Doug was more interesting. His love-making was sensitive, but eventually he blended in his fantasies of torture, captivity, necrophilia, and murder, and Carol soon became fascinated with these ideas. She said that Doug had once announced that a woman who loved him should be willing to kill for him. He persuaded Carol to purchase two .25-caliber Raven automatics from a pawnshop and to register them in her name.

He wanted Carol to bring other women into their relationship for a threesome, and he also got her to entice young girls into the apartment, specifically an eleven-year-old neighbor. The girl was photographed nude and persuaded to get into the shower with the adults. Bundy did not seem to think this was wrong. Instead, she later admitted, she did not feel that this kid was competition for her; and letting Clark have this experience with the girl was just a way to please him. It was a "gift." They even made a photo album of pictures of the girl with him—that same album that Carol would soon turn over to the police.

While Carol claimed that she was hesitant but afraid that if she did not go along with him, Doug might reject her, it's fairly clear from what she did not say that she had little sense of right and wrong. At times, she seemed to be less the frightened female who does what she must to please her man than a female psychopath easily goaded in immoral acts through her own lack of conscience and remorse. She claimed she had no idea that Clark was capable of actual murder, but her version of the story tends to be self-serving, especially in light of subsequent events.

When Doug became Carol's roommate, things began to pick up speed.

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