Murder On The Run
On Saturday night, January 14th, few of the sorority sisters could be found at the Chi Omega House. Most were out dancing or at keg parties on campus. It wasn't unusual for the sisters to stay out late, since there was no curfew. In fact, it was pretty normal for the girls to return in the early morning hours. However, none of the sisters was prepared to confront the horror that awaited them back at their sorority house later that night.At 3 AM, Nita Neary was dropped off at the sorority house by her boyfriend after attending a keg party on campus. Upon reaching the door to the house, she noticed it standing wide open. Soon after she had entered the building, she heard some movement, as if someone was running in the rooms above her. Suddenly, she heard the footsteps approaching the staircase near her and she hid in a doorway, out of view. She watched as a man with a knit blue cap pulled over his eyes, holding a log with cloth around it, ran down the stairs and out the door.
Nita's first thought was that the sorority house had been burglarized. She immediately ran up the stairs to wake her roommate, Nancy. Nita told her of the strange man she saw leaving the building. Unsure of what to do, the girls made their way to the housemother's room. Yet, before they were able to make it to her room, they saw another roommate, Karen, staggering down the hall. Her entire head was soaked with blood. While Nancy tried to help Karen, Nita woke up the housemother and the two of them went to check on another roommate nearby. They found Kathy in her room alive, but in a horrible state. She was also covered in blood that was seeping from open wounds on her head. Hysterical, Nancy ran to the phone and dialed the police.Police later found two girls dead in their rooms lying in their beds. Someone had attacked them while they slept. Lisa Levy was the first girl that officers found dead. Pathologists who later performed the autopsy on her found that she had been beaten on the head with a log, raped and strangled. Upon further examination, they discovered bite marks on her buttocks and on one of her nipples. In fact, Lisa's nipple had been so severely bitten that it was almost severed from the rest of her breast. She had also been sexually assaulted with a hair spray bottle.
Post mortem reports on Margaret Bowman,the other girl found dead, showed that she suffered similar fatal injuries, although she had not been sexually assaulted and she showed no signs of bite marks. She had been strangled by a pair of panty hose that were later found at the scene of the crime. She had also been beaten on the head, yet so severely that her skull was splintered and a portion of her brain was exposed. Neither she nor Lisa Levy showed signs of a struggle.Investigators who interviewed the survivors learned nothing. None of the girls had any memory of the events of that fatal night. Like Levy and Bowman, they too had been asleep when they were attacked. The only witness was Nita Neary, who was able to catch a profile of the killer as he fled. However, the assailant would not travel far before claiming another victim that night.
Caught AgainLess than a mile from the Chi Omega House, a young woman was awakened by loud banging noises coming from the apartment next to hers. She wondered what her friend in the adjoining apartment was doing to make so much noise at four in the morning. As the banging noises persisted, she became suspicious and woke her roommate. As they listened, they heard Cheryl next door moaning. Frightened, they called over to her house to see if she was all right. When no one picked up the phone, they immediately called the police.
The police came quickly. After all, they were just blocks away at the Chi Omega House tending to the crime scene there. They entered Cheryl's apartment and walked to her bedroom, where they found her sitting on the bed. Her face was just beginning to swell from the bludgeoning to her head. She was still somewhat conscious and half nude, but lucky to be alive. Police discovered a mask at the foot of her bed. According to Anne Rule in The Stranger Beside Me the mask that was found "resembled almost exactly the mask taken from Ted Bundy's car when he'd been arrested in Utah in August of 1975."
Police investigators worked diligently on the evidence that was left behind. They were able to get a blood type from the assailant, sperm samples and fingerprint smudges. Unfortunately, most of the evidence that was tested proved to be inconclusive. The only firm evidence investigators were able to obtain were the hairs found in the mask, teeth impressions from the bite marks on the victims and an eyewitness account from Nita Neary. Investigators did not have a suspect and Ted Bundy was unknown to them.
On February 9th, 1978, Lake City police received a phone call from the distressed parents of twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach. They were hysterical and said that their daughter had disappeared that day. Police launched a massive search to find the missing girl, who disappeared from her school grounds. The person who last saw her was her friend Priscilla who saw Kimberly get into the car of a stranger the day she disappeared. Unfortunately, she was unable to accurately remember the car or the driver. They found Kimberly's body eight weeks later in a state park in Suwannee County, Florida. The young girl's body yielded little information due to advanced decomposition. However, police were to later find the evidence they needed in a van driven by Ted Bundy.A few days before Kimberly Leach had disappeared, a strange man in a white van approached a fourteen-year-old girl as she waited for her brother to pick her up. The man had claimed he was from the fire department and asked her if she attended the school nearby. She found it strange that an on-duty fireman was wearing plaid pants and a navy jacket. She began to feel uncomfortable. She had been warned on many occasions by her father, who was the Chief of Detectives for the Jacksonville Police Department, not to talk with strangers. She was relieved when her brother drove up. Suspicious of the man, her brother ordered her into the car, followed the man and wrote down his license plate to give it to his father.
Upon hearing of the stranger in the white van, Detective James Parmenter had the license plate checked out. He learned it belonged to a man named Randall Ragen, and he decided to pay him a visit. Ragen informed the detective that his plates had been stolen and he had already been issued new ones. The detective later found out that the van his children had seen was also stolen and he had an idea who it might have been. He decided to take his children to the police station to show them a stack of mug shots, Bundy's picture being among them. He hadn't realized how close he had been to losing his own daughter. Both of his children recognized the man in the van as Ted Bundy.The van long since discarded, Bundy set out towards Pensacola, Florida in a new stolen car. This time he managed to find a vehicle he was more comfortable driving, a VW bug. Officer David Lee was patrolling an area in West Pensacola when he saw an orange VW at 10 p.m. on February 15th. He knew the area well and most of the residents, yet he had never before seen the car. Officer Lee decided to run a check on the license plates and soon found out that they were stolen. Immediately, he turned on his lights and began to follow the VW.
Once again, as had happened in Utah several years earlier, Bundy started to flee. Suddenly, Bundy pulled over and stopped. Officer Lee ordered him out of his car and told Bundy to lay down with his hands in front. To Lee's surprise, as he had begun to handcuff Bundy, he rolled over and began to fight the officer. Bundy managed to fight his way free and run. Just as soon as he did, Lee fired his weapon at him. Bundy dropped to the ground, pretending to have been shot. As the officer approached him lying on the ground, he was again attacked by Bundy. However, the officer was able to overpower him. He was handcuffed and taken to the police station. Bundy had finally been caught.
Over the months following Bundy's arrest, investigators were able to compile critical evidence to be used against Bundy in the Leach case. The white van that had been stolen by Bundy was found and they had three eyewitnesses that had seen him driving it the afternoon Kimberly had disappeared. Forensic tests conducted on the van yielded fibers of material that had come from Bundy's clothes.
Tests also revealed Kimberly Leach's blood type on the van's carpet and semen and Ted's blood type on her underwear. Further evidence was Ted's shoe impressions in the soil located next to the place Kimberly was found. Police felt confident with the information they had tying Bundy to the Leach case and on July 31, 1978, Ted Bundy was charged with the girl's murder. Soon after, he would also be charged with the Chi Omega murders. Facing the death penalty, Ted would later plead in his own defense that he was not guilty of the murders.
Theodore Robert Bundy faced two murder trials, both spaced within three years. His first trial date was set for June 25, 1979, in Miami, Florida. The court case centered on the brutal attacks on the Chi Omega sorority sisters. The second trial was to take place in January 1980 in Orlando, Florida, where Ted was to be tried for the murder of Kimberly Leach. Both trials would result in less-than-favorable outcomes for Ted, however it would be the Chi Omega murder case that would seal his fate forever.Florida v. Theodore Robert Bundy
The opening of the Chi Omega murder trial sparked immense public interest and a media frenzy. After all, Ted had been suspected of at least thirty-six murders in four states and his name elicited nightmarish images to thousands, perhaps even millions around the world. He was considered by many to be evil reincarnate, a monster, the devil and his murders initiated the biggest and most publicized trials of the decade.
During the Chi Omega murder trial, Ted acted as his own defense attorney. He was confident in his abilities and believed he would be given a fair trial. The jury, made up mostly of African-Americans, looked on as he defended himself against the murder charges. It became clear early on in the trial that Ted was fighting a losing battle.There were two events in the trial that would sway the jury against Ted. The first was Nita Neary’s testimony of what she had seen the night of the murders. While on the stand, she pointed to Ted as the man she had seen fleeing down the stairs and out the door of the Chi Omega House. The second event that swayed the jury during the trial was the testimony of odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron.
While on the stand, Dr. Souviron described the bite mark injuries found on Lisa Levy’s body. As he spoke, the jury was shown full-scale photographs of the bite marks that had been taken the night of the murder. The doctor pointed out the uniqueness of the indentations left behind on the victim and compared them with full-scale pictures of Ted’s teeth. There was no question that Ted had made the bite marks on Lisa Levy’s body. The photos would be the biggest piece of evidence the prosecution had linking Ted to the crime.On July 23rd, Ted waited in his cell as the jurors deliberated over his guilt or innocence. After almost seven hours, they returned to the courtroom with a verdict. Showing no emotion, Ted listened as one of the jurors read out “GUILTY.” On all counts of murder, Ted was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the state of Florida, it is customary to have a separate sentencing trial. Ted’s sentencing took place one week later on July 30th before the same jury that had found him guilty. During the brief hearing, Ted’s mother testified and tearfully pleaded for her son’s life. Ted was also given a chance to address the court and refute the recommendation from the prosecution for the death penalty.Ted professed his innocence, claiming that the prejudice of the media was responsible for his alleged misrepresentation. He also suggested that the entire proceedings and verdict was nothing short of a farce, which he was unable to accept. According to Larsen, Ted told the hushed courtroom that it was, “absurd to ask for mercy for something he did not do,” yet he would “not share the burden of the guilt.” Judge Cowart, who presided over both trials, handed down his final judgment following Ted’s statement. He affirmed the recommendation and imposed the death penalty twice for the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. The method of execution Ted faced was the electric chair.
The Kimberly Leach TrialAfter many delays, the Leach trial began in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Courthouse on January 7, 1980. This time Ted decided not to represent himself, instead handing over the responsibility to defense attorneys Julius Africano and Lynn Thompson. Their strategy was to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, a plea that was risky but one of the few available options open to the defense.
The plea of insanity might not have been difficult for the seven women, five-man jury to believe. Unlike the other hearings, Ted became increasingly agitated throughout the trial. At one point he even lost control and stood up yelling at a witness with whom he disagreed. Michaud and Aynesworth stated that Ted was just barely able to control himself, “expending huge amounts of energy just to keep from blowing apart.” It appeared that Ted’s facade of confidence was beginning to fade, probably because he realized that he had already lost the war and this legal battle wouldn’t make much difference in determining his fate.
There was no doubt that the outlook for Ted was bleak. Assistant state attorney Bob Dekle presented sixty-five witnesses that had connected Ted either directly or indirectly with Kimberly Leach on the day of her disappearance. One of the star witnesses had seen a man resembling Ted leading an upset little girl, matching Kimberly’s description, into a white van in front of the girl’s school. However, the defense team argued the legitimacy of the testimony because the man was unable to recall the precise day he had seen the man and little girl.
Nevertheless, Dekle continued to press on and present even more convincing evidence. The most damaging was the fiber evidence, which linked Ted’s clothes and the van he had driven that day with the crime scene. Moreover, fibers matching those from Kimberly Leach’s clothes were found in the van and on Ted’s clothing that he had allegedly worn on the day of the crime. The prosecution’s expert witness, who testified about the fiber analysis, stated that she believed that at some point Ted and Kimberly Leach had been in contact around the time of her death. Michaud and Aynesworth claimed that the testimony had been, “literally fatal” to Ted’s case.
Exactly one month following the opening of the trial, Judge Wallace Jopling asked the jury to deliberate. On February 7th, after less than seven hours of deliberation the jury returned the verdict, “GUILTY.” The verdict was immediately followed by jubilation from the prosecution team and their supporters.
February 9th marked the second anniversary of Kimberly Leach’s death. It also was the day that the sentencing trial commenced. During the penalty phase of the trial, Ted shocked those in the courtroom while he interviewed defense witness Carole Ann Boone. During his questioning of Carole, the two caught everyone off guard when they exchanged vows. According to Florida law, the verbal promise made under oath was enough to seal the agreement and the two were considered officially married. Shortly thereafter, the groom was sentenced to death in the electric chair for the third time in under a year. He would spend his honeymoon alone on Death Row in Florida State’s Raiford Penitentiary.
Appeals and Confessions
Ted refused to give up and believed that he still had a fighting chance to save his own life. In 1982, he enlisted the help of a new lawyer and appealed the Chi Omega murder trial verdict to the Florida Supreme Court. However, his appeal was eventually denied.
Shortly following the court’s denial of a new hearing, Ted decided to appeal the Kimberly Leach trial verdict. In May 1985, his request was again turned down. However, he continued to keep up the fight and in 1986 he enlisted a new lawyer to assist him in escaping the death penalty.
Ted’s execution date was initially scheduled for March 4, 1986. However, his execution was postponed while his new defense attorney, Polly Nelson, worked on his appeals for his previous murder convictions. Two months later the appeal was denied and another death warrant was issued to Ted by the State of Florida. Still, the appeal process continued. According to Polly Nelson’s book Defending the Devil, the last appeal was made to the U.S. Supreme Court, who eventually denied Ted’s last stay of execution on January 17, 1989.
In Ted’s eleventh hour, he decided to confess to more crimes to the Washington State Attorney General’s chief investigator for the criminal division, Dr. Bob Keppel. Ted had temporarily assisted Dr. Keppel in his hunt for the “Green River killer” from Death Row in the mid 1980’s and he trusted him immensely. Keppel went to meet Ted in an interviewing room at the prison, armed with only a tape recorder. What Keppel learned was shocking.
Dr. Keppel had learned that Ted kept some of his victims' heads at his home as trophies. However, what was even more surprising was that Ted also engaged in necrophilia with some of the remains of his victims. In fact, Keppel later stated in his book The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer that Ted’s behavior could be best described as “compulsive necrophilia and extreme perversion.”
It was a compulsion that led to the deaths of scores of women, many who remained unknown to investigators. Rule and Keppel stated in their books that Ted was likely responsible for the deaths of at least a hundred women, discounting the official count of thirty-six victims. Whatever the figure, the fact is no one will ever know for certain how many victims actually fell victim to Ted.
Finally on January 24, 1989, at approximately 7 a.m. in the morning Ted’s memory of his atrocities would be burned away forever by the electric chair’s unforgiving currents. Outside the prison walls stood hundreds of on-lookers and scores of news media representatives awaiting the news of Ted’s death. Following the prison spokesman’s announcement that Ted was officially dead, sounds of cheers came from the jubilant crowd and fireworks lit the sky. Shortly thereafter, a white hearse emerged from the prison gates with the remains of one of the countries most notorious serial killers. As the vehicle moved towards the crematorium, the surrounding crowd cheerfully applauded the end of a living nightmare.
The Murder of Kathy Devine
On December 6, 1973, a young couple stumbled across the remains of a 15-year-old girl in McKenny Park, Washington. Kathy Devine was last seen by friends on November 25th hitchhiking from Seattle to Oregon, trying to run away from home. Shortly after she began her journey, pathologists said she met her death. Kathy Devine had been strangled, sodomized and her throat cut.Everybody believed that Kathy Devine was one of the many victims of Ted Bundy. It took 28 years and DNA evidence to find the truth.
Jim Carlile of The Olympian reported that Sheriff’s Captain Dan Kimball never closed the files on this old case even though Ted Bundy had been executed and would not tell whatever he knew about the young woman that lost her life in Thurston County in 1973.
Kathy’s clothing was shown on a television news program in Seattle and one of Kathy’s sisters recognized an embroidered patch on the pair of jeans shown as belonging to a murder victim.
At the time of the murder, William E. Cosden Jr. had been living in the area and had been seen at the truck stop where he worked with blood on his clothes. Cosden had been released in 1973 from a mental hospital where he was confined after the 1967 murder of a woman.Carlile quoted police reports in his article:
“Witnesses saw Cosden come in the night of the murder with stains on his clothing. The witnesses called police.
After leaving the truck stop, Cosden’s truck caught fire and was destroyed three miles from the truck stop.
During initial interviews with police, Cosden denied ever seeing Kathy Devine.”
In 1986, based on additional investigative information, a search warrant was obtained for Cosden’s blood, hair and saliva. At that time, Cosden was in prison for rape.
In 2001, these samples from Cosden were subjected to DNA testing. It was evidence which linked Cosden to Kathy Devine. Cosden, 55, did admit to having sex with Kathy, but denied killing her.“DNA made the case,” said Sheriff Gary Edward. “This came about as a result of technology and a lot of hard work.”
Cosden is already serving a 48-year sentence for first-degree rape. He is not likely to go free again.
“She was beautiful inside and out, but she was a normal troubled teenager,” Sally Ann Devine said of her daughter. “I don’t think she had more troubles than anyone else her age during that time. It is nice to know that this has finally been solved. We’ve been wondering for 28 years. I still feel like it’s a dream and I’m going to wake up and it’ll all be over.”
BibliographyHickey, Eric W., Serial Murderers and Their Victims. Wadsworth Publishing Company. 1997.
Kendall, Elizabeth, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Madrona Publications, 1981 (out of print)
Keppel, Robert D., Riverman: Ted Bundy & I Hunt for the Green River Killer. New York: Pocket Books, 1995.
Keppel, Robert D. with William Birnes, Signature Killers: Interpreting the Calling Cards of the Serial Murderer. Pocket Books True Crime. 1997.
A&E Biography Video: Ted Bundy: The Mind of a Killer
Larsen, Richard W., Bundy -- The Deliberate Stranger. Prentice Hall Trade. 1980. (out of print)
Michaud, Stephen G. and Hugh Aynesworth, The Only Living Witness. Authorlink Press, 2000
Michaud, Stephen G. and Hugh Aynesworth, Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer. Authorlink Press 2000.
Nelson, Polly, Defending the Devil: My Story as Ted Bundy's Last Lawyer. NewYork: William Morrow & Company, 1994. (out of print)
Rule, Ann, The Stranger Beside Me. New York: Penguin Group, 1989.
Thank you to the following author for the Ted Bunday Story:
Rachael Bell Rachael Bell has completed masters' degrees in both Clinical Forensic and Health Psychology and has worked for TruTV (previously Court TV) for more than a decade researching, reporting and writing more than seventy in-depth feature stories on major criminal cases. Some of the cases included O.J. Simpson, the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, as well as comprehensive stories pertaining to polygamist Warren Jeff's trial and conviction.
She has simultaneously worked as a mental health therapist at a lock-down psychiatric forensic hospital specializing in adolescent/teenage male and female sex offenders and those with other psychiatric problems, where she has gained years of experience in understanding criminal and deviant behaviors.
Her media experience extends to television, where she has been interviewed by E! Entertainment Television on several crime cases on the programs 20 Most Shocking Unsolved Crimes and Going Postal: 15 Most Shocking Acts of Violence. On a part-time basis, she instructs bachelor and master's level courses in psychology.