- Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer who murdered at least 30 women, went to trial in three states before receiving the death penalty.
- Bundy famously escaped trial twice in Colorado before fleeing to Florida, where he killed his final three victims.
- The Florida trials that ultimately convicted Bundy for life were some of the first televised trials in the U.S.
Netflix’s highly anticipated movie about Ted Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, officially comes out on May 3, in which you’ll probably see scenes from the serial killer’s most famous trial (the one that convicted him).
But since the movie is told from the perspective of his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, who he was dating during the trial—and it’s a dramatization of actual events—you might be left with a few questions.
So here’s a breakdown of Ted Bundy’s trials IRL, starting with the very first one.
Utah: February 1976
Ted Bundy was arrested and charged with the aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault of 18-year-old Carol DaRonch, who he’d lured into his car (by posing as a police officer) but was unable to kill. She escaped and testified against him. Bundy appeared relaxed and confident in court, according to The New York Times, but apparently (and tbh, thankfully), that didn’t sway the jury. He was found guilty and received a one- to 15-year jail sentence in Utah State Prison, on March 1, 1976, per ABC News.
Colorado: June 1977
Well, what should have been anyway. Around the time that Bundy was imprisoned in Utah, Colorado, detectives found evidence linking Bundy to the murder of Caryn Campbell, a 23-year-old nurse who’d been found dead near Snowmass in February 1975, ABC’s 20/20 reported. He was charged with first-degree murder and transferred to a jail in Aspen to await trial.
Representing himself in court, he’d been granted permission to use the Pitkin County jailhouse law library for research, where he jumped from a second-floor window and fled on foot, according to ABC News. He was recaptured five days later, but managed to escape again—this time for good—by losing enough weight to fit through a light fixture opening in his jail cell’s ceiling, before his trial, according to Oxygen’s Martinis & Murder.
Florida: June 1979 through February 1980
After successfully escaping from Colorado in December 1977, Bundy arrived in Florida, where law enforcement didn’t know him. He wasted no time in finding his next victims: On January 15, 1978, he attacked four women inside the Chi Omega sorority house at the Florida State University in Tallahassee, ultimately killing two.
In February, he killed his last victim ever, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. He wasn’t charged for either crime until he got into a scuffle with police, who randomly pulled him over for stolen license plates, according to ABC.
The double-murder trial, which took place in Miami, was one of, if not the, first trials ever televised in U.S. history, per People. Yet again, Bundy represented himself, often referring to himself in the third person as “Mr. Bundy,” according to A&E.
He looked calm, confident, and nonchalant, grinning through his cross-examination in a khaki blazer and Seattle Mariners sweatshirt. For much of the trial, he had one leg up on a chair, as if he couldn’t be bothered. At some point around this time, Bundy and his longtime girlfriend, Liz, split ways.
Having had a couple of years of law school under his belt, Bundy was very careful in his responses, at times flipping them around in a maddening way. For example, when the prosecutor asked, “Do you recall your testimony in Utah?” Bundy responded, “I recall testifying in Utah.”
Bundy was offered a plea deal, but ended up refusing it, according to AP News.
Ultimately, Bundy was unable to escape damnable evidence—most of which were his teeth. The prosecution had two forensic odontologists, Richard Souviron, DDS, and Lowell Levine, DDS, show a photograph of the bite marks left on one of the slain FSU students next to an imprint model of Ted Bundy’s teeth. It was a match, per court record.
This, coupled with a witness from the FSU sorority house who testified that she saw Bundy enter the house that night, as well as an eyewitness who saw him leaving, helped the jury come to a guilty verdict after less than seven hours of deliberation, according to AP News.
Bundy was convicted on two murders, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of burglary, according to court record. By the end of July 1979, Judge Edward Cowart sentenced Bundy to death—twice, one for each FSU murder —by way of the electric chair.
[WE NEED SOURCING HERE UNLESS IT ALL CAME FROM THE COURT CASE’S ARCHIVE][Added throughout.]
Florida: January 1980
Nope, not a typo. Bundy went through another trial, this time for the murder of his final victim, Kimberly Leach. Thanks to an eyewitness who testified seeing Bundy lead Leach from the schoolyard to his car, as well as evidence of clothing fibers from Bundy’s jacket found on Leach’s body, per the Orlando Sentinel, he was found guilty and sentenced to death—a third time—in February, 1980.
During this trial, according to the Orlando Sentinel, he called Carole Ann Boone—a woman he’d met while working at the Washington State Department of Emergency Services—to the witness stand. He asked her to marry him, to which she said, “I do hereby marry you,” which made the marriage, interestingly enough, legal. The two had a daughter, Rose Bundy, while Bundy was on death row (imagine that) but later divorced in 1986.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of Bundy’s Florida trials were his own post-sentence comments—as well as Judge Cowart’s remarks, which have gone viral since Netflix’s documentary, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, came out.
Upon hearing his sentence, Bundy said: “I’m not going to ask for mercy, for I find it somewhat absurd to ask for mercy for something I did not do. So I will be tortured for and will suffer for and will receive a pain for that act, but I will not share the burden for the guilt.” Of course, 10 years later on the eve of his execution on January, 24, 1989, Bundy confessed to killing 30 women.
But Judge Cowart’s statement was even more controversial. “It’s a tragedy for this court to see such a total waste, I think, of humanity that I’ve ever seen in this court. You’re a bright young man. You’d have made a good lawyer…You went another way, partner.”
Netflix’s movie starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, and Lily Collins as Elizabeth Kloepfer (also known by her pseudonym “Liz Kendall”), started streaming Friday, May 3.
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