Ted Bundy, one of America’s grisliest serial killers, was also attractive, smart and charismatic. The aspiring lawyer, who dabbled in politics, banked on appearing the exact opposite of the kind of person you’d suspect was responsible for a string of brutal murders and rapes across the 1970s Pacific Northwest.
Bundy had friends, a family, a serious girlfriend; he even worked at a suicide hotline, where he befriended future bestselling true-crime writer Ann Rule.
The serial killer mastered the art of hiding his dark side, which he later dubbed his “entity,” using his charm and intelligence to convince everyone around him that he was an average guy leading an average life. Of course, Bundy was anything but—and in 1975, his facade fell apart when he was arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah on suspicion of evading a police officer. A ski mask, handcuffs and pantyhose with eye holes cut out were found in his vehicle.
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Bundy subsequently escaped from prison twice, going on to kill three more young women after his second escape. His murder trials were televised and were a ratings bonanza, mainly due to the killer’s bizarre behavior and antics, which including proposing to and marrying his girlfriend, Carole Ann Boone, whom he later had a child with, in court. After sitting on death row for 10 years, he was executed for his crimes on Tuesday, January 24, 1989.
In some ways, the day of his execution was similar to those of other killers on Death Row—with the killer spending time in prayer and saying goodbye to his loved ones. But in the same way Bundy was atypical of many other serial killers, his execution was also unique and one for the annals of crime history. Read on for more details about Ted Bundy’s execution and the macabre hoopla that surrounded it.
What was Ted Bundy sentenced to death for?
Bundy, then 42, was sentenced to die in the electric chair for three of his final crimes: the 1978 rape and murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach of Lake City, Florida, as well as two women from Florida State University, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. (He confessed to 36 murders, but was believed to be responsible for dozens more.)
How Ted Bundy spent his final night
The night before Bundy’s execution at Florida State Prison was reportedly spent crying and praying. On his final night of life, Bundy sat down for a tearful interview with a psychologist and religious broadcaster named James Dobson (also the founder of the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family). Bundy specifically requested this interview with Dobson, and told Dobson he was feeling calm about his impending death.
When asked how his path to violence began, Bundy equivocated a bit, but said he grew up in a “fine, solid Christian home” where he experienced no abuse. He said he took full responsibility for the crimes he had committed, but also blamed his sick tendencies on a long-held pornography addiction (he’d started out watching softcore porn but his preferences began escalating to more violent types).
Bundy spent time that night praying with Fred Lawrence, a Methodist minister, who would also attend his actual execution in the morning.
Bundy also called his mother, Louise Bundy, in Tacoma, Washington, to say goodbye, twice. At the end of the second call, Louise told him, “You’ll always be my precious son.”
But what about his wife, Boone, and young daughter, Rose? After Bundy confessed to more murders while in prison, Boone stopped visiting him and moved to Washington with their daughter. They divorced prior to his execution and they had no contact after that.
What was going on around the rest of the country the night before Bundy’s execution?
At Florida State University, where Bundy murdered Bowman and Levy, the Chi Phi fraternity celebrated the killer’s execution with an evening cookout. They served “Bundy burgers” and “electrified hot dogs” under a large banner that read: “Watch Ted Fry, See Ted Die.”
There were additional celebrations around the country, including a planned barbecue in Mountain Brook, Alabama, hosted by two police officers. The “Bundy-cue” was organized in support of capital punishment and offered T-shirts for sale that said, “First Annual Ted Bundy Barbecue.”
Bundy’s final meal of steak and eggs
Bundy refused a special meal of his selection, so he was reportedly given a standard meal of steak, eggs, toast, and hash browns around 4:50 am. However, he didn’t touch any of his food. He was led into the execution room at 7 a.m.—his head and right leg shaved for the electrodes— and reportedly “looked startled” as he was strapped into the large oak chair.
What was the atmosphere like outside of Florida State Prison before Bundy’s execution?
Hundreds of onlookers had gathered across the street in gleeful anticipation of the notorious killer’s death. They milled around in a field drinking coffee and beer and eating donuts, according to the Orlando Sentinel. It was a carnival-like atmosphere, replete with chanting, singing, beer-swilling, sign-waving, cheering and fireworks. People even sold commemorative “Fry-Day” T-shirts. Others wore shirts that said, “Burn Bundy” and “Toast Ted.” One spectator held up a bedsheet on which he wrote, “I Like My Ted Well Done.”
According to one newscast, there were no Bundy supporters on site; everyone present was there to revel in his death.
What were Ted Bundy’s last words?
After he was settled in, Superintendent Tom Barton asked Bundy for his last words. “Jim and Fred, I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,” Bundy, who was wearing blue slacks and a pale blue prison-issued shirt, said into the microphone. (This was directed at his lawyer, Jim Coleman, and Fred Lawrence). Forty-two spectators were watching the encounter from behind a clear plexiglass wall.
How long did it take for Ted Bundy to die?
According to the Los Angeles Times, 2,000 volts of electricity were used to electrocute Bundy. who was wearing a metal skullcap and had a thick strap pulled across his mouth and chin. The serial killer was pronounced dead at 7:16 a.m., about one minute after “Old Sparky’s” switch was flipped by an anonymous executioner.
What was the immediate reaction to Bundy’s death?
Word of his successful expiration spread quickly to the crowd of revelers outside the prison—which included parents with their children—who reportedly began cheering things like “Burn Bundy Burn” and banging on frying pans.
A college student reportedly exclaimed, “Thank God it’s Fry-Day!” and an on-site policeman even expressed remorse that he wasn’t the lucky executioner to have flipped the switch.
Where was Ted Bundy buried?
In his will, Bundy actually requested that his body be cremated, not buried, and his ashes scattered over Washington State’s Cascade Mountains—the same area where at least four of his victims were found.