Content warning: The following posts contains depictions of violence.
It’s been exactly 30 years since one of the most notorious serial killers in history was executed for his multiple and horrific crimes during 1970s, though it’s believed the timeline of Ted Bundy’s murders actually began in the late 1960s. He murdered at least 28 young women — some we still might not know about, and probably never will — along with kidnapping, burglary, and grand theft auto. He, to put it bluntly, was bad as they come. But even still, 30 years later, we’re still just as transfixed on the serial killer as ever. Now, his story is getting even more focus thanks to Netflix's controversial Bundy biopic, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile, which has critics wondering how much Bundy is too much.
Earlier this year, Netflix released Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, a four-part documentary featuring found footage from his trials, interviews with Bundy while he was on death row, and interviews with some of his present-day survivors. It’s a look into Bundy’s life, from Bundy himself. The only problem is that Bundy lied about a lot of things. He was a serial killer, after all.
Even with all the information we do know about the infamous killer, and two Netflix properties exploring it all, figuring out his life is still one giant puzzle that’s likely never going to be complete. To make understanding the events of the Netflix documentary and Efron-starring biopic a little bit easier, we’ve compiled a timeline of some of the most notable moments in his life, from birth to death.
The 1940s: Ted Bundy's Early Life
Twenty-two-year old Eleanor Louise Cowell gives birth to Theodore “Ted” Robert Cowell in Burlington, Vermont on November 24, 1946. His father is not identified, and according to his mother, Ted's father was a sailor — however, that’s never been confirmed. For the first few years of his life, Ted lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his grandparents. They raised him, and Bundy grew up thinking that they were his parents; he believed his mother to be his older sister. Ted eventually learned about his true parentage, but he never gave a clear explanation as to when that happened.
The 1950s: Ted Bundy’s New Life & New Dad
In 1950, Ted’s mother (his real mother, not his grandmother) took him to start a new life in Tacoma, Washington. There, Eleanor met Johnny Bundy, a hospital cook, and the two married in 1951. Johnny legally adopted Ted, changing his name to Ted Bundy.
Johnny and Eleanor would later have four children of their own.
The Early 1960s: Ted Bundy's Possible First Murder at Age 14
Bundy's first confirmed murders happened in 1974. But, roughly a decade before that, dating back to the early 1960s, young women started disappearing in Bundy's vicinity. The earliest possible victim is possibly Ann Burr, who disappeared in 1961 from her bed in Tacoma. Bundy was 14 at the time, and the delivery boy on the Burr’s newspaper route. Bundy denied involvement in her disappearance, even up until the day he died, but his involvement, or lack thereof, has never been confirmed.
The Late 1960s: Ted Bundy Goes to College
In 1965, Bundy enrolled at the University of Puget Sound, and then transferred to the University of Washington in 1966. In 1967 he began a romantic relationship with a classmate... and then dropped out of college in 1968. He travelled east and enrolled at Temple University for one semester, before dropping out of there as well. He eventually moved back to Washington in 1969, and met his on-again-off-again girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer.
1971: Ted Bundy Takes A Very Unlikely Job
1972: Ted Bundy Graduates College
Eventually, Ted made his way back to college and enrolled again at the University of Washington. He graduated in 1972, and went to law school at University of Puget Sound.
January 1974: Ted Bundy's First Known Attack
Bundy’s first known sexual attack happened in January of 1974. He broke into the apartment of Karen Sparks, a University of Washington student, while she slept, and beat her before sexually assaulting her. Though she was in a coma for 10 days following the attack, she survived but has lived ever since with permanent disabilities.
February 1974: Ted Bundy's First Known Murder
Roughly a month later in February, Ted’s committed his first known murder. He broke into the apartment of Lynda Ann Healy, another University of Washington student, beat her, and then abducted her. Her remains were later found at a Taylor Mountain site, where Bundy left multiple victims.
Early 1974: Ted Bundy Murders Rise
Throughout the rest of 1974, while still at school, Ted would go on to commit at least seven more murders throughout Washington and Colorado— or, seven murders that he confessed to, though there could be others.
Mid 1974: Ted Bundy Meets Carole Ann Boone
While working at the Department of Emergency Services, Bundy met Carole Ann Boone that summer, and the two began dating. Meanwhile, he was still seeing Elizabeth Kloepfer and the women did not know about the other.
Late 1974: Ted Bundy Moves to Utah
Ted moves to Salt Lake City to enroll at the University of Utah Law School. One month later, young women in the area start disappearing. One of the first to be linked to Bundy is Melissa Smith, who was the daughter of a Utah police chief. However, he later confessed that his first victim in Utah was Nancy Wilcox. He killed Nancy two weeks before he killed Melissa.
November 1974: A Ted Bundy Victim Escapes
On November 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch was leaving a mall in Murray, Utah when Bundy approached her, introduced himself as “Officer Roseland,” and told a (false) story that someone had tried to break into her car. Carol agreed to go with Bundy to the police station to file a report, but very quickly, things did not add up for her. Ted tried to handcuff her in the car, but accidentally put both cuffs on one wrist. Carol was able to escape the car and get away. He obviously didn’t know it at the time, but Carol would be one of the people to put Bundy behind bars.
December 1974: Girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer Reports Ted Bundy To The Police
While Bundy was off at college, and on a cross-counter murder spree, he was still very much linked to one of the girlfriends he had left back home, Elizabeth Kloepfer. Though she couldn’t confirm anything, she was starting to put pieces together with regard to Bundy and the crimes he was committing. Once a profile was put out for the serial killer in the midwest, and she realized that young women were disappearing wherever he went, Kloepfer reported Bundy to the police — multiple times, in August, November, and December of 1974.
August 1975: Ted Bundy’s First Time Being Arrested
In August 1975, Ted was spotted driving around in a Salt Lake City suburb early in the morning and was pulled over. However, even though the officer searched his car and found many suspicious items (like a ski mask and handcuffs), they didn’t have anything substantial to hold him and Bundy was released.
September 1975: Carol DaRonch Identifies Ted Bundy In A Lineup
Even though he was out of police custody, the police were still highly suspicious of Bundy. It was at this point that they really started to look at the evidence they had, and managed to piece together that Bundy was most definitely responsible for some of the missing young women across the midwest.
Bundy sold his car in September 1975 — the same car that he had used to try and kidnap DaRonch — and the police seized it from the new buyer. Inside, they found hair that could be traced back to multiple women.
In October, Bundy was put in a lineup, and DaRonch identified him as “Officer Roseland.” He was jailed, but eventually freed on bail.
February 1976: Ted Bundy Stands Trial
Bundy stood trial for DaRonch’s kidnapping in February, 1976 and guess what? He was found guilty. He was sentenced to serve from one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. While in jail, he was charged with the murder of Caryn Campbell (which he committed in Colorado) and was later transferred to a prison in Aspen, Colorado.
June 1977: Ted Bundy Escapes Prison
In June, Bundy was transferred to a courthouse for a hearing. He was serving as his own attorney, and during a recess asked to visit the library to research his case. There, he hid behind a bookcase, climbed out a window, jumped from the second story of the building, and escaped.
He broke his ankle in the fall, but that didn’t stop him from making it past the courthouse’s roadblocks and into the woods for six days. He stole a car and broke into a camping trailer for supplies. But then, two police officers spotted him and apprehended him. Bundy went back to jail.
December 1977: Ted Bundy Escapes Again
Oh, did you think Bundy only tried to escape jail once? Later that same year, during the Christmas break, he got through a hole in his ceiling into the room above (Bundy had somehow managed to get a detailed map of the jail). He changed into street clothes and literally walked out the front door of the jail. No one realized he was gone until the next day.
The End Of 1977: Ted Bundy Arrives In Florida
Having become a free man, Bundy hitchhiked and caught a bus to Denver. Then, he took a flight to Chicago, and a train to Ann Arbor. He stole car and drove to Atlanta, and finally took a bus to Tallahassee. Once in Florida, he tried to get a real job, but that failed, so he went back to his life of crime.
January 1978: Ted Bundy Murders Happen At The Chi Omega House
Bundy found a room to stay in by the Florida State University’s Chi Omega sorority. On January 15, 1978 barely a week after he arrived in Florida, Bundy broke into the sorority house where he killed two young women while they slept, and attacked two more (he also attacked another woman after he left the sorority house; she survived).
February 1978: Ted Bundy Tries To Flee Florida
Fearing that the authorities were closing in on him (they were!), Bundy left Tallahassee. On February 12, he was pulled over after the car he was driving was identified as stolen, and Bundy was arrested.
June 1979: Ted Bundy’s Trial Is Aired On TV
In June 1979, Bundy was put on trial again for the Chi Omega murders. He was convicted of two counts of murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and two counts of burglary. He was given the death penalty for the murder convictions. By this time, Bundy was a household name and his Florida trial was the first one ever televised.
February 1980: Ted Bundy Gets Married & Is Sentenced To Death
There was actually a second trial in Florida, for another murder he had committed in Lake City, Florida. During this trial, Bundy got married. Yes, for real. At the time, there was a law in Florida that stated if a marriage is declared in court before a judge, it’s a legal marriage. His longtime girlfriend, Carole Ann Boone, was testifying on his behalf when Bundy asked her to marry him. She said "yes" on February 9 and on February 10, 1980, Bundy was sentenced again, for kidnapping and killing Kimberly Leach. His sentencing was death by electrocution.
1982: Carol Anne Boone Gives Birth To Ted Bundy's Daughter
In 1982, Carole Ann Boone gave birth to a daughter, and she claimed Bundy was the father — even though he was serving his sentence at the time. It’s thought that a conjugal visit took place between the two, but the daughter’s paternity has never been confirmed. (Boone and Bundy then had a falling out towards the end of his life, and she refused to speak to him on the morning he was executed.)
1984: Ted Bundy Tries to Escape... Again
In 1984, guards at the Florida State Prison discovered that Bundy actually sawed through the bars on his window in an attempt to escape. Later, they found mirrors in his cell and he was relocated. He never actually escaped again, but clearly, he tried.
1984-1989: Ted Bundy Confesses To His Murders
Realizing that this was the end of the line for him, over the next few years he began confession many of his crimes to basically anyone who would listen. Bundy talked at length to authors Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth (who conducted many of the interviews with Bundy for the new Netflix documentary). Bundy also talked to Special Agent William Hagmaier of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit.
Bundy also reached out to Robert Keppel, a detective, to confess some of his crimes (Keppel would later go on to create the Homicide Investigation Tracking System, or HITS). Bundy took credit for just about every murder he was a suspect for, along with confessing to others authorities had no idea about.
January 1989: Ted Bundy’s Death
At 7:16 a.m. EST on January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy died at age 42, via the electric chair at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).