Ted Bundy

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The phenomenon of serial killing has always been the subject of interest for psychologists, psychiatrists, criminologists, and even ordinary citizens. This interest is explained by the fact that people who often seem completely normal are able to commit brutal, unmotivated murders. Moreover, recently, there has been a clear trend towards an increase of such crimes. The United States of America can rightfully be called a leader in the number of known serial killers. The name of Theodore Bundy is known throughout the world. The life, character of murders and general psychological portrait of Ted Bundy give reasons for considering him an organized nonsocial, power-seeking serial killer, whose case contributes to understanding what drives people to commit heinous and sometimes even grotesque crimes, being the bright example of social control theory.

Serial Killers and Their Motives

Serial killers are criminals, who have killed many people for a long time. Murders are separated with long periods, during which the murderer leads completely normal life. There is often a sexual motive. The victims of these killers often have something in common – gender, age, occupation, race, age, and so forth. Serial killers are insecure people, in many cases having problems in sexual life. Such people feel loners isolated from the rest of society (Ioana, 2014, p. 326). However, this does not mean that these people are shy and try to stay in the shade. Some of them have undeniable oratorical abilities, sometimes becoming leaders of children's groups. Most serial killers have a difficult biography. They usually grow up in single-parent families.

Serial killers can be classified based on their motives. Hedonists commit crimes for pleasure (Chase, 2012). They consider murder as a way of meeting their needs. There are sexual hedonists, destroyers, and mercantile hedonists. Sexual hedonists kill for sexual pleasure. In this case, the victim may be dead or alive. It depends on the preference of the killer and his fantasies that play an important role in the crime. The source of killer’s pleasure is directly rape or torture. Destroyers rob their victims, but the main motive of committing a crime is causing suffering to another person, abusing the victim. At the same time, suffering is inflicted on the victim without sexual manipulation, and this is their fundamental difference from sexual predators. For mercantile murders, material and personal gain are the main motives for the murder.

Another type of serial killers is missionaries who kill for a particular purpose, often trying to improve the world, change society (Chase, 2012). The victims of this type of killers are mostly prostitutes, homosexuals, and people of different religions. There is one more type – visionaries. They commit murders at the instigation of God or Devil. They hear voices and suffer from hallucinations.

Theodore Bundy is a vivid example of power-seeking serial killers. The main purpose for this type of serial killers is control over the victim, the subordination of it (Chase, 2012). They are experiencing sexual pleasure from the domination. Often, these serial killers are exposed to violence in childhood that has given rise to a sense of helplessness and powerlessness in adult life.

Case of Theodore Bundy

Theodore Bundy is one of the most famous serial killers of the late 20th century. He raped and killed women. At the same time, he worked hard in a rehabilitation center for victims of sexual violence. Some time later after his arrest, not only did Bundy provide shocking evidence, but also he had even volunteered to help FBI agents in the study of the phenomenon of a serial killer (Sullivan, 2009). He read lectures on technology of preparation and assassination schemes. It was he who had reminded police the forgotten truth – the maniac often returns to the scene of the murder or the grave of his victim.


Theodore Robert Bundy was born in November 1946 in Burlington, a small town in Vermont, in the northeast of the United States (Newton, 2006). His life began with the big lie, which may have turned his life. His mother, Eleanor Corwell, gave him birth at the shelter for single mothers. The fact that she was pregnant was carefully hidden from everyone. Her parents wanted to avoid scandal and declared themselves Theodore’s parents. For many years, Bundy had believed that his mother was his older sister.

When Teddy was four years old, Eleanor went to Washington where she married John Bundy who adopted the boy and gave him his surname. Quite happy childhood was followed by the less fortunate youth. Ted Bundy was not confident. He considered himself timid, unable to establish relationships with girls. Revealing the truth about his mother was perceived as betrayal.

At the age of 20, he fell in love with the beautiful Stephanie Brooks, a long-haired blonde from a good family. However, the girl dumped Ted, which affected the young man. These factors played a significant role in forming the character of the serial killer.


On January 4, 1974, in Washington, a dancer and student Joni Lenz (a pseudonym) was brutally beaten, she remained in a coma for ten days, but survived. On January 31, Bundy killed Linda Ann Hill, a student, 21 years old. On March 12, Dean Manson, a student at Evergreen Coolege State, who was 21 years old, did not return from the concert. On April 17, Susan Renkort, an 18-year old student at Central Washington University did not return from the theater. On May 6, Bundy killed Robert Park, 22 years old. On June 1, Brenda Ball, 22 years old, became his another victim. On June 16, Dzhiordzhina Hawkins, 18 years old, was killed. On July 14, Janice Ott and Denise Naslund became the victims of a serial killer. Bundy came up to them on the beach with a bandaged hand and asked for help (Newton, 2006).

On August 30, 1974, Bundy was dismissed from government emergency in Seattle and he moved to Salt Lake City where he began working at law school at the University of Utah. On October 2, Nancy Wilcox disappeared from Holladay. On October 18, Melissa Smith, the daughter of the chief of police of the city Midvale, 17 years old, was raped and strangled. Her body was found on October 27. Examination found that she had been alive for 5 days after kidnapping. On October 31, Laura Aime disappeared during the celebration of Halloween in the city of Lehi (Newton, 2006). She was beaten and strangled. The corpse was found by tourists a month later on Thanksgiving Day, on the bank of the river in the canyon American Fork. On November 8, in the city of Murray, Ted Bundy persuaded Carol Ronchi to sit in his Volkswagen, posing as a police officer. However, the girl was able to jump out of the vehicle when it slowed down, despite the fact that she was in handcuffs. Bundy chased her, holding an iron bar, but the girl was rescued as she met an elderly couple. About an hour later, Bundy was seen on the school play in Bountiful. A 17-year old Debra Kent left the show during the break, intending to meet her brother, after which she was never seen again.


Bundy was arrested accidentally. Late at night on August 16, police officer Robert Howard went to the aid of his colleagues who chased hooligans. On his way, he saw suspicious Volkswagen and went after it. The police officer ordered the driver to stop, but the latter did not listen to him. Howard caught up with the car and made a protocol on Bundy for insubordination to a police officer. Soon, during investigation of the attack on Carol Ronchi, police drew attention to this document. Bundy was arrested, as his description has been exposed to the appearance of the kidnapper of Ronchi. Bundy was arrested the next day in his apartment. Carol Ronchi identified Bundy by a photo on the driver's license. Bundy was initially released on bail. A few days later, Carol identified him at a confrontation among other people. He was charged with kidnapping. Bundy was sentenced to 15 years and deported to Colorado on a charge of the murder of student Carolyn Campbell. However, he escaped and committed several more murders and attacks. Nevertheless, soon, Bundy was arrested again. Late at night, patrol officer David Lee of the Pensacola Police Department noticed a suspicious car and stopped it. Ted Bundy was in that car. In early 1978, he was sentenced to death (only for one murder), but the execution was postponed for 10 years due to the actions of his defense at the trial. On January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy sat down in the electric chair in a Florida prison (Newton, 2006).

Psychological Portrait of Ted Bundy

Serial killers are characterized by inherent ability to manipulate people. They know how to be charming and full of credibility to the victim who obediently follows them anywhere. Thus, a woman, who was close with Bundy, went to the police with her suspicions. However, a police officer did not believe her, saying that it was not very likely that Bundy was a killer. Everyone who knew Bundy could not believe that he was a murderer even after his arrest. These were not just the murders of young women, but also sophisticated torture, humiliation, and abuse of corpses. He dismembered bodies of the victims, when they were alive, performed oral sex with his beheaded victims and had anal sex with corpses. Even the most experienced detective Bob Keppel was deceived twice, being confused by Bundy’s deceptive appearance. The FBI and police continued to doubt in his guilt until Bundy was arrested in Florida for the rape and murder of a girl.

There are two types of serial killers in the accordance to a territorial basis: local and wandering. A local offender commits crimes in a fixed location that is selected in advance and associated with the place of work and residence. Ted Bundy refers to wandering serial killers who hunt, moving from place to place. Thus, Bundy left a bloody trail in five states.

Ted Bundy refers to organized asocial criminals, in whose lives everything is laid out on shelves. It is difficult for them to abandon their usual behaviors. It became able to prove Ted Bundy's guilt in four murders only because he had a habit to refuel at gas stations and put his signature on receipts. The unsocial behavior of such criminals is explained not by a deficiency of socialization skills, but by their own will: they like to be alone. They are self-sufficient, do not see anyone who would be worthy of their company. Factors that drive this type of murderers might be both real and imaginary. Common characteristics of an organized unsocial offender include high intelligence, social adequacy, sexual competency, strict discipline in childhood, controlled mood, charm, geographical and occupational mobility, monitoring the press, and contact with the police (O'Connor, 2012).

Most serial killers have well-developed intellect. Particularly, Ted Bundy had a bachelor's degree in psychology and studied at College of Law. Criminals are not alien to using alcohol and drugs (Ioana, 2014, p. 326). Thus, Ted Bundy drank a lot and smoked marijuana during his criminal career.

Social Control Theory

The crime, as the most characteristic manifestation of criminal behavior, is one of the most dangerous forms of destructive activity of individuals and groups, contributing a gross imbalance in the situation of fluctuating, unstable equilibrium that keeps the civilization. Being directed against specific individuals, their lives, health, dignity, property, against the values of civilization and culture, crimes destroy the economic, legal, and moral aspects of the social system. The theory of social control is the integral part of the theory of deviant behavior that studies the mechanisms that counter the effects of deviant behavior. It relates to the problem of equilibrium (stability) of society, the regulatory model of regulation, and with motivations that are associated with the problem of conformal deviation. Social control theory provides the best explanations for criminal behavior of Ted Bundy. According to this theory, the deviant cares about other people think about him and try to conform to expectations. His first love left him after realizing that he could not have a successful future. Theodore Bundy accepted this and dropped out of school. This period marked the beginning of his killings that had been aimed at giving him a sense of confidence.

Moreover, social control theory argues that weakening of social bonds causes deviance. Thus, Bundy had an unusual family situation, believing that his mother was his sister for many years. Revealing the truth led to destruction of family bonds. Another factor was the breakup with his girlfriend. This break up can be considered as the reason that forced Bundy to stop valuing human life. Social control theory states that every human is born capable of committing a crime. People obey the law because of personal beliefs or morals, or a need to keep their position in society.


The case of Ted Bundy presents a great significance for criminology and psychology as it contributes to the examination of the concept of serial killers, their motives, and criminal behavior. Serial killers have certain personality traits, among which the most clearly distinguished are alienation from society, isolation, emotional deprivation, aggressiveness, low adaptive capacity, rigidity of thinking, a kind of behavioral inhibition. Motives of serial offenders are manipulation, domination, control, sexual aggression (passion). Ted Bundy refers to the organized asocial serial killers who are characterized by high intelligence, careful planning of actions, the ability to wear the "mask of normality" (merge with mass), and control emotions. The case of Ted Bundy is important for the further development of social control theory that is aimed at deep examining the nature of deviant behavior and its regulation. Thus, Theodore Bundy is a perfect example of serial killers and social control theory, as he became one of the most notorious U.S. serial killers in the history.

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