He is America’s most notorious serial killer and his memory still haunts our country.
Ted Bundy was put to death in Florida’s electric chair 30 years ago this month. His brutal sex crimes in the 1970s, including the grisly bloodbath he left behind at Florida State University, continue to spawn new books, documentaries and movies.
In the early morning hours of January 15, 1978, Ted Bundy began a barbaric killing spree on the Florida State University campus. News Channel 8 Tallahassee reporter Mike Vasilinda broke the news.
“Little did I know that morning that would be the beginning of one of the most infamous crimes to be committed in this city for sure, but really a crime that really shocked the nation,” said Vasilinda.
Bundy was already suspected of abducting, raping, and mutilating several women out West. He was on the FBI’s most wanted list.
However, on the FSU campus he was unknown. When Ted Bundy arrived in Tallahassee he rented a room at a boarding house on College Avenue. He said his name was Chris Hagen, a graduate student from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He jogged around campus, went to bars and managed to hide in plain sight.
He was handsome, charming, and smart. He had a degree in psychology, studied law and carried himself with confidence.
“He was good looking and you don’t expect the boogie man to look like that,” said Mike Vasilinda.
Bundy dropped the mask of sanity when he picked up a tree limb and used it to bludgeon Chi Omega sorority sisters in their sleep. Vasilinda showed us the sorority house door that was propped open on the night of the killings.
Bundy walked through it and up to the top floor where the young women were sleeping. Within 15 minutes, four women suffered severe sexual abuse. Margaret Bowman, 21, and Lisa Levy, 20, died as a result, and he wasn’t finished. On the same night, just a few blocks away Bundy attacked 21-year-old dance student, Cheryl Thomas in her apartment, nearly killing her.
We spoke to female students on campus who told us the crimes are still thought about, but a Chi Omega sorority sister told us they are not supposed to talk about it. “We just say no comment. I’m sorry,” said one student.
Before police caught him a month later, driving a stolen Volkswagen Beetle, Ted Bundy killed again.
Kimberly Leach, 12, was his final victim. Vasilinda was there when Bundy learned he would stand trial for murder.
“I think the killer side of him came out that night we were in the jail cell with him when the indictment was being read. He got pretty angry and his eyes were black. I mean they were scary,” said Vasilinda.
Bundy caused a media frenzy while representing himself during a nationally televised trial in Miami. He was found guilty and sentenced to die in Florida’s electric chair. There was a carnival-like atmosphere on the date of the execution, January 24, 1989.
Vasilinda recalls seeing ‘Burn, Bundy Burn’ T-shirts. He said people were singing and dancing.
Vasilinda watched as Bundy took his final breath at the age of 42.
“I think a lot of us in the room were hoping that we would hear the real story. How many? Why? What drove you to do this? The only thing he said was, ‘Tell my friends and family I love them.’ and that was it. They put the hood over his head and they proceeded. Ten minutes later they pronounced him dead,” said Vasilinda.
Ted Bundy reportedly confessed to murdering more than 50 women. Experts believe he killed more than 100. Only he knows the real number.
Bundy never stopped taunting the system. Right up until his execution, he bargained to extend his life by revealing where bodies could be found in exchange for more time. He played that game on Florida’s death row for 10 years.