Nation: The Case of the Chi Omega Killer

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Accused Murderer Ted Bundy goes on trial in Miami

"Do you see the man?" the prosecutor asked last week in a Miami courtroom. On the witness stand, the pretty blond woman swiveled in her chair and pointed a quivering finger at a slender, dark-haired man. "Would you identify him for the record?" continued the prosecutor. The silence that followed was suddenly broken by the suspect, who is leading his own defense. "That's Mr. Bundy," he said, referring to himself in the third person. "Thank you, Mr. Bundy," said the judge. Replied the defendant: "You're welcome."

So went the testimony in the bizarre murder trial of Theodore Robert Bundy, 32, on charges that in January 1978 he bludgeoned to death two Chi Omega sorority sisters at Florida State University in Tallahassee and seriously injured three other coeds. The defendant is an unlikely looking murder suspect. He is handsome, articulate and composed, a former law student who, in his blue suit, is almost indistinguishable from the defense lawyers clustered around him. Nonetheless, Bundy is suspected by police of being one of the worst mass murderers in U.S. history, responsible for a trail of up to 36 young women victims, spanning four years and four states. As a final outlandish touch, his sensational murder trial is being televised live, under a recent Florida high court decision. It was not affected by last week's Supreme Court ruling that pretrial hearings need not be public (see LAW).

Perhaps the strangest element in the Bundy case is his own seemingly contradictory character and background. He was raised in Tacoma, Wash., where he was a Boy Scout, and in 1972 was graduated with honors from the University of Washington. Professors praised him as a "mature young man who is very responsible and emotionally stable." He became a member of Governor Daniel Evans' re-election campaign staff and later worked for the Seattle Crime Commission. Former colleagues recall Bundy as intelligent and likable.

While Bundy was in law school at the University of Puget Sound, young women who superficially resembled one another (long brown or blond hair, parted in the middle) began to disappear. Only the skeletons of some were found. Police had one small bit of evidence to go on: a young man named Ted, who drove a Volkswagen "Beetle," often showed up shortly before the women vanished.

Bundy owned a Volkswagen, and he took it with him when he transferred in 1974 to the University of Utah law school. The Washington killings stopped, and a similar series soon began in Utah. But the police had little to connect Bundy with any of them until the summer of 1975, when he was arrested and later charged with kidnaping Carol DaRonch, 17, from a shopping center in the Salt Lake City area. Bundy was convicted and sentenced to one to 15 years in prison.

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