Somewhere in the Rockies

Somewhere in the Rockies


In the days following Ted Bundy’s convictions, sentencing, and incarceration, some of those involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case took on the mantle of soothsayer and foretold the future.


Ÿ Bob Keppel expressed his expectation that “Bundy would never talk until he felt that he’s done everything possible that could be done as far as anything legal goes.”


Ÿ Florida prosecutor George R. Dekle, Sr. in a local news station interview predicted that “Once all his appeals are spent and when he is on the verge of execution, he may start confessing in order to stave off the death penalty.”


Ÿ Jerry Thompson anticipated that Bundy would “give his answers before he fries,” adding “There’s no way he’s going to do it, until he’s convinced he’s ready to go.”


These comments are the seeds from which grew the widespread expectation that Bundy would, in an attempt to prolong his life, offer to trade bodies for time when he sensed that his time was up.


My Hands Are TiedIt was an easy prophecy to make. That was the only time confessions could be given. One of the shortcomings of the execution process is that it cannot accommodate a serial killer willing to fully confess, but only after all appeals have been exhausted. FBI agent John Douglas argued that there is plenty of time during the appeals process for confessions to take place. But one would be a fool to confess while one’s appeals are intact because the next appeal would surely be denied. Once all appeals are exhausted, a death warrant usually quickly follows. Then there is little time left for confession.


Although the predictions made by Keppel, Dekle, and Thompson were nothing more than speculation, they were repeated over the decade preceding Bundy’s execution, eventually becoming a certainty in the public mind. What was an unresolved, inherent failure in the death penalty process was instead predetermined to be a selfish attempt by a killer to avoid his own death.

Their prophecy became self-fulfilling, heading off any possible debate when the time came. Families whose loved ones were involved in unsolved murder or missing-person cases would have no voice in a debate that had already concluded when the chance came for their input to be given.


When a one-week death warrant was issued, Bundy appeared to embark on the predicted path. But when dealing with Ted Bundy, nothing is as it seems. For him, things had reached their logical conclusion. There was no point going beyond that. Bundy had no expectation of surviving.


Prior to the November 18, 1986 execution attempt, Bundy felt he had a 40/60 chance of surviving. This was worrisome, but it was not enough for him to move to his endgame. He told his attorney, Polly Nelson, that if it became likely that he would be executed he would need to hear that from her as soon as possible. He added that there were "some things I need to do.” He would need time to implement his contingency plans. So it is clear that he expected to survive.

To the contrary, in 1989, among the stipulations that Bundy imposed upon James Dobson in the negotiations leading up to their interview, was the requirement that the interview not be shown as long as Bundy was alive. Given that stipulation, there is no question that he expected to die. Otherwise, like in 1986, he would simply not have done such an interview at that time.

So, if Bundy was not attempting to prolong his life, what was he up to?


Trust MeTed Bundy was a con man. Regarding Bundy, Jerry Thompson quipped “he could sell you a dead horse." Dr. Emmanuel Tanay noted the "pathological need of Mr. Bundy to defy authority, to manipulate his associates and adversaries."


When dealing with a con man, it is best not to reveal one's expectations. A con man knows that the easiest thing to get someone to believe is what that person wants to believe.


Due to the ongoing loose-lipped soothsaying, Bundy was well-aware of our expectations. If he wanted to run some sort of con, it would have the best chance or working if it appeared to match those expectations. He could play into them and, by so doing, conceal his true intent.

Bundy spent his much of nine years on death row planning for his endgame, his grand exit from this world. He pursued two threads, one addressing why he had killed and the other addressing who he had killed. The latter culminated with his "bones for time" scheme.

Step one of the scheme was to call for a de-briefing. As a precondition to his confessions, Bundy and his personal attorney, Diane Wiener, made Bob Keppel agree that no one would speak to the press before Bundy’s planned press conference the following Monday. In his notes, Bundy’s initial condition, the first in a list of “points” he had outlined, was that the confessions remain secret until Monday. He noted that “anyone who leaks ruins for everyone else.”


Step two was to burn his bridges. Early Saturday morning, January 21, 1989, television sets and radios crackled with the news that Bundy was confessing. Bob Keppel woke up to the announcement, communicated through John Tanner in a televised interview, that Bundy “was totally honest and cooperating with investigators.” Things were going well. They just needed more time.

Keppel was infuriated. He felt used. He theorized that Bundy had violated his own requirement “so they wouldn’t be upstaged by anyone and could do it their own way.”

Tanner’s televised interview was met with the only response that could reasonably be expected under those circumstances. Governor Martinez denied the request via a televised press conference, “We have sent word back … that the rendezvous with the electric chair will be next Tuesday morning at seven. For him to negotiate for his life over the bodies of his victims is despicable.”


After such a public display, Martinez, facing dim re-election prospects, would be hard-pressed to change his position. Dropping his hard-line approach would surely cost him the next election. In fact, he was counting on the execution to give him a leg-up in that election.

Step three was to commence his confessions without revealing too much. Bundy did not want to provide anything that would compel the authorities to ask the Governor for a delay. He gave Keppel a location of a body that, then being covered by six feet of snow, could not have been searched. When the site was checked out later that spring, nothing was found.


Bundy covered several cases in the short time he had available, but he produced no bodies. He offered nothing that would compel the Governor to delay the execution. Bundy continued confessing even as he was being led to the death chamber.

After the execution, Ann Rule reported that “to a person” the families of Bundy's known and suspected victims refused to intercede when they were contacted about delaying the execution. But according to another report, there was one woman who did not refuse to intercede.


Eleanore RoseFrom her own agonizing experience, she understood what others were enduring. As much as she wanted Bundy dead, if any good could come to others from a short delay, she would accept it. Although she was probably the one most devastated by Bundy’s depravity, she was the only one who put the interests of others above those of her own. Her name was Eleanore Rose.


There were other families who would not be queried. At the same time the known and suspected victims' families were being contacted in the contrived survey, these other families were besieging anyone accessible to them who was known to have had contact with Bundy. The families were asking that the execution be delayed so that each could learn whether or not Bundy had been responsible for the fate of their daughter.

It was not to be. The only known remaining evidence in their cases was about to be destroyed. There would be no more places shown. There would be no more names given. There would be no more faces described. There would be no more stories told.


If the time had been granted, Bundy's plans would have been foiled. His confessions were never meant to be completed. He had a greater goal than just saving his life. He was trying to save his soul. Bill Hagmaier reported that Bundy, “was concerned about what would happen to his body, and as he articulated, his soul, afterwards.”

By goading the Governor into refusing his request for more time to complete his confessions, Bundy caused the Governor to take responsibility for the suffering of the families of the unidentified victims. Bundy could face his maker with the argument that he had paid with his life for his known crimes and that the Governor was liable for the rest.


And Bundy demonstrated that his executioners were no better than he. Their enmity for the villain overwhelmed any empathy they may have had for those who were most affected by their act, the families of Bundy's unknown victims. When the switch was pulled, each was summarily condemned to a life of never learning the fate of their loved one.



© 2017 Richard A. Duffus

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