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Purple Haze Retirement Homers remember Bundy

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By Pat Noel

PHRH Staff Writer

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Since this column from the Purple Haze Retirement Home newsletter is usually dedicated to talking about dead people, then-Valley Journal editor Pat Noel is taking the opportunity to reflect on the late Ted Bundy as we prepare to observe 40 years since his brief residency in the Roaring Fork Valley.

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He was the stuff of nightmares if you were a young woman, back in the day.

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A crocodile id concealed by the comfortable face of a guy who looked like the picture of the guy who was “Salesman of the Month” at a moderately successful automobile dealership, where you almost bought a car.

There’s no certainty when Call-me-Ted began killing women but in a series of confessions just before he died in the electric chair at Florida State Prison, he admitted that he’d “mastered the necessary skills” as a high schooler in Tacoma, Washington in the 1960s, just about the time female high school and college students in the Pacific Northwest began disappearing at the rate of about one per month.

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By the early 1970s, legions of investigators from a handful of police jurisdictions had finally figured out that they had a serial killer on their hands and formed a task force to stop the carnage. Although they had finally gotten on Call-me-Ted’s trail, they didn’t yet know who he was and clues were hard to come by.

But here’s what they did know:

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… the women were all young, attractive, white, with long brown hair parted in the middle; and in that era, those kind of potential victims were about as hard to find as a mustache in Mexico. Apparently selected at random and taken at night, they were here one minute and gone the next, their nude bodies discovered much later in lonely places far from where they were kidnapped. In most cases, their skulls revealed severe head trauma and ligature marks were found on their wrists suggesting they had been bludgeoned and handcuffed before being taken to what was called the “secondary crime scene” where they were raped and murdered. The cause of death was always the same: strangulation. In several cases there was evidence to suggest the killer returned days and sometimes weeks later to visit the cadaver and would carefully brush its hair, apply makeup to the face and perform “sexual acts with the decomposing corpse until (putrefaction) made further intercourse impossible.”

There were no witnesses to the kidnappings or kills, although there were several reports by people who had seen a clean cut “handsome young man” in the area around the time of the disappearances. His arm in a sling or a cast, or hobbling on crutches, he seemed to be asking young women if they would help him load something into his car, invariably described as a “tan VW.”

The “VW” was, of course, the fabled “Beetle,” aka “The Bug.” Most were white, blue and red but all eventually had been scorched to tan because they had crappy paint jobs. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were cheap, vaguely reliable and there were gazillions of them.

Call-me-Ted loved his Volkswagen.

Passenger seat removed

Maybe because it struck a spark in his fascist brain stem, the car having been first conceived of and produced by Adolph Hitler and his buddy, Ferdinand Porsche, in 1937 as a “people’s car” that sold for less than 1,000 Reich marks (about $140) and which Der Fuhrer would regularly declare was “intended for the broad masses … its purpose is to give them job.” Call-me-Ted’s VW had to be customized a skosh for his particularly “joy”: the passenger seat removed so that he could more easily load the unconscious women he’d hit over the head with a tire iron through the passenger door and drive them to a happy honeymoon at the aforementioned “secondary crime scene.”

When Bundy wasn’t murdering people, he was a professional off-and-on-again college student who finally graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Washington in 1974. That same year he was accepted into the University of Utah’s law school and moved to Salt Lake City.

Oila!

Killings in the Bundy style… stopped in the Pacific Northwest.

Started in Utah.

Then Idaho.

Then Colorado.

Here.

Jan. 12, 1975.

Caryn Campbell, 23, a pretty nurse with long dark hair parted in the middle, disappeared one night from the Wildwood Lodge in Snowmass Village. Her nude body was found in a snowdrift about a month later, some 150 feet off Owl Creek Road. Things had been…

Things had been… done to her.

After her was Julie Cunningham, a 26-year-old ski instructor in Vail who disappeared in March of that year. In April, it was 25-year-old Denis Oliverson of Grand Junction followed by 18-year-old Melanie Cooper of Nederland; in July it was 24-year-old Shelley Robertson of Golden.

Then…

The killings stopped after Call-me-Ted was pulled over near Salt Lake City in August of 1975 by a Utah highway patrolman on a routine traffic stop. Bundy was taken in for questioning because the cop found it suspicious that Call-me-Ted’s VW had no passenger seat and on the back seat was a crow bar taped halfway up the shaft, a ski mask fashioned from pantyhose, handcuffs and coils of rope. Just like the car and paraphernalia a Salt Lake teenager described to police after she had miraculously escaped from Bundy’s custody several months earlier. One of his “lucky” victims, she ID’d him and he was convicted on kidnapping and assault charges, tossed into prison and named #1 suspect in 13 murders in Utah and Colorado as well as his earlier slaughter of at least 12 women in Washington and Oregon. After a “summit” of investigators and prosecutors from those states met with the FBI in Aspen in November 1976, he was extradited to Colorado because Caryn Campbell’s killing was the only one in which there was any actual evidence: hair samples matching those taken from her body were found in Call-me-Ted’s VW and a map of Snowmass Village with the location of Wildwood circled in red. Also found in a search of his Salt Lake City apartment were crutches, plaster-of-paris, arm slings, ice picks etc. etc.

In January of 1977, he was lodged in the Garfield County jail in Glenwood Springs and as details of his “alleged” killing spree began to surface in the media, his mere presence scared the shit out of every woman in the Valley.

But surely, they believed, a douchebag of this magnitude would certainly be well guarded, heavily shackled, under constant surveillance and never-ever-ever be allowed to escape. After all, he was THE REAL thing that went bump in the night. Even if he said he didn’t do it, you knew he did. You saw his picture in the paper: the handsome face with his mouth in an ever present half-smirk and the caption that said “I’m not guilty.”

And then you looked at the eyes and said to yourself: “Liar.”

Willy, oh Willy

I’m a-feared for my life

Willy, oh Willy

I’m a-feared for my life

I believe you mean to murder me

And leave me behind.

Polly, pretty Polly

You guessed it about right

Polly, pretty Polly

You guessed it about right

I been diggin’ your grave

Since the best part of part of last night.

(Appalachian Traditional)

(Next time: “The Rise of the Posse Comitatus.”)

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