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Sunday, January 24, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Survivors Are Haunted By Memory Of Ted Bundy 10 Years After Execution

The AP

The heavy footsteps of emergency medical technicians and the crackling of police radios awakened Susan Denton from a deep sleep. The horror of what she saw took several minutes to register.

In the hallway of Chi Omega house at Florida State University, her friend Karen Chandler was being loaded onto a gurney. Denton went down the hall and saw another sorority sister, Kathy Kleiner, sitting dazed on her bed, blood pouring down her face.

In another room, Lisa Levy was in her bed, splattered with blood. Someone had beaten her. She died on the way to the hospital.

Margaret Bowman's strangled body was in her room.

Ten years after Theodore Robert Bundy was executed in Florida's electric chair, some of those whose lives were upended by his rampage across six states recalled the sinister stranger with the engaging smile and deadly magnetic appeal.

Denton still shivers at memories of the grisly scene she found in her Tallahassee sorority house on Jan. 15, 1978.

"When you realize how close it occurred, you think, `Why was it their room and not our room?' You go through all that," she said.

Bite marks on Levy's body were used to convict Bundy of killing the two Florida State students, both - like his more than 30 other victims - pretty with long brown hair parted down the middle.

From Jan. 4, 1974, to Feb. 15, 1978, the stranger called "Ted" stalked young women on college campuses, at shopping malls, in parks, apartment buildings and grade schools in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and finally Florida. Sometimes he would feign a broken arm to get young women to help him to his car, where he would knock them unconscious and abduct them.

"There probably wasn't a day that went by that I didn't think of Lisa and Margaret," said Denton.

It was in Lake City, Fla., midway between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, that Bundy's last and youngest known victim, 12-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach, was abducted outside her school on Feb. 9, 1978. Her body was left in a deserted hog shed.

Six days later, early Feb. 15, Pensacola Patrolman David Lee spotted a stolen Volkswagen and signaled the driver to pull over.

During questioning, the driver kicked Lee's legs out from under him and took off running. Lee fired a warning shot, then fired a second round at the fleeing man. They struggled over Lee's gun before the officer subdued and arrested him.

It was several days before Pensacola police learned that their car-thief suspect had recently been added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list and was a suspect in three Florida slayings.

Bundy, born Theodore Robert Cowell on Nov. 24, 1947, in a Burlington, Vt., home for unwed mothers, moved with his mother to Tacoma, where other relatives lived. There, his mother met and married John Bundy, an Army cook who adopted Ted.

As a teen, Bundy was shy and sensitive, a good student who showed little interest in dating. He studied Chinese at Stanford University and in 1968 worked for Republican candidates in Washington state. At a Seattle crisis center, he counseled the depressed, the alcoholic, the suicidal.

Later, he majored in psychology at the University of Washington, graduating in 1972 with an A-minus average. He designed a program for dealing with habitual criminals and wrote a pamphlet on rape for the county crime commission.

He enrolled in law classes at the University of Puget Sound, but dropped out just before final exams in April 1974. He moved to Salt Lake City that August after being accepted into the University of Utah law school. He was baptized into the Mormon faith.

Although no one knows for sure how many women Bundy killed - the FBI says more than 30 - it is believed that his first victim was Mary Adams, 18, whose battered body was found in her Seattle bedroom on Jan. 4, 1974.

Between March and June 1974, at least five women vanished from campuses and taverns in Washington and Oregon. On July 14, a young man matching Bundy's description was seen at Lake Sammamish, near Seattle. Two women he approached there were never seen alive again.

The killings in Washington stopped in August 1974. In his final interviews with investigators, Bundy also confessed to two killings in Idaho.

That October, Bundy was in Utah, where a 16-year-old girl vanished and two other women were found bludgeoned and strangled.

On Nov. 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch narrowly escaped after Bundy forced her into his car and tried to handcuff her and attack her with a crowbar. Later that night, a 17-year-old girl disappeared from her high school.

Beginning in January 1975, four other women vanished from Utah and Colorado. That July, a woman disappeared near Salt Lake City.

Bundy was arrested in August 1975 and convicted the following March of kidnapping DaRonch. That fall, he was charged with the murder of a Michigan nurse who was killed in Aspen, Colo.

He escaped from an Aspen courthouse in June 1977, was captured and escaped again in December.

And once again, the bodies started mounting. Bundy was afraid to die

Bob Keppel, chief investigator with the Washington attorney general's Seattle office, was one of many detectives who spent Bundy's final days trying to tie him to unsolved crimes.

"There was no human remains found. We were able to feel he was the one who committed all the murders. He confessed to more than 30 of them," said Keppel, author of "The River Man" about Bundy's murderous odyssey.

Mike Minerva, who defended Bundy in the Chi Omega murders, said a deal had been worked out to save Bundy's life by having him plead guilty to the three Florida slayings in exchange for 75 years in prison. Bundy backed out at the last minute.

"It made him realize he was going to have to stand up in front of the whole world and say he was guilty. He just couldn't do it," said Minerva, who works in the public defenders' office in Tallahassee.

After 11 years of trials and appeals, then-Florida Gov. Bob Martinez signed the final death warrant against Bundy on Jan. 17, 1989.

"When the final death warrant was signed . . . it was a very, very hectic seven days as different angles were being used by him and his lawyer to try to avoid the carrying out of the sentence," Martinez said.

Bundy offered to provide investigators with details on his crimes, but pleaded for more time, said Martinez, now a Tampa businessman.

"We simply indicated there still were a number of days before the sentence would be carried out and he would have ample time to confess to whatever else he had done if that's what he wanted to do," Martinez said.

Bill Hagmaier, chief of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes, was with Bundy during his final interviews with investigators. On the night before his execution, Bundy talked of suicide.

"He did not want to give the state the satisfaction of watching him die," Hagmaier said.

"We had some discussions about morality and the taking of another life and his concerns about trying to explain to God about his actions," he said. Rehearsal of execution

After helping Bundy draft a will and letters to his mother, wife and daughter, Hagmaier said there was one more thing the killer wanted.

"He wanted to rehearse his execution," Hagmaier said. "I talked him through it, the mechanics of it."

"I'm afraid to die," Bundy told Hagmaier.

The sun was peeking over the horizon on Jan. 24, 1989, when a black-hooded executioner turned a switch that sent 2,000 volts through Bundy's body. His fists clenched tightly, his body straightened in the oak chair and the life went out of the one of the nation's most notorious serial killers at 7:16 a.m.

As witnesses walked into the cold air from the stuffy execution viewing area, fireworks erupted, set off by celebrants in a cow pasture across the road from Florida State Prison. There, hawkers sold "Burn Bundy Burn" T-shirts and electric-chair lapel pins.

Assistant State Attorney Bob Dekle helped put Bundy in the electric chair for the murder of Kimberly Leach.

As he watched the execution, his mind replayed vivid images of that April day in 1978 when the little girl's body was found.

"I kept recalling the scene," Dekle said then. "I kept thinking that's where it started. This is where it ends."

"I'm satisfied that it's over," he said recently, "but for some people like Kim Leach's family, it will never be over."

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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