Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Ted Bundy Story — Caught Again Part 7 of 10

By Rachael Bell

Less than a mile from the Chi Omega House, a young woman was awakened by loud banging noises coming from the apartment next to hers. She wondered what her friend in the adjoining apartment was doing to make so much noise at four in the morning. As the banging noises persisted, she became suspicious and woke her roommate. As they listened, they heard Cheryl next door moaning. Frightened, they called over to her house to see if she was all right. When no one picked up the phone, they immediately called the police.

The police came quickly. After all, they were just blocks away at the Chi Omega House tending to the crime scene there. They entered Cheryl's apartment and walked to her bedroom, where they found her sitting on the bed. Her face was just beginning to swell from the bludgeoning to her head. She was still somewhat conscious and half nude, but lucky to be alive. Police discovered a mask at the foot of her bed. According to Anne Rule in The Stranger Beside Me the mask that was found "resembled almost exactly the mask taken from Ted Bundy's car when he'd been arrested in Utah in August of 1975."
Police investigators worked diligently on the evidence that was left behind. They were able to get a blood type from the assailant, sperm samples and fingerprint smudges. Unfortunately, most of the evidence that was tested proved to be inconclusive. The only firm evidence investigators were able to obtain were the hairs found in the mask, teeth impressions from the bite marks on the victims and an eyewitness account from Nita Neary. Investigators did not have a suspect and Ted Bundy was unknown to them.
Kimberly Leach, the last victim.
Kimberly Leach, the last victim
On February 9th, 1978, Lake City police received a phone call from the distressed parents of twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach. They were hysterical and said that their daughter had disappeared that day. Police launched a massive search to find the missing girl, who disappeared from her school grounds. The person who last saw her was her friend Priscilla who saw Kimberly get into the car of a stranger the day she disappeared. Unfortunately, she was unable to accurately remember the car or the driver. They found Kimberly's body eight weeks later in a state park in Suwannee County, Florida. The young girl's body yielded little information due to advanced decomposition. However, police were to later find the evidence they needed in a van driven by Ted Bundy.
A few days before Kimberly Leach had disappeared, a strange man in a white van approached a fourteen-year-old girl as she waited for her brother to pick her up. The man had claimed he was from the fire department and asked her if she attended the school nearby. She found it strange that an on-duty fireman was wearing plaid pants and a navy jacket. She began to feel uncomfortable. She had been warned on many occasions by her father, who was the Chief of Detectives for the Jacksonville Police Department, not to talk with strangers. She was relieved when her brother drove up. Suspicious of the man, her brother ordered her into the car, followed the man and wrote down his license plate to give it to his father.
Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy
Upon hearing of the stranger in the white van, Detective James Parmenter had the license plate checked out. He learned it belonged to a man named Randall Ragen, and he decided to pay him a visit. Ragen informed the detective that his plates had been stolen and he had already been issued new ones. The detective later found out that the van his children had seen was also stolen and he had an idea who it might have been. He decided to take his children to the police station to show them a stack of mug shots, Bundy's picture being among them. He hadn't realized how close he had been to losing his own daughter. Both of his children recognized the man in the van as Ted Bundy.
The van long since discarded, Bundy set out towards Pensacola, Florida in a new stolen car. This time he managed to find a vehicle he was more comfortable driving, a VW bug. Officer David Lee was patrolling an area in West Pensacola when he saw an orange VW at 10 p.m. on February 15th. He knew the area well and most of the residents, yet he had never before seen the car. Officer Lee decided to run a check on the license plates and soon found out that they were stolen. Immediately, he turned on his lights and began to follow the VW.
Once again, as had happened in Utah several years earlier, Bundy started to flee. Suddenly, Bundy pulled over and stopped. Officer Lee ordered him out of his car and told Bundy to lay down with his hands in front. To Lee's surprise, as he had begun to handcuff Bundy, he rolled over and began to fight the officer. Bundy managed to fight his way free and run. Just as soon as he did, Lee fired his weapon at him. Bundy dropped to the ground, pretending to have been shot. As the officer approached him lying on the ground, he was again attacked by Bundy. However, the officer was able to overpower him. He was handcuffed and taken to the police station. Bundy had finally been caught.
Over the months following Bundy's arrest, investigators were able to compile critical evidence to be used against Bundy in the Leach case. The white van that had been stolen by Bundy was found and they had three eyewitnesses that had seen him driving it the afternoon Kimberly had disappeared. Forensic tests conducted on the van yielded fibers of material that had come from Bundy's clothes.
Tests also revealed Kimberly Leach's blood type on the van's carpet and semen and Ted's blood type on her underwear. Further evidence was Ted's shoe impressions in the soil located next to the place Kimberly was found. Police felt confident with the information they had tying Bundy to the Leach case and on July 31, 1978, Ted Bundy was charged with the girl's murder. Soon after, he would also be charged with the Chi Omega murders. Facing the death penalty, Ted would later plead in his own defense that he was not guilty of the murders.

The Trials

Bundy meeting in court with lawyers
Bundy meeting in court
with lawyers
Theodore Robert Bundy faced two murder trials, both spaced within three years. His first trial date was set for June 25, 1979, in MiamiFlorida. The court case centered on the brutal attacks on the Chi Omega sorority sisters. The second trial was to take place in January 1980 in Orlando,Florida, where Ted was to be tried for the murder of Kimberly Leach. Both trials would result in less-than-favorable outcomes for Ted, however it would be the Chi Omega murder case that would seal his fate forever.
Florida  v. Theodore Robert Bundy
The opening of the Chi Omega murder trial sparked immense public interest and a media frenzy. After all, Ted had been suspected of at least thirty-six murders in four states and his name elicited nightmarish images to thousands, perhaps even millions around the world. He was considered by many to be evil reincarnate, a monster, the devil and his murders initiated the biggest and most publicized trials of the decade. 
Ted Bundy in court
Ted Bundy in court
During the Chi Omega murder trial, Ted acted as his own defense attorney. He was confident in his abilities and believed he would be given a fair trial. The jury, made up mostly of African-Americans, looked on as he defended himself against the murder charges. It became clear early on in the trial that Ted was fighting a losing battle.
There were two events in the trial that would sway the jury against Ted. The first was Nita Neary's testimony of what she had seen the night of the murders. While on the stand, she pointed to Ted as the man she had seen fleeing down the stairs and out the door of the Chi Omega House. The second event that swayed the jury during the trial was the testimony of odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron.
Dr. Souviron described the bite mark injuries found on Lisa Levys body.
Dr. Souviron described the bite mark
injuries found on Lisa Levys body.
While on the stand, Dr. Souviron described the bite mark injuries found on Lisa Levy's body. As he spoke, the jury was shown full-scale photographs of the bite marks that had been taken the night of the murder. The doctor pointed out the uniqueness of the indentations left behind on the victim and compared them with full-scale pictures of Ted's teeth. There was no question that Ted had made the bite marks on Lisa Levy's body. The photos would be the biggest piece of evidence the prosecution had linking Ted to the crime.
On July 23rd, Ted waited in his cell as the jurors deliberated over his guilt or innocence. After almost seven hours, they returned to the courtroom with a verdict. Showing no emotion, Ted listened as one of the jurors read out "GUILTY." On all counts of murder, Ted was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Bundy's reaction to verdict
Bundy's reaction to verdict
In the state of Florida, it is customary to have a separate sentencing trial. Ted's sentencing took place one week later on July 30th before the same jury that had found him guilty. During the brief hearing, Ted's mother testified and tearfully pleaded for her son's life. Ted was also given a chance to address the court and refute the recommendation from the prosecution for the death penalty.
Ted professed his innocence, claiming that the prejudice of the media was responsible for his alleged misrepresentation. He also suggested that the entire proceedings and verdict was nothing short of a farce, which he was unable to accept. According to Larsen, Ted told the hushed courtroom that it was, "absurd to ask for mercy for something he did not do," yet he would "not share the burden of the guilt." Judge Cowart, who presided over both trials, handed down his final judgment following Ted's statement. He affirmed the recommendation and imposed the death penalty twice for the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. The method of execution Ted faced was the electric chair. 

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