Author & Researcher Delphine Jamet
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Ted Bundy (Criminal Profiling)

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on September 12, 2011 at 4:30 AM


The motivation for this article is to understand why the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy was driven to kill. I attempt to discuss the underlying psychological behaviours that attributed to his violent and aggressive actions. By understanding the childhood circumstances, I have broken down important elements that can be defined and understood with established theories. I ascertain evidence that Ted Bundy suffered from a condition known as anti-social personality disorder in addition to criminal psychopathy. This contributed to driving him to kill as a result of childhood rejection, anger and frustration. Although serial killers are extremely rare, particularly on the same level as Ted Bundy, by understanding the background circumstances that lead to serious multiple crimes, it is possible to forecast potential traits in future offenders. This enables them to seek professional help before they are left to carry out such acts of violence.



Theodore Robert Cowell, also known as Ted Bundy, viciously murdered and sexually assaulted 30 women and possibly more. He faked injuries and disabilities to gain their trust before slaying them to their death and after a series of sexual assaults, would revisit some of his victims to continually engage in sexual actions until the women’s remains were well decomposed or destruction from wild animals made this no longer possible. Ted would travel around the country in search for his ideal victim, escaping legal custody on two occasions before being given the death penalty in January 1989.

A number of early life experiences may have contributed to his need to lash out at innocent women, in retaliation to the suffering he believed he caused in addition to a build of frustration and rejection. Although he was intelligent and scored well in his law and psychology courses, he lacked social skills and suffered from attachment disorder, beginning from the day he was born. Although he created a façade of being socially successful, Ted Bundy preferred the company of himself and found it difficult to associate with other people, particularly after the breakup of his first girlfriend. The rejection is believed to have ignited childhood frustration and anger, seeing his first victim slayed as a result of these dangerous emotions.


Definition of Offence

In addition to the well-known stated wilful murder of a human being, Ted Bundy was found guilty of aggravated sexual penetration, kidnapping and deprivation of liberty. Although each state in America differs in terms of charges and penalties, they remain fairly similar in most places. The Criminal Code of Western Australia s.278 states that wilful murder is defined as “a person who unlawful kills another, intending to cause his death” (Criminal Code, 2005). Although Australia abolished the death penalty in 1967 in Victoria, earlier in other states, America still frequently continues to use the death penalty for even just one murder. Ted Bundy could have expected to receive multiple life sentences with no hope of parole if sentenced in Australia. He suffered traits of criminal psychopath and may have been able to rely on the plea of insanity but he could only receive the one death penalty, which took place on 24 January 1989.


History of the offender

Ted’s life began with rejection when his father disappeared before he was even born, a sailor who had come and gone. Although his birth certificate lists Air force veteran Lloyd Marshall (Rule, 2000), Ted’s family suspected that his mother Louise may have fathered the baby with her own violent and abusive father, although this was never proven (Michaud et al, 1999). Because she was only a teenager, Louise passed herself off as his sister with Ted’s grandparents pretending to be their parents in order to avoid controversy. Although his mother Louise was there with him during his childhood, she failed to provide Ted with the emotional support he needed. Children who fail to form a secure and loving relationship with their caregivers are believed to experience a range of issues including emotional, behavioural and social problems, which contribute to the antisocial personality disorder (Levy et al, 2004).

“There is emerging evidence that genetics may play a role in the development of psychopathy” (Bartol et al, 2011). It has been reported that Ted’s grandfather beat the family dog and swung neighbourhood cats by their tail (Shapiro, 2005). This early behaviour in Ted’s life may have influenced the learning, enforcing violence to animals and people around him as acceptable. Occasionally exhibiting disturbing behaviour, his grandmother once woke up surrounded by kitchen knives, to see the three year old Ted smiling up at her (Rule, 2009). Although it is believed Ted didn’t commit his violent homicides until he was in his 20’s, as a teenager he would spend hours poring over pornographic magazines and books filled with dead or maimed bodies (Nelson, 1994). This led to Ted consuming copious amounts of alcohol and stalking the neighbourhood in search for bare windows revealing women undressing themselves or anything of a similar nature (Michaud et al, 1999). “Once I became addicted to it, I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material” said Ted (Shapiro, 2005). It appears that Ted had a limited juvenile delinquency record but was arrested at least twice in high school for burglary and auto theft (Rule, 2009). The records have since been destroyed.

Disruption of attachment during the crucial three years of life can lead to ‘affectionless psychopathy’ which is the inability to form meaningful emotional relationships, coupled with chronic anger, poor impulse control and a lack of remorse (Bowlby, 1969). At the age of four after growing up with his grandparents known as his parents in order to avoid stigma, Louise moved to Washington with Ted, where her cousins were living and started a new life. “Fear of loss or separation can generate strong feelings of anxiety and rage in the offender, often resulting in violent actions (Bartol et al, 2011). Although he failed to share a bond with either of his grandparents, he resented the move and became angry (Leibman, 1989). It had been reported that Ted suffered both physical and psychological abuse during those years, with his grandmother failing to take an interest in him due to ongoing depression (Karina, 2009). This early damage contributed to his inability to form relationships or trust during his childhood. As a result of their environment, serial killers are often damaged both psychologically and neurologically (Carbajal, 2010).

Louise married a military cook and as a result, Ted’s surname was changed to Bundy in order to avoid any embarrassing questions from strangers. When he was six years old, she gave birth to another child, followed by three more and Ted increasingly felt deprived. During his early teen years, he was informed of his illegitimacy and continued harbouring deep resentment. This was exacerbated upon him finding out she was actually his mother, not sister and that his parents were actually his grandparents, igniting his fury, which he appeared to keep under wrap for over ten years. Whilst failing to get on well with his step-dad, he was expected to participate in family activities and camping trips but Ted continued to remain distant and emotionally detached. His stepfather had a temper which would become worse when Ted increasingly became openly defiant towards him. Teenage boys who have experienced attachment difficulties early in life are three times more likely to commit violent crimes (Raine, 1993). A child who is neglected by his mother is at high risk of developing antisocial and violent habits (Whitman, 2004). The child then looks inward for comfort, starting with masturbation and sexual fantasies which feel both pleasurable and gives them a sense of control  (Whitman, 2004).

Growing up with a childhood marked with poverty, Ted was given everything his family could with what little money they had. He remained a loner (Leibman, 1989). And throughout high school and college, was really shy which resulted in his appearance as being socially awkward. “There is little doubt  that poverty has a strong connection to persistent, violent offending” (Bartol et al, 2011) and juveniles are especially at high risk of delinquency, although this is not a trait every family will experience. Once in college, he did well but felt uncomfortable around his peers who were much wealthier and subsequently transferred to the University of Washington to escape this feeling.

Continuing into his adulthood, Ted was unable to have close relationships as he failed to understand what interpersonal relationships were about (Michaud et al, 1999). This didn’t stop him from presenting a false social image to those around him.

His first girlfriend Marjorie came along in 1967 when they met at college and she was everything he wasn’t. He was so in love with her, he exaggerated his accomplishments in order to impress her. A year later she thought he had no future and wasn’t husband material, breaking the relationship and his heart. Ted spent years obsessed with her, the childhood feelings of rejection overwhelmed him as he quit college to travel around the countryside, picking up odd jobs along the way. “It is clear that serial murderers begin to kill as a result of increasing feelings of rejection, frustration, anger and powerlessness” (Leibman, 1989; Whitman and Akutagawa, 2004), with Ted shortly killing after his rejection from Marjorie. He felt he was unable to control his environment in addition to not having any close friends he could confide in and share his hurt feelings. “This rejection was the propelling motive for the initial violent behaviour” (Leibman, 1989).

Shyness was left with false bravado when he returned to school, excelling in a Major and completing a Bachelor of Psychology. Ted started going to a local college tavern after he began to develop his interest in politics and fell in love with another woman. During the first few months of dating, he continuingly lied to her, saying he was a writer and a law student. At three months, they planned to get married but at the last minute, Ted ripped up the paper, saying it was too soon. The reality was he felt he couldn’t tell her the truth about his life but when he confessed, she forgave him. They continued to go out and Ted forced her to have sex in unusual ways like tying her up with her pantyhose. Graduating from Washington University, he picked up and continued a relationship with Marjorie, who expected them to get married but soon found herself dumped when Ted grew tired of her (Leibman, 1989).

Although most serial killers suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder (Carbajal, 2010), Hervey Cleckley identified 16 characteristics of a typical Psychopath, many appearing to be a trait of Ted: superficial charm and good intelligence, pathological egocentricity, untruthfulness and insincerity, manipulative, lack of remorse or guilt and impulsive (1976). Ted’s sexual deviancy has been described as primarily motivated by thrill and sensation thinking as well as inclined to boredom and enjoyment (Porter et al, 2001) and he moved on from one murder to the next all over the country.

“A sexual homicide is a homicide that includes sexual activity before, during or after the commission of the homicide” (Porter et al, 2001) and represents less than 1% of all murders reported each year in the United States (Meloy, 2000). A large proportion of Ted’s victim had brown shoulder length hair, parted in the middle with many being college students but the age range or other physical characteristics differed at times, due to Ted’s need to change.

Described as handsome and charismatic, which he exploited to winning the confidence of young girls. Feigned injury or disability or impersonated authority before overpowering and assaulting them at a more excluded location. He sometimes revisited the crime scene for hours, grooming and performing sexual acts with the decomposing corpses until putrefaction and destruction by wild animals made this impossible. Necrophilia can best be described as sexual arousal stimulated by a dead body (Hucker, 2005) Killers frequently engage in necrophilia, which allows them to feel complete control over the body of victims in both life and death. (Carbajal, 2010). He decapitated four heads and kept them in his apartment as momentous. Sometimes broke into houses and killed the sleeping.



There is considerable background information detailing possible influences in Ted Bundy’s childhood. These include the rejection of a strong father figure, psychopathic and violent characteristics in the grandfather, lack of attention from a depressed grandmother and a young mother who was said to be his sister in order to protect the family name. These developments further took their toll upon the arrival of four siblings and a tempered step-father, contributing to the rejection and emotional separation from the family. There is enough evidence to tender that Ted Bundy never had a decent role model or someone who could teach him emotional skills that are important to life and maintaining solid relationships. There are numerous psychopathic traits which appeared to have stabilised in Ted, which could have been made worse by his childhood obsession with violent and sexual images in which manifested his sick imagination.

These factors have all contributed to the life path he took, offset into violent sexual murder upon the rejection of his first girlfriend. This opened a dangerous door to an addiction of excitement and avenging the past of anger and rejection. It would have been very difficult to predict the outcome of Ted’s childhood as many may suffer the same elements but may choose to live very law-abiding lives. But the combination appeared to have made life fatal but those who fell into his hands.



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Porter, S., Campbell, M. A., Woodworth, M., & Birt, A. R. (2001). A new psychological conceptualization of the sexual psychopath. Advances in Psychological Research: Volume 7. Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers.

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