Handsome Serial Killer Left A Trail Of Death

Posted: January 24, 1989

The beach of Lake Sammamish is a summertime refuge from the hot streets of Seattle.

In July 1974, a handsome young man with his arm in a sling caught the eyes of several attractive young women sunning themselves on the sand.

He said his name was Ted and he needed somebody to help him hook up a sailboat to his Volkswagen.

At least two of the women who agreed to help the shy, helpless-looking young man that deadly summer in Washington died horrible deaths at the hands of one of the nation's most ruthless and prolific sex-slayers, Theodore Robert

Cowell Bundy. He was winding up a rampage of slaughter in the Seattle area that summer.

Bundy, who died this morning in the Florida electric chair, was suspected of killing at least 36 young women across the country.

He confessed to eight murders of young women in the Seattle area. That August, he moved on to Utah where he killed eight more.

One person who was following the stories about the disappearances of women in Washington state was a crime writer named Ann Rule.

She wrote a lurid magazine piece that included the line, "Some fiend is on the rampage, preying on the state's young beauties . . ."

Ann Rule did not know that the man who was carrying off the state's young beauties was her old friend and confidant, Ted Bundy.

Rule knew Bundy as a sensitive, caring young man who worked with her at the Seattle Crisis Center, taking calls from desperate people, many of whom were on the verge of killing themselves.

"I thought he was one of the nicest young men I ever met," Rule said in an interview in 1980.

By then, her old friend was on death row in Florida and she had written a book about their relationship, "The Stranger Beside Me."

"If Ted Bundy took lives," Rule said in 1980, "he also saved lives. I know he did, because I was there when he did it."

She said that between the two of them, they averted "six to eight" suicides in the early 1970s.

Rule and Bundy remained friends after they left the crisis center. They would get together and talk about their personal problems. In 1974, she found herself a little disturbed by Bundy's preoccupation with the cases of the disappearing women around Seattle.

He seemed to know details of the cases that Rule, an experienced police reporter, knew only the authorities had access to. But she shrugged it off. She knew Ted Bundy was not capable of murder.

After Bundy left Washington, a young woman who had dated him was stunned when she began reading about the disappearances of women in Utah, where she knew her ex-boyfriend was living.

Police were looking for a man named Ted. He drove a tan Volkswagen, the kind the woman remembered Bundy driving.

The King County sheriff's office had set up the Ted Task Force to handle tips about the stranger on the beach of Lake Sammamish. The woman notified the task force of her suspicions, and her tip went into the hopper. The Ted Task Force had 4,000 tips to check out.

On Nov. 8, 1974, Detective Bob Keppel, assigned to the Ted Task Force, took a call from authorities in Utah.

A man named Ted Bundy had been arrested in Salt Lake City trying to drag a young woman into a Volkswagen.

Keppel recalled in an interview years later that the office computer had just spit out Bundy's name as the next to be investigated in the long, frustrating hunt for the killer.

Bundy was never charged in any of the Washington state cases, but by the mid-1970s, King County officials were certain he was the man they were looking for.

Philip Killien, a King County prosecutor at the time and now a judge, recalled recently how he took the entire investigative file on Bundy down to the Seattle waterfront, walked out on a pier and spent an entire day going over the case.

"I kept asking myself, 'Is there any way we can prosecute?' It was so frustrating to read that and know he was so guilty, but . . . there was just nothing there to grab hold of . . . not one fingerprint."

By the time Bundy was released on bail in the Utah abduction case, everybody in Seattle knew he was the killer. His picture had appeared in the newspapers. But he had been accused of nothing.

One day he swaggered back into Seattle. He seemed to enjoy the stir he had created. He went to his old alma mater, the University of Washington Law School.

"The place panicked," Killien said. "The library emptied. He went from table to table just to be seen."

Last March 30, Eleanor Rose stood in the wind of a West Seattle cemetery and watched as a pink velvet casket was lowered into the ground.

It was a symbolic burial of her daughter, Denise Marie Naslund, 18, one of the young women who had gone off with the handsome young man named Ted on the beach of Lake Sammamish nearly 14 years before.

Her battered body was found a month later in nearby woods.

The burial was symbolic because Denise's remains were not in the casket. After years of insistence that the body could not be released to next of kin

because the investigation of her murder was not complete, the King County medical examiner's office admitted it had lost the body.

In the casket were various mementos of the murdered girl - her favorite

dress, a poem, a pink silk rose, framed photographs, a rosary, a crucifix and a note from her mother:

"Dear Denise, God forgive them for what they have done. I love you."

After her daughter's murder, the infuriated mother led a campaign to have the death penalty restored in Washington. The campaign was successful two years later, but its death chamber was cheated of the honor of killing the man who had ended the lives of so many daughters.

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