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Serial Killer Bundy Executed in Florida’s Electric Chair

January 25, 1989

STARKE, Fla. (AP) _ Ted Bundy, a charming law school dropout who ended years of denials that he was a killer with emotional confessions to the gruesome slayings of 23 women in four states, was electrocuted Tuesday for murdering a 12-year-old girl.

Bundy’s last words, before a black-hooded executioner pulled a switch at 7:06 a.m. sending 2,000 volts through his body, were to his lawyer and a minister: ″Give my love to my family and friends.″

More than 100 proponents of the death penalty waiting in a field across from the Florida State Prison cheered, lit sparklers and set off firecrackers at the signal that 42-year-old Theodore Robert Bundy had finally been put to death for a crime committed almost 11 years ago. Three earlier execution dates were stymied by appeals.

″Burn, Bundy, burn 3/8″ some shouted. A group of about a dozen people parodied an old tune by singing ″On top of old Sparky″ - a reference to the nickname for Florida’s oaken, three-legged electric chair.

Only about two dozen people opposed to the death penalty turned up to keep a vigil in the field.

″The people of Florida today administered justice,″ Gov. Bob Martinez said 1 1/2 hours after the execution. ″If there’s ever been anyone on Florida’s death row that deserved the electric chair, Ted Bundy was that individual.″

Bundy had been quick-witted, known for his cockiness and arrogance, a handsome, blue-eyed charmer. He was the subject of five books and a television miniseries, ″The Deliberate Stranger.″

But he recently claimed to ″feel God’s presence,″ and was reported at the end to be remorseful about his bloody trail of kidnappings, sadistic sexual mutilations and slayings in his home state of Washington, and in Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Florida.

In an interview with religious broadcaster and psychologist James Dobson hours before his execution, Bundy said his home life had been normal, but early experiences with pornography had ″crystallized″ violent tendencies within him. Later, alcohol reduced his inhibitions and he acted on those tendencies, he said.

″The most damaging kinds of pornography - and again here I’m talking from personal experience, hard, real personal experience - are those that involve violence, and sexual violence,″ Bundy said. He then issued a warning:

″There is loose in their towns, their communities, people like me today, whose dangerous impulses are being fueled day in and day out by violence in the media in its various forms, particularly sexual violence,″ Bundy said.

In the last days of his life, Bundy slowly, deliberately described his crimes in detail, said Russ Reneau, chief investigator for Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones. Reneau said Bundy told how he made an overnight trip from Salt Lake City to Pocatello, Idaho. ″He said he was here for a specific purpose, and that was to commit a murder,″ he said.

But when asked why he killed, Reneau said Bundy answered ″only obliquely. When we asked him why he made that trip (to Pocatello) he said it was because of ‘the madness.’ He did not elaborate on that.″

His execution, for the murder of sixth-grader Kimberly Diane Leach of Lake City, made him the 20th man put to death in Florida and the 106th in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to reinstate the death penalty in 1976.

Kimberly was kidnapped from the grounds of her junior high school Feb. 9, 1978, just three weeks after the killings of two women at Chi Omega sorority at Florida State University. The child’s body was found three months later in an abandoned pigsty. Bundy was also under a death sentence for the two Chi Omega murders.

Until near the end he had insisted he was innocent, although he had been suspected of as many as 36 killings and disappearances. Then late last week he began talking to investigators from the four Western states, closing the books on unsolved crimes, including some in which he had not been a suspect.

The number of confessions was originally put at 20, but Robert Keppel, a Washington state attorney general’s investigator, said Tuesday that Bundy also admitted to killing a young hitchhiker near Olympia in 1973 and two other women in Washington whom Bundy did not identify, give times of death or say where the bodies were left.

Shortly after the execution, Vivian Rancourt of LaConner, Wash.,, mother of Bundy victim Susan Rancourt, sighed, ″Good. ...The only thing I can say is thank God, it’s finally over.″

One of Bundy’s final acts was to permit James Dobson, a California psychologist and host of a syndicated radio show, to videotape an interview to be broadcast later. Dobson described Bundy as ″feeling great remorse.″ He quoted Bundy saying his crimes ″should serve as a warning to the dangers of pornography.″

Bundy appeared frightened when he was escorted into the death chamber. But he moved easily to the chair, nodding to his attorney, James Coleman, and Gainesville minister Fred Lawrence, who had counseled him earlier.

″Jim and Fred, I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,″ he said in a strong voice that trailed off at the end.

″He was calm but visibly shaken,″ said state Rep. Randy Mackey of Lake City, an official witness.

Bundy stared straight ahead and his jaw tightened when workers adjusted a chin strap and fitted a hood over his shaven head. When the switch was thrown by the anonymous executioner, who is paid $150 for the job, Bundy’s body surged back against the chair. His fists clenched.

A doctor pronounced him dead at 7:16 a.m. EST.

Gene Williams, owner of the Williams-Thomas Funeral Home, said he accepted custody of the body but would not give any details on arrangements, including whether there would be burial or cremation. But he said no funeral was planned.

″Eleven years is too long,″ said Mackey, referring to legal maneuvers that kept the execution in doubt virtually until the last minute.

The execution came a week to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal in the Leach case. The days following were filled with a round of appeals by Bundy lawyers. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 late Monday against another stay.

John Tanner, a prosecutor who arranged for Bundy’s confessions with investigators from the four Western states, said Bundy had not finished ″telling the names and locations of bodies. He just ran out of time.″

The governor had insisted that Bundy would not be allowed to use a protracted litany of confessions to delay his execution a fourth time.

″You don’t negotiate with a killer,″ said Martinez, adding that Bundy had had plenty of time in which to talk if he had wanted to.

Conspicuously absent among the detectives, lawyers, friends and advisers visiting Bundy in prison was the woman he married during the Leach trial in Orlando in 1980 - the former Carole Boone.

She often visited Bundy, but prison records do not list a visit for the past two years. However, her son from a previous marriage, James, now in his 20s, visited Sunday.

Among the official witnesses was Kenneth Robinson, a Highway Patrol trooper who found the girl’s body.

″I thought back and I felt like justice has been done,″ Robinson said. ″But I wonder if he went through as much suffering as she did.″