What Happened To The Bodies Of Ted Bundy's Victims?

The night before Theodore Robert Bundy was executed by the electric chair on January 24, 1989, he spent his time "weeping and praying" in his cell, per the Los Angeles Times. He'd been on death row for 10 years, first for the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy of Florida State University, and then for the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. Leach was the last of the killer's victims before authorities caught him, but Bundy himself was the last person to die for his actions.

Even to this day, we don't know how many people Bundy actually killed. He confessed to 28 murders over a mere four-year time span from 1974 to 1978, but some suspect he murdered hundreds of victims. He typically targeted young university-age women, although he sometimes targeted younger individuals, as in the case of Kimberly Leach. Prowling across Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Florida, Bundy spread terror and left behind not only a legacy of depravity, but a permanent imprint on the psyche of the United States.

Each one of Bundy's victims — individuals worthy of respect and remembrance — faced a different end. Thankfully, many of his known victims have been accounted for and received a proper, final resting place. As Find a Grave lists, we know the precise burial locations and details for some of these women, but not others. Most of the latter, however — Julie Cunningham, Susan Curtis, Nancy Wilcox, Debra Kent, Georgann Hawkins, Denise Oliverson, and Lynette Culver — remain undiscovered.

Those who escaped

Before looking at burials, cremations, lost remains, and more, it's important to remember that not all of Ted Bundy's victims were reduced to corpses. Despite eluding authorities for years, Bundy bungled many of his attempted murders. Six known women escaped his clutches before he could kill them, including one of his girlfriends, Elizabeth Kloepfer. All of these survivors have spoken to the media over the years, and as of the time of writing, all of them are still alive. But make no mistake: They're still victims who live with Bundy's horror every day.

Survivors Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiner were amongst a group of four individuals at Florida State University whom Bundy attacked on the same night — January 15, 1978. Karen and Kathy survived because car headlights passed through their room and scared the killer. He had beaten them with a piece of firewood and left Kleiner's jaw hanging half-off. Similarly, survivor Cheryl Thomas spoke to ABC News in 2019 and described Bundy breaking into her apartment with pantyhose over his face and breaking her jaw. She was saved when neighbors in the same building called her phone and Bundy ran away. 

Kloepfer, meanwhile, stayed out of the limelight for decades. She wrote about her experiences under the pseudonym Elizabeth Kendall all the way until appearing in 2020's "Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer." Carol DaRonch, contrarily, escaped Bundy by jumping out of his car and going on to testify against him as a teenager.

Recovered and cremated

At least one of Ted Bundy's victims was cremated after her remains were collected: 23-year-old Janice Blackburn-Ott. While we don't have any information on why her family chose to cremate her rather than bury her, we can speculate that it may be connected to Bundy dismembering or brutalizing victims before dumping their remains in various locations. In fact, we only know that Ott was cremated because of a picture of her urn on Find a Grave. That urn rests atop urns for her parents, Ferol and Donald Blackburn, at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane, Washington. Like other Bundy victims, Blackburn-Ott has been the recipient of thousands of virtual flowers over the years, as recently as June 19, 2024.

Bundy kidnapped and killed Blackburn-Ott on the same day as he kidnapped and killed another victim, 19-year-old Denise Naslund, in July 1974. Both were kidnapped from the same location, Lake Sammamish State Park in Washington, and both were later found in a city adjacent to the park, Issaquah. As ABC News says, these young women vanished right around the time that police were honing in on Bundy. Witnesses reported a man named "Ted" at the scene identifiable by his MO — asking for help while wearing a sling. Unbelievably, police wound up apprehending Bundy in August 1975, only for him to escape police custody two times in a row: The first time after being sentenced in 1976, and the second time after being commuted to prison in 1977.

Recovered and buried

Many of Ted Bundy's victims were buried, no matter the state of their bodies or how much of their remains were recovered. Those individuals who were found more or less whole — as far as available information indicates — were interred at various cemeteries in Washington, Michigan, Utah, and Florida. All of these young women are visitable on Find a Grave: Lynda Ann Healy, Melissa Anne Smith, Laura Ann Aime, Caryn Campbell, and the aforementioned Lisa Levy, Kimberly Leach, and Denise Naslund. Before his execution, Bundy confessed to killing every one of them.   

Amongst these victims, Kimberly Leach stands out for being only one of three individuals—- along with Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy — tied to Bundy via convictions that led to his execution. Leach, along with unrecovered victim Lynette Culver, was also Bundy's youngest victim at 12 years old. She was also his last. 

Bundy kidnapped Leach in broad daylight in the middle of a school day in Lake City, Florida on February 9, 1978. She was on her way to meet classmate Lisa Little, who says that her friend never showed up at their meeting spot. Leach was found two months later in a shed near Florida's Suwannee River State Park. Fibers, hotel receipts, and eyewitnesses like a nearby firefighter connected Bundy to her death. Per Find a Grave, Leach is buried in the same city where Bundy kidnapped her.

An unknown fate or reduced to skulls

Sometimes, Ted Bundy's victims were only partially recovered. As iNews explains, such was at least the case with Susan Rancourt, Roberta Parks, and Brenda Carol Ball. All three of these young women were abducted from different locations from March to June 1974, when Bundy was most active. And in all these cases, only the skulls remained. Bundy placed them in the same location in Taylor Mountain, Oregon. Judging by Find a Grave, there's no information on these women's final resting place. Whether or not that has anything to do with the state of their remains is unknown. 

Furthermore, the final resting place of Margaret Bowman — one of the two victims murdered at Florida State University along with Lisa Levy — is unknown, although her body was presumably left intact. Like Bundy's final and youngest victim, Kimberly Leach, these two individuals were integral to getting Bundy convicted and on death row. As ABC News says, prosecutors used eyewitnesses and fibers to convict Bundy — fibers left on pantyhose — along with a bite mark on Levy's body. Prosecutor Larry Simpson said that the bite mark was indicative of "total homicidal rage."

The still-missing victims

Seven of the known Ted Bundy victims are still missing. And because their remains haven't been recovered, these women are technically only suspected victims no matter that he admitted to killing them. In the case of Lynette Culver and Donna Gail Manson, there are even missing person pages on The Charley Project still available for information related to their cases. And strangely so, Cowboy State Daily says that Utah authorities actually recovered the patella of one missing person, Debra Kent. As the story goes, they determined via DNA analysis in 2019 that it was her kneecap. But, private investigator Jason Jensen believes they didn't dig deep enough or well enough to confirm that the site was where Bundy had left her.

Cowboy State Daily also lists the potential locations of not only Kent, but Nancy Wilcox, Julie Cunningham, and Susan Curtis. Bundy himself provided the burial sites of these women, all near the Moab desert in Utah, but authorities have been unable to locate the remains. Private investigators like Jensen have even gone on the prowl for these victims. 

As for the other undiscovered victims, Find a Grave says that Georgann Hawkins' remains were not only recovered but "accidentally cremated ... along with unidentified persons." This looks like an erroneous claim, however, as The Charley Project lists her as still missing. As for Denise Oliverson, Bundy claimed to have dumped her in the Colorado River. And in the case of Manson, Bundy claimed to have burned her skull in the fireplace of his girlfriend and murder attempt survivor, Elizabeth Kloepfer, whom we mentioned earlier. Out of all these missing women, only Wilcox and Kent have known memorial markers in a cemetery.

[Featured image by Family portrait, commissioned c. 1973 via Wikipedia | Cropped and scaled]