Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert D. Keppel, Ph.D. an Interview

On the Trail of Ted Bundy

Q. Can you describe how you first became involved in the Ted Bundy case?

I was a rookie detective at the King County Sheriff's department at the time and there were two girls who were missing from Lake Sammamish State Park, which is actually in the jurisdiction of the Issaquah police. The disappearances had occurred on Sunday, July 14, 1974 and by the following Tuesday two officers from the Issaquah police had come to our office and wanted help investigating the case because it was more or less the volume of the incoming information that had become too much for them, so my partner and I, since we had responsibility for that area of Lake Sammamish in King County, were assigned to the case.

Q. As a junior detective with limited experience, did you feel pressured about being thrust into a major investigation?

No, not really. My partner had been there for over a year and my sergeant had been there for years so I felt that they must know what they were doing. So, at that point no. There was a point later when I asked questions like - where are the investigators in the department that have the experience to work with a case like this? But of course there weren't any.

Q. The Bundy investigation broke new ground in regards to detection methods. Can you describe some of the more significant ones?

I suppose the big thing that broke new ground was the establishment and use of the "tip sheet" that enabled the police department members to collect information on incoming leads in a consistent manner. Without that tip sheet we were basically lost up until that time because when somebody phoned in about the case it ended up on a piece of paper torn off a pad with a message like - Bob, call Joe at this phone number. The problem was that you wouldn't know who Joe was or what kind of information he had so you were unable to prioritize it. So the prioritization of the tip sheets was one of the most important things we did and that was certainly groundbreaking. Another process that was literally groundbreaking was the first use of Explorer Search and Rescue Scouts, who were basically people accustomed to going out searching for downed aircraft, lost hikers or lost skiers, and using them for an evidence search on a hillside that was several hundred yards long and several hundred yards high. They were conducting shoulder-to-shoulder searches, on hands and knees, for little pieces of evidence. That was very much a groundbreaking process as well because they had never done a search at such close quarters before. Without them I would have been lost because they were finding little pieces of hair, bones and teeth and did a tremendous job.

Q. You are credited as being one of the first detectives to utilize computers as an investigative tool. How were they used?

It wasn't like what you're used to, as far as computers go. There were no PC's and no desktops. There were terminals that were hooked up to a mainframe computer that was the size of a room a couple of hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. That computer had belts and punch cards and keypunch operators entering and recording data. The computer we used in King County, at system services, was the one that usually recorded everyone's paycheck. We decided to try a different application because we had collected so many names and different lists of information. The computer people told me that they could collate that and tell me how many times one person appeared on more than one list. It took about a month to go through the entire process. That was how Bundy's name was developed out of twenty-five names as a suspect.

Q. When did you realize that "Ted" was responsible for the college murders as well as the Lake Sammamish killings?

I don't think people believed it until we found the bodies on Taylor Mountain in March, 1975. We had first found bodies in Issaquah in 1974, but it really took the fact that the four women we found in that one location were from Oregon State University, Central Washington University and the University of Washington, so that connected them all. We had our suspicions that the girl from Central Washington may have been involved because of the discovery of what happened at Lake Sammamish and the ruse that was used there putting an arm in a sling and trying to have somebody help you with your sailboat. That was similar to another ruse that was reported by two people who had actually helped a guy on crutches who had dropped his books outside a library. He had asked them to help him carry the books to his car but, for some reason, they were able to escape what they felt was a dangerous situation. That was the one connection that made the lake victims look really close to the one victim at Central. However, it wasn't until all the bodies were found that people were convinced. Once that happened, of course, there was a major task force formed between the Seattle and King County police.

Q. In Riverman, you mention an offender profile that was compiled by two psychologists and a psychiatrist. How accurate was the profile and what bearing did it have on the investigation?

We weren't able to check the profile until we found out it was Ted Bundy of course but when we did there were no errors. In most profiles you would expect that there would be several but there were none. Even to the point where they predicted he'd have a step-brother and that's what he had.


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