Evidence represents Ted Bundy’s time in the Roaring Fork Valley
For a guy who never lived here, Ted Bundy certainly made a mark on Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
He kidnapped and brutally murdered a Michigan nurse from a Snowmass Village hotel in January 1975, then jumped out of a second-story window at the Pitkin County Courthouse in July 1977 during a court recess after he’d been extradited to Aspen to face charges in the woman’s death, and was on the lam for eight days.
Finally, Bundy escaped from the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs on Dec. 31, 1977, after removing a light fixture from the roof of his cell, squeezing through the small hole and vanishing into the night. He never returned to Colorado.
During his months in Glenwood Springs and Aspen in 1977, Bundy — who acted as his own attorney — and prosecutors with the 9th Judicial District were preparing to go to trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell, who was abducted from the Wildwood Inn in Snowmass Village. The trial never happened because of his Glenwood escape and subsequent execution in Florida in January 1989 for three murders he committed in that state.
Ever since Bundy escaped Colorado for good, however, the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has been holding on to nine boxes of evidence and other documents related to the Bundy trial that never was. The boxes have been sitting in a closet in the DA offices at the Garfield County Courthouse and are occasionally perused by journalists and others interested in the notorious serial killer, who confessed to killing more than 50 women.
“There’s been a significant amount of interest (in Bundy) recently because of the (30th) anniversary of his death,” said Jeff Fain, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
The DA’s Office is in the process of digitizing all of the materials, most of which are mundane legal documents or minutia related to the investigation into Campbell’s death. But there are several items tucked in among the boxes — including physical evidence that may at some point be returned to authorities in Salt Lake City — that stick out as particularly interesting artifacts of Bundy’s time in the Roaring Fork Valley and the murder he committed here.
Included in those artifacts is a crowbar later found to contain blood and a Colorado Ski Country guide from the 1974-75 ski season that was found in Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment that tied him directly to the Snowmass Village murder.
BUNDY IN THE VALLEY: A BRIEF HISTORY
Campbell, 24, disappeared Jan. 12 after going to her room at the Wildwood Inn to retrieve a magazine she was going to read in the lobby with her fiancé and friends. A witness reported seeing her get off the elevator on the hotel’s second floor, but she was never seen alive again. The magazine and all her belongings were later found in her room.
Campbell’s nude body was discovered five weeks later Feb. 17 along Owl Creek Road as it drops down from Sinclair Divide into Snowmass Village. Her body had been buried under snow for much of that period and had been disfigured by animals. She suffered blows to the back of the head, appeared to have had her hands bound behind her and was likely thrown from a car, according to an Aspen Times article from Nov. 6, 1975. Examiners could find no evidence that she was sexually assaulted, according to a letter in the boxes of Bundy documents from then-Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast to Campbell’s brother.
Meanwhile, Bundy was convicted of aggravated kidnapping in March 1976 in Salt Lake City for trying to handcuff and abduct a woman there in November 1974. He was sentenced to between one and 15 years in the Utah Penitentiary for the crime, then was extradited to Aspen to face charges connected to Campbell’s murder.
Bundy denied killing Campbell and told The Aspen Times in an Aug. 4, 1977, feature headlined “Who is Ted Bundy?” that: “I’m extremely confident and firmly believe in my own innocence.”
Bundy also worked his notorious charm on reporters, law enforcement personnel and others at the courthouse, reportedly referring to his leap from the courthouse as “The Great Escape,” and telling a reporter he enjoyed reading an account of it, according to the same article.
“Talking with reporters during a court break, he once corrected one’s use of language,” the August 1977 article continues. “’I wish you would stop calling me an ‘accused murderer,’ he said, “and say ‘accused of murder.’”
One of his cellmates also was quoted in the piece. “He’s a hell of a nice guy,” the man reportedly said.
During his stay in the Roaring Fork Valley, Bundy was housed in the old Garfield County Jail, which has since been torn down, because Kienast worried he might try to escape from “the antiquated conditions” at Pitkin County’s jail, according to a June 9, 1977, Aspen Times story about his courthouse escape.
Bundy was transported to Aspen from Glenwood Springs for court appearances.
Before he was executed in Florida in January 1989, Bundy admitted to killing Campbell. He told a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office investigator that he went to the Wildwood Inn on crutches in hopes of luring a young woman to help him carry his ski boots to his car, according to a January 1989 Aspen Times article.
Bundy said he posted himself near the hotel’s pool and hoped another woman would help him, though she ignored him. Instead, Campbell offered to help, and once he got her to the parking lot, Bundy told the detective, he hit her over the head with his ski boots and “stuffed” her in his Volkswagen Bug, according to the article.
ARTIFACTS FROM THE TRIAL THAT WASN’T
Among the items in storage at the DA’s Office in Glenwood Springs are the booties Bundy wore while incarcerated at the Garfield County Jail. The navy blue, knitted booties have been sitting in a plastic bag since Bundy last used them in December 1977.
Also found in the boxes of documents is a detailed report about Bundy’s escape from the jail in Glenwood Springs.
Included is a lengthy inventory of the stuff he left behind in his cell after he broke out. Among the legal documents and texts, food items like vegetable protein powder and clothing was a large collection of books.
They included “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72” by Hunter S. Thompson, the Woody Creek writer who lost the 1970 Pitkin County sheriff’s race to Carroll Whitmire, the man who occupied the Sheriff’s Office when Bundy committed the Snowmass Village murder.
Other titles found in his cell included “Tai Pan” and “Shogun” by James Clavell, “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown, “The Good Earth” and “Sons” by Pearl S. Buck, “Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story” by Carlos Baker, “The Word” by Irving Wallace, “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “Quite Early One Morning” by Dylan Thomas, according to the inventory.
The lengthy inventory also included Penthouse and Playboy magazines, a K-Mart radio and Christmas tree decorations, according to the report.
Bundy apparently received several Christmas cards during the winter of 1977, including one, oddly enough, from Sheriff Dick Kienast and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The cards were saved as evidence in a manila envelope and tucked in among the boxes of evidence.
“Dear Ted,” one of Bundy’s Christmas well-wishers begins. “Am I delinquent or what about writing? I’ve been pretty busy. The past month has brought me two flat tires, a dead battery, a burglarized apartment, a boring trip to L.A., a broken thumb and much more. What’s happening there (I don’t see the news much anymore)? Write. Love (someone whose first name starts with an A)”
Another saved artifact in the boxes documents the sale of Bundy’s notorious VW Bug.
The plain sheet of yellow paper is titled “Bill of Sale” and dated Sept. 17, 1975. It is hand-written in red ink and states that on that date, Bryan Severson “has bought and paid for in full the sum of $800 (eight hundred dollars) my beige 1968 Volkswagen sedan.” It is signed Theodore R. Bundy.
Hairs from three of Bundy’s victims were later found in the car, according to reports.
After Bundy was arrested by Salt Lake City police in August 1975 — when they found a pry bar, a ski mask, a pair of pantyhose with eye and nose holes cut into them, an ice pick, nylon rope, gloves and handcuffs in the trunk of his VW — police also searched his apartment.
In his home, police also found a satchel containing a crow bar, a tire iron, a small pocket knife, a serrated kitchen knife in a cardboard sheath and a flashlight. The woman who narrowly escaped Bundy’s clutches in Salt Lake City in 1974 reported that he had a crowbar in his hand while she struggled to get away from him, according to an Aspen Times article from Aug. 4, 1977.
The contents of the satchel are among the items stored in the Bundy boxes at the DA’s Office. The crow bar was examined by experts, who found blood on it, though it was not enough to trace back to a victim, according to documents in the boxes.
Finally, the most interesting item in the Bundy evidence boxes is a “1974-75 guide to Colorado Ski Country.”
The guide was found in Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment after he was arrested for the attempted kidnapping, and proved to be a particularly damning, though circumstantial, piece of evidence against him, Fain said recently.
That’s because on the page detailing lodging options in Snowmass that season, there is an “X” made with black ink next to the entry for the Wildwood Inn.
“That was a big one,” Fain said.
When the Salt Lake detective relayed the information about the ski guide, the Pitkin County detective investigating the murder couldn’t believe it, said Fain, who has spoken with a representative of the detective.
The DA’s Office plans to eventually ship the items taken from Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment back to police there, Fain said. The documents related to his case will be kept digitally for the numerous journalists and others who frequently request permission to look through them, he said.
Most of the documents will be destroyed once they’ve been digitized, though some items like the ski guide likely will be retained, Fain said.
“We have really limited storage for evidence,” Fain said. “Things with historical significance … shouldn’t be destroyed.”
This past week was a rather lively one for country music lovers in Aspen. The Belly Up brought three incredible country acts to the stage within a five-day period.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.