“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” is a new, four part, true-crime documentary series, which premiered on January 24, 2019. The date is significant, because it marked the thirtieth anniversary of the day, Bundy, who was 42 years old at the time, was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison in Raiford, which is located in Bradford County. At the center of the series, are portions of 100 hours of conversations that were recorded with the infamous, serial killer. The tapes are what set this series about Bundy apart from the other books, mini-series, movies, and documentaries that have been released about him. The main reason, is that the recorded conversations had not been previously released, however, the book, “Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer,” a New York Times best-seller, written by journalists, Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen G. Michaud, published in 1989, did impart a great deal of the information that Bundy speaks to in the conversations; both men appear in the documentary. (As an aside: In addition to being convicted for murder in Florida, Bundy also committed murder in California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington).
When Michaud was interviewing Bundy, while he was awaiting execution on death row, he was getting absolutely nowhere in terms of a confession from Bundy, who was adamant about his innocence. Initially, Bundy opted instead to talk about his idyllic childhood, which from all accounts, was anything but optimal; his excelling at school, which the records from the time period reflect that he was nothing more than an average student; and his fitting in with everyone, even though, while not a recluse, according to those who knew him, he was far from being a gregarious individual, who had an active social life. Of course, while that was all well and good for an opening, Michaud wasn’t getting what he needed for the book; meanwhile, Aynesworth, who was researching Bundy’s statements, and talking to his friends, and family, beginning with those who knew him in childhood, soon ascertained that most of what Bundy said, was contradictory to what life was like for the young Bundy prior to entering college.
Michaud came up with an idea of how he could get Bundy to talk about his crimes and motivations; rather than attempt to get Bundy to take responsibility, which he seemingly would not do, at least not at that moment in time, he asked Bundy, if he would speak in the third person. He wanted Bundy to speculate about the thoughts, feelings, and actions, of someone who would murder young women. Bundy didn’t hesitate. He began offering not only insight into the reason why someone would kill, and how they would seek out a potential victim, but what a killer might do afterward to prolong their vile fulfillment of their heinous deed. (As an aside: Days before his death, in order to buy himself some more time, Bundy began confessing his crimes, offering information regarding the whereabouts of buried bodies, in all, it is known that Bundy murdered at least 30 women, but the exact number is not, and may never be known).
Throughout the series, there is archival footage of Bundy’s Florida trial, which focuses in on the abhorrent crimes committed by Bundy against sisters of the Chi Omega sorority, which took place at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. On the evening of January 15, 1978, Bundy entered the Chi Omega sorority house; his actions while there resulted in the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. Additionally, that same evening Bundy viciously attacked Karen Chandler, Kathy Kleiner and Cheryl Thomas. The trial made history by becoming the first televised trial in American history. During the trial, Bundy’s narcissism got in the way, by his insistence that he be allowed to be a member of his legal defense team, especially during the few times his lawyers perhaps could’ve garnered points with the jury, while cross examining certain witnesses, whose testimony was vague. The documentary features interviews with members of law enforcement that were involved in Bundy’s capture and multiple convictions, as well as members of Bundy’s legal team. Furthermore, it shows the media frenzy that followed Bundy wherever he went and reported on his every utterance. In addition, there is a portion of the documentary of an encounter with Bundy told by Carol DaRonch, who in 1974, was a teenager, living in Utah, when Bundy attempted to abduct her. DaRonch had gotten into Bundy’s car willingly, after he informed her, when she exited a shopping mall she had been at, that he was a police officer, and showed her an authentic badge to prove it. Bundy claimed that DaRonch’s car had been broken into, and he needed her to come to the station, in order to file a report. Within moments of getting into his car, DaRonch sensed something was very wrong, and it didn’t take long for her to be proven correct. How she escaped, her testimony at one of Bundy’s trials, and the lasting impact he has had on her life, is included in the recollections she speaks about in the documentary series. (As an aside: Even though he had already been convicted of murder, Carole Ann Boone, a woman who Bundy had met in 1974, said yes to his marriage proposal, when she testified on his behalf during the sentencing phase of his trial; the two would go on to have a daughter, Rose, while Bundy was awaiting execution).
“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” was directed by two time Emmy winner Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory). The documentary is not the only project Berlinger has dedicated time to regarding Bundy. The film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” premiered on January 26, 2019 at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie, directed by Berlinger, was written by Michael Werwie (Lost Girls), and stars Zac Efron (The Greatest Showman) as Bundy, and Golden Globe nominee Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply), as Liz Kendall, who was Bundy’s girlfriend for seven years. For those of you who’ve been interested in true crime for a while, what is revealed about Bundy in “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” will more than likely, not be anything new. The draw, as stated previously, for this particular piece, centering on Bundy, is the recorded conversations he had with Stephen Michaud that had never before been made available to the public.