Case Study – Ted Bundy

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Case Study- Ted Bundy


This article covers the history of a serial killer, Ted Bundy, the causes of his criminal behaviour and illustration of the behaviours using relevant theories. The relevance of paper is to understand the reasons that drove Ted Bundy to committing serial killing and rape. It attempts to discuss the psychological behaviours that led to his aggressive and criminal actions. By understanding the history of Ted Bundy, the paper breaks down elements defined by theories that explain the reasons for committing crimes. The case study ascertains that Ted Bundy had anti-social personality disorder and criminal psychopathy. As of this personality he opted to kill to satisfy his underlying desire. His childhood was filled with anger, rejection and frustration. Although serial killers are rare, this case study offers possible forecast potential traits that serial killer possess. The traits are then explained using psychological theories such as psychopathy psychology theory and psychodynamic theory etc.

Table of Contents



4Definitions of Offence

5History of the Offender

5Ted’s Childhood to Adulthood

7Life Events that Triggered Offending Behaviour

9Theoretical Explanation of the Behaviour

9Biological Theory of Crime

9Psychodynamic Theory

10Psychopathy Personality Theories

11Behaviourism Theory




Ted Bundy has been accused of murdering and sexually assaulting about 30 women. What he did was to fake disabilities in order to gain the trust of people before slaying them to death (Petrolini, 2012). Even after sexually assaulting women, he would visit some victims to continue with the sexual assault until their remains were decomposed. He travelled to different regions to find his pray; he escaped legal custody and was later sentenced to death in 1989. Some of his life experiences could have contributed to his desire to assault women in retaliation to the life he passed through and the rejection and frustration that build on him. Even though he scored well in his studies, he suffered from social disorder that started when he faced rejection when growing up (Petrolini, 2012). The rejection ignited frustration and anger that made him slay innocent women.

Beginning from his childhood, he had attachment disorder that made him prefer the company of himself and did not want to associate with other people around him. Ted Bundy committed murder and rape as a result of psychological challenges (Petrolini, 2012). This paper will define the offences made by Ted Bundy in terms of legal definition as stated by the Criminal Code of Western Australia. It will also offer a history of Ted Bundy from his childhood to adulthood and some events that triggered his offending behaviour. The paper will also use theory to illustrate and justify the life events of the offender and how they are linked to his offences.

Definitions of Offence

In accordance to the known wilful murder of people, Ted Bundy was found guilty of committing aggravated sexual penetration, deprivation of liberty as well as kidnaping of a human being (Lilly, Cullen and Ball, 2011). Different countries and states differ in charges and penalties of such offences but remain similar in most instances. According to the Criminal Code of Western Australia s.278, wilful murder is termed as a human being how unlawfully kills other people with the intend to cause his death. Even though Australia like some countries burnt the death penalty in the 1960s, America still uses the death penalty for murder situations. Ted Bundy could have received a number of life sentences with no parole if he would have been sentenced in Australia (Lilly, Cullen and Ball, 2011). Ted Bundy suffered from psychopathic behaviour and may have relied on plea for insanity but what he received was one death penalty in 1989.

Under the Criminal Code of Western Australia, rape is the carnal of a woman without her consent. The penetrative sexual offense according to CCWA is not gender-specific and includes penetration of genitalia by any part of the body, object or penis. What Ted Bundy committed was the penetrative sexual offence (Lilly, Cullen and Ball, 2011). The penetrative sexual offense ranges from 12 years to life imprisonment taking into consideration the jurisdiction as well as the presence of aggravating factors. In addition to penetrative sexual offense, some jurisdictions involve sexual assault with intent to commit sexual act. This takes place when the offender uses violence when facilitating sexual act (Whiteman and Akutagawa, 2004).

History of the Offender

Ted’s Childhood to Adulthood

Ted was among the most notorious serial killers and rapists of the last 20th century. He was born in 1946 in Burlington. He lived with the grandparent and started his life knowing that his mum was his sister (Petrolini, 2012). A few years later, he moved to Washington with his cousins and started a new life there. His mum got married and after few years, they got several other children. Bundy was a shy but an intelligent child. However, in this teenage life, some unusual character and interests started to emerge. For instance, he has an unusual interest in knives and started stalking peoples’ widows. Ted attended his college education at University of Washington where he fell in love with a woman from California. However, after couples of months the girl broke-up with him (Petrolini, 2012).

After their break-up, Ted started killing and raping women who had some resembles and characteristics of his ex-girlfriend (Petrolini, 2012). Ted started his killings around 1974. His confidence when up and he was more involved in social and political matters. He then graduated from college in 1972 having studied Psychology and was accepted to Utah law school. Around 1974, many women in Oregon went missing. He used injuries and disabilities to lure his victims. Their kindness was a fatal mistake (Petrolini, 2012). In 1975, Ted was arrested of possessing criminal tools and for kidnapping Carol DaRonch who escaped his clutches. Two years later he was arrested on a murder charge where he acted as his own lawyer. In his way to courthouse, he escaped but was re-arrested some few days later (Petrolini, 2012).

Bundy escaped from prison again in 1977 and made his way to Florida (Petrolini, 2012). In 1978, Ted broke into Florida State University and attached four women, killing two of them. The same year, he kidnapped and murdered another woman. This was the end of his murderous rampage since he was pulled over by the police and arrested for murder (Petrolini, 2012). From the several crimes he committed he received two death penalties. He also received another death penalty the same year. He spent most of his life in prison appealing for the death sentence he received with no lack. In 1989, Bundy met his death in an electric chair. He had admitted to killing a total of 36 women but reports suggests that the killings could be more than that (Petrolini, 2012).

Life Events that Triggered Offending Behaviour

Ted Bundy life started with abandonment and rejection from the father who did not get involved in his life as he disappeared before he was born (Petrolini, 2012). In addition, Ted’s mum was fathered by a violent and abusive father, but this information was never proven. His mum gave birth to him when she was a teenage and therefore considered herself as his sister and the grandmother as the mother so as to prevent controversy. His family in general failed to offer him the needed emotional support since he was too young. According to Levy and Orlans, (2004), children who experience emotional, social as well as behavioural challenges in their childhood have antisocial personality disorder.

In addition, evidence suggests that genetics also leads to the development of psychopathy. Research suggested that Ted Bundy grandfather beat the dogs in the neighbourhood and swung the cats by the tails (Petrolini, 2012). Ted experienced this behaviour which influenced him to learn this behaviour and see enforcing violent to animals and people as acceptable and noble. From his early age, he stated experiencing psychopathy behaviour although he did not commit any homicide since he was in his 20’s (Petrolini, 2012). When he was in his 20’s he spent substantial amount of time watching pornography and reading pornography contents filled with dead bodies. In addition, he started consuming a huge amount of alcohol while staking the neighbour especially women. In his interview, Tend said that once he was addicted to explicit pornography, he continued looking for more explicit and graphic kinds of sexual contents (Petrolini, 2012).

Disruption of attachment can result to affectionless psychopathy (Meloy, 2000). Affectionless psychopathy is the inability to make emotional relationships as a result of chronic anger and lack of control and remorse. Ted was separated from his grandparents when he was four when he and the mother moved to Washington (Petrolini, 2012). The fear of loss and separation could have triggered rage that result to violent action. Report suggests that Ted suffered physical and psychological abuse from his grandfather who contributed to his inability to form social relationships and trust (Petrolini, 2012).

After the mother was married and had additional children, Ted felt deprived. He also felt betrayed when he found out that the person he though was his sister was actually his biological mother (Petrolini, 2012). This ignited his fury which he kept under wrap for many years. He never took part in family activities which made his step dad very angry. His stepfather had a bad temper which became even worse when Ted became defiant towards him. According to Whiteman (2004), any child who is neglected by the parents when young is at high risk of having antisocial and violent habits.

At the university, his first girlfriend was everything he hoped for and he loved her dearly (Petrolini, 2012). Since the girlfriend was wealthy, he faked his accomplishment sin order to impress her. After few months of dating, the girl came to know that Ted was not the guy he was portraying to be and though he had no future. The resorted to breaking up with him. Ted felt more rejected after the break-up and spend years obsessed with her. The feeling of rejection, frustration and anger intensified which may have led to his first killings (Bandura et al., 2001).

Another life event that contributed to his offences was the fact that he grew up in poverty. Ted Bundy’s family provided him with whatever he wanted with the little money they had although he wanted more and wanted to be like other rich people in school (Battel and Parson, 2009). This made him remain a loner and in his college life, he was very shy which made him appear socially awkward. According to Bartol and Bartol (2011), poverty is a strong enabler of persistent and violent offending. Although he did well in school, he often felt uncomfortable around other students who were much wealthier than him. This is the reason why he lied about his background and success to his then girlfriend.

Theoretical Explanation of the Behaviour

Biological Theory of Crime

Biological factors contribute to an individual committing a crime. Biological effects are intensified when an individual interacts with the social and environmental factors (Battel and Parson, 2009). Genetics explains the relationship between biology and crime. According to Lombroso model of crime, people who commit crime are born with a predisposition. Crimes as a result of genetics may be as a result of physical pattern of offending in the family differences and biochemical factors (Battel and Parson, 2009). In the case study provided, Ted Bundy acquired criminal behaviour from the grandfather. It was evident that the grandfather was a violent individual who was witnessed killing dogs and mistreating other animals. This showed that the criminal mind ran in the family and that Ted acquired it through genetics (Petrolini, 2012).

Psychodynamic Theory

Psychodynamic theory highlights that an individual childhood life and experiences may be a contributor of future criminal behaviours (Delsi and Walters, 2011). An individual personality is determined by mental processes that occurred in the early childhood. The elements that make up an individual personality include the id, ego and superego. The id involves the unconscious biological desire for things like food, sex, pleasure etc. The id often leads people to want instant pleasure while disregarding other people (Delsi and Walters, 2011). Ted Bundy did not have concern for other people but himself which led his to murder and rape women in order to gratify his desires and wants.

On the other hand, ego develops early in an individual life. Ego makes up for the needs of the id through directing a person’s action and behaviour (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003). It is said that the ego is directed by the reality principle. The superego grows when an individual integrates the moral values of the parents, friends, community etc. The superego judges the behaviour and actions of people (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003). One can assume that every adult can differentiate between wring and right, however, in reality, when an individual commits a crime, he is said to having an undeveloped superego. Psychodynamic theory illustrates that people who commit crimes are always frustrated and aggravated and are often drawn to events that occurred during their childhood (Bandura et al., 2001).

As a result of negligent and unhappy childhood due to lack of love, support and nurturing, offenders have weak ego (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003). An individual with weak ego has poor social immaturity and social relationships. People with weak ego often are more likely to engage in alcoholism and drug abuse. Ted Bundy had an unsupported childhood and experienced rejection from the ex-girlfriend which made him feel rejected and unappreciated. This made him have poor social relationships and isolated himself from people. This weakened his ego which led him to commit serious offences (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003).

Psychopathy Personality Theories

Antisocial personality and psychopathy are products of destructive home environment and destruction of relationships (Lilly,Cullen and Ball, 2011). Psychopaths are characterized by lack of guilt and remorse, impulsiveness, manipulativeness, shallow emotions, inability to form social relationships and failure to learn from experience. The causes of psychopathy personality revolve around traumatic socialization, brain abnormality, destructive social and home environment and neurological disorder (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003). Other contributors of psychopathic personality include inconsistent discipline and parents with psychopathic tendencies. Psychopaths often crave for excitement beyond which they can acquire (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003). Ted Bundy had psychopathy personality since he was a child. He had no remorse for people, was antisocial, manipulative and lived in a destructive home environment.

Behaviourism Theory

Behavioural theory suggests that an individual’s behaviour is developed through learning (Aber, Brown and Jones, 2003). Violence and aggression and learnt from the environment and life experiences. Some factors that can make an individual acquire criminal behaviour are family interaction, the mass media as well as environmental experiences (Lilly, Cullen and Ball, 2011). The media plays a major role with regard to crime. Media with depict violence are harmful to people. Ted Bundy started watching pornography since he was small. He acquired this behaviour from material contents and media which he later became addicted to explicit sex content (Lilly, Cullen and Ball, 2011). This led to him committing murder and sexual offenses in order to gratify his desires.


There is a lot of evidence that shows how Ted Bundy’s childhood and social environment led to him committing criminal offences. This includes the rejection from the mother, psychopathic characteristics of the grandfather and unsupportive step-father. There are a number of psychopathic traits that Ted had such as childhood obsession of violent and explicit sexual imagination. In addition, he faced rejection from his girlfriend in college and lacked social life. These factors contributed to criminal life. They opened a life of addiction for explicit sex and led to intense anger and aggression. Some theories that can explain the causes of Ted’s criminal life include psychopath personality theory, behaviourism and psychodynamic theory. It could have been hard to envisage the results of Bundy’s life since many people suffer from the same childhood and life factors but choose to live morally. Nevertheless, the combination of these factors made his life hard which led his to committing kidnapping, murder and rape.


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