True Crime author Kevin Sullivan Reflects On His Connection To A Serial Killer
This piece was previously published with a typo that mis-dated the below picture of Ted Bundy at 1984, when he would have been in prison in Florida. According to Kevin Sullivan, the picture below was taken in 1975 or 1976 in Utah.
Ted Bundy was never supposed to be a part of my life. I’d first heard about the guy after his escape from Colorado, and I remember thinking at the time just how does a law student end up being accused of such terrible things? Hearing the name of this man on the news was no different than any other news report about someone I don’t know and would absolutely not be meeting. In other words, it had very little meaning to me. Unbeknownst to me, however, postmortem Ted Bundy and I were destined to meet. And this meeting would set the course on my literary life far into the future.
After Bundy’s apprehension in Florida, I would occasionally see an article about him in the newspapers, or catch something on a national broadcast as he worked his way through the appellate courts on that long march towards execution. And then, on January 24, 1989, Bundy, who had caused so many young women and girls to die the most horrendous of deaths, had his own life taken by the state of Florida. And I remember thinking at the time “well, they finally got him.” Ted Bundy had now joined the ranks of all dead killers and would soon be forgotten. Or so I thought.
At the time of his death I was fairly newly married –three years – and going about my life as a Christian minister. I was not a writer of true crime, or of anything really, and I wouldn’t put pen to paper for my first book (about George Armstrong Custer) for several years. At the time, true crime wasn’t even on my radar.
Most of you, if you’re familiar with my book, The Bundy Murders: A Comprehensive History, published in August 2009 by McFarland & Company, know the story of how I met retired Salt Lake County Sheriff’s homicide detective, Jerry Thompson. You will also remember that it was through Thompson that I was introduced to the actual murder kit of Theodore Robert Bundy. And believe me, having that murder kit come in my hands, and having it in my home where I closely examined it while taking photographs, created one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Indeed, I wouldn’t have been any more surprised had someone knocked on my door with the actual murder implements of Jack the Ripper, telling me they wanted to bring it into my home! And as if this wasn’t enough, before Jerry Thompson returned with his wife to Utah, he gave me one of the large green Glad trash bags from Bundy’s murder bag.
To be completely honest, I found the interview with Jerry Thompson fascinating. But what propelled me to write an article for the weekly crime newspaper, Snitch, and follow it up with an in-depth full length biography of Ted Bundy, happened only because I’d handled Bundy’s murder kit and had been given that Glad green trash bag! And so, it was the strange objects of Bundy’s murder kit that placed me on the road to write The Bundy Murders, and ultimately my second book which is due out later this year from WildBlue Press.
To be sure, when I mentioned to a few of my true crime friends that I was beginning a book about Bundy, I was warned against it. Bundy’s been done to death, they said; it’s a story that’s been told numerous times, they reminded me. And it was at that exact moment, while I stood at that proverbial fork in the road that I decided to go with what I already knew on the inside: I would write a book about Ted Bundy and his life as a killer. As to what I would ultimately find during my research, I didn’t know. But thankfully, as I reached the midpoint in the book, I was discovering many things about the case that had remained hidden from other writers; and this included new, never-before published information about four of the murders. And from my perspective, as I watched all of this unfold, I was again met with that strange sense of the surreal, as I watched the book come to life in ways I never believed possible…
In my next blog, I’ll be discussing why I felt the need to immerse myself once again in the life of serial killer Ted Bundy and write a second book on the case. It was an unexpected journey I never anticipated taking. But like my first venture into the world of America’s most infamous serial killer, writing this second book unearthed many new things about the case that had me shaking my head in amazement. I was again digging up truth that had remained hidden for many years, and as a historian, I was pleased beyond words.