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Robert Keppel, A Cop Who Spent His Life Chasing Serial Killers Like Ted Bundy And Gary Ridgway, Has Died

Robert "Bob" Keppel was a celebrated investigator who devoted his life to capturing some of the country's most dangerous serial killers.

Ted Bundy Gary Ridgway G

A former Washington detective who dedicated his life to capturing notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway has died.

Robert "Bob" Keppel died on June 14 at the age of 76, the Seattle Times reports.

A longtime resident in Washington, he became well known after helping to bring down one of the state’s most infamous killers. 

In fact, Keppel was just a 30-year-old rookie homicide detective with the King County Sheriff’s Office when he was assigned to the disappearances of Bundy victims Denise Naslund and Janice Ott, the Seattle Times reported in 1999. Keppel sifted meticulously through clues and automobile registration documents since the suspect was known for driving a light-colored Volkswagen Beetle. He fed information he gathered into a mainframe computer to analyze until it generated a list of names: Bundy, who admitted to killing at least 30 women from 1974 to 1978 was on that list.

"This missing-persons case that I was expecting to close was really a case of multiple murders so savage that it would shake each of us who worked on it to the core of our psyches and would not release me from its grip for another 15 years," Keppel would later write, according to the 1999 Seattle Times piece.

He became one of the final investigators to talk to Bundy before he was executed in 1989.

Keppel was celebrated for his evidence-gathering and information management in that case and as a result, he became a go-to consultant for other serial killer cases, near and far. Keppell consulted on the Green River Killer case, in which Gary Ridgway killed at least 48 people in Washington and Oregon between 1982 and 1998. In fact, Keppel developed the strategy behind the serial killer's arrest. He also consulted on the Atlanta child murders in which 29 Black children, teens and young adults were kidnapped and murdered in the Atlanta area between 1979 and 1981.

Keppel worked on at least 2,000 murder investigations and more than 50 serial murder investigations nationwide. He wrote at least six books, all about serial killers and criminal justice. Of the six, one is on Bundy and one is on Ridgway. 

Keppel was a founding member behind the creation of the Criminal Division at the Washington Attorney General’s Office in 1982. He also developed Washington’s Homicide Investigation Tracking System (HITS), a program which tracks homicides and rapes. The program has been adopted for use by many other states.

Retired King County Superior Court Judge Greg Canova called Keppel “the most exceptional investigator I ever knew.”

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