Why Did Ted Bundy Intentionally Lose Weight While In Jail?

While awaiting trial in a Colorado jail, Ted Bundy unexpectedly dropped down to 140 pounds. Like most of the things he did, however, his weight loss ultimately served a nefarious purpose.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Ted Bundy was known as many things during his lifetime. Before he was linked to dozens of murders, those who knew him — the members of his church, his co-workers, and even his girlfriend — considered him a charismatic, charming guy. But the real Ted Bundy was not only a vicious serial killer, but a man whose murderous instincts were perhaps rivaled only by his commitment in getting away with the violent acts he felt compelled to commit and the deadly intelligence that allowed to do so successfully.

It was while sitting in Colorado’s Garfield County Jail in 1977 that Bundy began to inexplicably lose weight. It was the first sign that he was using his infamous wits to get himself out of trouble again, though no one knew it yet. However, less than a year after jumping from a courthouse window and escaping from police custody, Bundy would try yet again to break out of jail — and on December 30, he succeeded.

Netflix’s new crime series, “Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” takes an in-depth look at both of Bundy’s famed jailbreaks via interviews with law enforcement officials who dealt with Bundy directly while he was jailed and who witnessed the aftermath of his escape.

Bundy’s second bid for freedom was like something out of a movie: He sawed a hole in the ceiling of his cell, a hole which he was able to fit through because he’d intentionally starved himself down to 140 pounds, according to an old news broadcast featured in the Netflix doc.

The hole in the ceiling — a one-foot square intended for a light fixture — gave way to pipes and electrical wiring, which he crawled through on a path that would eventually lead him to freedom, The Glenwood Post Independent reports.

Kathleen McChesney, a Washington detective, recalled Bundy's escape during the Netflix series’ third episode.

“The second escape, Ted was quite creative,” McChesney said. “Lost some weight, and hacked his way through the ceiling. He managed to climb on some books, lift himself into the ceiling, crawl through the ceiling area, into the apartment of one of the jailers which was above his prison cell. He took some of the jailer’s clothing and walked out the front door.”

Before his escape, Bundy had set the scene. He’d refused to eat breakfast, instead pretending to be asleep in his bed, in the days before his escape, journalists Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth wrote in their book, “The Only Living Witness: The True Story Of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy.” Bundy stacked books in his bed underneath the blankets so that on the morning following his escape, his jailers would assume that he was simply sleeping in again, they wrote.

Bob Keppel, another Washington detective interviewed for the Netflix series, called Bundy’s second escape a “nightmare.” Bundy had “disappeared, and no one knew where he went,” he explained.

The nightmare would only get worse before it got better. While Bundy was recaptured within days of his escape from the Pitkin County courthouse earlier that year, he proved that he would not be so easily apprehended the second time around.

He stole a car and started driving in what turned out to be the beginning of a cross-country road trip that saw him passing through multiple states until he ended up in Florida. It was there that Bundy, perhaps prodded again by the dark “entity” in his mind, gave in to the urge to kill again.

Days after his inital arrival in the sunshine state, on Jan. 15, 1978, he broke into the Chi Omega sorority house in Tallahassee and unleashed a brutal attack on four sleeping co-eds. He beat them, savagely sexually assaulting some and bludgeoning others, until two of the girls were dead. That same night, his bloodlust seemingly not yet sated, he attacked another co-ed in her home. He got away with it again, and went on to abduct and murder 12-year-old Kimberly Leach the following month.

Leach would be his last victim. A police officer in Pensacola stopped him days later for driving a stolen vehicle, unknowingly setting off a chain of events that would lead to Bundy’s death. All the weight loss and cunning plans in the world wouldn’t be enough for Bundy to escape the electric chair. He was sentenced to death in 1979 and executed 10 years later.

[Photo: Ross Dolan/Glenwood Springs Post Independent via Associated Press]

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