Analysis of an Offender – Theodore Robert Cowell

Detailed Overview

Ted Bundy, initially known as Theodore Robert Cowell is one of the most famous serial killers in the United States. The motivation for this paper is to understand the potential social, environmental, biological, genetic, and psychological factors that contributed to Bundy’s criminal behaviors. Born in 1946, Ted Bundy grew up without knowing the identity of his father. During his early years, Ted Bundy’s mother took him to her parents who he later thought to be her real parents. In order to drive away the shame, Bundy’s mother made him understand that she was actually his older sister. Bundy was an obedient and respectful child who also performed well in school. He even qualified to join University where he pursued a degree course in psychology and eventually law. It is during his university life when Ted Bundy fell in love with a young lady for the first time. Unfortunately, they broke up, and Bundy was highly devastated. Just a few months after the beak-up, Bundy discovered that his older sister and parents were actually his mother and grandparents respectively (Pedneault, 2002).

Bundy was a serial killer who continuously assaulted and brutally murdered young women. He committed serial murders in the Washington State, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Florida before his arrest. The first assault committed by Bundy was confirmed on January 4th, 1974 when he entered the bedroom of a female dancer and student aged 18 years. Bundy sexually assaulted the girl before beating her with a metal rod. This lady was from the University of Washington. Although the girl did not die from the beating, her brain was permanently damaged. In the same month, Bundy killed another female student from the University of Washington before dumping her body in a separate location. Two months later, he kidnapped and murdered another female student aged 19 years. Bundy’s next attack was in April 1974 when he lured and killed another lady from Central Washington State College. He later killed two more university female students in the months of May and June 1974 (Pedneault, 2002).

In July the same year, Bandy changed his tactics for committing crime from abducting female students during the night to kidnapping them during the day. On the same day, Bundy abducted and murdered two ladies by luring them to help him unload some luggage from his Volkswagen Beetle. The two females were from Washington State’s Lake Sammamish State Park. Following all these murders in the Washington State, police officers began to hunt for a criminal they had very little information about. They distributed Ted Bundy’s sketches and descriptions to television and newspaper stations. Bundy’s girlfriend, Ann Rule, later reported to the police that Ted Bundy was a possible suspect. However, they ignored the report due to the fact that Bundy was a law student (Pedneault, 2002).

Towards the end of 1974, Ted relocated to Utah to continue with his studies in Salt Lake City. While in Utah, Bundy continued to kill young females, this time, not university students. He managed to capture his victims by pretending that he was a police officer conducting a criminal investigation. Unfortunately, Bundy did not succeed in all his murder attempts because two ladies escaped before they were killed. This did not discourage him, he went on to kill another female student aged 17 years when she was going to pick her brother from school. After killing several ladies in Utah, Bundy decided to target ladies from Colorado and Idaho because he had been spotted by Utah residents. He killed four separate ladies in Colorado and Idaho between January and May 1975 (Pedneault, 2002).

Bundy was arrested in 1975 in Utah when he failed to stop for a police check. Police searched his car and they found burglary tools such handcuffs, a crowbar, and a ski mask. His car was linked to the other murders and abductions in Utah making the police officers to treat his case as that of murder. He was convicted of murder in March 1976, but he later escaped in 1977. After six days, Bundy was brought back to jail where he escaped again seven months later. This time, Bundy moved to Florida where he attacked four female university students in January 1978 and later killed another one in February the same year. He was arrested less than a week later before he was executed on January 24th 1989. Bundy confessed to have assaulted and murdered 35 young ladies (Pedneault, 2002).

Bundy’s criminal offending is consistent with what is known about the nature of serial killers. According to Rippo (2007), serial killers are always confident that they will never be arrested. Additionally, a serial killer often believes that he can outsmart the police and they do not express fear of whatever they do. Similarly, Bundy was confident that he will never be apprehended. This is evident in the manner he used his real names when introducing himself to victims. Furthermore, Bundy exposed his identities to people in authority because he knew that police officers will never catch up with him. Bundy also loved being noticed everywhere he went. Although Ted managed to escape during his early days of criminal activities, he was completely not aware that his girl friend, Ann Rule had set him up (Rippo, 2007).

Causes of Crime

The potential social and environmental causes of Bundy’s behavior

Socialization is one of the most important environmental factors that shape a child’s behavior. Levy and Orlans (2004) defines socialization as the way a child interacts with others and does things. A child often learns by observing what people in his or her immediate surrounding are doing. During this stage of childhood development, a child gets to know different rules and values of the society. When certain actions are repeated, the child internalizes them and even tries to apply them as he or she continues to grow. The type of behavior developed by a child is determined by the actions observed in his or her environment. This explains why it is important to teach a child to internalize morally and socially acceptable behaviors at the right time to prevent him or her from developing antisocial behaviors in future. As Levy and Orlans (2004) point out, if a child is taught to exhibit certain characteristics, he will believe that they are inherently correct. Therefore, a child who is not taught to exhibit the right behaviors is very likely to develop criminal behaviors.

Bundy was brought up with his mother alone and he grew up without his father’s identity. Even though Bundy’s birth certificate stated that he was the son of an Air force veteran who later married his mother, it is suspected that Bundy’s must have given fathered by Louise’s abusive and violent husband (Michaud and Aynesworth, 1999). Since Bundy was only a teenager, his mother referred to him as her brother in order to avoid embarrassments. Even though Bundy’s mother was always there for him during childhood, she failed to provide him with social and emotional support. Basically, there was no close relationship between Ted and his mother which interfered with his social development. Perhaps, this had a great impact in building Bundy’s serial killer characteristics. According to Michaud and Aynesworth (1999), a child who fails to secure parental love during childhood is likely to experience a wide range of problems such as behavioral and social problems, which may lead to development of anti-social behavior. The fact that Bundy grew up without a father figure may have affected his ability to develop positive social behaviors.

In addition, Bundy grew up in a childhood marked with poverty despite the fact that his mother and grandparents tried their best to provide him with whatever he needed. Throughout his high school and college life, Bundy remained a loner, which made him shy even as he interacted with his school-mates (Leibman, 1989). According to Leibman, (1989), poverty has a direct connection with offensive behaviors and juveniles who grow up in poverty are at high risk of developing criminal behaviors. When in college, Bundy felt isolated and uncomfortable among his rich and wealthy peers, leading to his transfer to the University of Washington (Leibman, 1989).

Lack of good social relationships during childhood prevented Bundy from understanding the importance of interpersonal relationships during adulthood. For this reason, Bundy had no problems presenting a false social image to people around him. When Bund met his first girlfriend in college, he loved her so much that he was ready to do all that he could to please her. After one year, the relationship broke up after Bundy’s girlfriend realized that he was not the right man for her. This break-up affected Bundy emotionally, even contributing to him dropping out of school. These frustrations, coupled with childhood feelings, Bundy decided to quit college after which he moved to the countryside. Bundy began to kill young women shortly after he was rejected by his girlfriend. According to Leibman (1989), serial killers often begin to kill as a result of increasing frustrations, rejection, and anger. Bundy began to develop characteristics of a serial killer as a result of increasing frustrations which was experiencing. He developed a negative attitude towards young women, which acted as the main reason why he engaged in violent behaviors.

Bundy’s hatred towards young women increased even further when he decided to go back to college where he fell in love with another woman. He could not tell the lady the truth about his life because he feared that the lady might leave him. After dating for three months, Bundy and his girlfriend planned to get married but he later changed his mind that it was too soon. Ideally, it is Bundy’s past life experiences which prevented him from getting into serious relationship with another lady. Bundy and his girlfriend continued to go out until one day he forced her to have anal sex with him leading to their break-up. After graduating from Washington University, Bundy decided to continue his relationship with the first girlfriend but the relationship ended a few months later (Rule, 2000). Consequently, Bundy ended up with nobody to share his social life with, not even his mother. This may have contributed greatly to his antisocial behavior in Washington State, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Florida.

In Bundy’s case, his family contributed greatly to his development of criminal behavior while his girlfriends made him develop hatred towards young females. According to Levy and Orlans (2004), poor parenting practices such a parent’s rejection of a child is a predictor of future delinquency by a child. Family influences are greater than other social factors when it comes to shaping of a child’s behavior during the period of childhood development. Poor parental supervision during a child’s teenage life has also been identified as a contributing factor for future offending. Bundy’s serial killer characteristics could not have been developed if he could have received maximum parental love and support (Levy and Orlans, 2004).

The potential psychological causes of Bundy’s behavior

It is often difficult to specify the psychological factors that contribute to a criminal behavior. However, psychological influence on a person’s criminal behavior can be determined by analyzing the effect of individual and family factors on offending. In order to correctly associate certain psychological factors with offending, one must be able to study a person’s life over time. In Bundy’s case, the psychological factors that influenced the development of serial killer characteristics can be determined by looking at his life from childhood to adulthood. According to Farrrington (2013), offending is just one element of antisocial behaviors which develop after a person has experienced several psychological problems.

One of the psychological theories used to explain the development of criminal behaviors is attachment theory that focuses on the nature of relationship between a child and his parents or with people close to him. In Bundy’s life, there was loss of attachment with his parents for a total of three years which prevented him from forming meaningful relationships. Isolation and lack of affection made Bundy to have poor impulse control coupled with chronic anger (Bowlby, 1969). When Bundy was living with his grandparents whom he knew as his parents, he used his grandfather as his role model. Bundy’s grandfather took time to teach him good morals which were aimed at making him a well-behaved person in the society in future. Unfortunately, Bundy’s mother separated him from his grandparents at the age of four when she relocated to Washington. Bundy developed fear of separation or loss which made him to begin developing violent behaviors while in Washington. According to Bartol and Bartol (2011), separation from loved ones can generate strong feelings of anxiety in a person, often leading into violent behaviors. Even though Bundy did not share any bond with his parents, he decided to react to the separation by becoming angry (Leibman, 1989). Bundy suffered depression when his grandmother failed to take care of some of his childhood needs. This early depression and anxiety prevented Bundy from forming meaningful relationships with his peers during childhood, which damaged him both neurologically and psychologically. He later found out that being a serial killer is the best way through which he could respond to the psychological torture that he was experiencing (Leibman, 1989).

According to Farrrington (2013) illegitimacy is a paramount psychological factor that is likely to affect a child’s moral life. The impact of illegitimacy may be severe to an extent that it may prevent a child from leading a normal life. Majority of parents who give birth to children and later choose to live as single parents normally put a huge burden on the child. For instance, if a single parent decides to enter into a new marriage, he or she may prevent the child from enjoying parental love. This is because the new parent will not have a balanced loving attitude to his or her illegitimate child. This may end up affecting the child both emotionally and psychologically. The child may develop a feeling of inferiority which may prevent his or her future achievements. As a way of reacting to life’s failures, the child may engage in criminal activities in their future in life (Farrrington, 2013).

After relocating to Washington, Bundy’s mother got married to another man and as a result, his name was changed to avoid future embarrassments by strangers. At the age of six years, his mother gave birth to another child, followed by other three which made Bundy to feel even more isolated. To make matters worse, Bundy was informed that his mother’s husband was not his real father. It is during this time that he also learnt that his mother was not actually his sister and that his ‘parents’ were actually his grandparents. This ignited Bundy’s anger after learning that he had been kept in the dark for more than ten years. His mother however continued to go for picnics and many other trips with his step-father and siblings while he was kept distant. All these placed Bundy at a high risk of developing violent and anti-social behaviors. According to Whitman and Akutagawa (2004), a child who is neglected by the mother will engage in behaviors that can assist him or her to gain a sense of control such as masturbation and other sexual fantasies.

Bundy’s criminal behavior as a serial killer can be explained in terms of Freud’s psychological theory. According to Freud, a person’s behavior comes about as a result of interactions between three aspects of his or her personality including the superego, ego, and id. Id drive instinct and it controls what a person does from birth. There are both constructive and destructive instinctual drives. A person’s ego moderates his or her instinctual drive while the superego is needed for a person’s development during which he or she learns the values of society. As Freud puts it, large portions of ego and superego can remain unconscious, making an individual unaware of whatever he or she is doing (Ahmed, 2012). Examples of unconscious experiences include disturbing memories and extreme sexual behaviors. If the person becomes aware of these unconscious experiences, he or she is likely to engage in destructive behavior. It can be concluded that Bundy’s ego and superego may have been unconscious when he was committing initial criminal activities. However, when his awareness was restored, he responded by even more destructive behavior like when he decided to kidnap and kill more than one lady during the day (Ahmed, 2012).

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